CVU grads’ band Dionysia goes national

 

Will Kiernan, Alex Myers, Julien Vandal and Garrett Brown aren’t your typical undergraduates. At 19 and 20 years old, these four friends are touring the country with their alternative rock band, Dionysia, to promote their first album, Antics, which was released January 3, 2014.

Today, the band has sold about 400 albums, and has started working on material for another EP which they may release in the summer of 2015. 

These Champlain Valley Union (CVU) high school grads started Dionysia (then Dionysus) as a project band in high school in 2010. Initially, the band consisted of bassist Will Kiernan, drummer Alex Myers, and vocalist and guitarist Garrett Brown. When Julien Vandal joined the band, adding sax, keys and organ to the group, its sound was transformed into the mix of Alternative Rock, Contemporary Blues and Funk Rock the band is today.

All four members of the band are currently enrolled in universities, and have plans to pursue careers and interests in addition to Dionysia.

Q: What’s it like being professional musicians at such a young age?

A: Vandal: “We’re living the dream, even though, you know, we’re all going to be broke after this. [Laughs]. 

Kiernan: Every time we show up in a new city, people always ask us how young we are. When we tell them that we’re 19 and 20, they kind of shrug us off and laugh about it. But when they hear us play, they start freaking out.

Brown: There has been a lot of support from our families, but a lot of it has been us really wanting this to happen and wanting to become professional musicians and to get to that level. And I think there’s always a level of concern with your parents-- they want to see you succeed, and they want to see you do well in your life- hold a good job and stuff. 

Our parents are all really supportive because they see it’s something we all really enjoy doing. The music industry is not the most stable industry, and so there’s always a little bit of hesitation, but I think it’s taken this group really putting in the time and effort and working hard on something we love to really show them that this is something we’re committed to.

Q: How did your producer (Anthony Santonicito) discover you?

A: Brown: Basically, the recordings that our producer, Anthony Santo, found online were the recordings that Alex did for his grad challenge at CVU. The recordings had been online for about a year and a half or so, and Julien wasn’t even in the group. 

And then Julien joined the band, adding sax, keys and organ to the group. We explained that to him, and showed him some stuff that we had done recently, and he really liked it. 

Vandal: I felt like there was a huge standard I had to meet-- if he didn’t like me, that would have really sucked, but it all worked out in the end.

Brown: When he first contacted us, we asked ourselves whether this was something we wanted to do, and it was a unanimous ‘yes’. It’s pretty cool that we all agreed on that. It’s part of the reason we are where we are right now.”

Q: What inspired you to start Dionysia?

A: Myers: We all like playing new, original music. It was this common ground that kind of inspired us to form Dionysia.

Q: At the ages of 19 and 20, you released your first full-length album. Did you ever expect the band to be such a success?

A: Myers: We had always hoped to record a full album, but we never thought we would have created an industry-ready record with a producer in long island by just 20 years old.

Q: How do you balance your life (school, family, friends) with your band? Do you have jobs on top of Dionysia?

A: Myers: We all go to school and have jobs and play in the band. Time management can be challenging but we just make a weekly schedule for band practices and gigs on a Google document and work around that for our other activities.  Band practices are typically 3 times a week for at least two hours.

Kiernan: It also important for us to have a balance in our lives. Music, although it is my occupation, is the not the only thing in my life that I strive for.

Vandal: Being in school teaches us how to work better with money, and how to promote the band. If we were all only musicians, I think we’d be pretty dumb.

Brown: Having something outside of music almost gives you a breather. We spend the entire summer working on music, and then we go back to school. It sucks that we can’t continue playing music with each other, but at the same time, it’s good to have that space and kind of breathe. We all get along pretty well with each other, but it is four solid weeks on tour in a van with the same people. I love these guys- they’re my brothers. I couldn’t do this with anybody else. 

Q: What’s next? Where do you see the band in the next five years?

A: Myers: We have no idea where the band could be in five years since we didn’t expect to be where we are now five years ago. It’s really been about creating opportunities for ourselves and then acting on them.  

Kiernan: We’re all going to college for our own stuff. We have two engineering majors in the group, and I’m majoring in psychology. Basically, we don’t trust the music industry to have a career, because it’s constantly changing, so we’re all in school for completely different things.

Brown: Basically, I have two Plan A’s. Succeeding with music is definitely the big thing- that has been a passion of all of ours for a number of years now, and that’s really where we have the most fun. But our majors, the things we study outside of music, are all things that we find interesting, so in the event that music didn’t work out, we still have things we’ve studied and gotten degrees in that will make us successful people.

Myers: The thing about school is that it’s good about pushing you harder and really makes you work. At school, I’m challenging myself to do engineering and music both at the same time.

Q: You are all attending school out of state. Do you ever imagine you will come back to Vermont to stay?

A: Myers: We may come back to Vermont but nothing is certain. Boston is also another possibility but things are still up in the air.

Q: What advice would you give to high school students wishing to pursue musical careers?

A: Myers: If it’s something you love, find a way to make it happen; stick to playing because the longer you play the better you will get. Also, try and get a professional recording as soon as you have enough material. Luck is a combination of preparation and circumstance—the more prepared you are, the better off you are when circumstance comes into play.

 

Bullet Questions

Q: Favorite Vermont escapes?

A: Lake Champlain on our boats, ski resorts e.g. Sugarbush, Bolton and Stowe.

 

Q: Favorite band(s)?

A: Led Zepplin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Racounteurs, The Black keys, John Mayer Trio, Cage the Elephant, Artic Monkeys,  Joe Bonamassa

 

Q: Most inspiring mentors?

A:Myers: His brother Christopher, and his father Richard Myers, both also played drums and guitar.  Rich Magnison gave Alex lessons for a summer.

Kiernan: Todd Gevry taught him bass. 

Brown: Gabe Kirshnitz taught him guitar and Niel Maurer taught him songwriting. 

Vandal: Andrew Miskvage was Julien’s musical instructor for 4 years, Micheal Zsoldos taught him Jazz sax.           

Q: Favorite social media site?

A: Facebook

 

Q: What’s one fun fact about each of you that few people would guess?

A: Vandal- was born in idaho

Kiernan- originally played clarinet

Myers- Has a brother that plays drums, and his Dad plays drums.

Q: Favorite classes in high school?

A: Myers-- Academic internship (interned at ktr studios)

Kiernan--Photography

Vandal-- Money, Energy, Power

Brown--AP Studio Art

 

Q: Favorite downtime activities?

A: Long boarding, boating, playing music,