Most musicians dream of making music that is readily available for others to listen to and appreciate. Last Friday, Amherst College’s very own Tuna and the Wongs took a step toward accomplishing that dream. The band, comprised of three Amherst College students and one Holyoke Community College student, was selected among numerous contestants to enjoy a free day of recording at Converse Rubber Tracks Studio in Boston, as part of the Get Out of the Garage sweepstakes courtesy of Converse and Guitar Center. With the help of a professional recording engineer, Tuna and the Wongs were able to put down five tracks over the course of a day.
In September of 2014, Holyoke Community College student Tim “Tuna” Ray (vocals, songwriter and guitar) and Amherst College senior Andrew Wang (bass, vocals and songwriter) found themselves looking for two more members to complete their band. It didn’t take long for Wang to recruit two more Amherst College musicians, Jake Vitale ‘17 (drums) and Michael Ordower ’15 (guitar, vocals and songwriter). Within a month of the band’s formation, Ray had already submitted some of their new demos to the Get Out of the Garage sweepstakes, although he said he forgot to mention to his new bandmates he had done so. As a result, when the band was eventually selected it came as much as a surprise as it did a delight for the other three band members.
During the fall semester, the band played shows every couple weeks at Marsh, supplemented by performances at the surrounding colleges and local record stores. All the while putting together new music in a surprisingly, somewhat regimented style. Their creative process is as follows: Ordower provides the band with the “barebones” of a new tune and then passes it on to Wang and “Tuna” for editing and finalizations. Finally, Vitale is free to create his own drum beat to complement the sound of the new opus. To that end, Tuna and the Wongs have created a sound that they have described as “The Cars meet Billy Idol meets Blink-182.” The band incorporates a range of styles such as pop, grunge, punk, indie, surf rock and synthetic rock.
A week before last Friday the band was notified they had been selected to partake in the Get Out of the Garage sweepstakes. Although they were already scheduled to perform a show at Marsh that evening, they said they could not pass up an opportunity to record at a state-of-the-art recording studio. Therefore Tuna and the Wongs packed up Vitale’s Toyota Rav4 and made their way to Boston. They arrived at 10:30 a.m. and following introductions, immediately began their check. Following sound check, they were ready to lay down what are known as the “basics,” or a live renditions of each song. In three hours they were able to get down five of their songs. The rest of the day involved perfecting vocals and solos, doing overdubs and editing, all with the help of the audio engineer hired by the sweepstakes. It was the band’s first time with a soundboard, two-way recording glass and a professional engineer helping with production. When the day in Boston ended, the band packed back in the car and raced home to perform at Marsh Dormitory for another Friday night show.
Tuna and the Wongs’ recognition by the Get Out of the Garage judges and subsequent escapade in the studio last Friday has forced the band to think about their future as a unit. Vitale said he is is leaning toward cancelling his applications to study abroad while the two Amherst seniors, Wang and Ordower, are planning on sticking around after graduation for a year to continue what they have started. As for this semester, Tuna and the Wongs are planning on going back into the studio in March to record seven more songs to complete their first album. They will continue to perform all over Western Massachusetts this spring and have their sights set on touring up and down the East Coast this summer.
“Things are still up in the air,” Ordower said. “We are just going with the flow.”