Confessions of an Ex-Pothead

The first time I smoked weed was at a friend’s house on a warm Friday afternoon sometime between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college. It was a big deal. A random group of kids showed up to celebrate the occasion. We ate brownies with marshmallows on top then got impatient so we smoked out of a homemade water bottle bong. After a few hits, I kept insisting that I wasn’t high. Then, I exhaled when I should’ve inhaled and blew the weed everywhere. Everyone yelled at me.

I went to college and my roommate was a pothead so I smoked a few more times after that. We’d do all the typical stoner stuff: eat Annie’s Mac & Cheese substituted with half & half, take 30 minute showers in what my roommate called “American life water”, listen to the latest Ellie Golding dubstep remix, talk about nothing, try and fail to do some homework, sleep.

But the first time I really got high was my Freshman year 4/20. I smoked a joint with a friend and we walked around Manhattan. We rode the really tall escalator in Forever 21 and tried on funky sunglasses. We rode down the really tall escalator wearing our funky sunglasses. Then we walked out to the street and into a coffee shop with bright yellow walls, blaring French music, and a chalkboard menu with items and prices written in pink words too small to read – we kept our sunglasses on. A wiry mustached male barista with an undetectable foreign accent and a scary smile asked us what we wanted. We left without buying anything. We call those, “deleted scenes”.

In the next few years, I smoked more and more frequently. But looking back now, I would say that those years were, more or less, comprised of a host of deleted scenes.

Remember that one time we laughed really hard…what were we laughing at again? Remember that one realization about life that blew us away…what was it again? Remember that song we came up with but got too high to write it down?

Yeah, I forgot it too. It was a good song, though.

For me, weed was a catalyst for creativity. It amplified and multiplied my thoughts and forced me to look inward, questioning every part of my existence. It revealed many hidden emotions, thoughts, and desires and loosened my inhibitions, enabling me to connect with others that shared my passions. It even led to many groundbreaking personal conclusions.

Like, the moment I knew I needed to stop smoking weed.

It was in my car. There was me, high, in the passenger seat, and my younger, wiser brother, concerned, in the driver’s seat. He turned to me and said, “Gina, I’m so happy that you’re moving along in your relationship with God, but you’ve really got to stop smoking weed.”

He was right.

You see; I’m a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ was who he said he was – fully God and fully man. I believe he died on the cross for my sins, rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit into the world. I believe the Holy Spirit dwells within each believer and enables us sinful humans to be in communion with a sinless, perfect God.

I grieved the Holy Spirit for most of my life, allowing sin to share space with His dwelling place. I took advantage of God’s grace and continued to disobey Him because I didn’t quite grasp just how wide, how deep, how vast, and how accessible God’s love is. I didn’t understand how God’s love could take the place of weed, or any other sin. I didn’t truly believe that His Presence could fill every void.

Translation: I didn’t believe that God’s love was enough.

Ironically, the first time I fully experienced God’s Presence as an adult, I was high. So, for a while, I had come to believe that smoking weed gave me a greater and quicker access to the mind and heart of God…

…Good thing God gives us wisdom when we ask for it.

As I delved more into the Word, God revealed to me just how wrong I was. The Holy Spirit dwells within me – the key to experiencing His life living more richly through mine isn’t by adding sin, but by repenting from it!

You see; God is really all we need. We don’t need a little bit of wine with worship. We don’t need a little bit of Buddha with Jesus. We need God. And once you humble yourself to admit just how lowly you really are, how much you need Him, you begin to hear His voice – and His Presence becomes too real to ignore. You slowly start to fall more and more in love with your Creator. Your ways begin to change, not because you as Christian now have rules to follow, but because you’ve fallen so in love with Him, you can’t bare the thought of purposely hurting the Father’s heart.

I never ask myself, “If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?” because ultimately, we can’t go back. Time lost is lost time.

But, I will say this – every sober day walking with God brings inspiration, peace, joy, and love that no substance could supply; not even weed. God’s love is an eternal reality that awakens our hearts to our divine purpose. It breathes through us onto others and allows us to live the way we know we should; the way our Father commands us to. It is endless, and it continues to transform me from the inside out.

So, for all my friends celebrating 4/20, have fun – I recommend eating a few spoonfuls of cookie butter. But I also recommend praying. Ask God to reveal Himself to you. He loves you, He wants a relationship with you; He even died for you to prove it. And He’s always with you, whether you’re high or not.

The Night of the Nerdfighters at Toquet Hall

Crossing over the Saugatuck River into downtown Westport, Conn., the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge boasts flags of dozens of United Nations member states. As seasons turn, the flags remain in a constant fluid motion, waving and welcoming guests passing over the bridge into the lovely town. On Friday evening, December 5th, 2014, rain batters from the sky in a temperature that feels like it ought to be snowing. The flags violently jolt and thrash in the freezing wind.

Just across the bridge inside Toquet Hall, Westport’s own teen center, giddy, grinning high school students whip and jerk to the sounds of their favorite live bands. Beneath the sparkly lights of a spinning disco ball is The Staples High School Nerdfighters Club, a local high school student-led social activism organization, and their annual concert to raise money and awareness for the Narcolepsy Network.

Before the show, teens giggle and gossip amidst the pop and crackle of soda can tops and bags of chips. They aggressively play fooseball and ping-pong until exhaustion, wherein they plop onto the many comfy couches lining the big, circular event space. When the music starts, some remain planted on the couches. Others bravely approach the foot of the stage to see their friends play up close and to jam, Coke in hand.

The Nerdfighters concert is just one event of many scheduled this month. The tall, round, green stucco building with a wooden cone roof hidden in an alleyway among the town’s countless boutiques and restaurants has provided Westport teens with a safe environment of entertainment since 1998; in the form of comedy shows, videogame tournaments, movie nights, and most excitedly, performances of local upcoming bands.

Kevin Godburn, the director of Toquet Hall, scheduled tonight’s four bands. Jillian’s Therapist and C4S are student teen bands, while the members of Broadcast Hearts and Villains in Love are of ages 25-30.

“It’s great when the student bands get to play with really well-established bands like Broadcast Hearts,” says Godburn. “We get to see a lot of the kids that have come up through here, now moving up through college and just doing amazing things.”

“It was a huge part of my high school experience. I used to go there every weekend,” says Blake Charlton, the male half of Villains in Love, a pop doo-wop duo based out of Brooklyn, NY. “It helped me really get into the idea of writing original music.”

Charleton, a native of Weston, CT, the town north of Westport, recently attended a friend’s performance at Toquet Hall. The show’s vibrant energy nostalgically jolted the 30-year-old’s memories of both attending and performing concerts throughout his youth. He then emailed Godburn expressing an interest to return to the Toquet Hall stage. And so tonight, Charleton and fellow band mate and girlfriend, 25-year-old Renae Adams, have secured their keyboard onto the luggage rack of the Metro North train and trekked from Bushwick to Fairfield County to perform.

“We had no idea what Nerdfighters was,” admits Charleton. “But I remember always having the best time as a 15-year-old, seeing these bands from New York come in. So we’re like, now at that age of the bands that I used to see,” he said. “So I was like hey, you know what – let’s play a teen center!”

Though Villains in Love primarily enjoy performing at New York City venues such as the Lower East Side’s Rockwood Music Hall, what he calls a modern-day CBGB’s, they’ve been discouraged by the modern-day audience. They anticipate Toquet Hall to host a more energetic, engaging crowd. “No one cares really in New York,” says Charleton. “Fifteen year olds, even 18-year-olds – they still care. We’re not expecting crowd surfing,” says Charleton, “but hopefully kids will not be talking during our whole set and on their cell phones.”

The first band to perform is Jillian’s Therapist, a high school band that regularly plays at local bars and teen centers. The 14 to 16-year-old band mates have become accustomed to an audience on their cell phones – in the form of their parents recording the performance. Tonight, as the five-piece alternative rock cover band of four boys and one girl take the stage to cover songs by The Allman Brothers and Cage the Elephant, their parents take the couches adjacent to stage right. Middle-aged men and women smile as they hold up iPhones and iPads to record their budding, young musicians.

“We never get nervous,” says Julian Dinowitz, the band’s 16-year-old drummer of Redding, CT. “The worst that can happen is that your parents will still clap.”

“We just wanna have fun,” said 14-year-old guitar player Will Rosenthal of Ridgefield, CT earlier in the week, while slurping a secret Starbucks beverage, a thin mint Frappuccino.

Though tonight’s weather prevented the large crowd that Godburn expected, the energy is high. Lead singer Max Rothstein, 16, in a white tee, dark blue jeans, and red sneakers, triumphantly belts an impressive vocal set. Rosenthal nonchalantly shreds his mint green electric guitar in solo after solo. Dinowitz, barefoot, slams his drums faster and faster with each tune. The crowd roars.

After their set played C4S, another high school band. Two girls, one in pink Converse sneakers, sat on coffee stools and sang acoustic versions of songs by Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey, then asked the crowd to stand against the edge of the stage and join them in singing Feliz Navidad. The crowd laughed and swayed together in holiday harmony.

“I want the audience to be engaged, but I also just love the feeling when you sing or play a perfect note, and everything just feels right with the world,” says Jen Gouchoe, the 16-year-old lead singer of C4S. “It’s a feeling like no other.”

Next up, Villains in Love. By now, the crowd had dwindled to few. Many members of the bands and audience were scheduled to take an SAT exam the next morning, prompting parents to pick them up after the first half of the concert. Still, Villains in Love graced the stage with gusto. Charleton and Adams took turns banging on a Sharpie-tagged “Villains in Love” keyboard over dancey, energetic, pre-recorded pop tunes blaring from the sound speakers. They belted harmonies to original songs with lyrical themes of love and abandonment. They seemed to sing to each other, constantly smiling and dancing on stage, as if they were the only ones in the room.

And, lastly, Broadcast Hearts. The Trumbull, CT-based male trio of a pianist, bassist, and drummer, Broadcast Hearts’ work has been seen on Jimmy Kimmel Live, MTV, and Vh1. Avery Bazan, their 25-year-old lead singer and pianist, classifies their music as poppy, epic, arena rock, citing influences such as Coldplay, U2, and Mumford and Sons.

“It sounds really corny to say, but a lot of our songs really have a message of hope,” says Bazan earlier in the week, as he sips his hot chocolate. “A lot of punk songs, they just leave you with the ‘Oh, my girlfriend left me, this sucks, life sucks.’ Our songs always kinda have this, ‘my girlfriend left me, this sucks right now, but somebody else is on the horizon.’”

Broadcast Hearts perform shows at teen centers throughout Connecticut often; and have previously shared a stage with both Jillian’s Therapist and C4S. And though the trio continues to play at various venues, they’ve found their music’s prevalent lyrical themes of hope and perseverance translate beautifully to the high school audience of teen centers.

“We’re writing songs that are about either some of our best moments or some of our darkest moments. And, maybe that’s not what you’re looking for if you’re going out to a bar on a Saturday night,” explains Bazan. “But colleges and teen centers, the people who are going to those shows are in the midst of those moments. You know, it’s their first girlfriend, their first break up, the first time they’re driving their car. And that’s really what we’re talking about – we just found that it connected a lot better.”

These teen center performances are continually met with criticism by other musicians, to which Bazan asks a question. “When was the first time you heard your favorite band?” he’ll ask, almost always assured with the reply, “sometime in high school.”

“These rocks stars who are like, ‘Oh well, I’m not playing to some, you know, freshman,’” says Bazan. “And I’m like, ‘Do you realize, this is when the most important things in your life are happening?’”

Tonight, Bazan addresses the small crowd with gratitude. He graciously thanks the Nerdfighters for inviting Broadcast Hearts to perform, and encourages the audience to donate to their cause.

“We’re gonna play some good music for you guys,” as he smiles into the microphone. Dressed in a white button down shirt, dark blue jeans, and red sneakers, Bazan passionately plunges the piano keys and wails sweet original songs in accordance with his heavy-handed drummer and quick-fingered bassist. Bazan announces that he and his band mates will stick around to answer questions, sell band tee shirts and CD’s, and offer encouragement.

“Musicianship has this great potential to be really selfish,” he says. “You know? You’re getting on stage, everybody’s going to look at you, you’re going to tell them about your life. And, musicians start thinking that it’s about them, and it’s really not,” says Bazan. “You’re kinda like this lightning rod to reflect what people’s lives have been.”

Noise Pollution Story

A story about the noise pollution at SUNY Purchase caused by the nearby Westchester County Airport.

Written, reported, filmed, and edited by SUNY Purchase Journalism students Tanya Thompson, Sibylla Chipaziwa, and Gina Cunsolo.

Q & A with Chris Santaniello of Control+V

          Earlier this year, Chris Santaniello broke down. Recordings of his own voice, acoustic guitar, bass, and homemade drums – sounds he once turned to for solace – now caused him to question his 10-year journey as a musician. His solo project, “I Shot the Pope”, remained stagnant, as was his development as an artist. He lacked an audience, so he questioned the purpose of his innate artistic integrity and perfectionism. He dropped out of community college and threatened to sell his musical equipment, seeming to accept his fate as the heir of his father’s driveway paving business.            

            In the midst of this, he attended a My Bloody Valentine concert. He was struck by the opening band’s poor production quality and lack of talent; Santaniello was both angered and encouraged by what he now knew to be true – it was he who deserved a place on that stage instead. His friends encouraged him to hang on, and he did.

            Santaniello ditched his old acoustic sound and began both listening and composing experimental and psychedelic music, music that embodied his newfound freedom and mindset. A seasoned guitarist, vocalist, drummer, bassist, and producer, Santaniello challenged traditional methods of playing instruments – like using a spoon as a guitar pick.

          Around the same time, he met one of his biggest influences – a free-spirited vocalist named Vanessa Gaddy. Together they formed Control +V.

        A dream-pop/indie band that considers itself more curious than experimental, Control +V’s sound combines many sounds. Their first four-song EP, posted to SoundCloud last month, and has received significant attention from various music blogs – more attention than Santaniello has ever known.

        Santaniello is pleased, but acknowledges his journey is far from over – he and Gaddy are currently working on a second EP. In the wake of the first one’s release, Santaniello shares his story of the origin and future of Control+V.

Gina: How would you define a “good song”?

Chris: I think what makes a good song is if you could completely change the arrangement, instead of having guitar, bass, drum, you play it with an orchestra, or completely minimalist, or make it just a capella…if you could change the arrangement and it still works. Where the possibilities are endless.

Gina: Would you say that’s your goal in producing songs?

Chris: When it comes to writing a song, yes.

Gina: Where have you performed?

Chris: I’ve performed at Toquet Hall, The Dry Dock, various cafes and open mic nights in Connecticut. I’m not really much of a performer; I have horrible stage fright. I’m getting better at it. In the past its always just been me, in an ill-fitting suit, with an acoustic guitar, and then maybe I’d have Vanessa, who’s the other member of Control +V….I owe a lot to Vanessa. Yeah. Because she is awesome. She helped me get my first gig.

Gina: How did you meet Vanessa?

Chris: I met her through mutual friends; she dated a friend of mine. We kind of knew each other, but every time I’d see her she’d look completely different. I was just always like, who the heck is this girl? She just looked interesting to me. And then we’d just run into each other at places, and started following each other on Twitter, and she started listening to my music and I started listening to hers. And her stuff was really experimental. It would just be her singing a capella in her shower. And I was like wow; this girl has a really good voice.

Gina: Tell me the inspiration for Control+V.

Chris: The inspiration for Control +V came less than a year ago. I wanted to put out a collection of music from my own little project called “I Shot the Pope,” which was me playing mostly all the instruments, but I got sick of doing it; it all sort of had a specific sound to it. I would have an acoustic guitar, bass, homemade drums, and my voice would have a slight echo, and that was pretty much every song that I put out and recorded. And I got really sick of that sound.

Gina: So, you asked Vanessa to form a band with you?

Chris: No, not even. I had a mental breakdown. I wanted to sell all my equipment, and I didn’t want to make music anymore. I didn’t want to do anything. I just got sick of it. I was like, why am I such a fucking perfectionist when no one knows who I am? Why do I have this artistic integrity that nobody gives a fuck about? What’s the point if nobody’s going to listen to it – which is a really selfish thing to think, but that was my mindset at the time. So, I went to a concert of one of my favorite bands, My Bloody Valentine.

And I saw the opening band play, which I don’t even remember the name, but they were horrible. Well, they weren’t that bad. But remember thinking, “I should be up there.” I was like, what are they doing? They kept getting feedback; it was so corny and felt really gimmicky – which I don’t like in music, or in general. So, that completely blew me away.

Gina: You don’t remember the name of the band?

Chris: No, I refuse to tell their name. It really had nothing to do with them being that bad. They were probably fine, I was just jealous.

Gina: I see.

Chris: After that, I went to a friend’s house, and he said to me, “Dude, I don’t know what you would do if you weren’t doing music. Do you?” and I was like, “No, not really.” I thought I’d just take over my dad’s business, sell all my instruments and equipment. It was also my first semester not going to school, and I was just in a bad headspace. So I started listening to a lot more psychedelic, experimental stuff. I remember thinking: I just want to listen to music that’s free, music that was made with the mindset: “I’m going to do this because I want to do it.” My old stuff had a formula to how I did things. Control+V is a lot more free. We can do whatever we want – that’s where Vanessa comes in. We started to talk more and I realized she doesn’t care about what other people think; she’s one of the freest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. I’ll say; I want to do this. And she’ll say, why don’t you just do it? I used to have too many “why” people in my life. I’d tell them I wanted to try something and they’d ask me “why?” and I’d suddenly have to defend myself. But she would say, “why not?” So we met up and realized we had similar interests. Then we did an EP together, so we were just like okay, I guess we’re a band. Then she came up with the name…it has our initials in it. Control +V saved my life in a way.

Gina: What kind of sounds are you guys planning to explore in the future?

Chris: We’ll just put out our self-titled EP; it’s on Bandcamp and SoundCloud and it will soon be on iTunes and Spotify, but our future stuff is going to be much more minimalist, a lot less guitars, but a lot more vocals. We know each other’s voices well enough to play with each other, using our voices more as the instruments, and no longer really thinking about where the chorus is or the verse is…I feel like it should come naturally. Generally, we don’t have any sort of agenda when writing a song. But that’s just for now…it could always change. And that’s the best thing about that band; I don’t feel like I’m stuck in a certain way. If we want to, we can change, and I know Vanessa’s always down to do whatever. There was a point where I said, “You know what, I think I want to form a punk rock band with all girls and call it The Thigh Gaps,” and she wanted to do it. She’s always down for any project. And our taste is close enough that pretty much anything I come up with, she’d probably be down for.

Gina: So, mentally, now…are you in a good place?

Chris: Yeah, definitely. I’m excited about releasing stuff now, for years I wasn’t, I’d keep stuff in. But I’m more ready to release something than I’d ever been. I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years now, and I’m just now finally starting to figure out what the hell I’m doing. I can call myself a producer because I listen to stuff I’ve done with different artists and I can hear the same sound. And I also know – which I think is the most fun part – that I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Meet Kim.

Kim Manuel, an American immigrant from the Philippines, tells his story.

An Evening with Spreads Like Buddha

It is one of summer’s last Saturday nights. An early evening thunderstorm has passed and now the late evening breeze whispers its gratitude through the gentle rustling of the leaves on the trees. For most, it’s been a dry summer.

Though inside the cozy home of vocalist James Lucchessi, the four boys of Spreads like Buddha, the newest, cutest band in Norwalk, Conn., each sit in a different corner of the room and reflect on the fruitful summer that birthed them.

It all began three and a half months ago, when 19-year-old Will Szwec, a protégé of today’s omnipresent YouTube guitar tutorial training videos, decided to start a band. He convinced his buddy James Lucchessi to sing and play bass, made a few phone calls to find a drummer and a rhythm guitar player, and soon enough, Spreads like Buddha had arrived.

Here’s how they make their music: Szwec (pronounced “SHWECK”), composes original electric guitar pieces with enough bravado to inspire a full-length track. Then, his bandmates – a bartender, barista, newspaper delivery boy, and a liquor store clerk – gather in the name of funk to listen to and obey the powerful voice of Szwec’s instrument. They listen to its cries, and take heed, as it demands layers of drums, rhythm guitar, and vocals to complete its message.

“The songs unselfishly start with me,” says Szwec, sitting cross-legged on a tan suede couch with a goblet of Chardonnay resting in his palm, while distantly a tenor saxophone gently sings through a pair of speakers, filling the dimly lit living room.

He looks up at his friends. “This is classy as shit,” he says.

In one corner sits dreadlocked drummer Jon Browne, an Afro-beat enthusiast donning a black Bob Marley graphic tee. To his right is guitarist and producer Chris Santaniello. He wears glasses, sits with his right leg crossed over his left, and speaks with authority. Next to him is Lucchessi, an ethnically ambiguous high-school dropout. He speaks in a low, raspy tone, his fingers playing with his dreads, and only buttons his shirt once in the middle, revealing a black and white matrix tattoo spread across his chest. And across from Lucchessi is Szwec, in a white T-shirt and socks and green basketball shorts. He sports an earring as bright as his smile as he begins to reminisce.

“Well, James and I have jammed together for a while, but the idea of a band came up a few months ago,” he says. “I wanted to convert from playing the drums to guitar – I suck at explaining things and I get nervous when other people are playing a part I wrote. So, I said to myself, ‘I gotta be a guitarist.’

“Right now, personally, I feel like I don’t even know how to play the guitar,” Szwec adds, holding his instrument in his lap. He lets his fingers slide across the neck. “To be able to look at this and to know every possible thing you can do…” he drifts off. “I need to learn theory. That’s what always gets me – the best guitarists have all been taught.”

“Well, what is ‘best’?” Santaniello says, challenging Szwec. “It’s all taste. I tried to take lessons at Norwalk Music in the fifth grade but my guitar teacher told me I’d never be able to play the guitar. I broke my wrist, which fucked up my hand and left a lot of nerve damage.”

Santaniello forms a circle around his left wrist with his right thumb and middle finger.

“So I just started teaching myself,” he continues. “I can’t play certain things, but I can play things that other people can’t play. Will’s solo at the end of ‘The Happy Won’? – I couldn’t do that. But the lead part, I can do. We look at our guitars differently.”

“He’s right,” says Szwec. “Chris and I will sit here and argue about which guitarist we like better in a band. But it works. We’re not both overloading our guitars with the same influences. We’re like two different instruments in the band.”

Santaniello adds, “I think that’s the best thing about this band; we all have completely different musical tastes.”

He pushes his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “But collectively, we all like The Strokes?” he asks his bandmates. They nod in agreement.

Santaniello named the band; inspired by both the “Saturday Night Live” “Coffee Talk” skit in which Mike Myers repeatedly exclaims, “spreads like buttah,” and by a kid he once knew that referred to “Buddhists” as “Buhh-dists.”

“I always wanted to use it for a band name, but it took weeks for me to push it on them,” says Santaniello.

“It had to settle,” interjects Szwec. “But then it was like, okay, the first album can be ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butta,’ and the second album can be ‘Margarine’,” he says with a laugh.

Because “Spreads like Buddha” collectively respects Szwec’s newly tapped wellspring of talent as the core of their identity, the band’s name and all other creative attributes have to earn Szwec’s approval. Yet, each member also acknowledges the opposite undeniable truth – that the collaboration of ideas in every stage of composition is vital to the band’s existence. It is here, riding this string of constant tension between individuality and community, where “Spreads like Buddha” thrives.

“I’ll start by coming up with a riff, bring it to them, and Jon will add rhythm to it. You feel the vibe of the riff, and if the lyrics don’t match the riff, we can all tell,” says Szwec. He takes a sip of wine. “But when it works, we all say – yeah, that works. It’s a slow collaboration.”

“It just seems to materialize,” says Brown.

“I never want to play what he’s playing,” says Santaniello, pointing to Szwec. “You find your place within the gaps, and leave enough space for other people to play, or for James to sing.” He wipes his forehead. “Guys, it is so hot in here.”

The bandmates concur. As Lucchessi stands from his chair to turn on the air conditioner, his foot knocks over his bottle of Dogfish Head Namaste. Light brown foam spills across the dark brown taxidermy carpet, ending at the back of the screaming bear’s head. He and his friends chuckle at his clumsiness. He walks around the spill, points a remote towards the AC, turns and walks to the kitchen, brings back a towel and places it on top of the beer. He takes his seat once more and looks up.

“The lyrics depend on the vibe of the song,” he says. “The goal is to make the song the song.”

“Because that’s what feels most comfortable,” adds Szwec, “when the song is the song.”

“The Happy Won”, their only released material, purely illustrates the band’s unique method of songwriting in which the lyrics come last – it is a feel good, easy listening track that emits an emotion rather than reciting a specific story. Amid the solid bass, the rich rhythm guitar, the quick, subtle percussion, and the dirty, velvety vocals, Szwec’s guitar soars in the background, singing an ode to happiness and the overwhelming, winning feeling it brings.

“We referred to it as ‘the happy one’,” explains Szwec. “We wanted to set a triumphant tone.” He smiles. “We’ve got something good here, we have chemistry – I wanna see how far we can get with this.”

“The dream is to get a living wage from making music,” says Lucchessi.

“I just don’t really want to do anything else,” admits Szwec. “There’s gonna come a point where I’ll go back to school, but until then, I want to milk this as long as it’s worth. We all get together, and we’ll speak nothing, but we get each other. It’s not just a band at this point…”

“It’s a life!” answers Santaniello. They all laugh.

The wine drains, as does the collective conversation. Szwec shakes his head at Lucchessi’s bright red burned palm, a cooking battle scar. Santaniello and Brown reflect on the earlier hailstorm. They wonder aloud if the rain has ceased, prompting Lucchessi’s suggestion to go out for a cigarette.

In the next few months, “Spreads like Buddha” hopes to hire a bassist (right now, Santiniello separately records the bass parts), drop an EP, and book a live show. They triumphantly anticipate the future and the powerful potential they know they possess. And while Szwec’s guitar parts will always remain an integral voice in composition, the band also remains open minded, continuously inspired by both each individual member and by the band as a whole, because that’s what’s most comfortable – when the band is the band.

Once outside, the boys are loose. They speak in their own language, brainstorming possible song ideas beget by mutual ridiculousness, until the chilly breeze forces them back inside the warm living room.

“So basically, Will’s the main composer and arranger. He brings it to us and we play it; it starts with Will,” says Santaniello, swinging his car key chain around his finger as he speaks. “But, it is changing. We’re all starting to contribute more.”

Do Not Quench the Spirit

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

Do not quench the Spirit.

In other words, don’t do anything that would inhibit you from constantly rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks – for this is the most perfect life; one of everlasting joy, hope, and peace.

Do not quench the Spirit.

In other words, don’t let any thought or deed block your view of God’s face. Don’t ignore that pang of guilt zapping a chill through your spine the moment words of gossip leave your lips. Don’t ignore the crashing disappointment immediately following a habitually sexual sin; one where the body loosens the reign its held over the mind and the mind shamelessly asks itself, “…really? Again?”

We sin.
We repent.
God forgives.

We sin because we’re fallen.
We sin because it’s easy.
We sin because it’s easier to sin than not to sin.

God knows this; as He became human – to walk among us, to heal our sick and our blind, and to suffer the necessary immeasurable cost of His Heavenly son’s perfect life for a joyful, praying, thankful relationship with His earthly children. We can now boast in a grace above our heads, a love that never runs dry, and Christ’s Spirit living and breathing in us and through us.

While Forgiveness happened on the Cross, healing takes time. And while the Spirit resources our rejoices and prayers of thanksgiving; time spent opening and healing old wounds is time not spent praising, meditating, and growing….

….and the Spirit is quenched.


We live in the “finding yourself” age. We’re all “finding ourselves”.
We do what we want until we’ve found others who want what we want,
and they accept us,
and we’ve all found ourselves.

God wants you to find yourself in Him. He wants to give you a new identity – one of rejoicing, of praying, of giving thanks. An identity of an everlasting, humbling, all encompassing peace, where the love never runs dry.

Do not quench the Spirit.
You’re just missing out.

Tanira Wiggins Interview

Tanira Wiggins, a senior at SUNY Purchase, talks about her love of journalism, sci fi, and sleeping.