I met Calvin when I was in middle school. We were on the same pop warner football team. But I didn’t start talking to him until high school, and it wasn’t really until we were in college that we became friends. Up until a certain point he was always more Riley’s friend than mine. The first night Roman Candles recorded, Calvin played three songs from the demo on his radio show on KSDT. Six months later, Calvin came on the first Roman Candles tour playing bass, and when Riley quit, Calvin learned all the songs on guitar and offered to help finish the tour. When we got back from tour, Calvin helped me record three new Roman Candles songs for an upcoming demo. Later, he painted the artwork for the Last Exit to Berkeley tape, and he recently just put out his first full length album, and came on tour with me for three weeks. I got to watch him confuse a lot of people on a nightly basis, and blow people’s minds with his undeniable ability to play the guitar. In this interview we talk about New Found Glory, high school football, breaking edge, Jimmy Hendrix, The Beatles, and art. This was recorded live to tape in Calvin’s backyard Friday, August 1, 2014.
Can you talk about when you first started playing guitar and how you first got into music?
Sure, I first started playing the guitar when I was 7 years old, but before that my mom forced me to take piano lessons, so I’d say I was about 5 years old, and I really disliked having to take lessons with my teacher. She would come to the house, and I would cry when she would come over because I just wanted to play with my toys, or I’d pretend that I was asleep when it was like 6:00 p.m. So I’d have these like grueling piano lessons that I didn’t want to take, but that definitely set a foundation of music that I’m now grateful for. And then when I was 7, my sister had an acoustic guitar laying around the house, and I just started plucking the strings, and I immediately felt some sort of resonance with it, and I just felt like immediately, I told my mom that I wanted to take lessons.
So I took guitar lessons at a music center for a few years. And I did like recitals for little kids. Then after that, I was just practicing on my own, and then in middle school I played in the jazz band, so that was really helpful for me learning how to solo, and how to improvise, and then I took more personal lessons with Brett, who is my older sister’s friend, and he was really influential in showing me how to really maneuver around the guitar, and then in eighth grade he showed me Megadeth, and everything went wild from there. I wanted to learn how to solo like that, and since then I went through periods where I was super depressed and would barely play at all, and then in college I was really finding who I really am, and I realized the guitar is the main thing I want to do, and I always had those past experiences even though I wasn’t practicing as much, but recently in the last few years I picked it up again. And then in 2011 I decided to start doing my solo project.
When I first started hanging out with you was when you joined Media Blitz in high school, and I was wondering if you talk about how you first got into punk, and kind of take us through your bands chronologically?
Yeah, so when I was 14, well actually back in middle school I was getting into hardcore music – anything straight edge like youth of today, earth crisis. I would wear all these hardcore shirts as a middle schooler, and no one would have any idea what they were. So at that age, I was getting into straight edge, and I know that hardcore was a counterculture within punk, and researching and learning more about it that opened up punk to me, and I started to meet other punk kids in high school. From there I met Riley and Jason, and they needed a new member for their band, and I ended up playing the guitar for them. Those were really important experiences for me too that I’m really grateful for. Learning how to perform in front of people with my electric guitar. And my first show was at the Masonic Lodge in San Diego, so Media Blitz drove down there, and we were like 16 years old. Then when I was 18 I was in the band Thought Process, and that was the first time I had ever recorded music in a studio. And Ditch was our frontman, and he’s one of the most respectable guys I’ve met in the punk scene, and Jeff Salisbury was our drummer, who is an amazing guy, so I had a lot of fun with that.
And didn’t you also play in Break the Chain?
Oh yeah uh I played a few shows with Break the Chain. That was when I was still straight edge, but then I got into college, and I really needed to explore all the things that life had to offer. I only played a few shows with them.
What did you go to school for?
I studied visual arts. Specifically studio arts. So, you could choose what to focus on like drawing or painting, and then we had classes on theory and history. That was at U.C.S.D., the same location as the Che Café. And I use to have a radio show that played hardcore and punk on KSDT, and it was called 2 Hour Revenge Therapy, and it was influenced by the Jawbreaker album, and that was during my first year of college.
Could you talk about what your influences for art are?
As far as art, huge influences for me number one Marcel Duchamp, he was a surrealist, he really flipped the idea of what art could be, and in a sense access a whole new level of freedom in art. And Salvador Dali. He’s one of the few artists that I feel like had full integrity all the way up until he died. You know, there’s some artists and musicians that start to have a downfall in their music, and you kind of can only remember them for their past, but Salvador Dali, if you look at his paintings through the progression of his life, they only got better and better. That’s how I would like to carry on with my art is to always make it better and better all the way until I die. Andy Warhol, he’s another influence on me, and then anyone who is a performance artist, so there’s Maria Abramovic. U.C.S.D. was a really they were more of a conceptualized art school as opposed to honing certain skills, and they had a really good performance art program, so that helped to expand my mind also.
Well I remember when you were living in the dorms, you were still straight edge for most of the year, at what point did you decide it wasn’t for you anymore? What was your tipping point?
I just felt like I didn’t need to hold on to self imposed rules and regulations just to impress a crowd of people that don’t know me at all. I felt trapped into having to represent myself to a scene of people that in the end don’t personally know me, and don’t know the kind of life that I live, and I feel like you can maintain a balance with life, and not have to go to such extremes like partying every night or telling everyone to fuck off. So, I just I felt like it was becoming more limited than freeing for me, and that’s why I stopped doing it. But I still really respect those bands for helping me to grow up into the right person. And I’m grateful that I was straight edge because I do think that it helps you when you’re younger because for my personal opinion I really think you should wait awhile before you do that stuff because I guess for me it gave me such a better perception of reality, but each person is different, so I understand, but I respect it for people that need it, and I’m really grateful for all those bands in the past because they all still influence my music nowadays.
What did you listen to or what was responsible for your change in direction that you went from playing in hardcore and punk bands to playing very experimental music.
I’d say the number one band that kind of led to a change in experiment was The Beatles. And obviously you always hear about The Beatles your whole life, but it wasn’t until I got older that I could really understand what they were doing with their music. And I was amazed at how narrow my spectrum of music listening was, and then I started listening to them and to Radiohead, and those really set a new standard for me as far as people that take music to a progressive standard. And I see The Beatles, I felt like they were more artists behind an instrument as opposed to just musicians, and I know John Lennon when to school for art, and that’s kind of one of the reasons why I decided I could major in art also, and kind of just let it filter into my music now. I personally feel like the top 3 things that had the greatest effect on human culture so far were Jesus, the Beatles, and the Internet. World War II could have been in there among other things, but the Beatles came out of WWII's aftermath.
So how you describe your music now?
I would say my music is experimental in the sense that I’m creating a synthesis of all the different types of music that I’ve ever liked with the electric guitar, and not limiting myself to any one type of music, but rather whatever feeling I want to express at that moment, and the words I want to communicate I’ll use a certain type of riff, so I just take from everything that I like, but the main things that I really like are Jimmy Hendrix and the band SLEEP, and I really like mixing those together, but also The Beatles, and just from anything I like to listen to, and I always just want to keep people on their toes. My music strives to have no limitations.
Can you describe growing up in a Filipino household where both of you parents are immigrants and expected you to major in biology? How did you go about telling them that that wasn’t was going to happen?
That was actually a huge struggle for a long time. I’m actually surprised because nowadays I really enjoy hanging out with them, and I spend a lot of time with them, but in the past they were sort of a terror. Growing up in a Filipino family, like my parents worked really hard to get to America using a certain structure, and using certain guidelines that they feel are secure, but in reality aren’t there anymore because the world changes so much. And so they really wanted me to go into the medical career, but I would be living the life of a completely different person, and I’d be miserable on the inside because that’s not who I am, and their minds kind of started to change because my older sister would talk to them a lot, and explain to them how I need to do what’s best for me, and how I’m going be happy and get fulfillment for my life as opposed to having to torture myself into studying for something that I didn’t want to. It took a really long time, but slowly they were more and more accepting of what I do, and they were less and less trying to tell me to change what I had to do. Now at this point they’re supportive. And maybe they don’t fully understand everything I do, but they understand that it’s what I love to do, so they let me do it.
So what do you do now, are you working?
I work at GNC, the vitamin store. I learn about nutrition everyday, and when I’m not there, I’m working on music. I want to play more shows and just spread my music out there.
What was your favorite album ten years ago?
I’m twenty-four, and ten years ago I was fourteen, the real honest answer to this question is “sticks and stones” by New Found Glory. I’m pretty much showing you my nudity right now.
When I first met you, this is something that maybe not a lot of people know, is that you were playing varsity football, and your favorite band was Ten Yard Fight.
Oh the varsity Football Days.
Can you explain to the readers how playing high school football influenced you.
Well my brothers played varsity football, and they were All-Stars honestly. My cousin was an All-Star. I was still really confused in high school. Everyone is confused in high school, and they don’t know what to do, so they group up in something. And I just felt like oh my brothers did it, and I’ll give it a shot also, and to be honest I went through a lot of miserable experiences. I really just didn’t enjoy being yelled at and treated like a piece of scum. But on the positive side I really know how to take care of my body in the sense of exercise, and I gained a level of discipline for myself that I still take with me in everything that I do. And also, nowadays, if I’m going through a tough situation I ask myself, ‘was this worse than high school football?’ And the answer is always ‘No.’ And I carry on that torch [laughing]
FUCK YEAH! [laughing]
Yeah, even though it was miserable, I'm still glad I played. If I could go back in time and change it, I wouldn't. It gave me an iron skin.
Can you just let people know where to find your music, and what your future plans are?
You can listen to my music on calvinjalandoni.bandcamp.com and you can look at my art on calvinj.info which is my online art portfolio. I recently released my first music album. It’s self titled, and it’s a concept album about the existence of the soul. It’s actually going to be the first part in a three part music trilogy and they’re all connected with the same theme, but they have a different focus. So this first album is about the exploration of the soul, and the second album which I’m going to work on and will be out next year is going to be about the psychology of the soul, and I hope to go on tour again in March, that’s my plan, so we’ll see what happens.
Well thanks a bunch.
Yeah thanks a lot. This is really awesome. I’m really stoked to get to do this.