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Special Angst in a Mix of Genresafterschoolspecial

Special Angst in a Mix of Genres

Daniel Matthews, the emcee of the San Diego-based band AfterschoolSpecial, speaks to APA about the experience of being a young "future rockstar" navigating the Southern California music scenes.

By Kristie Hang

It's amazing what can happen when all the pieces of the puzzles fit together. Based out of San Diego, California, the band afterschoolspecial are the next big thing. This high energy group (Dan Matthews, Brain Figueroa, Mick Terrizzi, Keane Aranita, Jaimie Block-Smith, Todd Olson, and Josh Patin) writes and composes their own music, putting together a unique sound by blending hip hop and rock beats. Influenced by artists such as Linkin Park, The Roots, and Handsome Boy Modeling, afterschoolspecial has been dominating San Diego and Los Angeles music scenes since 2007, with no intention of slowing down. They've just released a brand new, professionally-recorded album, filmed a music video, and are in talks for an upcoming tour.

Afterschoolspecial's melodies consist of thundering drums, smashing guitar, smooth bass, and fluidic piano, supporting an aggressive emcee (Matthews) and sultry female vocalist (Block-Smith). What makes this band unique are the individual members' diverse musical backgrounds, which include jazz, soul/folk, hip hop, classical, rock, and rap. The passion and seriousness of their lyrics and subjects, combined with their hard rock rhythms and blends of underground hip hop, give them an edge over other "strictly hip hop" bands that are trying to make it big. But where they shine is in their live performances. The excitement and passion they bring to a show is nothing short of amazing. 

The best advice Matthews has gotten from other musicians in the industry is: "if you're not willing to make this a full time job, if you don't have aspirations to take this 100% and devote everything to the band, then you're not gonna make anything out of it." This is something Matthews and the other members have definitely taken to heart. Full-time jobs, full-time school, and other commitments aside, afterschoolspecial is the band members' number one priority. After starting out in small venues, local talent shows, and festivals, afterschoolspecial now plays alongside national acts and hosts their own events -- showing their determination to be around for a long time.

I had the privilege of interviewing Dan Matthews, the Emcee of afterschoolspecial, who let me in on all the details of the band, including how they met, the meaning behind their quirky name, the pros and cons of being "typecast" as an Asian-American act.




On how the band started

Dan Matthews: We all went to San Diego State, which is actually how we all ended up meeting each other. None of us were really close back in college, but we were all kind of like friends of friends of friends. I got together with the keyboardist, Brian Figueroa. He's very talented, he was in another band and we just happened to be at a talent show at the same time, and I wanted Brain to just play some music, and they started jamming. I took what they were playing, and I just started rapping over it. I was like, Wow, this is a really cool. I wanna do something with this. So I met up with Brain, we came up with some melodies, and it was kind of like a piece by piece situation where we needed a drummer, so we got the drummer. We needed a guitarist, so we got a guitarist. We needed a bassist so we got a bassist, and then same thing with the singer. We needed a singer, so we got the singer. So we all came together kind of like that.



On combining rock with hip hop

DM: The band -- we all have such diverse musical talents. It tends to be a blessing and a crutch on us in a way. All of us with our diverse musical backgrounds can bring something different to the table. A lot of our songs have a lot of rock and a lot of hip hop influence, and that's [reminiscent] of the uniqueness of the music that we can create.



On their target audience

DM: I received some really good advice from someone who was talking to DJ Hahn from Linkin Park. At one point, he asked him, "So what's your target audience?" And he said, "We have the perfect target audience. We want to target people that are 18 years old." And what he means by that is that people who are around the age of 18 are usually really up with trends and really in with what's going on as far as being hip. The people who aren't 18 yet want to be 18, and the people who are older than 18 like 25 and 26, want to be around that age again just because there's a lot of hip and coolness factors around that. So, I think that as far as our audience goes, we're trying to attract a wider demographic. We're trying to attract people that are into rock and hip hop music, and I think that we do a really good job attracting the college-age crowd It might be because of the fact that I'm Asian, that we do a really good job at attracting the Asian crowd cause there's not that many really good Asian-fronted bands out there. So we do a pretty good job at attracting that particular crowd.



On the label "Asian American group"

DM: I think we do a really good job at not necessarily falling within the idea that we're just an Asian-American group. We do a lot of shows that aren't necessarily Asian at all. We do a lot of shows at bars and different venues down here with a lot of well known underground hip hop artists that aren't Asian at all. I think that does a really good job at getting us away from being pigeonholed as "Asian American."

However, I don't think that it's necessarily a bad thing. I received some really good words of advice from somebody recently, who said that nowadays it's not necessarily a bad thing to be seen as an Asian American group. I think that Asian Americans are obviously on the rise in entertainment, and that this is probably one of the best times for an Asian American to do entertainment than any other time. Ever, in the history of time.

For the latest information on afterschoolspecial's upcoming song releases, tours, and performances, click on their their official website.

Click below to listen to a clip of afterschoolspecial's first single off their first album, titled "Future Rockstars of America." Future rock stars they are indeed.

Asia Pacific Arts