Musicmaking 101

A local School of Rock; the ’Mericans; and more
By BOB GULLA  |  July 17, 2007
Chris_Daltry__'Mericansinsi

Dan Pepin, formerly of Letdown, is currently in the band Empty Wallet Club, which is on hiatus while their lead singer pursues a career as a fighter with the UFC. Pepin is also the dean of his own School of Rock on Main Street in Woonsocket. This weekend, there will be a benefit for the school at the Living Room. He answered a few questions via e-mail about his endeavor.

Tell me about the School of Rock, Dan.
I opened two years ago. I had been teaching for years at Larry Bee’s Music Center and had amassed a large number of students. But what I wanted to do was not only give them lessons, but help them in a band situation. We teach guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and piano. About 50 percent of my students are already in bands and some just needed a little help on their instruments in a band context. We also offer courses in music theory, sound production, digital recording, and guitar maintenance.

How is it working out?
This school is all about fun. Period. I’ve had some of these students for as long as 10 years! I’ve actually seen some of them graduate from Berklee College. It’s very rewarding to see your student rock out at a show or graduate from music school with high honors. Call me a sap but some of it’s even got me a little teary-eyed from time to time! The problem with any music school happens in the summer time. Funds are always low. This year we are planning to add two more rooms and we really need extra funds. That’s the reason for the benefit. Because I have made so many good friends in the local scene, some great bands have come out of the woodwork to help out. Shadowcell and Griffon jumped at the chance to help and I cannot thank them enough for it. The next benefit we plan on doing is going to be performed entirely by students. I’m just gonna be sound man and moral support!

Shadowcell + Griffon + Empty Wallet Club | July 22 | The Living Room, 23 Rathbone St, Providence | $10 | 401.521.5200 | www.myspace.com/danpepinsschoolofrock

’Merican music
It’s quiet music you want to crank, hushed, acoustic, strummy stuff that sounds as good loud with the windows open as it does when you have it whispering to you in your earbuds. It’s the gift of the ’Mericans, and their new album, Where All Dead Leaves Go, is one magical listen. The opener, “Off the Trail,” kicks off with a great riff and some sweet changes; it almost sounds like a vintage garage progression only on acoustic guitars. The Byrds comparisons emerge on the folksy, harmonica-tinted “Hey, Driver” and the wistful “Charlotte.” The elegant “Holidays” has a George Harrison feel and some pretty vocal harmonies. Chris Daltry’s voice deepens with character on each successive album, an improvement evident on the haunting closer “All-Star,” and in the homespun playing of the band (Michael Moore, Tom Baker, Mike Savage, Michael Bilodeau, and Bryan Minto). Where All Dead Leaves Go will thrill the many fans who have missed the ’Merican’s previous incarnation, Purple Ivy Shadows. It will also find a place in these pages as one of the year’s best discs. Highly recommended.

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