Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Local Music Spotlight: Zach Andrews 11/2008

On a Friday night in mid-September, a horde of college students packs Montevallo’s Alabama Coach Company. The show began at 10 p.m. and the crowd only expands with each passing hour. Most students chat with their friends, some enjoy the cold beverages served by rushing bartenders, and everyone listens to the passionate playing of the singer onstage.
Look closer at the audience and you see that a good portion of them are singing along with every lyric of the vocalist. Ironically, this songwriter is not a major touring act on the American college circuit; he is not even a product of the popular Birmingham scene. Instead, this act, Zach Andrews, represents the raw talent of the University of Montevallo.
A senior health promotions major and former baseball player for the university, Andrews began his musical journey at the beginning of his college career as an attempt to explore unchartered personal territory. “I didn’t pick up the guitar until my freshman year of college. I had alot of down time and I'd always wanted to play, so I decided to teach myself,” Andrews said.
The decision proved successful as Andrews possessed a knack for memorizing chords and lyrics while learning the songs of his favorite artists. He credits the alternative rock band, Dashboard Confessional, as his principal reason for picking up the guitar. Lyrically, he finds inspiration in artists like Jason Mraz. “The way [Mraz]
strings together lyrics is sick,” Andrews said. However, he admits that the music he plays, usually consisting of acoustic singer/songwriter tunes, often does not mirror the music he listens to, which he says is a blend of harder, darker alternative.
In addition to learning and playing covers, Andrews also writes his own songs, a practice he started his sophomore year. He draws inspiration for lyrics from personal experiences, though he says that he recently started writing songs that reflect the events and experiences of others in his life. He desires to use his music as a way to express himself to his peers. “I think music plays one of the biggest roles in today’s culture. Music is beautiful and expressive. There is nothing like it in the world. You can really feel what a person is dealing with through lyrics and music.”
After a few years of learning the basics of guitar and writing, Andrews played his first show at Double Play, the venue currently known as Red Bones Bar and Grill. Though initially nervous during his first few gigs, Andrews developed into a natural showman. He plays covers to bring in the audience, but does not hesitate to play his own material. “I feel more comfortable on stage. Instead of just sitting there and playing music, I stand, move around, and talk with people. It is alot more fun now,” Andrews said, reflecting on the personal change that has occurred over the last two years.
As far as future ambitions are concerned, Andrews plans to continue writing and performing for at least the next year. “My biggest goal is to graduate. I'm not a fan of school by any means. I really have no clue what I want to do with my life, and that really doesnt bother me one bit. I would love to play music for a living, but only time will tell
on that one,” Andrews said. After graduation, Andrews hopes to commit at least one year to a full-time music career, but will resort to the conventional 9 to 5 lifestyle if this endeavor does not prove successful.
Andrews boasts a healthy gigging resume, at least in Montevallo. He has played several packed out shows at standard venues like ACC and Red Bones. He has also participated in university-related functions, providing music at the Phi Mu Band Aid, Campus Outreach, The Comedy Show, and various sporting events. Though appreciative of the town that has supported him all these years, Andrews longs to play in new surroundings. “I'm trying to get into the Birmingham scene and other surounding places. I need to get out of the 'Vallo Bubble' and see how others take in my music.”
Recently, Andrews spent part of the summer and a few autumn months recording with another Montevallo-based songwriter, Jordan Barrios. The finished product will be Andrews’ debut demo, aptly titled “Synethesia for Annesethesia.” The disc contains several songs written over the last three years, including crowd favorites such as “Gulf of Mexico” and “Goodbye,” as well as new tunes such as “Set Fire to the World” and the Jason Mraz-infused “Falling For You.” Barrios adds his talents to the mix, providing both lead guitar, percussion, and background vocals, as well as performing recording duties.
As far as the title track is concerned, Andrews explains that synesthesia is a case where a person’s senses mix together. “For instance, the background to the song is a girl that sees colors when she hears music. Oh how I would love to have that gift! I actually
spell anesthesia ‘Annesthesia.’ It’s sort of an inside matter involving someone's
nickname, so I hope no one thinks I can’t spell.” Andrews explained. Though he continues to play his older material, Andrews says he hopes listeners will remember him for his most recent songs.
Currently, Andrews is putting the finishing touches on the album. “It should be done in November. It’s really just a rough copy. Hopefully one day I can get a band together and record.” Until then, you can check out his music at For a live show, you can see him on November 21st at the ACC or November 25th at Red Bones.

Change for Change Article 4/2008

Evan Carter walks into the University of Montevallo’s cafeteria on a Monday afternoon for a bite to eat. After swiping his card, he walks over to a nearby table, hangs his backpack on the chair, and pulls out a water jug filled with pennies, dimes, quarters, and dollar bills. The container easily weighs several pounds. Soon Carter is joined by several friends, who are all carrying similar jugs. Each container contains a printed flyer, bearing a water pump with a drop of water falling from its faucet onto a map of the world, along with the words “Change for Change.”
Carter, a UM graduate student studying English and secondary education as well as the fourth floor Resident Assistant for Peck Hall, heads up the UM Housing and Residence Life Environmental Team, which performs environmentally conscious service projects throughout the year.
“Over the break, I went to a few churches and heard about all these efforts to bring clean water to the masses on an international scale,” said Carter. “Roughly 2.6 billion people have no access to sanitary water. After hearing those statistics, I felt like I was called to give to these needs. It’s basically my tithe.”
“Change for Change,” which began in January 2008, represents his effort to benefit actor Matt Damon’s philanthropic organization, H2O Africa. Damon’s organization raises money to fund water purification systems across the African continent. Carter said that a water purification pump and a moderately-sized well costs
around $3,000. These items would provide sanitary water for about 900 people. Since H2O promises to match all donations, Carter and his team members set their goal for $1500.
James Owens, a senior mass communications major and RA for Fuller Hall, said that the project was intended to raise funds, as well as awareness.
“We wanted to raise as much money as possible, but we also wanted to raise awareness of what’s going on ‘outside the box.’ Right now, 15,000 people die from water contamination daily. Three people die every 10 minutes. Hopefully this will be a reality check for people,” Owens said.
After presenting the idea to his team, Carter’s first obstacle was getting permission for the project. “The process was rather simple. The Director of Housing had to get approval from the Vice President of Student Affairs, in order to make sure that no problems occured with requesting funds from the student body.” A university account was set up to keep track of the donations. Since no receipts could be made for donations, the money was kept under close supervision with everyone in the group adhering to the “honor system.”
When they finally worked out the logistics, the group began to advertise around campus. Initially, they posted flyers telling students to see their RA for more information about the organization and how to donate to the cause. According to Andrea Graves, a sophomore photography major and RA for Main Hall, the flyers did not have a
significant impact on donations. “We were having a low turnout so we started placing
collection jars around campus, and Evan and I carried around huge water jugs to the cafe and to housing programs which greatly increased donations,” Graves said.
Change for Change also benefited from several other sources besides the water jugs. “Jennifer Restauri, the Information Liaison for Greek Organizations, made sure Change for Change was the sponsor for Greek Week, which will hopefully lead to more donations,” Carter said. “Also, when Nurse Davis went to a nursing convention, she took along a water jug and received generous donations. We have also received donations from students’ families.” With the combination of all these efforts, the team had exceeded their $1,500 goal at the end of March. As of April 24, 2008, Change for Change had raised $1,705, which will become $3,410 after the check is sent to H20 Africa.
Carter said that the experience has changed his outlook on life, especially in the area of money. “That single penny I see when I’m walking on the sidewalk has a completely different meaning to me now. I was crossing the road on the way to class one day, and I saw a dirty penny in the middle of the street. I bent to pick it up and nearly got hit by a car. But for me, that’s one less person who will have to experience severe thirst.”
The amount of donators also impacted him. “I was amazed that those small increments of money could add up so fast when so many people get involved,” he said.
Owens and Graves also recounted positive experiences. “I’ve learned that every little bit helps. People shouldn’t look down on loose change, because that quarter in your
pocket can prolong someone’s life for a few more weeks,” said Owens.
“This project has greatly changed my views on spare change. I make more of an effort to pick it up. Because after a while you'll be amazed at how much all those loose coins can add up to be,” Graves added.
Carter and his team will continue to collect donations until the end of the
semester. He said he hopes to continue Change for Change next semester and start a new project called Tom’s Shoes. “With Tom’s Shoes, you buy a pair of shoes from their website for $40 and they send a pair to someone in South America. They have really cool designs, so when people ask you about your shoes, you have a chance to spread the word about the organization.”
Students interested in donating to Change for Change should contact their RA or Evan Carter. They can also make a direct donation to H20 Africa by going to .

Locusts and Honey Accord Article

Driving through downtown Montevallo on a warm Tuesday evening in September 2007, I thought about the changes this year would bring. As a somewhat shy teenager entering his freshman year at the University of Montevallo, I worried, like most new students, about making new friends and leaving behind old ones. However, my destination, Eclipse Coffee and Books, and the event at said destination, the uniquely titled “Locusts and Honey Accord,” gave me hope for new beginnings.
The eclectic front porch of Eclipse, decorated with Christmas lights, immediately caught my attention, drawing me in with its cozy hospitality. After passing several rooms containing books of philosophy, world literature, and physics, I stepped into the great room where fellow students were drinking coffee, relaxing with friends, and furiously finishing last-minute papers.
I approached the front counter, guitar in hand, and asked the barista what time the Locust and Honey Accord started. I received a bewildered stare and shrug of the shoulders. This shrug left me feeling rather awkward and wanting to leave quickly before anyone else noticed my mistake. Fortunately, my friend Zach Williams, who had invited me to the meeting, called me over to a side room.
After the members of the group set up for the night by throwing out the table and arranging the chairs in a circle, they pulled out their guitars and began the tedious process of tuning to each other. When they finally finished this exercise, Williams asked if I had any songs, old or new, that I would like to share. Though I had played several times

throughout that summer, the idea of sharing my songs with a small audience of musicians intimidated me. However, I quickly settled my nerves and played the opening chords of “Impressions”, a song I had written my first week at Montevallo. As I began the chorus, I heard an explosion of musical fusion as each of my fellow songwriters complemented the song with guitar, bass, djembe, and tambourine. In that moment, I encountered an entirely different view of songwriting. After I finished my song, we continued clockwise around the circle, jamming for the next hour and a half. Needless to say, the experience left me awestruck.
In the months following that first meeting, I have learned more about the founders of Locusts and Honey and their intentions behind its inception. Williams, a sophomore studio art major, and Jordan Barrios, a sophomore accounting major, came up with the idea in August 2007 to provide the songwriters of Montevallo with a creative outlet. “I actually got the idea from Andrew Osenga and the Square Peg Alliance, which is 9 independent singer-songwriters from Nashville. The Square Peg Alliance is a chance for musicians to share music with each other in a small setting. I just thought it would be neat for us to have something like that here. The musical combination of Locusts is weird. I named the group after John the Baptist who was also weird and indie,” says Williams, who is known for his afro as well as his innovative songwriting.
The pair originally wanted Jazzman’s to be Locusts’ central location, but eventually gravitated toward the popular Eclipse. “Jazzman’s closes at 9 pm and Eclipse
has a more mellow feel,” Williams explains. The decision proved successful and was
evident in the responses of Eclipse employees and customers. “Many times, [the employees] will peek their heads in as they walk by to get a quick listen before heading to work,” said Barrios.
The blend of various lyrical and musical styles also aids in Locusts’ image. “Well, the LHA is really a melting pot of good music. Pi is an ambient, progressive rock band. It is awkward at times when everyone has folksy songs or pop gems and you're the only one playing the crap out of an acoustic because you are used to the loud volume of an electric. But I do have to say that we put in our two cents,” said Evan Mullins, a freshman and frontman for the Birmingham-based group Pi.
Subsequently, Mullins draws influence from alternative bands such as Muse, Coldplay, David Crowder Band, and the Shins. Barrios’ influences include singer/songwriters Matt Costa, Louis, and his friends. Finally, Williams finds inspiration in alternative folk artist Sufjan Stevens, reflected in his own use of the banjo.
Not to be confused, Locusts is not an official band, but a collection of singer/songwriters who are willing to collaborate with each other when necessary. Williams believes that the ability of Locusts’ members to play multiple instruments allows them to provide backup for any show in which the various members perform. “We are basically each other’s band,” he said.
As far as the future of Locusts, the members hope for expansion with more Montevallo students attending. Barrios is optimistic “Of course we hope for an expansion. I think this thing has the potential to reach many people,” Barrios said. The members of Locusts played a show for a packed house in the main room at Eclipse on February 26th, 2008, a sign of increasing popularity.
For aspiring musicians, members offer this simple advice: be creative. As Williams says: “A major obstacle most songwriters face is sounding like everything else or sounding too far out there for anyone to catch it; it’s a balance that must be learned.”