Students from rival schools come together to form eclectic musical project “Via Ferrata”

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Credit: Wolfgang Madonia

Jennings playing keyboard at La Luna recording studios during the recording of their current record “Something about Blue.” “Something about Blue” is the second installment in their “Small Truths” trilogy revolving around a more atmospheric sound with usage of more acoustic instruments.

Wolfgang Madonia, Guest Writer

When a group of musicians have played music together for multiple years, the beginnings of an inseparable bond can occur between the members. This is no different in the case of Loy Norrix junior and keyboardist, Gordon Jennings and Portage Northern senior, drummer and guitar player James Bruce who have been playing together for 7 years.
Jennings and Bruce met each other at the age of 10 while playing at the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock, an organization that allows young musicians to gain experience playing music and performing live together.
In the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock, there are around 11 bands that play per session, and every year there are around 3 sessions. It is an extensive and extremely educational experience for young musicians who wish to play live music. Bruce and Jennings quickly bonded over their shared music tastes and found great joy in playing together.
“When the song would end, we [Bruce and Jennings] refused to stop playing. We would continue jamming and it really made our bandmates angry. We decided it would be better if we just met outside of practice,” said Bruce.
Bruce and Jennings eventually started writing music together under the name of Duo Trio from 2018-2019; however, the group slowly dissolved when the Coronavirus pandemic began.
Bruce and Jennings found themselves confused and anxious with all that was going on, which led to them exploring more abrasive musical territories.
“We started to make noise music to express ourselves, inevitably that was the thing that created Via Ferrata,” said Jennings.
However, COVID was not the only hardship that the band members have faced. They also faced challenges in their ability to produce music together amidst their ever-changing tastes and musical styles.
“Learning how to be in a band with someone was a big obstacle to overcome in the beginning. Me and Gordie have very different skill sets. I didn’t know how to identify how they were compatible with each other, but when I did it was all wheels up,” said Bruce.
Bruce and Jennings have become pioneers of their sound, however, they have been heavily influenced by other artists who they look up to. They listed bands such as Black Flag and Bad Brains who have a background in punk as well as bands and artists such as Willie Nelson and Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick Lamar is a rapper with over 7.5 million records sold. He comes from a life of poverty and struggle, none of these traits line up with that of Bruce or Jennings. However Bruce states that those characteristics are what inspire him in Via Ferrata’s endeavors.
“I found that what Kendrick did for me is that he gave me a new perspective and view on art and life as the music I make is not similar to his at all. As well I have little common life experiences with him: it really worked an empathy muscle for me,” said Bruce
The culmination of these artists become what can only be described as a cacophony of sound: soft synths contrast with high speed and technical drums that result in a unique sound that Jennings and Bruce can call their own. Describing an untapped genre of music can be a difficult thing, but to Bruce it is not a concern.
“The cop-out term would be ‘experimental’ but I don’t like that term, we exist somewhere between traditional electronic soundplay & post rock. I’m not a big believer in labels,” Bruce said.
Via Ferrata have forged their own iron path in their creative journey. Both Jennings and Bruce continue to make music and are currently working on multiple projects, one of which is entitled “Something about Blue.” This is a series in their concept album trilogy entitled “Small Truths.”
“I am excited for whatever comes next. I love the next thing better than the last all the time,” said Jennings. “Via Ferrata is going to good places in the future, I’m really excited to see what happens.”