‘Pioneer Star’ band gains traction in music scene

Written By Robert Berger, Co-Sports Editor

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Jake Stretch’s mother made him introduce himself to Chase Barron at orientation. Neither of them could have guessed that they would form a band that would sign with a record label, release an EP and host a music festival within two years.

“I gave him a CD I had made in high school and he was into it,” Barron said. “He offered to help me record that summer, and so I pretty much lived in his basement the entire time.”

The pair spent the summer working on Barron’s solo album “When the Moon Will Sleep,” in Stretch’s basement. After enjoying each other’s company, Barron and Stretch started a band with musicians they had recorded with. After a few months, they came to their current lineup.

The band consists of Barron on guitar and vocals, Tyler Handyside on saxophone, Mike Saunders on lead guitar, Jacob Rieger on bass and Stretch on drums.

“Our sound is abstract,” Barron said. “All of us are always listening to something different, so every week we bring different ideas to each other.”

In the Pittsburgh music scene, Chase and the Barons set themselves apart by blending rock n’ roll, pop, jazz and punk sounds. Barron credits bands such as Green Day, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd as influences. Saunders attributes metal bands from the Guitar Hero franchise for sparking an interest in playing music.

In concert, the band has over twenty original songs in its arsenal to go along with a variety of covers; Led Zeppelin, Wolfmother and The Monkees are all fair game.

This past November, they performed under the pseudonym “Robin Hood and his Merry Men,” playing songs from the Shrek soundtrack at what was the first rock concert in the history of the Pittsburgh Playhouse. They also played a WYEP Live and Direct Session at the radio station March 6.

“We’re trying to make ourselves stand out because I think that’s the only way to get anywhere in the music industry,” Stretch said. “No one is better at being yourself than you.”

After ten months of playing together, the band entered Pioneer Star, an annual contest where one artist or band receives a contract with Point Park’s Pioneer Records. After beating nearly 100 submissions, Chase and the Barons were signed on.

“I was relentless and sent them not only the three songs they asked for, but also video and a storytelling about the things we’ve done and how much time we put in the band,” Barron said.

As part of the deal with Pioneer Records, the band recently finished recording their debut EP, “Propose a Toaster.” Slated for an April 11 release date, the band is also set to play an EP release show that same day at The Club at Stage AE in support.

“Pioneer has done so much for us and we have gotten so many shows and opportunities from them,” Rieger said. “Working with them has been nothing but awesome so far.”

Also part of the deal, Chase and the Barons just finished filming a music video for the EP’s first single, “Rule the World.”  The video was shot in Point Park’s University Center with the help of a cinema class, along with students in the sports, arts and entertainment management major.

The band said the EP release will be the deciding factor of their near future. Pioneer Records will print 300 copies along with a digital release.

“We just have to keep at all of our plans, from the EP release to the expansion of Woodland Ruckas,” Saunder said.

After spending their first six months playing shows, the idea of Woodland Ruckas sprouted when the band felt the need to record their own original music. This past summer, the band spent on week recording music around the clock in a Wishaw, PA cabin. At the end of the week they had 16 finished songs.

The final night in Wishaw, the band hosted a festival that brought out nearly 300 people.

“The whole town was in a drought when we got there, and the gas stations didn’t even have running water,” Saunders said. “The night of the show there was a torrential downpour.”

The band plans to focus on the festival side of things this summer rather than recording more material.

With other plans in the works such as a full length album, a two day Woodland Ruckus festival and hopes of touring, the Pittsburgh band is showing no signs of stopping in their 15-month existence.

“We want to become one of those big Pittsburgh bands,” Barron said. “One where when people talk about Pittsburgh music, they’ll mention us… and we’ll see where it takes us.”

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