Folk group Paper Politicians pursues music career while balancing schoolwork, jobs

Written By Nicole Chynoweth

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When Max Kovalchuk and Chris Cichra saw Christina Roig singing and playing guitar at a party last year, the two musicians recognized her talent immediately.”We were like, ‘Wow she’s pretty good,'” Kovalchuk said last Friday in the Lawrence Hall Commuter Lounge. “‘We should ask her to be in our band.'”Now the trio has enough material to record one and a half albums.Paper Politicians is a folk band comprised of the three Point Park University students who have been gaining popularity by playing shows on campus and around the Pittsburgh area.”Making music for people and performing it is what I love the most,” Kovalchuk, 19, said.Kovalchuk, who is a sophomore sport, arts and entertainment management major, met Cichra, a sophomore cinema and digital arts major, last year through mutual friend Junior Ferrese, who played guitar with the two for fun. When Ferrese left Point Park, Kovalchuk and Cichra continued honing their craft, eventually deciding to start a band.After recruiting Roig, a junior with an undecided major, Kovalchuk and Cichra were excited to make the most of a passion each had cultivated since childhood.”We all have similar tastes in music, so we … took everything we all liked and put it together,” said Kovalchuk, who has been playing guitar since grade school.Folk and pop bands such as The Tallest Man On Earth, Of Monsters and Men, Nightmare and the Cat and Phoenix are influences of the group. After rehearsing and finding their sound, Paper Politicians sought out shows to share their music with others.”We didn’t have anything recorded really,” Kovalchuk said, who works at Stage AE. “Just through my work that I do, I know a lot of people in the industry that can help us out. We did any show we could. We played a couple Point Park shows like talent shows, played a coffee shop. [Cichra’s] friends get booked through the group called Afton Shows and eventually his friend suggested us. Then we started getting booked through them.”While Kovalchuk, who plays guitar and provides vocals in the band, appreciates the chance to do what he loves. The insight the experience gives him is also valuable to him.”It ties in really well with my major because I want to work in the music industry,” Kovalchuk said. “I get to see it from a band’s perspective as well as the business side of it.”Cichra, 19, who also began playing guitar in grade school, attributes most of the band’s songwriting to Kovalchuk.”The way this band has worked so far is Max [Kovalchuk] comes to us and says, ‘I wrote this song,’ and we listen to it and then we each give our input,” Cichra said in an interview last Friday in the Lawrence Hall Commuter Lounge. “But usually there’s not too much to change.”The back-up vocalist and guitarist, Cichra, strives to make sure each song showcases a different side of the band.Cichra noted the importance of making an eclectic mix of music so listeners “don’t get bored.””Some bands, you listen to one song and you know all their songs. They might have a different melody but you’re like, ‘Oh it’s just like that other song.’ We try to stay away from that,” Cichra said.As full-time students, Paper Politicians is faced with juggling jobs, classes and the responsibilities that come with being a band, but Cichra does not mind the late nights spent practicing or using every spare moment to rehearse.”We want to do that,” Cichra said. “We don’t mind going through a day of tiredness for this.”Thus far, Paper Politicians has shared the stage with bands from various locations.”We’ve had some really cool experiences with a lot of local bands and some not so local,” Roig said in an interview last Saturday in the Lawrence Hall Commuter Lounge.Roig, who began playing piano at the age of five, enjoys the thrill of being on stage.”I cannot describe the feeling of playing on stage for not only your friends but people you don’t know,” Roig said. “It is complete and total elation.”Musician Kevin Garrett, 20, played a show with Paper Politicians last year and will play two shows with them later this month. Originally from Pittsburgh, Garrett, who attends New York University, first saw the band cover a few songs in YouTube videos that his friend had produced.”From the videos I thought [Paper Politicians] were, and I still think they are … a band that really knows how to cover things acoustically, like popular music,” Garrett said in a phone interview last Tuesday. “They’re good at transforming pop songs into their own kind of thing. I listened to their original music, too, and it was very unique.”When Garrett performed at a house show with Paper Politicians, he was impressed with their personality as a band.”They were very personable and welcoming to everybody that came to play,” Garrett said. “I think the thing that sets them apart from other bands is that they are so personable and they reach out a lot more than others. I think that’s cool because today it’s also about making friends. It’s not just about making music. You have to be nice to everybody, and they do that very well.”

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