Student, alumnus find success in music


The other day, I got to sit down and chill with one of the most exciting and promising up-and-coming bands in the area. The music that they’ve written is an amalgamation of melodic guitar, ambient vocals, hip-hop basslines and heavy/funky drum beats: VWLS. 

First of all, the name is great.  VWLS. Get it?  It’s “VOWELS” without the vowels! How cool is that? 

The music reminded me of a late night sandwich when you’re starving and grab everything that you like to eat and put it between two slices of bread; in theory, it should be disgusting, but it totally works.

The band consists of Gannon University alumnus Luis Pontillo ’13 on guitar and  senior theatre and communication arts major Todd Paropacic on vocals and keys, Alik Kujkowski on guitar, Dommy Doo on bass and James Quirk on drums.

It was my pleasure to spend the evening with Paropacic and Pontillo talking about the band and their upcoming show.

We started out listening to their only release so far, “Puppet.”  It’s  reminiscent of an odd mixture of Led Zepplin and Alt-J, two of their biggest influences, they said.  When I asked them how they went about writing their songs, I got the band’s life-story, which was pretty insane.

The first time the idea of the band even came up was in Scotland. 

Paropacic and Pontillo were both on a trip to Edinburgh with Gannon’s theatre department when one night, Paropacic picked up a guitar at an open-mic night in a bar and had an epiphany.  That night he told Pontillo he wanted to start playing and they’ve been jamming ever since. 

When they got back, they tried to start something with a few local players, but it didn’t last long, and they ended up just sitting on park benches throwing ideas back and forth. 

The two were almost going to throw in the towel when Pontillo saw an old high-school friend, Kujkowski, at the King’s Rook Club, the place that would eventually become the venue for their first large-scale concert.

Kujkowski plays guitar for the local band, Sea of Teeth, so they both started talking and set up a little jam session where they kicked around the riff for “Puppet” and decided to start a small group. 

The next time they got together, Pontillo brought Paropacic and Kujkowski brought his Sea of Teeth bandmate, Quirk, and they hit it off immediately. Later, they brought in Doo, and the current VWLS lineup was solidified. 

Now Paropacic and Pontillo could finally answer my first question and explained how they wrote their songs.  The process begins with them all sitting around Kujkowski and Quirk’s house talking and hanging out until someone gets an idea. 

“We all go down to the lab like mad scientists,” Paropacic and Pontillo said, almost at the same time.  They shoot riffs, beats and lyrics at each other in the instrument-filled basement until they begin to fit and feel good.  As chaotic as that sounds, the results speak for themselves.

After a story like that, I bet you’re wondering how you can hear these rising stars. Well unfortunately for all those either going home for the summer or under-age – but quite fortunately for everyone else  – their next show is May 9 at the King’s Rook Club.  They’re going to be playing with Wild Adriatic in the downstairs concert room. 

When I asked them about their set list, they told me that they’d be playing all originals with an intro and an interlude that they’re currently perfecting. Onstage chemistry makes a band, and VWLS definitely has it.  If you can make it to this show coming up, I strongly recommend it. 

When I listen to VWLS, I get excited about music and performance, and their insane originality takes you to a world so deeply rooted in all of their emotions and passion, it’s impossible to deny their imminent success as musicians and artists.



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