Four DePauw staff members, busy with their jobs and running after their children, come together on Friday afternoons surrounded by power tools, saw dust, and workshop tables to practice for their band, LegendPuncher, in Professor Dan Gurnon’s garage.
Professors of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Richard Martoglio and Dan Gurnon, Professor of Communications and Theater Jonathan Nichols-Pethnick, and Assistant Director of Spirituality, Service, and Social Justice Matt Cummings comprise the band LegendPuncher, a name that Martoglio received from an online title generator.
The idea for the band came organically. Martoglio, who plays guitar and sings, hosts a rock ‘n roll Winter Term in which students must create their own band and perform live at the end of the course. Nichols-Pethnick, taking interest in the course, decided to join in by playing the drums, and the two professors began performing with students for Winter Term. Not late after, Cummings joined as bassist, followed by Gurnon on electric guitar, who had the space at his home for the group to practice at.
“They had nowhere to practice. They needed me, and I knew it,” Gurnon said jokingly. “I had them right where I wanted them.”
As they progress, the group attempts to do gigs at least four times a year and they increase their practice time as performances come closer. Otherwise, they try to meet up every Friday at 4 p.m. for an hour to practice until life’s responsibilities surface again.
The band takes a different approach to the songs that they pick to perform, and they tend to stick to two criteria: “easy to play and loud” Cummings said. However, the band most notably chooses to focus on playing covers of covers, even though Martoglio states that this genre wasn’t their intention in the beginning.
“The nice thing about doing a cover of a cover is that it’s a song that people will recognize and they really like and it’s a good song but it’s different,” Gurnon said. “There’s something new there.”
“In many ways, our lives are the opposite of the songs that we play. Cause we’re playing all of this stuff you know from punk, alternatives, and it’s just rock and roll,” Gurnon said. “And you look at the lives of the people that were in the bands that we’re covering and they were a mess. And we have white picket fences and kids.”
Martoglio remarked that the main inspiration for their music choice was alternative, edgy, rock ‘n roll bands from the 90s. “We started with underground rock ‘n roll bands like Dinosaur Jr. and The Replacements,” Martoglio said, “And then we moved into other things like Wilco and The Clash.”
For the members, music and performing are ways to escape reality, even if just for a moment. “I go home at night and I always say to my wife, ‘I’m going to be down in the basement for twenty minutes, no more’,” Nichols-Pethnick said, “‘I’m not gonna make that much noise but I’m going to play for a while.’ It just relaxes me in a weird way, and it always has.”
Nichols-Pethnick, Gurnon, and Cummings have been playing music since childhood, and Martoglio has been playing guitar for the last twenty-five years. Nichols-Pethnick admitted to throwing rock concerts at his house as a child, and Gurnon stated that he used to cut holes in white t-shirts with Kiss records playing at full blast.
The band has brought the music experience full circle for the members. “Some of these songs actually meant something to us twenty years ago,” Cummings said. “Just being able to relive what good music is. It moves us all.”
While music has always been a large part of the individual members of LegendPuncher’s lives, it has been their time in a liberal arts setting that has strengthened their beliefs in the ability of others to be versatile and sophisticated.
Gurnon, coming from a science background, believes that people are happiest when they’re more productive and have outlets. “I think that it’s part of being a happy and successful human being to actually go after the things that you really get excited about, even if it’s really for no other apparent reason than recreation,” Gurnon said. “You don’t know what your brain is doing in the background when you’re happy.”
Cummings believes that connecting different fields in life helps to join others together by strengthening personal relationships. “We’re more of an individualized community now. What does music do? Well, for starters, this is social capital,” Cummings said. “When we play, what’s happening? People are coming out to see us and connecting.”
Nichols-Pethnick believes fully that his involvement in the liberal arts has artistically combined the different aspects of his personal character as well as the other members’. “Even though I wasn’t the product of a liberal arts education, I really buy into this idea that people are complicated and multifaceted,” Nichols-Pethnick said. “I feel like this is just another example of people bringing different parts of their life together to make something different.”