By Julia Lerner
By Katie Ebel
Hailing from the Pittsburgh DIY scene, Luke McGowan, 23, is going solo for the first time since he was in the fifth grade. Moving to Washington, D.C. only a year ago, he’s already played at the Baxter BLDG and the Treehouse Lounge. McGowan began playing the viola when he was just five years old after listening to the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and has picked up the guitar, piano, bass and drums since then.
Forming his band the Denzels after dropping out of Duquesne University his sophomore year, McGowan is back in school at Arizona State University and making music that can still be performed loudly in the hopes of somebody else being able to relate. Although his goal is to get his music on to somebody’s phone, he doesn’t mind if his music is just for himself.
The Writer’s Bloc had the opportunity to sit down with McGowan.
Katie: What made you decide to get into music, and how did you get into the scene?
Luke: So, I got my first rock n’ roll record whenever I was five years old, it was the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and started playing music at a pretty young age. I was about five years old whenever my parents signed me up for viola, and then I learned how to play piano and then learned how to play guitar. I first got into the scene probably shortly after my freshman year at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I started playing around the DIY scene and just booking shows in basements.
K: What does music do for you?
Luke: It is my journal. I try to write a song once a week, and it’s just a way to chronicle what I’m feeling at the time so at this point I can look back at all my music and see what I was doing at a certain time in my life.
K: What are your future plans with music? Where do you want your music to go, ideally?
Luke: On to somebody’s iPhone. Really, if it can get to anyone and reach any person and mean anything to them, that’s the ideal. Also, I’m writing these songs for me, so if it doesn’t get to anyone, at least it got to me.
K: Can you talk about the Pittsburgh music scene, the DIY scene and how you got into that?
Luke: It started off like I was a nervous freshman trying to make something of the songs I was writing. I reached out to a person, actually a venue page, the venue was the Vatican’t. So I reached out and I was like, “I’m new to the music scene, I would like to try and book a show. If you have any openings, I would be completely gracious.” And they responded quickly and it was a really opening, warm welcome to the music scene. And from there it was really easy to start booking shows. It turned into more of a thing where if I was free on a Saturday night and I wanted a show, I would ask about it a couple weeks in advance, and I could probably book a show.
K: What would you say the difference is between the D.C. music scene and the Pittsburgh music scene?
Luke: I’ve only played a couple shows in the D.C. scene, I’ve only been here for almost a year now, but in the Pittsburgh scene, it was very divided. You had your emo kids, you had your scene kids, you had your punk kids, your metal heads; it was all very divided. The shows were kind of separated that way and they were very genre-oriented. In D.C. I played two shows, and both shows had a very wide range of people playing on the shows. I had DoubleMotorcycle playing with Brenda, Brenda sounds like the B-52s or something, they’re amazing. And we played a show with a band called Anchle Sam, they have the anch from ancient Egypt, which was pretty awesome. They’re a crossover of alternative rock and hip-hop, so that was interesting. Then I played with a math band at another show, and just like a really wide variety of music. I guess that’s just the nature of D.C. itself.
K: Do you like the D.C. music scene better because it’s more integrated or do you not really have a favorite?
Luke: I don’t have a favorite. You know, shouts out to Pittsburgh always, but D.C. is a really great new home.
K: So did you choose to go solo or was it thrust upon you?
Luke: I mean I always write solo and then I bring it to a band. So I guess now out of necessity. I’m playing still. I’m still playing music. It’s just by myself. I don’t have a band at the moment.
K: What do you want listeners to get out of your music?
Luke: I mean really if they can just relate to it in some way.
K: How did your college experience shape your outlook on music?
Luke: I was really welcomed to the scene whenever I first started college. And then the music scene kind of got me out of college. I dropped out my sophomore year and started living with my band and just kind of trapped it out. But, yeah, kind of an ebb and flow. The band I was in was called Denzel. I started playing music with the bassist, he was in my band in fifth grade. We went to high school together, we were in different bands in high school, and Denzel came together from a bunch of people dropping out of college at the same time. And we decided we were going to form a band because that’s the most cliche thing to do.
Featured Photo Credit: Luke McGowan, 23, performing “Bed of Splinters” at his home in D.C. for The Writer’s Bloc.
Julia Lerner is a sophomore journalism and philosophy major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Ebel is a junior journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.