Cultivating a musical environment at Cloyne Court

Dinner time at Cloyne Court cooperative is a clashing mish-mash of metal clanking against ceramic in a rhythmic cacophony. Residents break into nightly impromptu drum rectangles around dining tables in anticipation for homemade food. Music is deeply embedded into the culture of Cloyne as it manifests itself in the unlikeliest situations, ranging from dance parties in the kitchen to claims of ghosts that harmonize in the basement.

The music culture at Cloyne has developed its own lore, founded on a history of performances by notable players such as No Doubt, Green Day, Rancid and more. A mural in the game room extends Elliott Smith’s album cover for Figure 8 beyond four inches by four inches into a multiwall dimensionality. Although the mural was painted in 2012, it recalls a time when Smith himself performed in Cloyne’s kitchen in 1996.

“On a metaphysical level, you can definitely feel there’s been a lot of good bands that have played here,” said Zachary Peterson, who fronts Butch Nasty and the Blackout Kids — a band that formed in Cloyne’s basement in spring 2012.

According to several Clones (residents of Cloyne), the house provides an environment that fosters the development of musicianship. East Bay Express recently predicted this year will bring success to Waterstrider, an Afrobeat-inspired jam band that formed in Cloyne in 2009. Similarly, Peterson said his band’s first four or five gigs were at Cloyne. “It just set us up to be confident in what we’re doing,” he said.

Another encouraging aspect of the music culture at Cloyne is the band room — a rarity for the infrastructure of a co-op. The band room was not established until the retrofit of 2009. Before then, the current bike room was the main stage.

“I now live on top of the band room, and I hear every single person who plays in there,” said Zachary Briefer, one of Cloyne’s board representatives. His room has provided him a firsthand glimpse of the diversity of musical ability, which ranges from beginner exercises to shredding metal.

“I was reluctant to try new music styles before moving in here,” admitted Peterson, whose preferred music genre is punk. “I’ve heard so many things from all sorts of genres that it just kind of opened my mind a bit.”

Despite the perks of Cloyne’s music culture, the co-op community has experienced controversy surrounding the Berkeley Student Cooperative Executive Cabinet’s proposal to turn Cloyne into a substance-free, academic-themed house from which all current and former members will be purged.

The notion of a perceived drug culture is one of the reasons for the proposal. “It would be really hard to be a successful UC Berkeley student and have an actual drug culture,” Sam Gans, the bassist of Bicycle Day, concluded.

Gans said drug use is not a direct gateway to creativity. “You sound a lot better when you don’t consume substances, definitely,” he noted. He cited highly respected experimental musicians who happen to be sober such as Frank Zappa, Andre 3000 and Prince. “It’s good to see intensely creative people who don’t do drugs.”

Briefer presumed that if Cloyne becomes a substance-free, academic-themed house, “I imagine they won’t have a band room anymore … It’ll just be a lot more like a dead space.” He said Cloyne’s current environment allows him to express what he learns in class in a creative way through his drumming. The cabinet’s proposal does not specifically address whether bands would be able to continue practicing at Cloyne.

Gans said the proposed environment would stifle creativity. “We already technically have quiet hours right now, but if they’re going to be so strict, a lot of people would be very tentative about … being too loud,” he said.

Cloyne throws an annual music festival punned Clochella (after Coachella). “That’s why Clochella is so cool, because we’re adding to that legacy,” Gans declared. The purge suggests these kinds of music events will be discontinued, and by extension, the musical legacy could be abolished, he added.

Additionally, it is rumored that white walls would replace some of the murals in Cloyne. The reasoning behind this erasure seems to be that psychedelic murals might suggest a drug culture. In an email to the BSC community, Norman Cahn, a board representative for Davis House, defended Cloyne’s murals against the proposed white walls. “Art is art, for whatever reason they were put up,” wrote Cahn, a music major. “They are a reflection of the immense love people have/had for the house, and although the walls themselves belong to the BSC, the murals do not.”

In the midst of these implications regarding the cabinet’s proposal, Briefer acknowledges, “It’s inevitable that there will be a change, but it’s a question of to what degree.” To many Clones, the realization of this change hits a bittersweet note in the legacy of Cloyne’s art culture.

Contact Caitlin Kelley at [email protected].