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].

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  • This was a beautifully written piece highlighting an aspect of this wonderful house that most people outside of the BSC wouldn’t know about. Thanks for sharing, Caitlin!

  • LOL

    Wow, the amount of bias in this article is out of control. Way to go Daily Cal. GREAT editing. Way to use your “arts” section to further Cloyne’s ludacris political agenda, trying to save their drug cave… LOLLL WHAT A JOKE. This article should be taken down immediately.

    • DLG

      Drug cave? Really? that is the LOL here. And this article is well edited. Do you see grammatical or factual errors?

      It is true:
      1. Cloyne is a venue for lots of music, including all of the artists mentioned.
      2. Music is a huge part of house culture at Cloyne. I used to be social manager and got messages from bands nearly every week about playing shows.
      3. There are tons of murals that have to do with music in Cloyne.
      4. Cloyne has provided a rehearsal space and venue for many bands that have gained fame since playing/practicing at Cloyne.
      5. The new theme and standards would not likely promote musical practicing and experimentation as one of the measures was more stringent quiet hours.

      This article does belong in the music section, as Cloyne is a venue for many bands and will be lost as such with the new plan. This is something that effect music in Berkeley because Cloyne is one of a small number of venues for aspiring musicians in the campus/Berkeley area.

      And what is the political agenda here? That it’s being noted that Cloyne would be lost as a music venue/epicenter of sorts for young musicians at Cal and in the Bay Area? Is that really an unfounded claim to make?

    • DLG

      What is the editing problem here? I don’t see any grammatical or factual errors. Drug cave? That is the LOLLL WHAT A JOKE. What does that even mean?

      As for “political agenda” what are you even talking about? It is definitely true that Cloyne has been a venue and epicenter of sorts for a good number of aspiring bands over the years and even a good number of musical acts (cited above) that have gained fame and others that are gaining fave — which can attested by sources! In other publications!

      This article belongs in the music section because it is true that if/when the changes to Cloyne take place, Cloyne will be lost as a venue that has been valuable to many aspiring musicians in the campus, Berkeley and Bay Area communities. This will indeed have an effect on the campus community as there aren’t many venues for amateur musicians in the Berkeley area.

    • JBL

      It’s biased that an article in the music section presents that closing Cloyne will affect Berkeley’s musical community and history? Nobody’s furthering any political agenda here, the author just expresses concern that Cloyne’s changes will affect art and performance at Cloyne in unnecessary ways. You’re condemning “bias” while calling Cloyne a “drug-cave?” Have you ever been to Cloyne? “‘You sound a lot better when you don’t consume substances, definitely,’ he noted.” Does that Clone’s statement really sound consistent with Cloyne’s so-called “ludacris” political agenda to you?
      Also did you seriously confuse the word “ludicrous” with a rapper’s stage name?