Last summer, as the Berkeley-based band Gone Fishin’ practiced in frontman Ryan Cohen’s backyard, his neighbor came over to comment, “After all these years of hearing you guys thumping in the garage, it’s so nice to hear you play real music!”
The band’s “real music” truly has been years in the making. Ryan Cohen, Runar Anderson Schmidt and Brennan Jung formed Gone Fishin’ four years ago while still at Berkeley High School, and the group has been playing together ever since. While still in high school, Daniel Goldberg and Ben Cohen-Stillman joined the band as saxophonist and trumpeter, respectively. Last year, the group members began attending college in different cities — of the original members, Ryan Cohen attends UC Berkeley, Anderson Schmidt is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Jung goes to The New School in New York. However, Gone Fishin’ has only grown stronger since. After releasing its debut album, Too Much Honey, last year, the group is currently prepping for the release of a new EP, Thump.
But releasing music as college students hasn’t been totally easy. The members spend a majority of the year apart from one another, and their production style has had to shift to accommodate their new schedules.
“It’s really hard to build on a song. You come up with one that you think is good, but you can only show it to everyone else in the band through, like, a text message,” Anderson Schmidt said in an interview with The Daily Californian.
The difficulties of long-distance communication haven’t stopped Gone Fishin’ from making new music, though — the band members have found new ways to coordinate with one another.
“When we get home, it’s crunch time. (Being apart) makes (creating) new music a lot more difficult, but it also makes it a lot more fun to play together because you appreciate it a lot more,” Anderson Schmidt noted.
While balancing student life and artistry has had its difficulties, Cohen, Anderson Schmidt and Jung have also benefited from the new perspectives they have gained in college. As Ryan Cohen, who is pursuing a degree in the department of music, said, “The music program here at Cal deviates from the environment of a rock band, but all the time in the practice room leads me to work on new ideas and songs. Keeping music in my ears all the time is definitely not separate from keeping the band going.”
He went on to emphasize the importance of bringing the members’ new experiences into their music, stating, “We’re bringing in our outside creations due to the time apart. When we think of something, we’ve got … months to sit on it.”
The process seems to be working well — the group’s maturity is clear in its last album, which was released in the bandmates’ freshman year of college. Too Much Honey lies somewhere between indie rock and alternative. Between upbeat songs such as “Telegraph Ave.” and slower tracks such as “Connections,” the album includes a variety of sounds that work well together to create a cohesive mood.
In the eyes of the band members, time apart has allowed them to grow as musicians and as people. When asked about the development of the group between the release of its last album and its upcoming EP, Cohen said, “We’ve taken more risks, as far as form and the overall content of the songs. We’ve been able to bring (in) elements of jazz and incorporate them organically. What keeps it interesting is bringing in elements of all types of music and not being afraid to do something that you don’t hear on all the indie rock albums that come out.”
All in all, Gone Fishin’ is at the height of its maturity as a group so far, and the progress leading to this point has been clear. According to Cohen,“I’ve really noticed in the last few years that we’ve gotten better at singing and playing our instruments, and (that the audience) seems to really genuinely enjoy themselves.”
“For (the audience) to be able to connect with what we’re doing is really special for us,” he said.
In honor of the band’s neighbor’s comment, the group’s Thump is set to come out in early May. Gone Fishin’ has certainly grown a great deal, but in the words of Cohen, “We still thump.”
Contact Salem Sulaiman at [email protected].