Though the blaring sound of a car alarm is one that brings discomfort and sometimes something that we actively try to avoid, jazz musicians have turned the usual monotonous and abrasive noise into a beautiful baseline for improvisation and song.
Jazz group Two Many Zooz’s was the first to perform such ingenious creativity, with their original video titled Car Alarm released in 2018 and has since amassed 2.6 million views on YouTube.
Since then many musicians from across the world have shared their own take on the challenge, Pittsburgh-based trio Big Blitz being one of them. Somehow the trio managed to make the shrieking sound of the scarlet Mustang melodic in a mind-boggling and seamless interweaving of jazz instruments and motor vehicle.
Released two years ago, I recently got in contact with the trio behind this musical innovation.
The saxophone and drum group (of course these are not the only instruments this talented threesome can play) is made up of Lucas Ciesielski (tenor and bari sax), Nick Grabigel (drums and guitar) and Mason Ciesielski (tenor sax and modular synthesizer). They write and perform original songs that are “guaranteed to transform any of your preconceived notions of the music that can be created by a saxophone-and-drum trio.”
Below are the questions I had the opportunity to ask the band; ranging from the challenges that they faced filming the video (apparently there were multiple tests of different car alarms) and their music recommendations for quarantine!
Q: What was the most challenging part of making this video/ did you have to test different cars to see if you had a preferred pitch or type of car alarm?
A: We were all in school when Too Many Zooz posted their car alarm challenge. We knew we wanted to get a song and video together, but it was hard for us to find the time to quickly write and record the video when two of our band members were in high school in Pennsylvania and one was in college in Ohio! We ended up writing and memorizing the song in a day. We recorded the video in one take the following day. To create our video, we tested every single car alarm from every car that our friends and families owned! We ended up settling on the Mustang because its alarm had a clear pitch and the best rhythm for the song we were envisioning.
Q: When making this video, other than being set the challenge by Two Many Zooz’s challenge did you have any other musical inspiration or a specific message/vibe you wanted to convey?
A: We really wanted to make our car alarm video unique and different. We wrote the song so the horn was placed on the off-beats to make it groove. Also, because we are all from the same suburb of Pittsburgh, we really wanted to include the Pittsburgh skyline in our video. It was a great way to honour our awesome hometown!
Q: How has the pandemic affected your musical styles/artistry?
A: Our musical style is always shifting and expanding! The pandemic has slowed us down and given us more time to add new, creative elements to our music. We normally don’t have a lot of time to experiment with the rigorous gig schedule we usually keep. We’ve been writing new music, using new improvisational techniques, trying new drumming styles, and adding new effects to our music every day.
Q: Has there been more opportunity for creative collaboration since the pandemic?
A: The pandemic has brought us into an entirely new virtual scene, so we’ve had to adjust quickly and creatively! In a normal summer, we travel for gigs, playing live shows several times each week. Since we can’t do these shows in person right now, we’ve been interacting with the music community online and participating in many different live-streamed charity and fundraising events. We can’t perform face-to-face with a live audience, so our focus has shifted to live-streamed performances. We had to learn a lot about streaming and recording technology in a very short time to adapt to performing virtually. Several weeks ago, we started our own weekly livestreamed event, “Live From the Living Room,” which we broadcast from our Big Blitz YouTube channel every Friday at 8:30 PM EST.
Q: Favourite artists you have been listening to this quarantine/Anyone you would recommend to get through this pandemic (aside from yourselves of course)
A: We would recommend listening to John Coltrane, Death Grips, The Ramones, Home, Mark Guiliana, The Who, and Ornette Coleman to ease your quarantine blues.
Q: Which Big Blitz song is the embodiment of the band is/or your personal favourite song that you have written
Right now, our favourite Big Blitz song is Double Barrel. We wrote and recorded that song in only 30 spare minutes of studio time, after laying down an entire EP. We really think it embodies our songwriting process and shows how well we can play off each other and create new music on the fly.
Q: What are the future goals for Big Blitz? Where do you see yourselves in 10 years? Is there a specific artist that you would really like to collaborate with/perform with?
A: We will all be studying music at Youngstown State University this fall, and we hope to become full-time, professional musicians, performing live music for audiences around the world. We’ve already been blessed to work with so many incredible musical groups! We’ve opened for some of our greatest musical inspirations: Moon Hooch, Too Many Zooz, and Lucky Chops. We would love to work with all of these groups again, but we would also be totally psyched if we could play with Colin Stetson, Marc Rebillet, Look Mum No Computer, or Louis Cole!
Garnering success with their take on the Car Alarm Challenge the only way is up for these music maestros and if you are in need of a pick me up why not check them out!