This is EP-ic



Graden Hill’s great-grandpa in his bar in Chandler, MN: 1940s

Musical, multi-talented and motivated. These attributes perfectly describe some of Apple Valley’s most talented musicians.

Graden Hill, George Knier, and Ben Schwartz are juniors here at Apple Valley High School. After meeting in seventh grade, the three guys formed their own band together and encouraged one another to be passionate about music. Being involved in wind and percussion ensemble, pit orchestra, jazz and R&B band, Broadway, and marching band, there is no doubt that they stay connected to music.

Naming the band has been quite the journey. Hill said, “We’ve been The Black Hills, Walking Backwards Boat, Dry Run, Pelican Lake…” Until they recently changed their name to “Scalise,” the band called themselves “The Decent.” Schwartz explains how the band got their name: “We were having a lot of trouble deciding on a band name since we started the band (4 years ago) and we were in the hallway. I said, ‘We should just ask Mr. Scalise and if he doesn’t give us a good one, then we should name it Scalise.’”

Though it may’ve been seen as a joke at the time, Hill, Knier, and Schwartz admire band director David Scalise–naming the band after him is a tribute. “If he wasn’t really cool as a band teacher, then we wouldn’t have named the band after him. At the same time, it’s kind of an obscure name because it will seem like a random word,” said Schwartz.

Hill first was inspired to get involved in music by watching the popular Nickelodeon show Drake and Josh. “Drake got all the chicks and I wanted to be that so I asked my parents if I could play guitar,” said Hill. “For my 10th birthday they gave me guitar lessons and a guitar. I was super excited about that, and then I started to care more about music than girls.”

Jennifer Hill
Ben Schwartz and Graden Hill playing at the “Heart of the City” in Burnsville

One way Hill grabs inspiration is by listening to artists he looks up to. “It influences my style and my passion at the same time so I want to write more,” said Hill. “I want to write more like the person I listen to so I vary a lot in that way. I listen to a lot of [Jack White from The White Stripes]. He really influenced me and made me want to write more.”

The inspiration for Knier and Schwartz was a little different. Knier said, “I just started taking piano lessons when I was 5 and then kept playing piano.” And for Schwartz: “I started playing piano in kindergarten with the rest of my family, then phased out and started playing drums.”

Like Hill, Schwartz is also influenced by music he listens to: “Kurt Cobain, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, any music that I listen to really.” Knier is mostly self driven and influences himself. “I’m more motivated by myself to play music and get better at playing music than I am by anybody else.”

While Hill admires some big artists, Knier admires his own friend’s musical habits: “I’m inspired by Graden because he works harder at music than anybody that I know.” To Schwartz, Hill’s dedication is apparent based on the time he puts in. Schwartz agrees: “Definitely Graden.”

Currently, Hill sings and plays guitar, Schwartz plays the drums, and Knier plays keyboard (and anything that’s not guitar and drums). This includes instruments ranging from the cowbell to the tambourine. The band first started out by performing covers like “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Trouble” by Cage the Elephant, and “Darlin” by Houndmouth, but now they have shifted towards making original music.

Joseph Borman
“Heart of the City” one of Scalise’s recent and usual performances.

So far the band has performed at Burnsville’s Heart of the City, a retirement home, and a kids’ concert. They are currently working to get more gigs indoors to expand their experience. In the future, they hope to book The Garage to help get their name recognized—although the band’s name already has its own extensive history.

In January, Hill plans on releasing an EP called “Is This Art,” which has been in the making for quite awhile. “The whole theme of the album is beauty and pain and how bad things can be reflected in music,” said Hill. “In a good way, it has a positive impact on people, but it started out as a negative thing.”

He wants one thing: to be taken seriously as an artist. “It’s going to be something I can give to people and say ‘I wrote this’ and try to be able to get gigs.” The EP will include seven songs and more people than just Hill. Along with Knier and Schwartz, junior Rachel Scott and senior Anna Watson will also provide instrumentals on the album.

After being a band for four years in the making and finding success, it is clear that this talented group is a force to be reckoned with.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email