It’s 8:45pm and I’m standing backstage at The Mint, one of L.A.’s better-known music venues. The green room consists of a small stage that looks like it’s meant for improv, one of those leather-fronted bars and a bathroom that’s tinier than any airplane lavatory I’ve ever seen. A goat head is mounted on the wall, staring down at our unique little foursome.
On the round riser in the corner, our fearless frontman Mike O’Gorman sits, going over the tunes in his head. You might recognize him from his appearances on Inside Amy Schumer, and he recurs on HBO’s Vice Principals this July. Opposite him, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Allison Scagliotti, known for her roles on Drake & Josh, Warehouse 13 and Stitchers, scrolls through Instagram and taps like on a photo of a dog wearing a blazer. Our bassist, Jerry Trainor, fresh off his appearance on The Tonight Show that week, paces the room.
“I ran through the set five times today,” he says matter-of factly. He’s no stranger to performing, having spent six years playing Spencer on Nickelodeon’s iCarly. We’re all familiar with what it is to be in front of an audience – even me, the non-professional actor of the group, thanks to decades of musical theater and the occasional appearance at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
Somehow, this feels different. Maybe it’s because these songs are our stamp, and no one else’s. We don’t hide behind a team of writers, a director calling the shots, a book of tricks devised by a magician who’s been dead for 30 years. In a way, we’re at our most vulnerable, but that’s what makes it fun. In its earliest form, we weren’t supposed to take this too seriously.
The band started as a conversation at a Chinese restaurant one night. Mike had just wrapped on Vice Principals, Allison was itching to play music again, and Jerry was ready to pick up a bass guitar and see what that felt like. Popular 90s tunes were scribbled on a paper place mat, some fun stuff to cover, just a quirky side project for everyone.
It was the day after Allison’s birthday in September when I showed up at her apartment to interview her for a podcast I co-hosted, something I’d harassed her about since we’d met while working on Stitchers together. As fate would have it, I’d thrown on a t-shirt with a picture of a drum set on it. As we cleaned up our equipment after the show she inquired about my wardrobe. I told her I’d been playing the drums for roughly the same amount of time she’d been alive, which was met with a curious “We should talk.”
Just a few weeks later, I found myself at a rehearsal studio in Echo Park, armed with drumsticks and the shiniest pair of Converse I owned (the yellow ones.) The four of us walked into a room, plugged in, and ran through Weezer’s Undone – The Sweater Song, like we’d been playing together for years. We cracked a few jokes, decided we should absolutely being playing Jumper by Third Eye Blind, and agreed to meet again.
Back at The Mint, our set list is made up of original songs, no covers. That’s primarily thanks to Mike who, early on in the process, started sending us what sounded like polished work he’d created in Garage Band. What we quickly realized was that he wasn’t just a talented musician, he wrote awesome material. In rehearsal, covers were replaced with songs like Emily Owens M.D. (an ode to the brief run of the CW series of the same name) and The Smiths-esque Hanover Hideaway, which has something to do with an offensive diary entry I think.
An ongoing group text message chain consisted mostly of us telling each other how much fun this was and occasionally making fun of Jerry, but it was interspersed with talk of actual work, namely going into the studio to record. Surrounding a table at our post-rehearsal spot, a bar called The Black Cat on Sunset, we finalized what we would record and where it would happen.
A band trip up to Ventura became one of the highlights of what started feeling less like a hobby and more like a real thing. We’d found a studio in the quiet beachside town and holed up in a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean, spending our mornings in the water before diving into the recording process, laying tracks down using a board that had seen the likes of Alice Cooper and Motley Crüe (neither of which we sound anything like, though Alice – if you’re reading this – we all love what you do.)
It was here that I was really introduced to the world of playing in a band with actors. Jerry and Allison were chased across a grocery store parking lot by photo seekers at one point, and that was just the beginning. Several weeks later, MTV News got wind of us, and we found ourselves being mentioned by Seventeen Magazine and J-14, among others. All for a band that had never played a show or released a song. I watched our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts grow rapidly. I was like Walt Jr. counting the donations as they rolled in. I Googled how much I could buy a new Bayliner for ($29,437).
It’s just after 10pm when we take the stage at The Mint, launching into the opening number. Song after song, we get great reactions, and a few days later, video of the show surfaces online. Incredibly, it not only looks like we know what we’re doing, but we seem to be having fun doing it. We’ve held almost weekly rehearsal sessions since October, texted each other on a daily basis and lived in a studio together for nearly a week. Are we still having fun? A text comes in from Jerry yesterday afternoon:
The answer? An enthusiastic yes.