Combine talented musicians Alex Kent (vocals/guitar), Sam Berenstain (guitar), Mike Keane (bass guitar), Harper Holsinger (drums), and a whole lot of love and pride for the Shenandoah Valley. Mix them up and you get the newest Harrisonburg-based punk/math/post-rock band, Que Va. These four awesome guys sat down with me to discuss how Que Va came to be, what inspires them to play music, and their favorite features of the Friendly City.
Marisa Cagnoli, for HDR: When and how did Que Va form?
ALEX: It really started when Bib-bi, a Harrisonburg-based band that Sam and I played in, decided we were going to call it quits. I thought to myself, “I need to keep playing music. I guess that means I need to start writing stuff.” So I wrote a few songs and talked to Sam, and then talked to Mike and Harper…and then I think we started playing around January or February of last winter.
Marisa: How did you guys come up with “Que Va” as your band’s name?
ALEX: The naming of this band was such an arduous process. We had settled on “No Se” and then found out that it was already a band name, so we went through discussing a bunch of different names. Then I talked to a friend of mine from Spain who suggested “Que Va,” which means “No Way” in Spanish. I really liked the meaning and how it related to a lot of the lyrical messages of our songs.
Marisa: What are some of the biggest influences that each of you bring to the band to create the unique Que Va sound?
ALEX: I think we’re pretty all over the place, music-wise. For me, a lot of 90’s post-hardcore and post-rock are my biggest influences. I love bands like Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, and Slint. I think it’s the same for Harper and Mike.
MIKE: I grew up on hardcore music but I’m into other music genres now. It’s still my favorite thing to play though.
HARPER: I like all kinds of music. I play drums though, so I just make beats. I’m like Animal [from The Muppets].
SAM: I don’t think any of my musical influences have anything to do with this band. Alex and I have been playing music together for about six years and one of the songs on the Que Va demo is one that we had played, like, six years ago, but it’s just restructured now. I think playing in other Harrisonburg bands has been my biggest influence. I played in Bib-bi and that was a huge influence. In this band, I love Alex’s writing. I don’t usually play this type of music but I feel a nice, creative output for it just because of everything I’ve seen and heard in Harrisonburg.
ALEX: Yeah, Harrisonburg bands are really big influences for us. Not just bands that are around right now, but bands that were around a while ago.
Marisa: What about Harrisonburg has inspired you musically? What has made you want to make music here?
ALEX: For me, the first time I saw Elephant Child was when I realized I always wanted to be in a band here in Harrisonburg. That was such an awesome thing for me to just think, “This band exists here; this is great.” The longer I’ve been here, the more awesome bands that have come through. Also, it’s inspiring to learn about the rich history of music that’s been in this town before I even moved here or was old enough to think about moving here, like the band Engine Down. Some good friends of mine in the band Gifts From Enola also really inspire me. They make me want to make music.
MIKE: Everyone’s so nice here, too. There’s never any fights or anything – it’s a cool music scene.
HARPER: I started listening to WXJM, James Madison University’s student-run radio station, when I was in high school because I’m from the area. Listening to WXJM, which is a killer radio station, usually makes you find out about MACROCK, which is a killer annual music conference in Harrisonburg, which then exposes you to not only bands from Harrisonburg but also really cool bands from the Shenandoah Valley area. That then led to me seeing Engine Down in a basement for the first time, which made me think, “Wow, I really want to start playing music now.” After that, I got into Lovitt Records (Arlington, VA) and Dischord Records (Washington, D.C.). All of this made me realize that people in Virginia are making cool music and doing cool things, so why couldn’t I?
ALEX: I just think that everyone in Harrisonburg is really supportive…it’s really easy to be a band here. It’s almost too easy, because when you go somewhere else to play, it’s really different.
Marisa: What are all of your personal favorite places to go downtown?
HARPER: Yeah, I’m Resident Bar Fly #1 at the Blue Nile.
SAM: My two favorite places in downtown Harrisonburg are the Blue Nile and the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. I’ve walked into the Nile on a bad night not expecting to see music, and have ended up seeing this random band playing that blew me away and made my day so much better. I feel like the Blue Nile and the Farmers Market are two of the most happening places downtown. They both bring so many people from the area and even outside of the area to town, and they support the community.
MIKE: I used to work at the Blue Nile and I go there all the time, as well as the Artful Dodger. I also used to work at Court Square Theater, which is really cool.
ALEX: I currently work at Court Square Theater! Also Wonder is a great shop.
MIKE: I ate at Indian American Café today, which is great.
HARPER: I live above Indian American Café, and I smell it every day, and it’s AWESOME.
MIKE: There’s so many awesome places to go to downtown.
Marisa: What are your plans for the near future? Do you have any tours or shows coming up?
ALEX: After we finish up our demo, we’re going to try to do some traveling and tour this winter.
Want to see Que Va live? They’ll be playing a house show in downtown Harrisonburg on December 14th.
For more details about the show and other Que Va happenings, check out the Que Va Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/quevava.
To check out Que Va’s first single (premiered to the world in this very blog post!), go to: http://queva.bandcamp.com.
Marisa Cagnoli was the Summer & Fall 2013 Promotions + Social Media Intern for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.