Killa Gorilla, Cal Poly’s own “Jam-dance” band, will be the first musicians to perform at the University Union Plaza since it was closed last year for renovations.
“One of our primary goals for the year is to play a successful show at the UU,” said Nick Northrop, the band’s drummer. “We’re very excited to have this at our fingertips.”
The up-and-coming four-piece band, Killa Gorilla, consists entirely of Cal Poly juniors who originally met in the dorms in fall of 2007. Lead guitarist and vocalist, Rory Bloch, and bassist and vocalist, Brett Pirtle, were roommates in the Sierra Madre dorms, and had been playing music together since high school. They soon met architecture freshman Northrop, and began to collaborate on a three-piece band.
Toward the end of their freshman year the three friends were playing ping-pong in the common area of the Sierra Madre dorms, when they encountered classically trained pianist and fellow freshman Elliott Ripley. In the midst of a rowdy game of ping-pong, Bloch, Pirtle and Northrop, overheard Ripley playing piano for some girls and yelled across the room, “Play ‘Free Bird!’”
Seconds later, Ripley was masterfully playing “Free Bird.” “Solo and all,” Northrop said. “We thought immediately that he could complete our band.”
Ripley, an environmental engineering junior and music minor, actually came to Cal Poly to wrestle. After a season and a half of wrestling, it become too much to juggle with music and school, and he realized music was his priority. He began to play music with Northrop, Bloch and Pirtle, and they formed Killa Gorilla in the spring of 2008.
The band name, they said, comes from nothing in particular.
“Killa Gorilla is catchy, fun and easy to remember,” Ripley said. “It provides a good platform for band graphics and is fun to weave into our song lyrics.”
They began playing at house parties and open-mic nights around town, and built a foundation of a growing group of loyal fans.
Last year, Killa Gorilla came out with an independently-produced five song EP entitled “African LA View.” As their popularity continues to grow, they have recently been landing paid gigs at notable local venues like Downtown Brewing Co., Mr. Rick’s and Mongo’s Saloon.
The members of Killa Gorilla have a variety of musical backgrounds and inspirations, which adds to the dynamic nature of the band today.
“We’re a weird mix of guys,” Bloch said.
Pirtle, a business administration junior, transitioned musically from trumpet, to tuba, to drums, before learning bass in the dorms to fill the role for Killa Gorilla. On the other hand, Ripley is a classically-trained pianist who now pushes the keyboard to its rock ‘n’ roll limits. Northrop’s clean drumming style is influenced by Blink 182, but he also contributes notable freestyle vocal skills to the band. Bloch, a statistics junior, has a front man style that is strongly influenced by the funk days of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
As an entity, Killa Gorilla now combines a variety of musical genres to form their own unique sound of alternative hard rock, and old school funk — what they call “jam-dance.”
Mechanical engineering junior Kris Lewis or “Otter” has been a dedicated fan of Killa Gorilla since the beginning.
“Their music is fast, original, energetic and full of life,” Lewis said. “They can get the crowd a little rowdy, but they also have a great sense of humor. As a rock band, these guys definitely have it.”
Though the legacy of Killa Gorilla is just a few years old, it appears they have already established something special.
The content of their songs varies, but generally deals with typical issues college students face, such as stress, habits and inner turmoil. Killa Gorilla seeks to make music that appeals to their peers.
“We are trying to capture a piece of college culture,” Ripley said. “Our music is a good taste of our lives.”
Their song “Jeffrey” is a comical narrative about a wing-man. “The Tree,” on the other hand, is a more serious song about fighting with yourself, and the inner battles that are often part of college life.
The band plays primarily original songs but mixes in the occasional cover song with some Killa Gorilla touch. Some of their favorite songs to cover include “Fell in Love With a Girl” by The White Stripes, Radiohead’s “Just” and “The Distance” by Cake.
Killa Gorilla hopes to continue to build its fan base and take their band as far as they can go.
“When we play we want our audience to forget the bullshit of the world for a few hours, and just groove and have a good time,” Northrop said.
They plan to release a second, longer EP some time this summer. The concert will take place in the Plaza at 11 a.m. Thursay.