Self-described "cathedral pop" band with a "soft touch of velvet," Pleasantly, comprises Cal Poly students (left to right) Kevin Hegyi, Thomas Sypkens, Dan Potts, Javier Torres, Gaby Vakili. | Steven Pardo/Courtesy photo

Brenna Swanston

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A walk through Pleasantly’s foyer could transform them from complete strangers to familiar friends.

The Razor scooter leaning against the porch, the acoustic bass propped against a bedroom wall — these were the guys you loved to jam with.

They crammed into a tucked-away room, a mess of cords, instruments, sheet music and moppy hair. And for a band with only one performance and a small handful of practices under their belt, their sound was tight.

In the humble white house where Pleasantly held band practice, the 100-degree Saturday wound slowly to an end, and the group eased into its signature sound: a modern, catchy take on 1960s psychedelic rock.

Pleasantly calls it cathedral pop.

Their lazy melodies drifted across the stretch of dead grass before the house: dreamy vocal harmonies, twangy guitar riffs and an upbeat rhythm section, all against a wall of synthesizer. The result — pop-rock blended neatly with the echoey effect of cathedral music — explained the group’s invented genre perfectly.

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The band hopes to spread pleasantries at local shows this year. | Steven Pardo/Courtesy photo

They busted through a couple tunes — including their self-declared “signature song” called “Charlotte” — before deciding they’d had enough of the stuffy practice room. They filed out of the house and lined up shoulder-to-shoulder on the front porch, chatting and joking with each other.

Drummer and electrical engineering freshman Dan Potts said the band members’ long-standing friendships have helped their music progress quickly.

“It’s not something new to us,” Potts said. “So it’s actually pretty easy just to mush together.”

Potts and lead singer and guitarist Kevin Hegyi have made music together since middle school, when they formed their first band, entitled “Gel.”

“It was about as good as it sounds,” Potts said, laughing.

The duo improved their musicianship through high school with their band Shoot Up the Cat, until Hegyi — now a music sophomore — began his Cal Poly career. Here, Hegyi met music sophomore and bassist Thomas Sypkens.

They dreamed up the idea of Pleasantly over dorm room jam sessions.

“We spent literally all of spring quarter just writing songs to ourselves and saying, ‘I wonder what this would sound like with keys and drums,’” Sypkens said.

And it wasn’t long before they found out.

Sypkens recruited computer science sophomore Javier Torres on keys and synth. Potts enrolled at Cal Poly and moved to San Luis Obispo for Week of Welcome (WOW). A week later, the freshly formed band played its first gig: the WOW Club Showcase.

“We really had to pick and choose between Wembley Stadium and the ’02 Arena in London,” Potts joked.

In reality, the group had only rehearsed about three times before taking the stage — but the practices paid off big time.

“We had practiced the songs, and we knew what we were gonna play,” Hegyi said. “So we just went in with the concept that we were gonna jam and play a bunch of songs for a really long time.”

Their set went better than expected, with WOWies deserting their groups to watch the show.

“That’s when you know you’ve made it,” Potts said jokingly. “When WOWies leave their WOW groups.”

Hegyi said the group’s sound has so far developed naturally. Simply put, they play music they love.

“We went through our angsty teenaged phase a while ago,” Hegyi said. “So now we’re just writing mushy love songs for people, and it’s all good.”

They try to keep things contemporary while also drawing from older generations of music.

“We try to sound as modern and cathedral poppy and catchy as possible,” Hegyi said. “But then we still really want to get back to the roots of the Velvet Underground and all the stuff that made music worth listening to.”

Since its first show, the group has added music sophomore Gabby Vakili as a vocalist and is working to improve and expand Pleasantly’s repertoire.

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Pleasantly plans to have an EP, album and tour in place within the next year. | Steven Pardo/Courtesy photo

“We’re at the stage where we feel ourselves getting better with each practice,” Hegyi said. “The songs are coming together a little bit more. We just take that chemistry we’ve always had with each other and put it together.”

Once they’re satisfied with their sound and set list, they hope to record and tour.

“We wanna get out there,” Potts said, “because it’s just too much fun to play in front of people.”

To accomplish these goals, Pleasantly is raising funds through Music Putty, a crowd-funding and music-streaming website for local bands. Cal Poly graduate Arash Namvar helped found the site.

The partnership blossomed when Namvar heard Hegyi covering a Simon and Garfunkel song at a KCPR open mic event last year. He was immediately interested in supporting his music, he said.

“He was incredible,” Namvar said. “He absolutely blew me away.”

At the time, Hegyi was without a band and Music Putty was still in its developmental stages, so they put the collaboration on hold. But once Music Putty was off the ground and Hegyi introduced Pleasantly on Facebook, Namvar revived the idea.

“We want to help this band grow and become the best they can be,” Namvar said. “And at the same time, they’re helping us out by allowing us to stream music on our site.”

Namvar set up Pleasantly with Music Putty, which has already helped the band raise hundreds of dollars for touring, recording and connecting with fans.

Namvar said he loves the idea behind Pleasantly’s music.

“It just makes you feel good,” he said. “For me, it almost took me to high school when I was really into classic rock and psych rock and it just took me back, but it’s this amazing modern band.”

The group has already accomplished impressive recording quality, as well, he said.

“This was completely out of the blue,” Namvar said of Pleasantly’s musical accomplishments. “Really well-done, polished and beautiful.”

Sypkens said Pleasantly hopes to put together an EP this winter, release a full album by the end of the school year and set up a tour for next summer. Meanwhile, the band will play as many local shows as possible.

When asked where in San Luis Obispo they’d like to play, the members came up with some creative answers.

Potts: “The Habit.”
Torres: “Target.”
Hegyi: “Olive Garden.”
Torres: “The Sock Drawer. They’re just gonna pay us in socks.”

In seriousness, Hegyi said the band will hopefully play at local bars such as SLO Brew and Frog and Peach, with house shows in between.

“Just playing gigs is a way to get better as a band,” he said, “and to get tighter.”

It is not all just fun and jams for Pleasantly, though. Their musical endeavors come with obstacles as well.

“The biggest struggle with being a college band is the fact that everyone looks at you as a college band,” said Hegyi. “Our goal is to be different enough and provide a sound unique enough that people will remember us over other bands in college. Once you get out of that hole of being labeled a college band, a whole new door is open to further progressions of the band as a whole.” 

As for other long-term goals, the whole band was in agreement.

Torres: “Overall goals? I want to find a wife out of this.”
Hegyi: “I’d say my goal is for Javier to find a wife.”
Potts: “Yeah, I want Javier to find a wife as well.”
Sypkens: “I think we’d all be pretty content with our careers if Javier could find a wife.”

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