The Butternotes’ members — Mady Frei, Ethan Schlocker, Jacob Cherdak, Luke Gerard and Liam Reese — met as members of the Cal Poly Jazz Department’s jazz band, but each brings their own personal music tastes to their band. The Butternotes’ setlist spans a diverse range of genres, from 70’s hard rock and jazz to Maroon 5 and Mac DeMarco indie rock.
Guitarist and materials engineering senior Schlocker and guitarist psychology senior Cherdack played one gig with their former band, Voiced, before COVID-19 quarantine paused all concerts and Voiced faded. Through the pandemic, however, Schlocker said he felt determined to keep the music alive.
“A lot of people were eager to get out and just jam and play and have fun together, and that’s kind of how we started,” lead vocalist and music senior Frei said.
Schlocker dubbed the band The Butternotes and was inspired by jazz legends Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. We wanted the name to be a reminder to let go of the excess and play from the heart.
The Butternotes have played at San Luis Obispo (SLO) bars like Creeky Tiki Bar and Grill, at restaurants like Avila’s Custom House, coffee shops like Top Dog in Morro Bay and on the streets of downtown SLO at weekly farmers’ markets.
The band’s wide range gives them an edge in appealing across age gaps, according to Frei. Little kids at Farmers’ Markets jump around and enjoy the music just as much as older crowds, dancing and clapping along, Frei said.
At their very core, the Butternotes come together for their common goal: the “good, warm, fuzzy feeling” of playing a gig together, Frei said.
Schlocker said he agreed that The Butternotes is all about the fun.
“We’re [seniors] and we’re busy, but it’s definitely worth having some outlet that we can collaborate and make music. Sure, we might make a little bit of money, but the enjoyment of playing is worth the work,” Schlocker said.
“[The band is] my favorite kind of grind,” Cherdak said.
The Butternotes’s jazz background laid the foundation for their unique ability to collaborate on adding their own signature flair to fan-favorites, according to bassist and sax player, finance senior Gerard.
“Nothing’s even discussed. You can listen to what other people are doing and blend in. We’ve been able to do that a few times, and that’s where things get fun and just fluid,” said Gerard.
This makes listening to The Butternotes a fresh experience every show, added Cherdak, and it is their unspoken communication that is a true testament to the band’s flow.
“Music is a language,” Frei said. “A big part of music is the communication between you and the audience, but it’s also between the bandmates.”
According to The Butternotes, it’s all uphill from here. They said they have big dreams: playing more gigs, growing their fanbase and creating original content to share.
“[SLO] is so intimate, like everyone wants to be supportive, gives you more purpose. A lot of people enjoy watching new voices, new musicians appear, and there’s always someone new coming through,” Frei said.