If you’ve walked by Frederick Street on a mild afternoon or tagged along with friends to a show on the scenic Cuesta Ridge, you may have been exposed to the musical stylings of William H. Klink. The five-man band started at Cal Poly, and if its unconventional name sounds unfamiliar to you, chances are it won’t for much longer.
I met with the band on the house they all share on Frederick Street for a couple of casual interviews, where we discussed everything from their creation to the existential meaning of the movie “Birdman.” A lot of bands come and go, but something tells me that William H. Klink is here to stay.
Listen for yourself via the group’s Soundcloud:
Available since Jan. 31, the band’s self-titled release is made up of 17 original tracks. Perhaps what is most admirable about the group is the range of music they represent in their limited time together. William H. Klink’s music contains parts both minimal and intricate, drawing on sounds that could be classified under a multitude of subgenres, including surf, psych, shoegaze and folk rock.
“Some songs are super fun to dance to and then others put you in a real chill moment. They have music for all concert feels,” forestry and natural resources junior Sienna Streamfellow said.
But as singer and guitarist Jake Schoonmaker tells it, there really is only one label that matters when it comes to making music.
“At the end of the day, no matter what song we are playing, the spirit behind it is rock and roll,” he said.
Schoonmaker, who is often referred to as “Schoon,” is joined by fellow members keyboardist and soil science senior Angus Chang, drummer and forestry senior Alex Zinger, bassist Mike Jercich and guitarist Alexander Ray Schwend. They first met in the Sierra Madre residence halls, adding and subtracting members as the music developed.
Needing to come up with a name for the band quickly before a weekend show, Schoon got the idea for the unlikely moniker from his mom. There was a registry of Santa Maria High School’s 1908 graduating class on a table at a restaurant where Schoon’s parents frequent, and one of the names written inside was William Klink.
“We needed a name for an upcoming show so my mom texted it to me and I thought it was kind of cool,” Schoon said. “We added the H as a Jesus reference.”
Cole Deblock, an environmental management & protection senior, got to know the group during their inception in the residence halls. He credits the versatility of William H. Klink as one of the main reasons the group has made it this far.
“To be completely honest I can’t believe they’ve done as well as they’ve done,” Deblock said. “They extended their genre and did things they’re not necessarily comfortable with but they excel in any sort of area and type of music they play.”
William H. Klink has partly become known for their DIY sets. The band helped popularize Shabang, a performance held on the top of Cuesta Ridge.
As the event grows each year, the party at the ridge has become increasingly organized. The music is important, but so is leaving the outdoor venue cleaner than they found it. Recent efforts to recycle have been relatively easy given the environmentally conscious crowd the band attracts.
“I don’t know if this would work in any other location,” Schoon said. “To have the scenery and the people who actually give a fuck about cleaning and being respectful to the area is hard to find.”
Apart from being the headlining act at concerts in their garage, the group has played the local downtown circuit and done shows scattered along the West Coast, in scenic spots as Santa Cruz and Big Sur. A scheduled tour is the logical next step for William H. Klink.
But taking time off for a tour is a hard thing to do, due to the constant demand of rent and other bills. The shows have yet to make a profitable dividend, meaning the band members need to hold down day jobs. From computer technician to assistant at Kennedy Library, they do their best to supplement their musical careers with their summer occupations.
“We want to start taking it seriously. The end game is to be able to make a living off of doing music, but we understand how difficult that is,” Schoon said. “We know what it takes and we are trying our best to reach those goals but have a fun time in the process.”
What began as a musical project among friends has turned into a band brimming with potential, complete with psychedelic album artwork and an eclectic group of followers — some of which can’t help but be gravitated toward the sound blaring from their garage.
“One time we were playing a show at our house and this blind guy walked through our driveway and was like, ‘I came for your guys’ music.’ It was awesome,” Chang said.
Besides the occasional wanderer, the band said their fan base is made up mostly of students that fall somewhere between hippie and surfer — a clientele they have no qualms with, as they are no strangers to the laid back lifestyle.
“They loved to party and have a good time but when it came down to it, music was their everything,” Deblock said of the band. “They put it over everything else and it really is what they belong doing.”
Regardless, William H. Klink is still in its early stages, delivering music but lacking exposure. While they may not be sharing venues with top artists, the band seems content with creating quality music blocks away from Cal Poly’s campus.