Canton, Ohio-based pop-rock band Allen Cruz and the Galaxy played at Kenyon for the second time Saturday night at Peirce Pub. The band discovered Kenyon through their friendship with AVI Resident Director, Chris Wisbey and first played in Peirce Dining Hall.
They returned with a mix of covers, such as “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, “Semi Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind and “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, as well as originals from the group’s newest album, Talk About the Moon.
The band formed in 2011 when Cruz met guitarists Josh Huddleston and Ben Stover at a Fourth of July show, but they had all been musicians since as early as junior high.
“I always wanted to be an artist,” Bassist Andrew Cernava said. “For my 16th birthday, my family gave me money to take driving school lessons but, instead of [that], taking driving school, I bought a bass guitar. And then every time my family gave me money, like when I graduated, I would buy another bass. They stopped giving me money after a while.”
The group has played at marathons, bars, birthday parties and even some larger venues with thousands of people present, but Allen Cruz — the band’s frontman — describes the group as primarily a wedding band.
Allen Cruz and the Galaxy draws from various musical influences, blending everything from Latin and country music to singer-songwriter John Mayer. The band describes their genre as “less mainstream pop.”
“The awesome thing is that we come from super different backgrounds,” Cruz said. “I’m the dude who’s really really into pop.”
Huddleston chimed in to mention his devotion to soul music, while bassist Cernava and Stover add rock and blues flavors. Most of the band’s originals are infectiously happy songs, which Cruz attributed to his background in show tunes. As the band moved away from their first album and wrote new material, Cruz said, their sound became a bit darker and more mature. “[Talk About the Moon] was at an easy time,” Huddleston said. “I think the art reflects what’s going on in your life.”
Cruz attributed the recent shift to more intense collaboration and the current political situation, saying the group has been writing more sad and angry songs since the election in November.
Cruz, as the main lyricist, draws inspiration from the people in his life and media. Though you would not know it from hearing his lyrics, Cruz even finds material in superhero movies. In fact, the band’s name comes from popular superhero franchise Guardians of the Galaxy.
The group’s new material will be released as frequent singles instead of albums, another example of John Mayer’s influence. “The music industry has changed,” Cruz said. “Especially for local musicians, it’s hard to get an album out there, to have people care.” Huddleston added that it is difficult to keep people’s attention for 10 to 12 songs.
With a studio space of their own, the group spends anywhere from three to 12 hours practicing nearly every day. As full-time musicians, long hours are doable but, now that their lives are beginning to settle down, such a commitment is not as easy as it once was.
Cruz said he became an artist because he “couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” The group hopes to take this project as far as they can. Their dream is simply to invest their lives in making music. “We’re blessed right now because we’re still young and able to do it,” Cruz said. “But you know, you never know what life puts ahead of you. We hope nothing gets in our way.”
Cruz says that he thoroughly enjoys playing at Kenyon and encourages readers to check out their Facebook page, YouTube channel and Bandcamp site. Allen Cruz and the Galaxy will return to Kenyon on April 18 for another show.