Meet the Band: The People's Key

The People’s Key recently joined our #TPfamily so we decided to have a chat with the guys to learn a little bit more about the band and its members! Effortlessly combining classic jazz with a modern songbook (Beatles and Michael Jackson for instance) the band aims to bring jazz to a younger generation. Here’s the inside scoop from The People’s Key: Ryan Marquez, Charlie Cerpa, Mike Murano, and Matt Rowland.

How did The People’s Key come together?
Charlie, Mike, and Ryan met at Webster University through the music department. We all knew each other from school and had played together in various formats inside and outside of school. We did some private trio gigs playing jazz standards and a mix of the type of cover tunes we do now. We had so much fun that we decided to move in together in the summer of 2012 and make a band.

We lived together for a year and would have rehearsals at 8 am in the morning in our boxers half awake before we all had to go our various ways. During this time we fostered the foundation and mission of the group building close bonds and dynamic chemistry. The three of us were all fans of Matt Rowland and wanted to add guitar into our sound. He lived down the street from the band house at the time and the four of us started regularly jamming together when we weren’t discussing the meaning of life and conspiracy theories. We’ve been playing together as The People’s Key ever since. Even though we don’t all live together anymore we are forever family.  

How would you describe your sound?
We’ve been joking amongst ourselves that our music is like garage band jazz! It’s us utilizing the skill sets we’ve learned from the art form of jazz but playing all the repertoire more reminiscent of a garage cover band!  We infuse elements of classic jazz sounds utilizing familiar instrumentation, forms, feels/grooves, and vernacular with material that is familiar to a younger generation. Our sound is really reflective of our Midwestern Missouri Roots. Infusion of the easy swinging Kansas City Scene and the hard soulful groove of St. Louis is our foundation with us having been cultured by the two scenes respectively. Groovin Organ. Bluesy Guitar. Soulful Sax. Dynamic Drums.

Why do you play music?   
We play music for the people! We really enjoy finding creative ways to connect modern material with jazz vernacular and seeing the audience’s face light up with appreciation. Jazz allows us the opportunity to express our unique voices together in unity. It’s a language all in itself. Finding subject matter to include our audience in our conversation (aka familiar tunes) creates exciting show environments where our audience is always anticipating what we will try to jazzify next! We feel that jazz musicians have historically covered popular music to create a bridge to their audience and also share original music.

We are all musicholics. We live music 24/7. What else is there to do besides play music? :)

What is the first record you bought? Where did you listen to it?
Ryan-Space Jam Soundtrack and I used to play that album everywhere all the time on my Discman. “Everybody get up it’s time to slam now!”
Matt - Metallica - Ride the Lightning.  I loved to hear Kirk Hammett shred.
Charlie - Limp Bizkit - Chocolate Starfish. Anywhere my parents couldn't catch me.
Mike- jock rock. It was a cassette tape that I would play on my boombox and in my dad's car

When did you start playing music?
Ryan- I started playing music officially when I was 5 years old taking piano lessons. Music is all I’ve known throughout my life playing in band/orchestra/choir all through school and having various projects playing keys, bass, organ and more throughout the years performing original and cover music.

Matt - I began piano at age 5, then decided to pick up the guitar around 7 or eight.  I pretty much sunk my teeth into whatever I could afterward.

Charlie - I started playing music when I was 10.  I knew I could join band in 5th grade, so the summer before I convinced my parents to rent me an alto sax and enroll me in lessons to get a head start.

Mike- I remember getting my first drum set around the age of 9 from my neighbor down the street. Shortly after my parents saw that I was interested they enrolled me in private lessons. Through the years those lessons helped prepare my playing for my middle and high school band programs.

What is your favorite moment of performing for a live audience with The People’s Key?
Ryan-I really enjoyed the energy from the crowd we received at our Beatles’ tribute to Abbey Road. The audience was super fun to play for and we could hear them singing with us all night. I love all of the theme shows that we do and seeing how anxious people are to hear our renditions of their favorite music.

Matt - Our Michael Jackson Tribute was a lot of fun for me.  All of the music is very danceable and it looked like the audience was digging it.  We had a great horn section for that one too.

Charlie - My favorite moment performing with TPK was at the Kranzberg Arts Center when Ryan fell off the stage after taking an amazing organ solo, he immediately jumped like a ninja back onto the stage without missing a beat, the crowd went wild!

Mike- the first time we performed at Jazz at the Bistro. It was a goal of ours when we first started the group and it came to fruition a couple of years later.  It was great to perform our grab bag of songs on a respectable stage in front of new ears. I remember getting a warm reception from the crowd on those nights, they were really diggin’ on what we were doing!

Where did the name The People’s Key come from?
The People’s Key name came about from a night Ryan was playing keys with a funk project Mike and Charlie were in called The South Side Hustle. When it came time to kick off a tune Ryan asked the guitar player what key a song was in and he said “D minor, The People’s Key”. We all had a good chuckle and joked about how that should be the band name. We started kicking around some ideas and decided it was the best one.

The name is reflective of our mission to play music that connects jazz artistry with a diverse range of music listeners.

Do you have any words to live by or life motto for the band?
Listen. Remember. Love.

This is a little saying slogan we’ve been saying to each other and even had on our first business card. We hope that when people hear our music they are captured to listen to what we are playing, remembering songs and times associated with that brings about a feeling of love. Love for the song, love for the memory, and hopefully love for the band.

Who would be your dream collaboration?
Too many to list just one!
Roy Hargrove, John Mayer, Herbie Hancock, John Scofield, George Benson, Joshua Redman, Esperanza Spalding

If you had to describe the band in one word it would be….
Matt- Juicy
Mike- Dynamic
Charlie- Fresh

When can we expect to hear new music?
We were in the studio in July recording our newest album “Time of the Season” which features sounds of the 60’s/70’s including songs from our Beatles’ Abbey Road theme and Jazz Side of The Moon (Pink Floyd). We are also excited to include originals on a release for the first time featuring tunes by Matt and Ryan.The album is set to be released later in 2018.

When you’re not playing music you...
Ryan-besides thinking about music? Spending time with my wife Katie and dog Coco. Enjoying nature, painting, and intense fitness.  I also love making/eating good vegan food and run an amateur blog with my wife.

Matt- Hanging out at my family farmhouse enjoying the simpler things in life. I’m super handy with cars and enjoy working on all kinds of hands on projects, especially crafting my own guitars.

Charlie-Exploring South City searching for good culture, food, & art, cooking, watching documentaries & addicting TV Series.

Mike- I love to spend time outdoors checking out the local parks and neighborhoods around south city.  I also enjoy eating at new restaurants and checking out new music when I'm not performing myself.

If you could perform a concert in any country which would you choose and why?
Ryan-Switzerland. Playing at the Montreux Jazz Fest to be exact. The people in Switzerland are so kind and I think would take to our sound/format enthusiastically. They love jazz in Switzerland.

Charlie-I would love to play Glastonbury in the United Kingdom.  This festival is notorious for being a field of mud that 175,000 people drudge through to experience the amazing music, nothing can stop this crowd!

Mike- playing in Italy would be a dream.  Somewhere between the Mediterranean coast or the Italian Alps. The Umbria jazz fest has some of the best views of any music festival out there.

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