Artist Profile: Arih Struger-Kalkman of Band On A Couch

There’s something special about the Niagara music scene, and Band on a Couch is becoming a bigger part of it. With well over 100 videos in just over two years, the Orange Couch has become an icon of local music, and the project has grown into something much more than its creators could have ever hoped for.

Band On A Couch was collectively birthed by a group of four friends: Struger-Kalkman, “creative director” Cody Linthicum of  Mando Calrissian and Knife the Wolf, recording artist Jordan Rutledge of the Jordan Rutledge Band, and videographer Peter Chadwick of LowLife Productions and The Advancing Low-Lives.

Arih Struger-Kalkman is a creator of many things and one of the key players in Niagara’s contemporary music scene. He is somewhat of a polymath, playing bass in his band, Stereo Sunrise, a solo artist, founder of the Albert Street Motel, a co-founder of Band on a Couch and Orange Couch Records, as well as a full-time, licensed, civil engineer.

The project is essentially self-explanatory, they take bands, usually, Niagara-locals and they have them play on a couch. An orange couch to be precise, and then they record it, visually and auditorily, and post it to Youtube.

Struger-Kalkman describes the idea coming to the guys like this: “some of us had played in the same bands throughout the years, and gotten to know each other, and we were sitting around having one of those conversations about how, ‘there’s so many good bands, and we need to do something, what can we do to showcase all of this talent that’s here?’ It wasn’t really until I left that I noticed it, — I went to school in Toronto for five years — coming back you just realize ‘wow, Niagara is special.”

“Cody’s from Indiana, Pete’s from California, Jordy’s from Huntsville, so I am the only Niagara-boy here, but I think we’ve all realised that there is something special here and that we need to do something.”

“We were talking about, ‘aw man, you guys remember MTV Unplugged, and how cool that was. People really listened to the music, and it was just the music. There was no lights, there was no fire, there was just the band and their songs.’”

“And we wanted to do something like that. So Cody said something like ‘we should just get bands to play in our living room, we’ll do like MTV Unplugged in our living room’, and someone else is like ‘oh, what about on a couch? Band on a couch?’ That was basically it.”

Band On A Couch has come a long way since it started. At first, Struger-Kalkman notes “we had a couple practice sessions which went terribly because we had this idea that we’d do an interview component and stuff. And you know, that really didn’t turn out. We started trying to do four songs, but that turned out to be way too many.”

He says that they expected to do five, 10, maybe 20 videos but they have done over 100 and that’s not even mentioning the record label that came out of it. He says that they realised they were going to be doing more than 20 videos when it went from Band On A Couch contacting their friends to say ‘hey do you want to do this?’ to people just emailing them.

“When we started, a session took probably three or four hours because none of us did this before — Jordan did recording — but we didn’t know how to film stuff. But now we’ve got it down to a science. Any band we can tell them ‘okay you can sit here you can sit here,’ get them arranged and we can do it in about an hour now.”

Band On A Couch has become much more than just a cool idea and has become a vital networking system for musicians in Niagara. The team aims for at least half of the videos to be featuring Niagara artists, but they are more than welcoming to people from farther away. So far they have had people from Hamilton, Toronto and even  from the Western Provinces.

Having acts from across the country is a win-win for the artists and Niagara. “They see other videos of Niagara people and what we’ve been able to do — because these people come to our house and they meet us — we’ve been able to get them to play shows or get them to bring on Niagara people to play shows with them,” says Struger-Kalkman.

On his history with music, Struger-Kalkman says, “I grew up playing violin, I think I started when I was six and then that tapered off when high school hit — wasn’t cool enough for me — that was a mistake. And then I picked up guitar and from there I ended up being a bass player because a band needed it.” He says he still plays the guitar and violin, but bass ended up really fitting him

“I am [also] a civil engineer. I work for a consulting firm, Ellis Engineering, and they’re local in St. Catharines. I just got licenced last year, so I’m a professional engineer, and I build bridges for a living,” he added.

Struger-Kalkman has a hypothesis about what makes the Niagara scene so special as well as what keeps it going. “I think a lot of it has to do with its being a really small community. Everybody knows each other, people play in multiple bands, so you’re getting a lot of that people moving around and people go to each other’s shows.”

“Once you know a few people and you go see their shows, they’re going to introduce you to a bunch more people. Once you’re in the community it’s easy to get along with people, meet them, learn what they’re doing, get involved with projects.”

Band On A Couch, Orange Couch Records, and Arih Struger-Kalkman all have a lot coming up. Band On A Couch is going to keep putting up videos and keep bringing bands and musicians together. Orange Couch Records is putting out a new Birds of Ontario record in April, and Struger-Kalkman is working on a new full-length solo album, a new Stereo Sunrise album and helping to produce a new Knife the Wolf album.

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