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"Special Angst in a Mix of Genres"

Daniel Matthews, the emcee of the San Diego-based band AfterschoolSpecial, speaks to APA about the experience of being a young "future rockstar" navigating the Southern California music scenes.

It's amazing what can happen when all the pieces of the puzzles fit together. Based out of San Diego, California, the band afterschoolspecial are the next big thing. This high energy group (Dan Matthews, Brain Figueroa, Mick Terrizzi, Keane Aranita, Jaimie Block-Smith, Todd Olson, and Josh Patin) writes and composes their own music, putting together a unique sound by blending hip hop and rock beats. Influenced by artists such as Linkin Park, The Roots, and Handsome Boy Modeling, afterschoolspecial has been dominating San Diego and Los Angeles music scenes since 2007, with no intention of slowing down. They've just released a brand new, professionally-recorded album, filmed a music video, and are in talks for an upcoming tour.

Afterschoolspecial's melodies consist of thundering drums, smashing guitar, smooth bass, and fluidic piano, supporting an aggressive emcee (Matthews) and sultry female vocalist (Block-Smith). What makes this band unique are the individual members' diverse musical backgrounds, which include jazz, soul/folk, hip hop, classical, rock, and rap. The passion and seriousness of their lyrics and subjects, combined with their hard rock rhythms and blends of underground hip hop, give them an edge over other "strictly hip hop" bands that are trying to make it big. But where they shine is in their live performances. The excitement and passion they bring to a show is nothing short of amazing.

The best advice Matthews has gotten from other musicians in the industry is: "if you're not willing to make this a full time job, if you don't have aspirations to take this 100% and devote everything to the band, then you're not gonna make anything out of it." This is something Matthews and the other members have definitely taken to heart. Full-time jobs, full-time school, and other commitments aside, afterschoolspecial is the band members' number one priority. After starting out in small venues, local talent shows, and festivals, afterschoolspecial now plays alongside national acts and hosts their own events -- showing their determination to be around for a long time.

I had the privilege of interviewing Dan Matthews, the Emcee of afterschoolspecial, who let me in on all the details of the band, including how they met, the meaning behind their quirky name, the pros and cons of being "typecast" as an Asian-American act.
On how the band started

Dan Matthews: We all went to San Diego State, which is actually how we all ended up meeting each other. None of us were really close back in college, but we were all kind of like friends of friends of friends. I got together with the keyboardist, Brian Figueroa. He's very talented, he was in another band and we just happened to be at a talent show at the same time, and I wanted Brain to just play some music, and they started jamming. I took what they were playing, and I just started rapping over it. I was like, Wow, this is a really cool. I wanna do something with this. So I met up with Brain, we came up with some melodies, and it was kind of like a piece by piece situation where we needed a drummer, so we got the drummer. We needed a guitarist, so we got a guitarist. We needed a bassist so we got a bassist, and then same thing with the singer. We needed a singer, so we got the singer. So we all came together kind of like that.

On combining rock with hip hop

DM: The band -- we all have such diverse musical talents. It tends to be a blessing and a crutch on us in a way. All of us with our diverse musical backgrounds can bring something different to the table. A lot of our songs have a lot of rock and a lot of hip hop influence, and that's [reminiscent] of the uniqueness of the music that we can create.

For the latest information on afterschoolspecial's upcoming song releases, tours, and performances, click on their their official website.

Click below to listen to a clip of afterschoolspecial's first single off their first album, titled "Future Rockstars of America." Future rock stars they are indeed.
- UCLA Asia Pacific Arts


"Not One For Words" EP



Since their conception in September 2007, afterschoolspecial has been on the rise in the San Diego Hip Hop and Alternative Rock scene. What started out as performances in small venues, local talent shows, and festivals has now grown to playing alongside national acts, hosting their own events, and touring universities. Their eclectic sound reverberates over the Southern California music scene through the privilege of sharing the stage with artists such as the Souls of Mischief, Pigeon John, LuckyiAm (The Living Legends), Supreme Soul (MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew), The Blue Scholars, and countless others.

Influenced by artists such as Linkin Park, Flobots, and a splash of The Beastie Boys, afterschoolspecial has a created a unique blend of hip hop, rock and soul that continues to break down barriers in order to stand strong within a genre of its own.

They have just finished their first professionally recorded EP “Not One for Words” produced by Peter Rocks and engineered at 4th Street Studios in Santa Monica. They’ve also recently completed their first music video created by the talented Rockstep productions.

The band’s origins were founded in the mind of lead emcee Dan aka Dan and quickly spread to its current six members: the classically trained pianist, Brian Figueroa; rockin’ guitarist, Keane Aranita; soulful singer, Jaimie Block-Smith; punk bassist, Todd Olson; and jazz influenced drummer, Josh Patin.  Through the talents of these six musicians, a vision is aligned and their journey continues on.