Rockstars at Carlmont enact change

Sophie Haddad


Sophie Haddad

A whiteboard fell as David Gomez grooved alongside his colleagues in the Riff Raff Staff Band. The band practices weekly in Jaime Garcia’s ostensibly unsafe room. They play covers as well as original tunes written by Ashley Gray and Garcia.

Sophie Haddad, Multimedia Editor

A fan whirs overhead. The classroom is devoid of life. Then a guitar comes in, strumming with ease and subtlety. A kick drum and a bass vie for dominance over the low tones rounding out the sphere of sound. The hi-hat grooves in a simultaneously laid back and driving beat. Another guitar enters, plucking out a melody to shame the nightingale. A voice is now audible above the group, preponderating shamelessly over the sounds of the backgrounds. Soon, the players have transcended to a plain beyond mere mortality. A whiteboard falls, spilling soda. The band plays on.

The Riff Raff Staff Band, comprised of Jaime Garcia, David Gomez, Ashley Gray, Jerome Harris, and Cary Milia, began playing together just a couple years ago. Although they started by just playing covers, the coalition of Carlmont staff soon began writing their own tunes, deriving their meaning from a desire to improve the world.

“Most of the inspiration for the songs I have written are about social change, making a difference,” began Gray.

“Sexy women,” interjected Gomez.

“The inspiration of key figures who have made contributions. So a lot of socially active based songs. I like to do some storytelling in the songs as well in an effort to inspire people to take action. Those are the political songs. Then there’s your traditional rock and roll, love won-love lost songs,” said Gray, who has been writing songs for seven years.

Garcia also contributes to the song writing process.

“Once I run an idea, it just develops here. I have this idea for a tune and then these guys take it up to the next tier. I plant the seed that turns into a tree,” said Garcia.

At the outset, the band played for Carlmont fundraisers including a sock hop for AP History and a dinner gig for the theater department. Just about a month ago, the band made their first public appearance at The Surf Spot, an outdoor restaurant in Pacifica.

“It was public and there were lots of Carlmont people there. They were out on the dance floor having a great time. It was a sunny, beautiful day,” said Milia.

The band performed with certain honorable guests, including Principal Lisa Gleaton and Minnijean Brown Trickey, who was a member of the Little Rock Nine during the Civil Rights Movement.

“For a history teacher to play with Minnijean- you can’t even describe it,” said Gomez.

“That’s a historical figure. I mean, seriously, in the biggest way possible,” said Garcia.

The band members each attest to gaining something from playing music together.

“I feel as though I’m tapping into the gift that was given to me by the one that has all the power,” said Harris when asked how he feels when he sings. “I don’t even concentrate on the people that are out there. I just tap into the gift. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s five or five thousand [people watching]. As long as I’m behind the [microphone], I feel like I’m serving my purpose.”

Each member possessed a different level of involvement in playing music up until now. On one end of the spectrum, Gomez played in over 20 bands since high school. On the other, Garcia never performed for an audience until joining the Riff Raff Staff Band. Harris’s musical background extends back to his toddling days.

“I’ve been singing since I was three. Way back in the day, there was a song called ‘Under the Boardwalk’. I woke up singing that one day and my grandmother said, ‘Shut up, boy!’ She didn’t know that I sang it note for note. My uncle told me that I sang it perfect pitch. And so I’ve been singing ever since,” said Harris.

In the future, the band aspires to record and get some more gigs. They want to continue to play at Carlmont as well.

“We very much enjoy playing for the students in the quad. We’ve enjoyed supporting Mr. Gomez’s AP History events. Mr. Harris and I are going to play the Sojourn event in January,” said Gray.

Wherever it may take them, the band will continue to keep working their “mojo.”

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