“Garage Rock for Hot People” and the Slow Struggle to Rejuvenate Alternative Music Culture at Illinois State University

Illinois State University doesn’t really have a good music scene, but Harrison Gordon is trying anyway.

I was able to hear the bass pounding from miles away. Flashing lights fill the garage and the air feels sweaty. Someone’s hanging from the ceiling, people are jumping and filling every corner of the foul-smelling room, and the lead singer is screaming his lyrics into the microphone. The music’s at a certain volume with the intention of shaking your bones and obliterating your ears, nothing less. 

Somewhere in the tangle of people is a tall ginger with brown-framed glasses. That’s Harrison Gordon, a townie who’s been writing music in his bedroom only several minutes away since 6th grade. 

“That was around the age I begged my parents for a guitar. When I finally got it, I basically played it non-stop,” Gordon explains. “It was kind of the only thing I was good at.” 

Gordon ended up being pretty good. He took lessons from a guitar teacher, stopped, and ended up teaching himself all throughout high school.  

“During my sophomore year of high school, I made a lot of songs. They were really, really bad,” Gordon laughs at himself. “It was nice to get it all out then.” 

Now as a sophomore studying FTK, Gordon recently released his latest EP, SPLIT! 

Loads of Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Modern Baseball, and bad pop-punk all came together and influenced the sound of SPLIT!. Mix that unusual combination with a vague spin on the “original idea of love” and a crippling attachment to the profound feeling, and you’ve got a potential Harrison Gordon single on your hands.

SPLIT! was born from the year everyone spent in quarantine disconnected from the world and each other. 

“You know that completely jaded feeling we’ve all had after the past year of not speaking to anyone?” Gordon shakes his head, looking at the ground. “Now we avoid eye contact, are used to being by ourselves, and even still want to isolate sometimes after all of that.” 

Of course, the EP is not only about the pandemic. 

“A part of the EP is about relationship shit like most music is. And real life. I spent nearly twenty hours writing ‘Denji’s Song.’” 

Now, Gordon’s currently the lead singer in Chuck’s Papas, a band branding themselves as “garage rock for hot people.” The funky slogan seems to almost signify a new movement, just a small branch in the huge effort of striving to make Normal, Illinois a little more abnormal. 

While students continue to support Chuck’s Papas and other local bands by putting on and attending shows, we’re all able to sit back and watch the rebirth of one of the most influential and impactful cultures. Except, this time around it has a modern twist. 

With the closing of popular house show venue Roadhouse in 2019, nothing but silence has seeped through the windows of houses and empty garages on campus for nearly 3 years. Now, a post-pandemic, Gen Z, Tik-Tok using generation is able to pick up their guitars, check their mics, and count in an entirely new sound of what it means to be, well, us. 

Band Instagram: @Chuckspapas | Harrison’s Instagram: @harrison_isbored

Kaylee Sugimoto | Co-founder / Editor (she/they)

Hi! I’m Kaylee. Born in California, but raised in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest where I quickly learned how to drive 60 on the freeway and become an effective lactose intolerant. I’m a former Division 1 gymnast at Illinois State University, where I’m now focusing on journalism and mass media. I love to skateboard, play my electric bass and listen to the Beatles on my record player. | @kayleesugimoto

Charlotte Steiger | Co-founder / Editor (she/her)

Some know me as a film photographer, others as the Neuroscience major running a zine from California. Depending on the time of day I’m either inspired by indie skateboarders or the aftermath of mixing krokodil with crack. Music wise I’m within The Cure’s top 0.1% of listeners, so take what you will with that. Welcome to White Noise, where creation cannot be ignored. | IG: @cssteiger

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