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The Reformation

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with The Reformation from 2014

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

Caroline Schneider: I've been the lead vocalist of The Reformation since September of 2010, but I've been singing in theater productions since I was very young. I went to college near Philadelphia for Musical Theater Performance, and there I had the pleasure of studying with those active in the local theater scene, which was a blessing to say the least. I learned amazing vocal techniques that have helped me continue to not only increase my vocal range but also stay healthy while doing it, which makes for some badass rock vocals. The Reformation was originally Mechanical Overload, and once I took over the lead vocols, a change seemed appropriate. Long story short, as The Reformation, we put out a sick first album in record time (instrumental tracks were practically finished prior to my joining; I buckled down with lyrics) and worked on booking gigs and automatically writing material for Fatal Expectation

Matt Penco: I've been obsessed with music since as far back as I can remember. I started studying it when I was twelve years old, which was also when I started to play the guitar and piano. In college, I got a minor in Music and formed a band with Kyle that eventually turned into The Reformation when we added Caroline to the lineup. We put out our self-titled debut album in 2011 and our most recent album, Fatal Expectation, last year. We also have plans for a new release sometime within the next year, possibly an EP.

Kyle Brower: My individual history with playing music starts with an eighth grade talent show, which is when I got my taste for performing live. I played in alternative rock, punk, and metal bands until college, when I ventured into prog rock. I formed a Rage Against the Machine cover band with Matt in 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and we started writing original material, as well. Eventually, the original material became our primary focus and we recruited Caroline to take over lead vocals. The Reformation was born in 2010, and we played bars and clubs in and around Pittsburgh until 2012, when we decided to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area in California. 

Dan Miller: I've been playing music since I was a kid. I started cello in third grade, learned the bass a few years later, and have been picking up more instruments ever since. I studied bass and cello at Edinboro University from 2006-10. I've played in jazz ensembles and combos, rock groups, orchestras, musical pits, folk groups, a reggae band, choirs, and even a barbershop quartet. Along with playing and writing music, I am an elementary school music teacher.


If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

Caroline Schneider: I wouldn't. That is, I couldn't. The arts. . . music in some capacity. . . let's just say if I had wanted to be a pharmacist, I would have been a pharmacist. 

Matt Penco: I probably either would be trying to advance my career as an electrical engineer, or go back to school to get a master's degree in Economics and then get into politics with my brother. Regardless, I would definitely be doing more studio audio engineering for artists on the side.

Kyle Brower: Focusing on developing my career in the field of Construction Management, which is what I went to school for at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Dan Miller: Absolutely no idea.


How did the name of the group originate?

Caroline Schneider: "The Reformation" originated. . . well, one evening I was working my utterly depressing retail job when Matt texted us about his idea for the band name. As with any major decision that will represent you for the rest of time, I was a little wary of just jumping in with it. . . until he explained what it meant and how our music is really trying to “reform” the perspective of our listeners, give them something new to explore, not necessarily change their minds about what they like, but open them up to something that doesn't stick to the norm of what popular music might be. 

Matt Penco: Our name represents a few things. Figuratively, it describes both us reforming music into our own interpretations; literally, we are the reformation of a defunct band that Kyle and I were in. Our self-titled album cover also conveys the message that the world is about to go through a radical reformation in coming decades.


Who would you see as your musical influences?

Caroline Schneider: Chris Cornell is a major influence for me. His vocal quality and, I mean, come on, that man can hit notes in a way that I could only dream of. It's bizarre. He only gets better with age. The gravelly quality…it's brilliant, and the emotion he conveys brings me to tears, especially when I'm driving around town feeling like a badass and belting out "Spoonman" or "Nothing Left to Say But Goodbye” - idiculous. I can only hope to have some similar qualities, and maybe someday I'll convey that same emotion to people. There are others, but he is my main squeeze when talking about vocals.

Matt Penco: Alan Parsons, Jeff Lynne, Syd Barrett, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Morello, Angus Young, Bill Payne, Lou Gramm, Stevie Wonder, King Crimson, Yes, The Beatles, Styx, Queen… I could go on forever. Alan Parsons massively influenced the way I engineered Fatal Expectation. Also, I probably wouldn’t be playing guitar if it wasn’t for Chuck Berry.

Kyle Brower: To name a few: Chris Adler - the drummer of Lamb of God; John Boecklin - the drummer of DevilDriver; Danny Carey - the drummer of Tool. 

Dan Miller: Ray Brown, Christian McBride, Frank Zappa, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, among many others.


What's ahead for you?

Caroline Schneider: Amazing theatrical opportunities in the San Francisco Bay Area, a kick ass time with this band and getting our music out to the side of this country that will really appreciate it and understand it. . . just being really happy. 

Matt Penco: Our next step is to finish relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area, add one or two musicians to the group, and then do a small tour along the West Coast later this year. A major goal at this point is to secure a contract with a decent record label.

Kyle Brower: Adding a member or two to our lineup and playing shows all over the West Coast to promote Fatal Expectation and our self-titled debut album, all the while paying off student loans. 

Dan Miller: Making as much music as I can. My intent is to keep playing until I am no longer physically able to.

MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Caroline Schneider: I think we have a progressive flare with some funk mixed in. 

Kyle Brower: As characterized it, "Eclectic Progressive Rock" is about the closest one can come to accurately describing our music with a single umbrella term. We hit a lot of different genres and put our own spin on them.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Caroline Schneider: I fantasize about getting the opportunity to sing with Sound Garden or Beck or something like that. 

Matt Penco: I'd love to play a show with The Mars Volta, if they ever come off their hiatus.

Kyle Brower: Any musician/band with a passion for playing good, original music that grabs one's attention and makes one think. If I had to pinpoint a dream-come-true scenario, I'd say, “Tool.” 

Dan Miller: I strive to play with any musician that challenges me and pushes me to the next level.

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Matt Penco: It's a mixed blessing. Illegal downloading allows the music to be distributed more efficiently, which is obviously good for all artists. On the other hand, the decrease in profit is a hit that smaller artists cannot afford to take as much as bigger artists can. So, overall I think it harms the smaller artists more than the bigger artists. More people seem to be streaming music instead of downloading it these days anyway, which at least allows the artist to make some money. 

Kyle Brower: Both. It absolutely goes both ways - depending on who you are. It basically boils down to whether you're rich and famous or not. If you're rich and famous, illegal downloading is decreasing your profits without necessarily expanding your audience. If you're poor and unknown, illegal downloading is like free marketing - it's helping you build an audience by reaching as many people as possible.

Dan Miller: With the insignificant cut that most musicians make from records, the record labels are the ones who get hurt more.


In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Matt Penco: I wouldn't have a problem with it as long as they weren't selling the recordings. Ideally I would like to have all of our shows recorded out of the mixboard and posted on the Internet so that fans wouldn't have to do that. At least the sound quality would be better than a cell phone recording. 

Kyle Brower: My personal feelings on this subject really depend on what the fan's motivation is. What I can say for sure, though, is that in this age of ubiquitous technology, you have to assume it's happening and just accept it. The same goes for illegal downloading. As a musician, you're better off just taking it as a compliment and moving on.

Dan Miller: For a band developing a fanbase, sharing like this is essential to make the band more widespread.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Matt Penco: I plead the Fifth on this one!
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Matt Penco: Steve Hillage on guitar, Carl Palmer on drums, Herbie Hancock on keys, Jaco Pastorius on bass, Mike Pinder on Mellotron, Lenny Zakatek on lead vocal, and the entire London Philharmonic Orchestra behind them. . . mostly because at the moment, they are my favorite performers on those respective parts. I'm not sure how well they'd all function as a unit though.

Kyle Brower: Chris Adler (Lamb of God) on drums; Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) and Maynard James Keenan (Tool) on dueling vocals; Peter Wichers (Soilwork) and Joe Duplantier (Gojira) on guitars; Les Claypool on bass. I'd like to hear the blend of heaviness and melody that would come out of this lineup.

Dan Miller: Eric Krasno - guitar, Christian McBride - bass, Steve Smith - drums.


If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

Caroline Schneider: Man oh man. . . I don't know, if I had the powers that be behind me on this, I'd definitely only have one stage so I could see every artist and not have to budget my time. Also, these bands hardly belong in the same festival if you're trying stay in a similar genre. 

Matt Penco: Most of the acts I'd want to play are either well past their prime or dead.

Kyle Brower: To name a few: Lamb of God, First Blood, Gojira, Hatebreed, DevilDriver, Killswitch Engage, Soilwork, Death Before Dishonor, Despised Icon, Unearth.


What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Caroline Schneider: Yes, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, The Hives, The Vines, Beck, Green Day, Sound Garden, Faith No More, Hanson, Ingram Hill, Four Non Blondes, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, and of course. . . Sammy Davis, Jr. to end the night with some swingin' tunes… only if Buddy Rich is on drums. 

Matt Penco: I just bought The Beatles in Mono box set.

Kyle Brower: Lately I've been listening to Lamb of God, First Blood, Killswitch Engage, Soilwork. 

Dan Miller: I haven't bought anything recently but I've been listening to Tom Waits - Raindogs, and Return to Forever.


Have you read any good books lately?

Caroline Schneider: I read Reasons to Be Pretty by Neil LaBute, mainly to find some great comedic monologues for auditions. He's an awesome playwright. 

Matt Penco: I wish I had time to read books.


What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Caroline Schneider: Lamb of God with Killswitch Engage, Testament, and Huntress at the Fox Theater in Oakland, California.

Matt Penco: Esperanza Spalding at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, PA.

Kyle Brower: Same as Caroline.


Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

Caroline Schneider: I love going back to my middle school days with boy bands like N'Sync and Backstreet Boys. . . not to mention all those one hit wonders at the time like Semisonic. Don't deny it. We all know the lyrics to "Closing Time.”

Matt Penco: "Don't Lose My Number" by Phil Collins.

Dan Miller: Old Red Hot Chili Peppers from the Hillel Slovak era.

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Caroline Schneider: Michael Lang, Janis Joplin, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, mostly to discuss acting, Janis's short time on this earth, and Woodstock. 

Matt Penco: Any of my grandparents.

Kyle Brower: Chris Adler, Maynard James Keenan, Bob Marley. 

Dan Miller: Same as Matt.


What would be on the menu?

Caroline Schneider: Pizza from the Cheeseboard in Berkeley. 

Matt Penco: Buffalo Chicken Pizza from Frank's Pizza and Chicken in Pittsburgh, obviously. That’s always on the menu.

Kyle Brower: Think Thanksgiving, but with steak instead of turkey.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Caroline Schneider: This band is here to do something great. Don't tell us otherwise. 

Kyle Brower: Give Fatal Expectation a good listen and like us on Facebook! Check out our official website for music, photos, merch, and contact info!

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at
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