By ELIZABETH SCHAFER, Associate Editor
Anthony Sassin and Chris McNicol have teamed up with local musician Brian Koehler to build the ultimate power trio. Cloudstrider is the result. The trio has been playing together for about three months and they already have staged three shows at Rubbles in Mt. Pleasant. Friends for several years, the threesome decided it just seemed logical that they come together musically.
McNicol teaches math at MMCC and I have seen him perform several times over the years in local bands, including The Burning Bushes and Every Wet Second. Cloudstrider is a little more low key musically than The Burning Bushes and Every Wet Second, but it appears that he is having just as much fun with Cloudstrider.
McNicol plays an incredible lead guitar. At the age of 13, he taught himself to play. He has a way of knowing a song without having ever heard it before and a knack for predicting what is coming next. Kind of like figuring out a math problem. When asked if he relates math to music, McNicol states, “I’m sure I do. I just don’t realize it. When I’m doing math I am not thinking about music. (But) when I am playing music, I am thinking about math.”
McNicol says Cloudstrider is an incredibly “laid back” band. “We work really well together,” he said. “Sassin provides comic relief, and I am really impressed at how well he picked up the drums.”
Sassin, who started on the drums just three months ago, teaches English 104 and Business 164 at MMCC this semester, but usually also teaches English 110 and 111. Watching him drum in Cloudstrider is really astonishing. Show him a song or a video and he can replicate it immediately. It’s really quite brilliant how the rhythm just flows from him.
“I started playing drums because everyone else plays the guitar,” Sassin explains. “It’s difficult to start a rock band if everyone is playing the guitar. Drums also help me relax.”
His education and teaching experience also come in handy when writing songs. I got to witness a bickering on the semantics of the word “where” in one of Cloudstrider’s original songs, Hot Mess. Sassin argued with Brian (they are also roommates) about the wording. “The song isn’t talking about a location.,” Sassin said, eventually winning that battle. After all, it’s hard to argue with a teacher of grammar about grammar.
When I asked Sassin why he loves teaching at MMCC he said, “I love facilitating discussion about the topic I enjoy most, language.”
Rubbles is really the only place in Mt. Pleasant to see live music on the weekends, or at least a rock show. I can see Cloudstrider getting several other gigs at local establishments just because of the diversity of their music.
Koehler plays regularly around town solo, and his shows are great. “Working with Brian is easy,” McNicol says. “He is the glove that musically fits. When Brian writes a song, Sassin and I just fill in the music.” It’s a group effort indeed. Add Sassin and McNicol into the mix and the sound is legit. Playing a cover of Warren G’s, Regulators, is what set them apart from anything else I’ve seen. Rhythm is something these professors certainly have.
In the future they hope to put together an LP that demonstrates their variety of music — something they plan to distribute at every show they have. Recently they played at CoCo Joe’s and have a second show lined up for later in February.
Not only are Sassin and McNicol MMCC adjunct instructors and friends, they are also great musicians. Most of all, they enjoy both jobs immensely.
(Professors who Rock is an ongoing series of professors, adjunct faculty and staff who spend their free time as a part of the local music scene.)