Christian Cieri – Staff Illustrator

The spirit of punk is alive in Rochester, and Dan Chess is in the center of the scene. Chess, a junior, is the lead guitarist and frontman of the punk-rock duo Pterodactyl Scholars. Chess’ original music combines catchy pop sensibilities with gritty guitar and raw vocals. In addition to his solo endevours, Chess is a member of student-run rock ensemble No Jackets Required.

I had the oppurtunity to speak with Chess, where we discussed the creative process, musical influences and more.

Jeff Howard: You have played original punk music in your project Pterodactyl Scholars. What’s the songwriting process like for you?

Dan Chess: Usually something just comes into my mind, and I go write it down. Sometimes I only get one part, and the rest doesn’t come until later. But it’s very hard for me to sit down and try to write a song.

JH: Yeah, the best ideas are often the spontaneous ones. I can force music out okay, but I hate sitting down and trying to make lyrics happen. I’ve seen you play Drama House, Strong Auditorium and Montage Music Hall, among other places. Do you have a favorite venue/concert you’ve performed in Rochester?

DC: Not sure. I always like shows with the half party/half show vibe. I’ve wanted to play in a basement house show, but that hasn’t happened yet.

JH: Do you have any specific influences for songwriting?

DC: I guess. Most bands I like influence my sound a little bit, I think. I guess the biggest influences would probably be Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Velvet Underground, the Strokes and a few others. I really like songs with lyrics that tell stories, so I like to do that. Generally though, I don’t consciously try to emulate anybody. I just end up doing it.

JH: How long have you been involved with NJR?

DC: Since freshman year, so this is my third year.

JH: Did you perform before college at all?

DC: A little bit. A couple things at my school, but not much musically. I’ve been writing for a while though.

Howard is a member of the class 2017.

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