The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Cousins, community bands find their own beat

What makes music meaningful isn’t how many downloads it gets on iTunes, or how many snarky reviews claim it’s the next big thing. When it comes down to it, not all musicians are looking for a big break. Many independent artists are just trying to find a place to park their tour vans.

Vincent Gaa, a senior in the College of Education, can relate to that. Just off a spring break tour with his band, Cousins, the self-taught drummer and guitarist knows the struggles of a do-it-yourself artist. What’s crazier is that he and other musicians around the country enjoy the work. There is a thrill and a sense of pride that comes from performing something created from scratch.

For Gaa, the time put into perfecting a sound that is uniquely his triumphs over many superficial gains.

“Music is an art,” Gaa said. “It’s something that should be personal. It’s almost like a child.”

Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, Gaa jammed out with friends and began seeing local shows after covering artists like Jimi Hendrix sparked his interest in performing. After a while, the scene in his neighborhood grew tiresome, and Gaa found himself bored with what a lot of his peers in bands were doing, so he started road-tripping into the city to see other local talent at houses, art spaces and crummy bars.

During his senior year of high school and as a freshman at Marquette University, Gaa was a part of a hardcore band, but eventually became exhausted playing aggressive music. A need for change sparked Cousins.

Cousins – so named because Gaa and his cousin, Daniel Fedash, were the first members – encompasses Gaa’s belief that music should speak for itself, and its simplicity should highlight a musician’s passion for their work.

When his junior year rolled around, Gaa and Fedash wanted bandmates who would be able to complement the particular sound they sought to capture. Gaa’s roommate, John Butcher, a senior in the College of Engineering, and a close friend of Gaa’s from Illinois, Grant Gosizk, round out the current lineup.

Cousins’ style, described by some online blogs as “shoegaze” (a subgenre of alternative rock, characterized by its guitar effects), blends moments of spontaneity with structure and rhythm.

After Gaa and Fedash spent a year writing, producing and recording with the band, Cousins released its EP, “Axthoxy.” The album cuts out the fluff and gets straight to the point. It’s a sound way off of most of the band members’ previous styles, but the work put into bringing it to life helped it become natural.

“We wanted to try and capture emotions,” Gaa said. “We spent so much time altering the songs. You hear in your English classes to always revise your papers because they could be better, and that’s how I felt about the music.”

Initially, Gaa felt like Milwaukee was lacking in opportunities for local bands and musicians. But once Cousins fell into its groove and found its niche in Bay View and the East Side, it became more apparent that budding artists and touring bands did have a place to perform and connect in the city.

“Where we’re at now, Milwaukee has a fantastic DIY community,” Gaa said. “There are multiple houses that are successful, and there are shows going on all the time.”

Cousins and other DIY bands don’t play at The Rave or Turner Hall. Just like the bands Gaa was familiar with back in Chicago, the DIY community here in Milwaukee lives in basements, vacant spaces and anywhere else that’ll give them the green light to perform.

“It’s like this giant network,” Gaa said. “There’s really no promoter, just bands helping bands.”

Gaa gets calls from bands from out of town all the time asking for help booking performances or finding a place to crash after a show. Oftentimes, the price of admission goes towards helping touring bands pay for gas or other necessary supplies for the road. It’s just assumed that the favor will be returned when Gaa books shows for Cousins out of state.

“A lot of touring bands don’t have a following, and local bands help,” Gaa said. “It’s how people can find out about cool music.”

The DIY community isn’t meant for musicians who have dreams of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. At the end of night, everyone goes back to being normal people again.

“A big part of this is equality,” Gaa said. “Knowing everyone is important in the DIY community. There’s no reason to eliminate anyone.”

The strong relationships and ties built among bands and artists playing for little-to-nothing helps motivate artists to keep playing and fans to continue supporting. It’s easy for the entire community to be looked over because many of the shows take place in residential areas, but it isn’t completely inaccessible.

“Know that if you wanted to get involved, and your music isn’t recycled, you don’t have to be shy,” Gaa said. “We’re very hospitable. It wouldn’t be a community if we weren’t.”

For more information about Cousins and their upcoming show on Friday, April 21, visit or

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