Photo by Mary-Ellen Davis
A young man in deep purple pants sat with one leg over his knee and an empty pasta dish in front of him as he began to list off some of his favorite things.
Kevin Goren, a 22-year-old drummer from Baltimore, Maryland, is a fan of dogs, likes the color teal (“that’s, like, blue-green, right?”), and says his favorite food is Cheez-It’s because they are always consistent.
“I don’t get tired of eating them,” Goren said.
He has hopes to, someday, be able to make a living touring and playing shows for months on end as a drummer in a band. Goren had a taste of that lifestyle when he was a member of the local ska band, Stacked Like Pancakes. The band, which split late last year, both opened and closed doors for Goren who is trying to find the path that will take him where he has longed to be since he was 11.
“Obviously, right now with the situation that happened, there have maybe been a little bit more downs in my life… than ups,” Goren said. “But I’m self-aware of that, and I’m just accepting and moving on and doing everything I can to make the best of what I’m doing right now.”
Goren is currently working with the other ex-members of Stacked Like Pancakes on two new projects while also trying to finish school.
“You have to kind of just want to do it for the love of it, and not expect it to ever go further, honestly,” said Hares Breath Record label and store owner Kat Peach. Her husband, Matt Peach, nodded in agreement.
In the early 2000’s, Kat Peach said that to make it as a musician you had to get the record deal that many only dream about.
“You’d have a band, or a solo act, and you’d do loads of gigs and try to get name recognition and get money,” said Kat Peach. “Then [you’d] record a demo and then send that around to different record labels.”
After that, it was a waiting game to see if a producer saw potential and decided to offer the musician a contract to make a record.
The first of Goren’s new groups is a cover band, which the members will use to keep their skills sharp while they work on getting the other group together and ready to perform.
“We’ll just play small,” Goren said. “The goal with that is we’ll just book small bar gigs and make a little bit of money.”
The group still needs to determine how much each person will get payed compared to what goes into a band fund. Goren learned that documenting everything at the beginning is a good habit to have, since Stacked Like Pancakes crumbled over a contract disagreement.
The contract he received from Stacked Like Pancakes’ band leader before their 2018 fall tour would have required Goren to sign away all of his rights to the LLC.
“The contract said we have zero percent performance rights and that, I guess, is wrong or incorrect because we performed on [the record],” said Goren. “We technically wrote stuff. It really should be equal, what would’ve been a fair deal is we all have equal performance rights, the band leader also has compositional rights, and maybe he gets a little bit bigger piece of the pie.”
Goren’s other band, who’s name has not yet been released, will be performing original music in the hopes it becomes a national act.
“The goal with that is to just, at least my goal, is for us to tour and hope maybe one day make a living, or a good living doing that, touring for four to eight months or for me maybe 12 months out of the year,” Goren mused.
Matt Peach feels that one of the things musicians have to do to get big now is know how to draw consumers to one place in order to make any money off of music that new bands put out.
“You could sign up with an aggregate and they’ll put you on iTunes and Spotify and Amazon and well everywhere,” Matt Peach said. “But what that means is all your money’s spread out which means you basically never get any money. I know that because I’ve done it.”
For Goren, it’s all about interacting with his fans on more than a social media level and building a personal relationship with them.
“I want to go up to the people that came to see us and talk to them and learn more about them,” Goren said emphatically. “It’s like, you clearly know what I’m doing, I want to know what you’re doing and develop more of a friendship thing.”
For him, it’s amazing how many friends he now has out of state. Goren admits that its different from being one of his close friends, but he still makes the effort to reach out to the connections he’s made before, during and after his time touring with Stacked Like Pancakes.
“When you’re on tour mode you just put your friends aside,” Goren said. “Personally, I’m kind of like constantly ‘I’m coming here. Let’s plan things out. I want to spend as much time as I can with you the one day that I’m here’ and whatnot.”
Alec Leventis, 30, played in Stacked Like Pancakes with Goren and feels that networking is essential to success.
“Kevin has such a positively infectious personality that helps him make so many acquaintances and connections that I know he will succeed in whatever he does in the future,” Leventis said.
Yet Goren wasn’t always like this. Despite getting his start in fourth grade, he wasn’t “obsessed” with music until he met Matt Halpern, who was a private freelance drum instructor at the time. Halpern is now the drummer for the metal band Periphery.
“I just clicked with him really well,” Goren said. “What kind of lit the spark for me was seeing him grow from being a local musician and bartending and doing everything he can to get by, to becoming an internationally known drummer.”
Then during his junior year of high school, Goren joined a band that wrote progressive metal music.
“We played a couple of shows and yeah, there was just kind of high school drama and stuff like that that occurred in the band,” he reminisced. “It was just kind of at that time a toxic situation, but everyone grew up, and everyone is doing fine, and I respect all of the people in that. We were just young and silly.”
From there, Goren moved on to become part of Stacked Like Pancakes after meeting the drummer at a gig.
“I didn’t know about stacked like pancakes at the time but as soon as I saw this guy play, I knew I had to be his friend,” Goren remembered. “So, I approached him afterwards and just talked for a while and then we eventually hung out.”
He was eventually phased in to become the permanent drummer for the band, and at first, Leventis wasn’t sold.
“He was a skinny little kid with a mohawk and honestly I didn’t think much about him and was just grateful to have someone play drums for us,” Leventis said.
Over time though, he watched Goren transform into the person he is today and feels he’s a great friend and reliable musician.
“Right now, I know I have the utmost confidence in him as a musician to give a skilled and energetic performance,” said Leventis.
Ana Johns, 22, said that Goren has always been down-to-earth and hardworking. She became good friends with him during their junior year of high school together, and she has been able to watch him become increasingly passionate about his music.
“I actually had a huge crush on him in high school,” Johns said about Goren. “I was trying to be a cool edgy girl and really liked musicians.”
For now, Goren plans to continue pushing forward by picking up gigs where he can and practicing for several hours a day all while watching some of his favorite shows: “Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, Agents of Shield, South Park, Big Mouth.”