Three UD students are members of Zero Borders (cover photo), a band that has gained traction in Dayton. Courtesy of Zero Borders
Amidst flower curtains, a collection of mason jars, Christmas decorations and a six-foot boiler, four men in their 20s begin rehearsal filling grandma’s two door garage with rhythmic rock and roll. Grandma’s garage band that started out playing for a one-woman audience now plays to 50 people in a bar and has their first album debuting soon.
“I think the future is bright because we all put a lot of work into it and hopefully that translates into some form of success,” said Charles Rowland, the band’s guitarist and singer.
Dayton band Zero Borders started with humble beginnings but is starting to take the city by storm, one concert at a time.
Zero Borders began in 2017 when Rowland met Nelson Florek, bassist, through their guitar teacher, Josh Johnson, in Dayton and asked him to create a band. Around that time, Florek, a University of Dayton then-freshman commuter student, met Angus Crowley, another then-freshman commuter and drummer, at a new student orientation commuter event. They discovered each other’s musical talents when Crowley commented on Florek’s Black Sabbath shirt. Crowley became the third member of the band. Still searching for the final member of the band, Rowland attended a party where he met Alec Ferguson, keyboardist.
“I was wearing a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette, and Charles was wearing a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette,” Ferguson said. “We just started talking. It was like a bad party, so I think we were both trying to get away from that.”
Before the formation of the band, each member had his own path to music. Florek first found his love for bass when he was five and his father took him to a John Primer blues concert in Chicago. Ferguson took piano classes when he was seven but didn’t find his passion for the instrument until he was in high school going through a rough time and needed an outlet. Rowland used to play the Guitar Hero video game, and one day decided to pick up a real guitar. He then took lessons, fell in love with the instrument, and never put his guitar down again.
“I was banging on coffee cans with a set of drum sticks when I was 4 years old,” Crowley said. “My parents bought me my drum set for my ninth birthday and I still have them today. Playing them every day since.”
With all members of the band found, Zero Borders needed a place to rehearse. Despite playing so loudly they sometimes hurt their own ear drums, Rowland’s grandma, Ella Rowland, didn’t mind.
“She self admittedly can’t hear,” Crowley said.
The band’s next step was finding what music to play. Most garage bands start by playing covers, but these men wanted their own music and created five original songs. The writing process for their songs usually involves Rowland coming up with the lyrics and the rest of the members putting together the instrumental.
“You know it’s a good idea when you’re just in the middle of a jam and then you just hear someone play something really cool,” Crowley said.
After hearing something “cool,” they would repeat that part until everyone figures out how to add with their particular instrument. Through this process, the band has written 18 songs together.
With the band together and songs ready to be performed, Zero Borders moved out of grandma’s garage to venues around Dayton. They have had shows at Hank’s Pub & Patio in Kettering, Blind Bob’s in the Oregon District, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 on Brown Street, South Park Tavern & Pizza on Wayne Avenue and finally about six shows at The Spirited Goat Coffee House in Yellow Springs.
Owner Michael Herington remembers the band coming into his coffee house in July for the first time and asking to play. He has enjoyed having them play at his venue because of the energy the band brings to the place.
“We rock in here when they come in,” Herington said.
Even with their growing popularity, not every show has been a success. Once when they played at South Park Tavern, the opening band Nudist on Strike brought a large crowd with them, and Zero Borders was excited they were going to be able to play. Both bands had planned to party together after their sets, but Nudist on Strike came up with a different idea.
“They decided to go party early, and leave us on stage to play for nobody expect for our old drummer and his drum teacher,” Ferguson said.
Despite this less successful gig, they have recorded some of their songs for their first album that is targeted to be released in January. The album, titled Bronze Age, was made at Exceptional Sounds Recordings owned by Tim Berger in Dayton.
“We finished recording our first album, and then we’ve got a couple shows lined up,” Crowley said. “We’ve got a couple songs in the pocket that we are working on that we are all pretty excited about. It feels like we’ve got good momentum right now.”
Rowland and the other band members hope that with all the concerts they have played so far they can keep becoming more well known in Dayton and get to a point in their career where they can be able to live off of the money they make from their music. Throughout this journey, they have moved from being grandma’s garage band to playing to crowds of people at Dayton venues and continuing to strive for further success.
“Music is what I want to be doing till the day I die,” Florek said.