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Piano-driven, alternative-rock band Amherst Aisle are not unfamiliar with playing awkward venues. After all, the quartet from UC Irvine have done their time playing shows at coffee shops, bars and malls. More recently, however, Derrick Chan (drums), Ben Kashuk (piano/vocals), Michael Klein (guitar/vocals) and Kevin Leonard (bass) have upped the ante, hosting a release party for their first album, Man Among Gods, at the venerable House of Blues in Anaheim and, this weekend, playing at the legendary Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood. Up next? More shows, more music.
OC Weekly: How did you guys meet?
Michael Klein: These three [Chan, Kashuk and Chan] went to UCI. Kevin and Ben lived on the same dorm floor, and Derrick was around there, too. Ben and I have been best friends since first grade. Their junior year, they all moved to Ambrose apartments.
Derrick Chan: One of our roommates was studying abroad, so we needed someone to fill the room for a quarter. We asked Ben.
Kevin Leonard: Three months after that, we formed the band.
Where is your name from?
Ben Kashuk: We lived in Ambrose apartments, which is off the street Amherst Aisle.
Chan: It was between that and Gods to Garbage.
Leonard: Rabid House Wives was a much worse name.
The venues you guys have played are really varied: a Starbucks, the Lab, the Troubadour, the House of Blues. How do the bigger venues compare to the smaller ones, and which do you guys enjoy more?
Kashuk: You know, we're not meant to be a background band. You can't ignore us.
Chan: We're meant to be loud.
Kashuk: Yeah, when we're forced to put on that volume control, we lose a little bit of energy.
Klein: Last weekend, we played at the Art Walk, and it was great, but we just came off playing the House of Blues, where there was a professional system with two guys mixing [on the sound board]. . . . It's just a completely different feeling [when] you don't have monitors in your ears, you don't have people watching you. People are walking by—some might bob their head a little bit, some might stay there for longer, but it's just not the same feeling. It's not what our band is really made for.
What has been your favorite venue to play, then?
Klein and Kashuk: House of Blues.
Leonard: Detroit Bar.
Klein: Really? That was your favorite?
Leonard: I mean, it's not my favorite show because there were, like, eight people there, but . . .
Chan: What made the Detroit Bar for me was the sound guy. He worked with us so much. When we're at the House of Blues, we're like small fish. They do their thing, mic us up, and we get no input.
Leonard: There's nothing like playing for 400 people, but Detroit Bar is where we sounded the best, so that's why it was my favorite.
What has been your greatest moment as a band?
Klein: Our first House of Blues show. It was our largest pull for a House of Blues show.
Chan: That was such an amazing feeling; I had never experienced anything like that before.
Klein: I saw a video; after the curtains closed, it was all standing room and everything was dark. The crowd was chanting, wanting us to come back out. Of course, House of Blues doesn't let you do that, but, y'know, playing our last song, you could hear the crowd yelling back parts of it. That's a really cool feeling.
This column appeared in print as "Amherst Aisle Step It Up."