The Definition of Schema

Photo: Taylor Lee Czerwinski      

Photo: Taylor Lee Czerwinski      

Written by Zach Ubaldini

Schema

/skēmə/

Psychology: cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. 

Progressive Rock: Quartet that has developed a repertoire that weaves influences like Herbie Hancock, Phish, Disco Biscuits, and Umphrey’s McGee into an instrumental explosive groove fueled by two guitars, bass, and drums. 

Damn! That Schema set was a scorcher, felt like both volcanoes on “Ometepe” erupted, blew the roof off that gig. 

When Ryan Bresnihan came up with the name to Schema he was in a psychology class at Trident Tech. “Basically, a schema is an organized pattern of thought or way for your brain to catalogue things. So if I say camera you have this part of your brain that sparks up when you hear the word.” Since then Ryan dropped the books, moved to New York City for two years, came back and joined his boys Adam Coyne (guitar), Matt Jackson (bass), and JP Treadway (drums). Their commonplace is exploring the physical and metaphysical through sound.

They recall when it really all started. They had been outside at their practice facility (in the middle of the woods) experimenting with the last winter solstice and all it had to offer. They caught themselves playing for 8 hours, give or take, and howling at the moon. That’s when they thought they might just be onto something. 

While the Schema bros can party, they are true 9 to 5er’s. For work, Adam paints with his families business, Matt is a carpenter, both Ryan and JP do everything from promoting shows and working the door to changing light bulbs at The Pour House. We recently met up with Schema for a photoshoot and interview to talk about their past, present, and what’s in store next week at the Schema Anniversary and Winter Solstice Celebration on December 20 at The Charleston Pour House.

For those that aren’t familiar, Schema is a Charleston based progressive rock group that performs instrumental shows through a foundation of compositions that grow into peaking jams. Their drive to explore improv is manifested in their influences and spurred by their brotherhood. For the past year the quartet has grown their repertoire and buzz around the city, partly because of the addition of JP and his network from working at The Pour House and past group, BYOG. Adam mentioned how much of a difference JP made, “Its gonna be to the day of our anniversary show this year, last year when JP joined the band.” JP explained how his experience with BYOG has helped them branch out, “I’ve basically expanded contacts and really everything. It’s all evolution of where you are and who you’re around. Past experiences, being on the road, taking a break from the road and now wanting to get back on the road.”

Another asset is JP and Ryan’s employment at The Charleston Pour House, when asked if it helps them book more gigs JP explained, “It’s definitely helped with booking bigger gigs, it allows to set ourselves up for bigger Friday and Saturday night gigs when usually bands starting out will get Wednesday, Tuesday, and Thursday slots.Just being around musicians all the time you get to talk and shoot the shit. It’s obviously gonna help you grow as a musician.” 

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“For the record I love working at The Pour House. Let the record show Pour House is a great establishment. It’s the shit.” - Ryan Bresnihan

Schema doesn’t just live on Planet Poho. They love playing at The Royal American. JP noted, “John [owner] is super cool, those parking lot shows and the bands that started through that venue are all incredible bands. We love playing there.” 

Schema’s last show at TRA was right around Halloween, where both original tunes and Halloween favorites like “Ghostbusters” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”  had the crowd dancing both inside and outside all night long.

Since they’re completely instrumental, it can be hard for some new fans to understand when one song starts and the other begins, but Ryan notices, “You see older folks and people you would not normally think would be into this kind of music, but then they see it live and they are like ‘this is actually pretty fucking cool,’ people from all walks of life get into it and we just want to be as diverse as we can...It’s a balance between how we want to play this crazy improv jam type stuff and incorporating melodies and familiar covers based on what is really gonna get the crowd going.” 

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After seeing Schema a handful of times, it is a unique sound when compared to other jam bands; whether it be Dopapod, Lotus, Disco Biscuits and even their well known influences like Umphrey’s McGee and Phish. While these groups have a keyboard on stage, the Schema guys hold down two guitars for interplay. When asked how they are technically different from other bands they had a variety of answers. Adam said, “You just don’t see many dual guitar, drum, and bass quartets,” “Definitely a little more rock and roll” adds JP. Ryan furthered with, “The two guitar thing, me and Adam both have a lot of effects pedals now that really helps break that barrier of just being a guitar player and the ability to get a hold of different sounds. We have pedals that can modulate [enhance the tone or pitch of the guitar], and our killer drum and bass section holding it down.”

Although Schema has no studio recordings, they have ample live recordings soon to be released. The band threw around the idea with a Best Of album to cap off their first year, something along the lines of Choice Nugs. Some of their best stuff came from live recordings, one of which on YouTube from the the well-known weekend of Everyone Orchestra. Their original “Ometepe” named after an island in Nicaragua, has been practiced plenty of times, and each time seems to explore deeper on both the peaks and grooving valleys of the song.

As far as the future holds, Schema has a serious itch to get on the road. Ryan noted, “We have enough buzz going on in Charleston, but outside of Charleston we don’t. We want to be able to go to other cities and record an album. Definitely a short term goal is to get a recording out. Maybe the show coming up would be it.” With all the hype for Schema’s Anniversary and Winter Solstice Celebration on December 20 at The Charleston Pour House, it will not be something to be missed. Whether it's your first Schema experience or you’ve been to every show, this group keeps on growing, about time to hop on the plane en route to “Ometepe.” 

Check out the Facebook event or just head straight to charlestonpourhouse.com for tickets.

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Taylor Czerwinski