by Trevor Isaac
Who is Chuck Bontrager, the guest violinist on “Waste This Day”
Hey everyone, Trev here to talk about our good friend Chuck Bontrager, who many of you may recognize as being the featured artist on our song “Waste This Day”. I’ll talk about how we met, how we had a guitar vs violin shred off, and more. Let’s jump right in!
It all started at Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach
Chuck, Beth, and I met back at the beginning of this year (January) at “Tom Morello’s Guitar Revolution” in California. We initially met at the checkout counter of the little grocery store they had in our hotel. I was nervous about being around so many new people, not to mention getting to meet my all-time biggest guitar hero. So I just awkwardly stood beside him as he checked out and left. (man, I was a loser).
Later that day, we had our first dinner and Chuck actually came and sat beside us, introducing himself as the guy I was standing beside in the store LOL. I felt so bad and embarrassed! Oh well, Chuck was so cool about it and we immediately hit it off. We talked about which artists we were there for and other things like how we (SonS) just released our first ever single (feels SO long ago now). After telling him about ourselves, he told us a bit more about himself, starting with the fact that he was a violinist, NOT a guitar player, yet he came to this camp. SO COOL. He played professionally in an orchestra. We kept chatting while eating and eventually split off to our different classes.
Chuck is Kind of a Big Deal
We didn’t know at the time of meeting Chuck, but we found out AFTER we got home that he is actually the first seat violinist on the Broadway play Hamilton:An American Musical… WHAT?! Talk about a humble dude, not even name dropping that when we met him! But it’s nice that we just clicked and enjoyed each other’s company, no star-stricken or otherwise preconceived ideas about each other.
The Epic Guitar x Violin battle
After that first day, we kept running into each other in classes and inbetween, at meal tables, and continued talking throughout the weekend. On the morning of the second day, he found us, told us he loved our first single (woohoo!) and that he and I needed to jam together. Every night of the camp they had jam rooms with gear available for everyone to hang out and play together. Luckily, Tom Morello’s band stuck around for the jam sessions and we got to play with them, which was SUPER cool. I was chilling in the room listening to people jam and Chuck found me, saying we should go up. This was also the first time I saw that he played a freaking flying-v violin, what?!? So cool!
Anyway, the three of us chilled together until it was our turn to go up and jam. The band asked us what key we wanna play in, Chuck said he had a cool riff in Drop D and started playing. I watched him play it, played along, and then BAM! We were off the races. It went a little something like this:
How Collaboration Went Down
We hung out many more times throughout the rest of camp and exchanged contact info as we parted ways when camp ended, sad. Then it was back to the business of everyday life. Back home, we starting work on our album (which is out now, go listen to it if you haven’t yet, jeeze). We reached out to him a few weeks after camp, letting him know that we were working on our full album and would love it if he played on one of the songs with us. He immediately agreed and said he’d love to and asked us to send something his way when we had it.
A few months later, we had the intro, chorus and verse figured out for “Waste This Day”. Beth and I agreed this was the song we had to have Chuck on. We wrote the rest of the track with that in mind, having a bridge that would let him start soloing, moving into a bigger/more aggressive solo section with both a violin and a guitar soloing, and finally an epic ending to the bridge in which both him and I were just shredding away. We fired the rhythm track + the shreddy end part of the bridge his way and told him to go nuts.
Within 3-4 weeks he sent back the exact audio track that was used in the final song. I remember Beth and I were having a date night watching some anime (like the NERDS we are) and I got his IG message with the audio he recorded for the song. We dropped everything and went and placed it in the Logic project for Waste This Day and it was magic! I think we listened to it 15 or 20 times and were overwhelmed with excitement. It just fit perfectly.
Having no idea when we met him that he was the concertmaster for one of the biggest Broadway Musicals ever, we feel so honored he wanted to work with us! It was thrilling to be able to write with him on a track, especially knowing how busy he is. We are so grateful he took the time to write his parts and send it our way. It absolutely elevated the whole song to a new level and it’s a great song to start the album with. We hope to collaborate with him more in the future.
And that is how we had the incredible Chuck Bontrager on our album! I hope you enjoyed the story and video. Our time in California was like no other. All of the fantastic musicians we got to meet there made it an especially unique few days. We will never forget it.