Ruben Pappalardo tried out for our band on the 15th of June, 2010. We had been looking for a drummer for quite a long time before he arrived, and most of the guys we had found were mainly wannabe dildos. This one was different.
Jordan had made a Craigslist ad for us a few weeks earlier, and Ruben had chanced upon it while looking for cover bands to play one-off gigs with. He had called Jordan the night we were at the Coffeehouse, following which Jordan had made the shocking revelation that there was a chance we had found our third member. It had been a week since then.
Ruben showed up around fifteen minutes later than we had agreed, in an ancient looking, probably fifth hand Honda city, wearing a shirt that said Axl Rose is F--kin' Phenomenal, and leather pants. The dude was big, at least 6"3, and had thick, shoulder length, dark hair. His bangs hung low over his eyes.
"You're late." Jordan said.
"I had some shit to do. Could you guys help me with the drum set?" he asked, as he entered the house, carrying the snare drum.
"Sure." Jordan said, walking towards the car. "I'm Jordan and this is Rob."
"Nice to meet you guys." He replied. Ruben opened the trunk. I picked up the bass drum and Jordan took the high hat and cymbals. "How long have you guys been playing together?" he asked.
"Quite some time, now." I said. "We've been looking for a drummer since April."
We set it up in the middle of the living room of Jordan's three bedroom townhouse. He had a roommate, a Turkish grad-student called Deniz, who was hardly ever around.
"So." Ruben asked, pulling up a stool and adjusting the high-hat. "What do you need me to do?"
"We'll jam, but there are some things we need to clear out before we start." I said. "What kind of music do you want to play?"
He shrugged, and tousled his hair. "Anything except Death Metal and rap is fine, man" he said.
"What else can you do, besides playing drums?" I asked.
"I'm a pretty decent harmonica player." He replied. "I can sing, too, but it's not like I'm Steven Tyler or anything. I could provide backing vocals."
"What about songwriting? Are you any good at it?" Jordan asked.
"Jeez, man, anyone can write a song. It's just poetry, right?"
"One last question." Jordan said, with finality. "Do you like the Red Hot Chili Peppers?"
Ruben looked confused. "Does it matter?"
"It matters a hell of a lot." I said. "You can't be in the band if you don't like the Chili Peppers."
"Wellthing is, II hate them." Ruben said, quietly.
There was a deathly silence in the room. Previously, Jordan and I had agreed never to include a band member who didn't like the Chili Peppers.
"I'm kidding." He laughed. "You guys are easy. Purple Stain is like my favorite song of all time. I love em."
"Alright, so that takes care of that." Jordan said, letting out a sigh of relief. "Now, we're gonna jam for five minutes, and then we'll try a song."
"Sounds good enough to me." Ruben said.
"Ready when you are." I said, picking up my Pink Kramer, which had been resting on the couch, and plugging it into the guitar. Ruben looked at it, and nodded approvingly.
"You knowthey say pink is for pussies, chicks, and homosexual men, but I think it's f--king tight, man."
I smiled. I was starting to like this guy already. He adjusted his stool a bit while Jordan tuned his bass. "Alright.3, 2, 1, go."
Ruben launched into a groovy, hard hitting beat, while Jordan began playing a very awkward bassline and I played a blues riff. Pretty soon, we were making enough noise to annoy every cat in a 50 mile radius. Ruben looked focused, and tended to move a lot while playing. Jordan kept changing basslines, trying to throw Ruben off his guard, but no matter how hard he tried, there was no point to it, Ruben would adjust easily. Each hit on the bass drum moved a pretty decent volume of air. It was like my pulse was in sync with it. The jam session stretched on and on, and we reached a point where the initial aggression vanished.
Around half an hour later, we agreed to stop, tired and thirsty. "Where the f--k did you learn how to play like that, man?" I asked Ruben, as I took the guitar off and sat down on the couch. "You're in, no questions asked."
"Good to hear that." Ruben said, getting up from the stool, panting slightly. "D'you guys have any beer?" he asked, flopping onto the couch.
"On it." Jordan said, making his way to the kitchen. "So, what kind of music d'you like?" he asked, opening the fridge.
"Everything from Bo Diddley to Metallica." He said. "Rock n' roll, I guess."
"Any favourites?" I asked. Jordan threw us a beer can each.
"Hmm. GNR and Aerosmith."
Jordan sat down on the other couch, and asked "Are you a student or something?"
"Nah. I work as a secretary at my Uncle's architect firm during the day, and usually play random, one-off cover gigs at night."
"Do you get paid for these gigs?" Jordan asked.
"I don't do them for money." Ruben said, taking a sip of his beer. "I settle for free beer, mostly. I spend the extra dough on weed and drumsticks and stuff." He put the beer can down. "You guys have just started, right?"
"Yep." I said. "We don't even have a name yet."
"So, what dyou think we should be called?"
"Well, I think it should say something about who we are and what we stand for." Jordan said. "Or, it should just sound cool. Nothing cheesy or ironic, though. "
"I have a suggestion." I said. "How about Baptized By Fire? I've always thought it was a great phrase."
"Sounds like a name for a Norwegian band, man." Jordan said. "We'll need something subtler, I think."
"How about the Gentle Monsters?" Ruben asked. "Or the Bulletproof Monks? They're the first ones to come to my mind."
"Isn't there a movie called Bulletproof Monk?" I asked. "We can't rip off a movie name."
This discussion went on for the better part of an hour. Choosing a name turned out to be much harder than I had imagined. Finally, Jordan came up with one that caught our fancy.
"What's that feeling you get when you're really, really happy?" he asked, rubbing his temples. "I can't remember the word, but I know it sounds awesome."
"Thrill?" Ruben suggested.
"Ecstasy?" I asked.
"Yeah, starts with an e"
"No..Euphoria!" he exclaimed. "Yeah. I always thought the concept of selling emotions was exactly what music is about." Jordan said. "You know how music seems to talk to you? How it can make you feel better when you're down, and take you to like a higher place?" He asked, looking at each of us for comment.
"Well, yeah, man." Ruben said. "I like the concept, but how will you get a band name out of that?"
"See, all musicians want people to be able to relate to their music." He said. "They want people to experience all kinds of joy by listening to their stuff. It's like they're trying to sell a buzz, of sorts. Isn't that what euphoria is? A feeling of extreme elation? That's how I want people to feel when they go to one of our shows. So, I think the Euphoria Cartel would be a pretty decent name."
"It's a great name, but...we'll really have to live up to it. Making people feel euphoric is hard, man. You have to be Led Zeppelin or something."
"I don't think we should worry about that, man." Ruben said. "I'm fine with the name, and I don't give a shit if people end up not liking us much. I say that's what we should name ourselvesthough I think Euphoria Mafia sounds better."
"Nah, that just makes it sound weird, with two "ah"s. Let's just go with Cartel." Jordan said.
"So we're The Euphoria Cartel, now?" I asked. "Well, we finally have a name. And a drummer."
"I love it...However, it sounds like a prog rock name, you know. Anyway" Ruben got up and checked his watch. "There's something I have to attend to. So I'm in, right?"
"Of course you're in, man. Didn't I just say that? We didn't play the song, though."
"We'll just play it next time." Ruben said, smiling. "So when is the next time you guys want to jam?"
"We'll give you a call." Jordan said.
We helped Ruben load his drumset into the car and he drove off.
"I like this guy, man." Jordan said. "Everything about him, right down to his name, is cool. D'you think he's Italian or something?"
"Who cares? We're a freaking band now."
We started to walk back to the house. "All we need now is a singer." I said.
"Oh, don't worry about that. Singers grow on trees these days. Besides, there's always autotune, right?"
He laughed and walked ahead, as I stared on, stricken.