When I asked Luke his preferred meeting location, he immediately shot out the idea of Cafe 210 West - a personal favorite of mine. He walked in wearing an all-black suit and found us an isolated table near the stage where I’ve experienced some of the most intimate, goosebump-making performances by local bands. After we both ordered double-stacked burgers, I was stirring in my seat, ready to get the inside scoop of Luke Cimbala - creator of The Band Junkies.
There is a hidden gem buried deep into the town of State College that is blind to the occasional, yearly visitor. When the sun sets, the music scene comes alive. As an underclassman, I didn’t understand the power music has in this small town until I turned 21 and was allowed to walk through the bar doors. I started to dictate my bar schedule based on the bands that played that night. They had the capability to sway my night (and most of my friend’s) because they were just. that. good.
Luke Cimbala, a native to this area, has been a lover of music all of his life. He saw the potential of these local artists and felt compelled to create a website that promotes bands and helps network them with studios in the area to jumpstart their careers. Below you’ll find the backstory of how this music lover is using his passion to help others with a website that is changing the music community.
Where did your passion for music come from? Why music?
I loved music my whole life. I remember playing pots and pans with wooden spoons in my mom’s kitchen. So I guess I’ve always been a drummer. I can still remember pretty clearly listening to my dad’s classic rock records.
My neighbor who I grew up with had a drum set. So I would bring over my dad’s guitar and he would play that and I would play his drum set. Then we would just jam every day for all of elementary and middle school until things got more serious in 9th grade. That’s when I started my band, Percival Madison (from The Lord of the Flies).
We were doing shows twice a month for all of high school. We would organize the shows and print out flyers and stuff them into lockers. When we were older we would go to the 9th and 10th grade building and go to their lunch and get kicked out for handing out flyers.
Everybody would go to shows back then! That was the only thing happening.
Then we started working with businesses. We would rent places and bring five bands in and would charge cover. I don’t know how we were doing this in high school haha. We were networking and I didn’t even have a cell phone. Somehow we just made it all happen.
What happened after high school?
So I went to Penn State for two years and I left because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I moved down to Florida to get away for a year. Actually, when I went down there I was more of a drummer but that was when I started to play guitar. I didn’t have many friends at first so I would work all day, come home, drink beer, and play guitar the whole evening. That was when I really learned guitar better and started writing songs.
I came back and got a job of selling cars and now I’m a manager there.
Now I want to talk more about The Band Junkies. When was the point where you decided, “This is the name!”
The Band Junkies used to be a band I was in - this was years and years ago. But the name came about when I was playing a show with Lowjack at Bar Bleu - I was their drummer for a couple months. After our performance we went to Taco Bell and this girl was just talking to us about music. Then she said to us, “You guys look like a bunch of band junkies.” And I was like that’s the coolest statement ever! We should call our band The Band Junkies and it just clicked.
We don’t perform anymore and I just thought it would be a great name for the website when I came up with this crazy idea.
Have these bands been early adopters to this website?
So the bands that know me and my personality, know that I’m that dude that’s going to reach out to you about something random. My first approach with reaching out to all the bands was pretty simple. I was basically just like, “Hey, is it cool if I list your band on this directory music hub website that I’m working on?” And they were all like, “Great!” I wanted the website to have a link that was universal in the way that they can click on it, get a direct link to their website or social media, and then people could connect with their music that way. I had literally a 99% response rate.
I actually loved it when someone was like, “What are you doing now Luke?” and I would be like, “Glad you asked! So let me tell you more!” If anyone had any reservations about it, I would explain to them all of my ideas for the website. I would tell them that just because they’re listed doesn’t mean they have to do anything. There is no commitment. It doesn’t mean I expect anything. Your link is just on this page and you play music in State College. You’re hopefully actively looking for shows and playing locally.
Do you feel called to help promote bands with original music that students don’t get to hear at bars since they play mostly covers?
Definitely. People might think that Lowjack is a cover band but they have great, quality originals. Even if a band is purely a cover band, I’m still here for them to promote their shows and help them find gigs.
But on the other side of things, I’m trying to promote artists that aren’t as well known. If we are bringing people into the studio to record songs and music videos, I’m going original with that. As far as the stuff that I’m investing in money wise, that would be artists that have original music and help them get that out there and introduce them to the right people.
Do you have a studio that these bands can work with?
There are 10 recording studios listed on the website. I’ve reached out to all of them so I know what they specialize in. I’ve paired up with Robinsound, which is where I’m recording all of my stuff at. They are passionate about music and they’re just really really good people. The owner, James Robinson, was the music teacher from the high school that organized Battle of the Bands when I was in high school. They can do video, and they have Augie who is one of the best audio engineers in town.
If someone is looking for a lower-budget recording session I have other places that are less expensive. I just point people in the right direction. Robinsound is just my go-to because I’ve been working with them for a while, I trust them, and I know that they will deliver.
Do you organize performances?
I used to organize these nights called “Townie Nights”. They’re all shows when the students were gone - Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break. Those shows are when Cafe would normally be slow because there are no students. I would bring in local bands and it would attract this “townie crowd”. We tried to bring in a metal band, a punk band, and a cover band; three acts that might not get a chance to play a Friday at Cafe 210 but because it’s slow and I can bring people to the shows, it adds a little value. These shows haven’t happened in a while but it’s something I’m planning on bringing back.
What are some of your favorite bands that you work with?
I really like Cone of Silence. They really practice and master their craft. They do mostly covers but they do songs that are really hard to learn on instruments because they are more progressive rock like Genesis and Kansas. They are songs that are very technical.
Liz Grove, who is the keyboardist for the band, has this email list of 600 people. They would do one show a month that would be like at 7 o’clock on a Tuesday at Zenos and 80 people would show up. They just have this incredible following. She introduced me to so many movers and shakers in town. She did a post that said, “Hey, Luke made this website.” and tagged all these people that are in bands that I didn’t know how to get in contact with. They all ended up reaching out to me. I think people were just like, “Well if Liz Grove thinks he’s cool then he must be cool.”
Do you work with any student bands?
I’d love to work with student bands. There’s one I work with now, but it’s my goal for the future to reach more of that audience. It’s just something I’m still trying to figure out.
What are the future projects for The Band Junkies?
I want to have 6 local artists in the next year come into the studio and record 2 acoustic original songs with video. I want to bring in artists of all different levels and styles. I want someone that has never even recorded a song in a studio before and then all of a sudden they have this awesome music video with great sound. Then I want someone who is really experienced in town that already has notoriety and just feature one of their songs. Or someone who jams on the street like The Corner Brothers did when they started out. I remember when they first started performing on the street in front of The Corner Room and now they play here at Cafe.
I’m going to have a gallery page on the weekend with anyone and everyone that took a picture with The Band Junkies shirt. My main focus has been producing a lot of content for these bands on social media. I have a lot of pictures and videos of them that I post of them playing at local music venues that I’ve been able to boost on Facebook and Instagram. I also just got a Gimbal to make the videos of musicians even better.
And of course I want to bring back a version of Townie Nights. I feel like I’ve proven that I’m helping people with social media because I’m embracing it in the right way. It’s so weird because if I go play open mic at The Phyrst there are people there just staring at their phones. I just don’t get it haha. I’m trying to figure out how to reach the younger crowd. If that’s the case, I’m going to embrace social media so that even if these people aren’t watching the show there they can watch a video afterwards. If they miss a show they can still see the bands perform. But I want it to be a good video instead of a quick snapchat video where you can’t even figure out the song. I feel like I can film a performance, get up close on the guitarist’s fingers, and make something good quality for people to watch.
Luke has already done some incredible work with bands in the past few months. Go check out Thebandjunkies.com to see everything he is up to!