U alumni to perform on WB’s “Strictly Original”

Riham Feshir

The type of music did not matter, but the quality and originality did. Producers of the WB’s new “Strictly Original” music competition saw all different kinds of original music during the show’s auditions in early June.

More than 200 bands and solo artists from all over the Twin Cities auditioned. Only 15 will make the cut and perform on television in front of a live audience.

For five weeks starting Monday, the competition will air on the WB Minnesota from Twin Cities clubs such as America’s Original Sports Bar, Escape, Euphoria and Champps.

Three bands or artists will perform three original songs per show. Voting starts Monday nights after the show and ends Wednesdays at 11:59 p.m., giving the audience enough time to log on to rsvpizza.com, where they will vote for their favorite performer.

Bands and singers with the highest number of votes will compete in the final performance, which will be judged by music experts, and will earn a chance to win a recording development deal with Winterland Studios & Calvin Records. Members will also receive a performer’s prize pack consisting of photography, posters, wardrobe and a year’s worth of Pizza Hut pizza, according to the WB’s press release.

During the auditions, producers saw artists who played music varying from rock to hip hop and R&B.

Producers weren’t looking for a “specific genre, just original and local music,” said Jill Yerks, a “Strictly Original” producer.

Jeff Ongstad, creative services director for the WB and executive producer for “Strictly Original,” said that from approximately 200 applicants, judges narrowed the number of competitors down as much as possible so the final decision could be easier.

It wasn’t that hard to reduce the number of performers from 200 to 30, Ongstad said, but after that it became more difficult.

“Once we got down to 20, it was the hardest to eliminate the last five,” he said.

Nothing Static is an original band that made it to the top 15. The band is the only one made up of University alumni in the competition. The members met one another and got their start while at the University, Ongstad said.

Jon Storm, Brittany Benjamin, Matt Vannelli and David Sellner, call their music “dark pop-rock.”

Nothing Static was not aware of “Strictly Original” until guitarist Vannelli informed his bandmates of it. They submitted their application and audition tape at the last minute, Storm said.

“We heard about it pretty late; we were kind of nervous because we weren’t sure we would make the deadline,” he said.

Band members were relieved and excited when they received a call telling them that they had made it in the final 15, he said.

The band members did not major in music at the University.

“We do want to make our band a career and our goal is to make a nationally touring band,” Storm said.

Nothing Static will perform their original song “Undertow” at America’s Original Sports Bar on the first night the show is aired.