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Cancer can’t stop Clubhouse’s success

Clubhouse members Ben Saulnier, Michael Berthold, Ari Blumer, Max Reichert and Zak Blumer recently released new singles “Summerfields” and “Just Us,” following Reichert’s cancer diagnosis. Credit: Joshua Teplitz

Local electronic-pop band Clubhouse, comprising of lead singer and guitarist Max Reichert, pianist Michael Berthold, bassist Ben Saulnier, guitarist Ari Blumer and drummer Zak Blumer, has found notable success since assembling four years ago.

Having played sold-out shows throughout Ohio, opening for Young The Giant at Ohio State’s 2018 spring concert, playing Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, touring around the country, releasing singles and accumulating over 20,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, their recognition has been steadily climbing.

The band’s journey took an unexpected turn in August when Reichert was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, after doctors discovered a 9-centimeter tumor in his left femur.

“I kind of found out about the [cancer] diagnosis when I was working out — which is a crazy concept to think about now,” Reichert said. “I was doing deadlifts one day and my knee pinched up really bad and I got this intense pain right above my knee.”

When Reichert’s pain didn’t go away and worsened over time, he decided to pay a visit to the doctor for an X-ray. After confusing findings, the doctors decided an MRI was necessary. He was then informed of his diagnosis.

“I remember collapsing to the floor and puking and dry heaving — it was terrible,” Reichert said.

Reichert’s bandmates and closest friends immediately dropped what they were doing and rallied around him once they got the news via text from Reichert.

“I was kind of numb at first. I didn’t want to react before I knew all the information,” Saulnier said. “Of course seeing him for the first time and realizing the gravity of the situation was overwhelmingly sad, but it was good we were all together.”

Ari Blumer said he was in shock after the news broke.

“For a while after I found out, between the diagnosis and before the treatment started, it was a real daze; every once in a while you snap back into realizing this is real,” he said. “It felt like your world would pause while the rest of the world would continue. You’re in this bubble by yourself, lost in your head thinking about all the possibilities that could be coming — it was like that for a while.”

Zak Blumer said there was a month during which they didn’t know everything about Reichert’s situation beyond the fact that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Multiple tests had been conducted to determine the severity of the tumor, whether it had spread and if it was treatable. He said waiting for those results was the hardest part.

A month after the initial diagnosis, the tests revealed the cancer had not spread and the tumor was still in its early stages — the first victory in Reichert’s battle. He was scheduled for six rounds of chemotherapy followed by surgery to remove the tumor and another 12 rounds. Clubhouse put everything on pause, cancelling shows that were lined up and taking an indefinite hiatus.

Although the hiatus barred Clubhouse from performing live, the band had already recorded and produced a few singles it was still able to release — the most significant one being “Summerfields.”

“The song’s about the dreams we have for ourselves and also coming back to reality and the balance between the two,” Berthold said. “At that point in our lives when we were writing this, everyone was graduating college and there were a lot of decisions to be made and we tried to encompass that into the meaning of the song and the feel of the song.”

Berthold said the song, which was released Oct. 24, relates to each member in his own specific way, and Zak Blumer agreed.

“When you’re graduating college, people are telling you probably more than ever that a music career isn’t going to pan out and that came in different forms for all five of us,” Zak Blumer said. “But at the end of the day, this song is about pursuing that dream for us, or for anyone, and understanding the obstacle but not letting that get in your way.”

That was what the song meant before the diagnosis. Since then, the song has taken on a new meaning.

“The chorus says, ‘Does it make you want to die in a summerfield?’ And I take that as, ‘Are you willing to die trying to do what you always wanted to do?’” Reichert said. “Are you OK with following your passion until you die, or are you wanting to settle and do something that you’re good at and like, but is not your actual passion?”

Reichert said it became relevant for him because of his diagnosis, and said that while he was uncertain about his future, he knew he wanted to do music.

“It’s a moment of clarity when you go through something like this — life becomes simpler in terms of what you want to do in the future,” Reichert said.

Zak Blumer said the second half of the chorus added to this meaning further.

“The other major line, ‘Does it make you want to fly in a summerfield?’ is basically the juxtaposition of, ‘Do your dreams get you so excited for the future and make you want to fly?’” he said. “Does it make you want to fly and experience that happiness and also be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to pursue your dreams? It’s a nice contrast there.”

Reichert said the release of “Summerfields” meant more to him now than it originally would have.

“It meant everything. Still being able to release and write music gives me that escape and gives me something to do where I feel like a normal person again,” he said. “Whether it’s the promo stuff or writing music in my room, any time I’m able to work on band stuff and music in general it helps me escape from the reality I’m in.”

During this hiatus, the band members said they plan to continue writing and build their arsenal of songs, so when the time comes, they can take those songs to producers and eventually put together an EP and perform live shows in the future.

Clubhouse also released another single Nov. 9, a collaboration with producer Dreamsuite called “Just Us.” The band also has a new single set for release in early 2019.

While Reichert won’t be able to perform high-energy shows as he used to, Berthold said the band is planning to do stripped-down acoustic sets once his treatment ends because, despite the setback, they know that time away means a potential decline in the Clubhouse fanbase.

“I think if I’m able to sit down on a stool or a chair and I have the energy to perform, we’re going to,” Reichert said. “Playing live shows is so important in terms of just keeping your fans engaged and interested in you and not forget about you.”

Even though the diagnosis put Clubhouse’s plans on hold, it further affirmed Reichert’s decision to pursue music.

“I knew I wanted to do music ever since I was a kid, but I was getting to that point where I was graduating college and seeing my friends start to make money and I was like, ‘Maybe I can get a real job,’” Reichert said. “But after I got diagnosed, I knew this is definitely what I want and am going to do no matter what – literally no matter what. Whether it’s songwriting or working in the music industry, I have to do music.”



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