To fully dive back when Riley Hoover was still attending Carlsbad High School, he started playing in a band called Chasing Norman. The group was a collection of students from the Vista chapter of the School Of Rock. Hoover handled guitar duties for the band.
“Basically, I was playing guitar untrained for years,” Hoover explained. “I started in fourth grade. My freshman year, I was starting to get serious with it, and really wanted to get lessons. We heard about the School Of Rock and thought that would be a cool thing to check out. It ended up being one of the best places I could have gone. My guitar teacher there, Tom Mitchell, was just an awesome person. He showed me a lot.”
Chasing Norman, "Shakedown Street"
Grateful Dead cover
Videos of Chasing Norman (all high school students at the time sans singer Casey Hensley) can still be found online. They showcase a scrappy collection of youngsters well adept at tackling songs such as the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street” and Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” To further his musical prowess, Hoover attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. During orientation, he met a drummer named Jack McChesney who would play a large role in his evolution as a musician.
“We were just waiting in line and started talking about music — how he was into Phish and I was into the Grateful Dead. We vibed on that and started hanging out and became best friends,” Hoover said.
The friendship eventually led to an invitation to join McChesney’s group, a funk-infused, saxophone-centric, jam band called STIG. Whereas Chasing Norman showcased a collection of young musicians performing faithful covers of rock standards, STIG launched Hoover into the complex world of musical improvisation.
“That was a huge thing for me. Going into STIG, I was like, ‘Man, these guys are really good players. I’m going to have to seriously step up my game.’ It’s just been an awesome experience playing with them. We all grow off each other all the time.”
STIG already has plenty of shows under their belts, and they just released their first album Agreed Upon, which Hoover sums up as “super-organic and collaborative.” The entire band recently relocated to Asheville, North Carolina to have a homebase that also serves as a prime location for arranging tours.
“There’s a lot of different markets to hit on the east coast. Ashville is kind of right in the middle there. It’s in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains and it’s beautiful. There’s a really good community of people, musicians, and artists. We love it there.”
Two of the five members completed their degrees at Berklee, while the other three decided that “we got what we could out of Berklee, and the next step forward was to fully dive into STIG. School was just hindering us from doing what we really wanted to do.”