Eric Ventimiglia discusses how technology helped grow his garage band into a well-known name in the Bay Area.
Eric Ventimiglia finally settles in after troubleshooting a mic problem. His hair is jet-black and neatly combed back. A lip piercing is the only hint of his punk roots. He is, in fact, the lead singer and guitarist for pop-punk outfit 5606 (Fifty-Six-Oh-Six). Born in a Bay Area garage, the band now plays in shows like the late Vans Warped Tour, one of the largest traveling music festivals in the country at the time.
While it’s easy to say the music speaks for itself, technology plays a key role in the band’s success. Ventimiglia highlighted how creativity and technology are part and parcel for the group.
“We’re actually experiencing some of the best growth as musicians right now,” he revealed, “and technology has definitely played a big part in a lot of those changes.”
Since 1999, Ventimiglia has used technology to expand the band’s reach and push the boundaries of its creativity. From digital music production workflows to A/V equipment, technology helps 5606 stay together and create freely no matter where they are.
Steeped in creativity
Growing up around California’s San Francisco Bay, Ventimiglia was exposed to an incredibly diverse community, full of eclectic influences that shaped his imagination.
“It’s just—being from the Bay and having that diverse feeling of community around you is palpable. You can’t escape it,” he said. “We embrace it, being from the Bay is something we’re really proud of.”
That diverse community planted his musical roots and nourished his artistic eye. Photography, film, and even comic books carved out nooks in Ventimiglia’s mind, helping feed his creativity.
“I definitely need a camera. I definitely need a guitar,” he said of his essentials. “These are things I need spiritually, artistically. You take those things away and I’m thinking ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do?’”
As Ventimiglia and the band matured, they began to explore ways to take 5606 to the next level through any means at their disposal. Promotion, production, and performance were thoughtfully reconsidered and remastered, and technology was key. The band posted digital flyers on Myspace and used tape decks to record and promote their sound. Before they knew it, 5606 had grown up alongside the members, aided by technology.
Uncaged by technology
For Ventimiglia, technology is the great enabler. Comparing the music industry of today to the 2000s and 2010s, the music production process is more accessible and democratic. Home workflows are more robust, and costs have gone down, making everything from recording to audio engineering a reality for any grassroots band, like 5606.
“Nowadays, because of the technology, if you have the will to put in the work and learn a little bit of the craft, there’s really nothing stopping you,” Ventimiglia explained from inside his home studio. “There are so many tools available that allow people to express themselves without barriers like mixing experience or access to a recording studio.”
Technology also expands 5606’s reach beyond music and into the realm of video and photography. Powered by the ubiquitous and powerful smartphone, the band has been able to produce high-quality music videos and photo shoots. Ventimiglia taps into his other interests thanks to widely available technology, but it always comes back to the band, the music, and the story.
“I love all these tools, so I’m going to use whatever in service of moving our story forward,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s all there is: Is the story worth sharing? Are people going to connect with it?”
These new mediums coalesce on social media, where Ventimiglia blends his talents together to tell the story of 5606: a self-funded, self-promoted, self-driven band from the Bay.
Tear down barriers, don’t make new ones
Despite all the power technology offers, Ventimiglia is adamant to not let it confine him. If you allow yourself to get sucked into a gear arms race, the liberation of technology disappears.
“Let technology enable you, but don’t let it chain you down,” he said. Ventimiglia is aware of the irony, though. The walls of his studio are adorned floor to ceiling with amps, lenses, instruments, and just about any kind of A/V gear imaginable.
“I will say I do love all the new fancy toys,” he said with a laugh. “But as long as I continue to see them as tools, it’s not going to stop us from doing something incredible,” he said.
“So gear matters, but it doesn’t matter,” he concluded.
And that is the heart of his creative process: freedom powered by technology, and never caged by it. For Ventimiglia, that process is where his ideas—the stories and the images he conjures—meet with technology. That accessibility helped build his career and nourishes his craft.
“Creating is… when the technology melts away and I’m not thinking about how or why… I just think about creating freely, about being uncaged in my creative process.”
What’s Your Create? is a new series from Western Digital that explores creators in all disciplines using technology to enhance their craft.
Artwork by Cat Tervo.