In his parent’s basement, his older cousins practiced playing the 80’s music of the time. It was in that moment when Rich Shivener decided he wanted to play guitar and embark on his own goals as a musician.
“I kind of always wanted to be like them, I wanted to be one of those cool guys,” Shivener said.
Shivener, assistant director of First Year Programs and an alumni of NKU, didn’t start playing a guitar until he was a freshman in high school, and once he did, he found himself a bit discouraged.
His cousins, who he looked up to, tried to teach him, but he didn’t seem to have the discipline it took for lessons. Then, Shivener explained, in a pivotal moment, someone approached him and asked, “Do you still suck?”
“Then, all I wanted to do was be better than that guy,” Shivener said.
Over the following couple of years, he taught himself to play, mostly learning to play by ear. To this day, that’s why Shivener considers himself a “weird player.” He doesn’t know the official names of chords. He just knows when something sounds cool.
Shivener now takes his “weird” guitar playing and utilizes it in two bands; The Saturn Batteries and, more frequently, Sweet and the Sweet Sweets. He sometimes plays guitar and keyboard for The Saturn Batteries along with their lead singer, an English graduate student here at NKU.
“When you hear faculty or staff band you usually think it’s going to be something old or boring sounding, it’s cool that a faculty member is rocking out like this,” said Rebecca Coleman, a junior education major, who caught part of Rich’s performance on campus on Monday the 23rd.
While he enjoys his work with the Saturn Batteries, Sweet and the Sweet Sweets is a band all his own.
“It felt really natural,” Shivener said of the process of forming his own band.
Shivener, along with two long-time friends, Dave Tennant and Ben Jones, have created what he calls a “zero-stress band,” where writing great songs is the priority. Shivener said songwriting is his favorite part of the entire music process.
“I’ve been in very active groups,” Shivener said. “With the Sweets, we didn’t want to sacrifice the songwriting process for anything else.”
They were even sure that naming the group was stress free. Shivener said one of the members just kept saying “sweet” a lot in conversation, so the band name was born. He believes a band name should be simple or obnoxious, or both, and so they went for a bit of both Shivener joked.
Everything about Sweet and the Sweet Sweets is a new and fun venture into the types of music they’ve always wanted to do, according to Shivener.
One of these new ventures is, for the first time, Shivener is tackling more than just playing guitar or keys. He’s taking on the role of lead singer. While taking the lead is new to him, the two shows they’ve played thus far have helped him better his role as the lead singer.
“Playing small venues has always been a big deal to us, but now it’s even more important for me to make those connections since we’ve really just started,” Shivener said.
Sweet and the Sweet Sweets have yet to release a full album, but have plenty of songs to do so in time. Shivener said they’ve essentially recorded everything, from full songs to 30 second bits due to bassist Ben Jones owning his own recording studio.
“We’re kind of a slow moving band, “ Shivener laughed.
They might move slowly, but in the future they’re hoping to not only release a record, but to go on tour as well, Shivener explained. He hasn’t tackled touring since he was 18, just before he came to NKU for his undergrad, and said it was a lesson in “the culture of touring.” It drained him, but he look forward to doing it again, this time with the Sweets.
For more information on The Saturn Batteries check out their facebook page and stream their music on their bandcamp page. While Sweet and the Sweet Sweets may not have a full album out yet, their music can be streamed free on SoundCloud.