As I enter the venue, the feeling of comfort, unity and a love of music fills the air. The sound of ‘80s rock synthesized with alternative/indie pop music vibrates through my veins. Rob Chiarappa, guitarist for The Stolen, is used to performing at venues like The House Café. On stage in his rolled up dark blue jeans and navy blue sweater, he grips his guitar pick between his thumb and index fingers and taps his foot in his heavily worn sneakers that were once white. As the song softly comes to an end, his fingers, nails painted black, briefly work on tuning his guitar. He says to the crowd with the utmost sincerity that we must look out for each other and live in the moment. The statement leads into an introduction of the band’s new single “Rooftop” that confronts the sensitive topic of suicide.
Over the years, Chiarappa’s songwriting has evolved and matured.
“I think that this is the most important record for us, because we want to write songs that are not just about personal experiences, but it’s about experiences that not only relate to me but can relate to other people,” Chiarappa says.
He goes on to tell me that The Stolen originally started as a cover band. Rob and his brother Mike, drummer for The Stolen, were next door neighbors with Dominick Cuce, the lead singer of the band, while growing up.
“As kids do, we always hung out together, played kickball in the street, you know PS1, the whole bit,” Chiarappa says.
At a young age, Chiarappa was inspired to make music and learn how to play the guitar like his father. From there, his father started to teach him how to play the guitar left handed and he just couldn’t get it. It became so frustrating to the point that he told me he almost quit, but then he tried flipping the guitar around for it to be more comfortable.
“It was a total game changer and I fell in love with it,” Chiarappa says.
At the time, the band members were in middle school, performing classic rock covers and not writing their own music. It wasn’t until Chiarappa was 15 years old that he started writing original music for the band. Chiarappa said that he was inspired to write music because of a band called Like The Stars. He saw them play at a local showcase at The Stone Pony, a venue located near Chiarappa’s hometown of Old Bridge, New Jersey.
“They wrote their own music, and watching them I was like ‘Ah, this is so cool!’ I went home that night and tried writing a song and that was kind of what started the writing process for me,” Chiarappa says.
Being the oldest band member, Chiarappa was exposed to newer music before the other band members. From a previous interview in 2016, Cuce explained that Chiarappa was the one to show them music by All Time Low, a melodic emo-pop act. Cuce continued on to say that All Time Low sparked their interest in the alternative scene when they first started as a band. The alternative music scene is somewhat diverse, and typically includes styles such as grunge, indie pop and indie rock.
The Stolen has developed a unique sound that combines alternative rock with indie pop. According to the results of a 2017 Statista survey examining consumers’ favorite music genres, the highest consumers of alternative rock/indie music are between the ages of 16 and 24. The majority of The Stolen’s fan base are around these particular ages.
Once I developed a full understanding of the band’s background, I begin asking Chiarappa about touring in itself. He tells me that the band officially began touring more and more after all the band members graduated from high school.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a tour that I didn’t like,” Chiarappa says.
He reminisces about touring on a bus while opening for singer-songwriter Jake Miller during the fall of 2017. Chiarappa tells me how different it is touring on a bus compared to touring in a passenger van.
“Touring in a van, you’re seeing whole drives and everybody’s stopping in the middle of the desert in like New Mexico or wherever we were. That was so sick!”
Last spring, The Stolen did their first full U.S. tour in a passenger van. Four band members, one photographer, and all their equipment traveled from Old Bridge, New Jersey, across the country to California. Most individuals would do such a trip as a one-time thing but not Chiarappa. He enjoys everything tour has to offer; whether it be developing friendships with other artists, sightseeing, performing for fans or even just eating the local food in the area.
Most people would think touring with their brother would be a nightmare but the Chiarappa brothers say otherwise. For Mike, the opportunity to tour and make music with his brother is what he enjoys most.
“He’s the oldest, but doesn’t act like it,” Mike says.
Rob says to me that he and Mike are polar opposites but they make it work.
“It’s great, because we balance each other out.” Rob goes on to mention that he considers the whole band to be brothers.
On and off stage, I can see the amount of history there is for the band members of The Stolen. Cuce tells me how much he enjoys being in a band with Rob, because he’s known him since he was three years old.
“Growing up throughout the years, music has been like a part of our friendship and we’ve grown as people. It’s really amazing for me as a person to watch his progression and vice versa,” Cuce says.
He tells me that while performing onstage and while creating music, the energy between him and Rob bounces off one another in a different way than the other band members. Cuce explains that as a musician, Rob has always told him to not be afraid to take chances and to write what he feels.
“It’s more just how you perceive what is happening to you and the world around you.”
The Stolen are a band built from the ground up, that never take what they have for granted. They all have worked very hard to be in the position that they are in right now whether that be working in retail or recording other artists for money in order to tour. Their hard work and gratitude is evident during their performances. While looking at the facial expressions of the crowd as Chiarappa performs his guitar solo during “Rooftop,” something he said during his interview continues to replay in my head.
“I want us to make a record that’s going to change the world…making music that has such an impact on the world.”
His dedication and persistence to achieve this dream is well underway.