Chalk Dinosaur

Dan Curhan

Nowhere is the prolific outpouring of music from the mind of John O'Hallaron, the soft-spoken and shy frontman of Chalk Dinosaur and a junior at Carnegie Mellon, better represented than on his band's eponymous self-titled debut album. Chalk Dinosaur sounds like a combination of Death Cab for Cutie, Pink Floyd, and some good, indie, salty sea air. O'Hallaron admitted to being influenced by the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Rockabilly and Surf Rock in addition to the more obvious Death Cab and Weezer. The album was recorded in keyboardist/drummer/guitarist Harrison Wargo's basement with a single microphone and multi-tracking software, but you would never guess that it wasn't professionally done. The overall appearance of the album is professional as well, with fantastic artwork by fellow Carnegie Mellon student Grace LaRosa.

O'Hallaron started playing guitar in high school, took guitar lessons his senior year, and started writing music seriously in 2007 when he came to Carnegie Mellon. He first started recording rough demos with the intention of finding someone else to do the vocals, but as time progressed his own singing improved and he felt that he could handle the job himself. He didn't find people to start a band with until spring 2008 when he teamed up with Matt Bradford, Rich Bradford, and Wargo to form Chalk Dinosaur. He was looking for something nostalgic for the band name, so he thought of some things from his childhood - sidewalk chalk and dinosaurs - and they "just kind of went together." When the band performs, O'Hallaron plays guitar and sings, but drums are his favorite instrument to play, even though he claims he's not as good at them. But "not as good" is apparently still good enough to play the drum parts on all but two songs on the Chalk Dinosaur recording.

Chalk Dinosaur has played gigs around Pittsburgh at venues like Mr. Small's and the Diesel Club Lounge, but the band's favorite venue is Brillobox, a cafe in Lawrenceville. They also sometimes play shows at the Underground. They're currently working on advertising their album, and this summer they have plans for a regional tour around the DC/Virginia area.

The musical mastermind behind Chalk Dinosaur is also working on a solo EP project for a class that he's taking, recording finalized versions of some older demos (he has 101) that he likes, multi-tracking himself playing each instrument. Sitting on a stool in the CFA recording studio, holding his beautiful red Gibson dot 335, he laughs, "I get as much credit for this as my calculus course!" When your hobby gets you course credit, I guess you can't complain! All of John's demos can be found on his website, along with links to websites where you can purchase the Chalk Dinosaur debut album.