Friday, December 6, 2013

Thomcords, Ripe for the 'Hearing'

Thomcords – Ripe for the hearing

By Gianna Dalla-Vecchia
7th December, 2013

According to Wikipedia, the term thomcord is defined as a seedless table grape. It is also commonly used when describing a type of wine. So why then would a group of musicians choose to name themselves the ‘Thomcords’?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a guy called Dennis Alberto – the lead singer of the Thomcords – a Melbourne based band with a funky fresh rock beat fused with a raw Latin sound.


When I asked Dennis about their band’s name, I found out that there’s much more to this local muso that meets the eye. This is why… Dennis explained to me that there are three reoccurring themes that appear in their music: “Life, love and God”.

Yes! ‘God’. This is something you don’t hear everyday and to be honest, I found it quite refreshing, as it’s rare to see somebody feel comfortable enough in sharing his or her faith in such an overtly secular world, regardless of one’s belief system.

Enough of me ranting; now back to the interview…

Dennis verified with me that the term ‘thomcord’ is linked to wine. “Wine is used for all occasions. It brings people together, most commonly when celebrating,” said Dennis. “In fact wine is also prominently used throughout Bible.”

“As you explore our music, you’ll see three reoccurring themes, our passion for life, love and faith. We felt that wine can fit in each of these categories – it’s fundamental to our style’.”

What is life like for The Thomcords behind the scenes?

The Thomcords is made up of three band members, Dennis, Daniel Hernandez and Ces Alberto, who happens to be Dennis’ older brother. In fact there used to be a fourth member, Nitin, their keyboard player, however, he sadly past away in November last year from cancer.

It wasn’t easy for Dennis to talk about Nitin, as he played an integral role in the band’s growth thus far. Dennis explained the devotion Nitin had for the band. Right up to his last days, Nitin spent time perfecting their first recorded song, entitled ‘Amazing’.

“Our first single, Amazing was produced and mixed by Nitin. He gave life to the song. He enabled it to tell a powerful story,” said Dennis. “We’ll never forget him.”

When not gigging, where can we find you guys?

The Thomcords officially got together in 2011, just after Dennis finished his Teaching degree. Once again the importance of ‘faith’ was brought up as he described what life was like when not performing. Three other F’s prominently featured: family, friends and most importantly, food.

“Family is very important to us. It unifies us. We regularly have barbecues together or watch a movie. We also regularly pray together. We’re very lucky as we have the same friends, so we often see each other at parties which is great.”

“Food is an integral part of the Thomcords too. We have a mini studio at the back on my parent’s house. Every Tuesday night, when we get together in the studio, while producing music, we’ll eat my mum’s awesome food. Her dishes inspire us to keep going!”

 What was life like for you as you were growing up?

Life wasn’t always easy for Dennis. He was born in El Salvador. For those who don’t know, El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America and is known for civil unrest. As you could imagine, raising a young family would be an incredibly difficult task. With this said, in December 1987, Dennis along with his parents and siblings fled to Australia to start afresh. 

“I was originally from El Salvador. However, a civil war broke out and it was becoming very dire. My parents decided to flee the country and move to Australia for a better life. We were granted refugee status upon arriving here. At the time I was only four years old.”

“We ended up living in Australia for five years. I had everything here. But then my parents decided to return to EL Salvador. It was so different returning to a developing country,” said Dennis. “At one point, my dad even had to leave home and work in another country to support the family. These tough times taught me to never give up and to fight for what I want.”

“We ended up returning to Australia in 1997.  I have a real clear view of what’s important in life. I have experienced poverty and extreme hardship. I can clearly see having the best of everything isn’t everything at all. I keep reminding myself of my roots. It keeps me grounded.”

Where did your love for music originate?

One huge part of Dennis’ upbringing is his love for music, which was all thanks to his father.

“My dad loved listening to music. He had a huge and very broad collection of music. He actually used to be a disc jockey. He didn’t just listen to Latin music, but new music that was gaining popularity in the USA too.”

“I started song-writing whilst studying at high school, so I guess the music  I listened to when growing up was then translated into the music I produced back then and has now influenced our sound today.”

What does each band member bring to the Thomcords?

Dennis, Ces and Daniel are all completely different, yet as the Thomcords, they complement each other very well.

“I have to say, I’m very good at hearing different melodies and lyrics,” said Dennis. “It changes depending on where I am in my life. I think we as a band always maintain an open mind and heart. New ideas are always appreciated. We bring our own various talents, personalities and musicianship to the band.”

“Ces is very good at writing music and melodies. And Daniel, well he has this groove imbedded within him. He always comes back to the music and stirs it up again.”

Ces (left), Dennis & Daniel (right)

How do you define your sound?

When a band is asked to define their sound, they usually come back with an immediate answer. Well, for the Thomcords, it took them a few years.

“We really struggled in the beginning to define our sound. I guess we never wanted to define ourselves because we feared being stuck to that one definition. When we started recording, that’s when our prominent sound starting coming through – rock, funk and especially, Latin as it’s entrenched in our personalities and identity.”

Who is your musical inspiration?

What I love about the Thomcords is that they are inspired by such a vast array of recording artists.

“Our greatest inspiration is Michael Jackson. I remember the first album I bought was ‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson. I remember that feeling when I first heard it right through. When I listen to him, I visualise these amazing stories. He’s incredible,” said Dennis.

“We’re also inspired by Boys 2 Men, The Eagles, U2, Jamiroquai, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers; as well as the classics, The Beatles, Creedence and Fleetwood Mac.”

What’s your first single, ‘Amazing’ all about?

The Thomcords’ first single is called ‘Amazing’ and was written by Dennis around 10 years ago.

Amazing was one of my earlier created songs. After I first wrote it, five years later I revisited it to perfect it. It’s a love song. It’s about a person reminiscing their past – the good, the bad and the ‘what ifs’.”

“The story behind the song relates to all of our lives in some way. In fact a guy recently said to me that he and his wife ended their marriage not too long ago and then he listened to our song and it helped him reflect on the decisions that he made during his marriage. The song transcends in breaking those barriers in many people’s lives.”

How would you describe your EP?

The Thomcords’ EP is entitled ‘All Roads Lead Home’ and features six songs.

“It’s a colourful palate featuring different stories and sounds. It has a solid balance of fun and seriousness. We are telling our stories in six different ways, as there are six very different songs. We just want people to press repeat. Life, love and faith – This is what fires us up.”

'All Roads Lead Home' EP cover

Where can we listen to you?

Did you know that the Thomcords are launching their very first EP tomorrow! Yep! It’s all happening this Sunday, the 8th December at The Evelyn Hotel in Fitzroy (Melbourne) at 2pm.

“We’re so excited for the launch! The EP is all pressed and mastered. We have around six songs on our EP, including our first single, Amazing.”

“For those who want to know more about us, our Facebook page is a great way to connect with us and to see what we’re up to. We’ve also got a website and Twitter account as well,” said Dennis. “Don’t worry, you’ll be able to find us online as we’re the only band that has this name, so we take up the first few pages of Google!”

“My wife Maria is our band manager. She’s been awesome in getting us some great gigs. We’re about to have a baby so we’re going to go into hibernation from mid December to February, but we will be back in full force in March!”

Where can you see yourselves heading in the future?

This is a question every band gets asked. But for a fan, it’s always good to know.

“I would love us to explore music even more. I reckon in five years, our sound will really develop. In the last couple of years, our sound has already changed so much. It’s really important that musicians change and develop their sound as the years go on – exploring new sounds and music is vital for growth,” said Dennis.

“We would also love to develop new relationships in the music scene and work with other bands and musicians out there.”

Pages leading to the Thomcords:

Monday, April 22, 2013

What I like to call a 'Super Mum'!

What’s a typical day for you? Until recently, my life was pretty hectic. But now things are starting to quieten down. My daily routine is now pretty stock standard - I get up, I go to work and then I return home. One day at work, I was fortunate enough to meet an inspirational mum.

Meet Katrina van Dam, a mum from New Zealand with two primary school-aged kids. With her husband deployed to Afghanistan, she has learnt how to remain strong and optimistic. She maintains her family home in Melbourne, whilst taking care of her two kids and family dog, all while juggling a full-time demanding job as a primary school teacher. Already exhausted?

Here is a snapshot of Katrina’s ultra-hectic but admirable life.

Super mum - Katrina van Dam!

Take us through a typical weekday in the life of Katrina van Dam?

Normally my alarm goes off at five in the morning. I get up straight away, have a shower and get dressed then put make-up on. I then wake my two kids up at six o’clock and get them dressed and organised for school. I make their lunches and we are out the door at seven o’clock. I drive them to before school care and then head to work so I’m there by eight in the morning. I print out my resources and ensure the classroom is clean. I go and get coffee with two other teachers. School runs from nine o’clock to three-thirty, so during this time, I’m with my students. From three-thirty to five-thirty I’m still at school planning the next day or I’ll be in meetings. I then jump in the car to pick my kids up from after school care. I take them home (unless it’s an evening where they go to their martial arts or swimming lessons). I ensure they’re fed and had their showers. Their pyjamas then go on and they are in bed by eight o’clock. I then tidy up the house and finish some admin work. I’m generally in bed by 10 o’clock or else I won’t cope the next day. I’ll then watch some television until I fall asleep. …That’s how I roll.

You possess two full-time jobs. Like many others, I would really love to know how you get through each day. What’s that one thing that keeps you going?

For me, I just take one day at a time. I try to not get stressed out with too many things at once. If I do find myself getting stressed out, I’ll ring my mum who is living in New Zealand and normally I just vent to her for five to 10 minutes until and then it’s sorted out. I have a calendar with everything written on it. I have to be very organised so I know our routine and I try to keep this routine so that the kids have enough rest and I get enough rest so that we can keep functioning. I try to never take it all on at once. I don’t think about what’s going to happen in six months time, I just focus on the week at hand. Sometimes I just aim to get through lunchtime – or whenever that next milestone is. Sometimes I can look at the months ahead and other days I just focus on getting through the week. I try to take sometime out for family time and that means hanging out on the coach and having some popcorn and movies. Just us being together is really important. I just think in life what will be, will be. You can’t afford to stress over it too much.

You have spoken about the importance of spending ‘time’ with your family. Do you get any time for yourself?

I really don’t get any time for myself. The only time I really get is when I drive 20 minutes to work and back again after I drop the kids off at before school care. This time is really for me. The music will go up really loud in my car. It’s really just time for me. The only other time I spend on my own is once every three weeks when I have my nails done. I just sit there, zone out and have my nails done. I have a television in my bedroom. Most people say having a TV in your bedroom is bad, but I do, as it’s how I zone out and watch I movie. I won’t even be watching it, having it on just helps me switch off and relax so I can get through the next day and carry on.

Despite your husband working overseas on an ongoing basis, you still seem to be genuinely in-love with each other. Sadly, in this day and age, there are a lot of couples going through relationship struggles. Despite you being happily married, do you feel you have some understanding of what life might be like for sole parents who run a house and family on their own? Drawing from your own similar experiences, what advice could you offer them?

Firstly, I try to remain really positive no matter the circumstance, even if it has been a horrible week and everything is going wrong. You really have to try and find that one positive thing that is going to turn it all around, even if it is something little and stupid, it doesn’t matte. If have to reassure yourself that all will be ok. The school buildings at the primary school I work at are a little run down. And a teacher I know recently said the building might fall down. But my response to them was we we’ll just get a new building. Even if I have a flat tyre, I’ll just say to myself that at least I will miss all that traffic, as it would have subsided once all is ok. Even if one of my kids are sick, I’ll just think that at least I get a moment at home to relax with them or catch up on the washing. You should aim to be optimism.

My mum always taught me that manners cost you nothing. I teach my children and even my students this. Everybody is fighting their own personal battles and have reasons why they have those feelings, so you don’t need to contribute to that. At the end the only person you can control is yourself. Let people be as they are and you be who you are and be comfortable with who you are. Sometimes it can be a long journey to find that person. We are always evolving. I look after my kids, my students and my house. I care about other people, I’m not horrible to people. I’m a good person. If I can’t do everything that I think I should be doing then I shouldn’t be doing quite that much. It’s having realistic goals. I don’t have the financial burden that some sole parents do, but regardless if I did or didn’t, it’s important to take it as it comes and not worrying about it.

What are your husband’s employment responsibilities in Afghanistan?

My husband works overseas as a private security contractor. He’s not based with the military. He has been gone for around four months. Normally he’s away for nine weeks and home for four weeks, but it varies depending on what’s happening on the ground. Previous to this he was in the army, so having him away is something that I have grown to be used to. We’ve come along way as we used to correspond by writing letters and I still have all of them. In 1999 he was one of the first deployed from the New Zealand Defence Force to East Timor. So we would correspond by pen and paper and now we catch up via Skype and emails. We normally talk to him three or four times a week depending on what we are all doing, as it’s hard to schedule an appropriate time due to time zone clashes. We just usually play it by ear as things can change at any given time.

Back in 1999, your husband was deployed for the first time overseas. How did this news affect you?

That first tour was a bit of an eye opener. It was in August and I was at work and he rang me and he said I’m coming from a course. We’re doing pre-deployment training as he was in the army. When I found out, our whole wedding was already planned. So we were engaged and our wedding was to be in December in 1999. After his training, he came home and said I’m leaving the 21st of September to go to East Timor. At this stage we didn’t know for how long for, what he was going into. At the time, I hadn’t even heard of East Timor. So it was a shock.

The Wednesday after we found out, he came out and said, “let’s get married on Saturday. Let’s do it. Let’s get married before I go.” So we spent the next three days organising our wedding. We decided to use my parent’s backyard.

I have such a wonderful family – both my mum and dad. Although they aren’t together, they are incredibly supportive of my two brothers and I. They will just pull together no matter what. Regardless of how they felt about each other at that time, they put their issues aside and were solely there for me. We just pulled together and organised the wedding in a matter of days.

Two days after our wedding, he left for East Timor. It was a very short honeymoon. He was only allowed until 11 o’clock to celebrate and just relax, as he had to report back. So, that’s all we got.

His first deployment was a rough tour. My two best friend’s partners were also deployed at the time so we all just pulled together. We learnt to become optimistic, even though the army at the time didn’t give us enough information.

He was away for Christmas and I found his absence difficult. He didn’t go away before we were married so I wasn’t used to it.  Thankfully he returned after nine months.

We’ve been married for 13 years now, so we’re still tracking on. We have our ups and downs but everybody does. You just work through it.

The times we have together are even more special. Time away helps us remember the importance of family time. It’s about quality not quantity. And that’s how we look at it. We now plan in advance things to do with our two kids when he returns from overseas. We have everything in Melbourne, lots of entertainment and sporting events. They are the things that stick with you, as you grow older.

Your husband has been deployed to various parts of the world on and off throughout the last 14 years. What would you say to other families and individuals whose loved ones are deployed overseas? Based on your own life, what advice could you give to them?

You have to soldier on, literally. You have your good days and your bad days. If I’m having a bad day, my kids will say to me, “Mummy, are you ok?” And I’ll just say to them “Mummy’s not brave today but she will be brave tomorrow.” In these circumstances, I just tell myself to let go and deal with whatever it is tomorrow. I’ll just curl up on the coach and relax with my kids or go to the park.

The world will not end if you can’t get everything done in one day. Even if it does, it does. You can’t control it. I find having understanding teachers and good friends around the kids helps them dealing with life whilst their dad’s away. Whenever the kids are having a bad day, I’ll tell their teachers so they are fully aware. Booking events and activities for children gives them something to look forward to.

Having an understanding boss is really important too. It’s important that they are aware of your circumstance and how you’re feeling so that they can support you when times get tough. In essence, it’s important to have a strong support network.

What year did you come to Australia? What was it like moving your entire family to a foreign country?

I came to Australia on Boxing Day in 2009.

I had never lived in another country before. So at the age of 30 I decided to move overseas, being Australia. I was born and bred in a little town over in New Zealand, so this was essentially a very big move.

We decided to move for a change of lifestyle. To of our friends moved to Melbourne so we decided to pick up our bags and do the same thing. So we only knew one couple in Melbourne.

At the time, I had just finished my university degree, so it was a full on experience in organising everything and everyone for the big move. My husband left for Afghanistan just before we moved to Melbourne so I organised the entire expedition.

In the end I can honestly say that moving into the unknown has been the greatest adventure for all of us. It’s been really good and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

We’re not leaving in a hurry, as we’re about to build a new house for the kids. We love it here.

Where can you see yourselves heading in the next five years, and perhaps even the long term, say in 10 years time?

I can’t see that far ahead as I don’t plan that far in advance. But in five years, my daughter will be 14 years old. I really hope we’ll be settled. However, if things change, we’ll change with it. We’ll just go with the flow. I live by the quote, “Beginnings are usually scary and endings are usually sad, but what’s in the middle makes it all worthwhile.” I just roll on with it. Beginning can be absolutely terrifying and endings can be horrifically sad but it’s the middle that makes life so interesting and so special.

Do you have an inspiration story to tell? 
Email me:

Best wishes,

Gianna Dalla-Vecchia

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Interning Merry-Go-Round

We are just about to hit Christmas and of course the summer holiday season! This only means that we have more time on our hands to chill out and also put our passions to good use. I've just finished my Journalism degree and throughout my studies I undertook a number of work experience opportunities to  expand my skill set. I was recently asked to give other university students advice on where to look for a proper internship experience. So I, alongside another Journalism graduate, Brendan Lucas decided to uncover the do's and don'ts for when applying for work experience opportunities. In the end, we interviewed an array of experts and students to gain their insight and opinion.

The perks of internships... They open doors!
(Image copyright 2012, BLASTmedia)

As January and February are around the corner, many students are looking for work experience before heading back to university for another year. If this you, click on the link below to hear our podcast which uncovers how to gain the best interning opportunity, no matter what industry!

Click below to hear our podcast:


Thank you to Upstart, 'the magazine for emerging journalists' for publishing our 20 minute documentary feature.

Also thanks to our interviewees for allowing us to learn about their own experiences and opinions...


- Zana Bytheway (CEO, Job Watch, Victoria)
- Donherra Walmsley (President National Union of Students)
- Penny Warner (Head of Industry and Liaison at University of Melbourne)
- Jason Brown (Career Development Manager at La Trobe University, Melbourne)

University students:

- Shannen De La Motte (Bachelor of Law and Legal Studies)
- Stephanie Degiorgio (Bachelor of Editing and Publishing)
- James Paolucci (Bachelor of Law and Finance)

If you have a story or an opinion, I would love to hear from you!

Email me (Gianna Dalla-Vecchia) at