Words & Photos by Gianluca D’Elia
For the past few years, artists like Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Jessie Ware, and Miley Cyrus have been infusing the signature sounds and styles of the 1980s into today’s pop music.
Orchard Park, a Rochester duo formed by best friends Christian Kissel and Sam Vaccaro, are fans of this retro sound’s return. Their electronic, synthwave music is ideal for taking a sunset drive down a beachside highway as you reminisce on childhood memories or a past relationship you fondly remember.
Sam and Christian met at a one-act play audition at Nazareth College. Sam was a theater major, and Christian was studying biochemistry. The pair hadn’t met before, but hit it off after learning that they were both musicians.
“He was sitting back there, and I thought, ‘He looks like a cool dude,’” Sam recalled. “We linked up and got together to vibe out a couple of days later. We started playing something, and I was like, ‘Did we just become best friends?’”
“It was our Stepbrothers moment,” Christian said. “We just vibed in the middle of the auditorium, and people walking by told us we sounded good together.”
They pursued other jobs and projects after college — Christian joined the U.S. military and now lives in North Carolina, and Sam has continued to work as a full-time musician while picking up jobs in customer service and payroll along the way. The pair remained friends all along, and eventually found themselves seeking a creative outlet to make new, original music. The connection they first felt as Naz students is still strong.
“When we write music or do anything in the studio, our ideas are oddly in sync,” Christian said.
With nine singles released over the span of a year, their career is taking off quickly. Their newest song, “Closer,” is a pulsating and captivating synthpop tune that’s ready for the dance floor.
Sam and Christian are both in their 30s, so their idea of starting a music career was initially met with skepticism by friends and family. However, the duo’s first batch of singles “pleasantly surprised” their loved ones, Sam recalled.
“It’s a little bit later in our lives, so initially, when we told people we were going to start a music career, they were like, ‘What are you doing?’” Christian said. “As we released music and started playing shows, people have been supportive now that they see what we’re trying to do.”
Wherever the project takes them, Sam and Christian are just happy to say they did it. Locally, they can often be found playing shows at Photo City Music Hall — which they credit as one of their biggest supporters — and they recently opened for Boy Jr. at Montage Music Hall. A quick look at their Spotify profile shows an audience that’s growing far beyond the Finger Lakes, with listeners in Finland, Hungary, Poland, and the U.K.
With each dreamy, electrifying new song, this duo is unstoppable. Balancing full-time jobs and a long-distance friendship with a budding music career has made their ability to write and create together even more special. Getting to write and perform music makes everything else worth it.
“My fiance told me once, ‘you work to live,’” Sam said. “That really resonated with me. When we’re able to do shows and make music, it makes the more monotonous things in life, those jobs you didn’t think you were going to have as a kid, more worth it. When we’re able to link up and create music together, it’s like ‘This is why I’m doing what I’m doing.’”
Find Orchard Park on Spotify, and on Instagram @orchardparkmusic.