By TALLY BOTZER
It’s Sunday evening after band practice for Grave Robbing Extravaganza, and Christian Tenney is reclining in his living room plucking at his black guitar, its neck decorated with skulls and crossbones. Tenney is 6 feet tall and 240 pounds. He has dark, wildly curly shoulder-length hair, a matching beard, and two rather large piercings, one in his nose and one in his lip.
“I’d say about 75 to 80 percent of the friends I’ve made have been scared as shit of me before they got to know me,” the University of Mary Washington senior said.
The people who get past his intimidating stature soon learn that the first thing Tenney does when he sees a friend on campus walk is give them a hug.
“He may look like a Viking who would sooner hit you with his guitar than smile at you,” said Tenney’s friend, senior Katie Lawrence. “But the second you meet him you find out that he is by far one of the nicest guys on campus. He’s always ready with a bear hug that will improve your day, no matter how crappy. The only issue is that it’s impossible to get anywhere on time with him, since he would much rather be 20 minutes late for class than ignore a friend.”
Tenney’s Viking look has taken time to develop. He hasn’t cut his hair or shaved his beard for four years, since April of his senior year of high school. There are several reasons behind his grooming choice—he dislikes shaving, for one—but the first reason he mentions is his Catholic high school.
“They were very particular about how you could look,” he said. “So it’s kind of a freedom of expression, as trite as that sounds.”
At his upcoming graduation from UMW this May, Tenney says he is thinking about having a party where someone cuts the hair, which he would then donate to Locks of Love.
“The beard is here to stay,” he asserts, mentioning that he has no recollection of what he looks like without it.
Originally from Denver, Colo., the historic preservation major now lives in Columbia, Md. when he’s not at school.
“I like historic preservation because it’s a really diverse major where we actually learn life skills,” he says. “I could build a house if I had enough time.”
Instead of building houses, much of Tenney’s time is occupied by band practice for his musical group, Grave Robbing Extravaganza.
“GRE is one of the best things about my college experience,” he says. “It’s kind of like having three male girlfriends who play music a lot.”
At this comment, his roommate, Evan Henry, who is Grave Robbing Extravaganza’s drummer, pipes up from the other side of the room.
“I just want to say, in no way have I ever thought of you as a girlfriend,” Henry tells Tenney.
Tenney says the members of Grave Robbing Extravaganza are constantly together—not romantically—and have been for 2.5 years, since their sophomore year at UMW.
Grave Robbing Extravaganza consists of Colin Deyman on guitar, Lewis Kopenhafer on bass, Henry on drums and Tenney on guitar. The band is performing an 18+ show at The Loft tonight to celebrate the release of their new CD.
Deyman, Kopenhafer and Tenney are the main songwriters for the band. According to Tenney they contribute equally to the writing process, utilizing computer programs to compose songs and sending work to each other online.
“We do a lot more writing on our own than sitting in a room together,” Tenney said.
The constant practicing at the house Tenney shares with Henry and another UMW student upsets the neighbors, prompting them to call the police with noise complaints.
Tenney admits that the house, nicknamed Rowe Augutron by its residents because of its location at the corner of Rowe Street and Augustine Avenue, is familiar to police because of the band.
Tenney has a hard time classifying Grave Robbing Extravaganza in a particular genre.
“I want to say something really pretentious,” he said, laughing.
“Progressive doom metal,” Henry offers.
Tenney’s own musical taste is exceptionally diverse. He listens to everything from bluegrass to jazz to limited amounts of old country music.
“Anything that takes talent to play, I like,” Tenney said. “Metal is obviously my favorite thing to listen to.”
Besides his band and his current friends, Tenney says he likes meeting new people. And he says these people shouldn’t be intimidated by his metal band shirts and crazy hair.
“He’s the kind of guy you take home to mom,” Lawrence said. “And she loves him, even with the ring through his nose. That’s saying something.”