CAH Investigates: Kelsey Heater and the ‘Couchmen’ uniform

The day started like any other. Responding to emails, referencing calendars, attempting to track down leads without spilling sips of too-cold coffee down our freshly starched and pressed shirts.

Then, the familiar PING pulled us out of our furrow-browed focus as the story came in. We dropped everything– including our jaws –as we read the news. Kelsey Heater, Fresno State Art and Design alumna, had designed a uniform for a drum and bugle corps.

Perhaps better known as the self-hashtagged #BandGeek and uniform designer @shutupsprinkles on Instagram, Heater posts her wildly inventive mock-ups of band uniforms to her follower’s delight. Her sketches, which had previously remained digital doodles that colored the social media sphere, had now been fully actualized into a real, 3D, fabric and thread uniform!

We pondered, who exactly were these innovators taking a chance on constructing a uniform whose entire design was founded on an interchangeable donut sash? 

Of course, being the professionals we are here at the College of Arts and Humanities, we went straight to the source to further investigate- our magnifying glasses in tow.

We promptly sat (back) down at our computer screens, clicked feverishly to pull up Heater’s e-mail address and demanded to know the truth. Who ARE the Couchmen??

After countless hours of rapidly firing off our follow-up emails, we had done it. With bruised fingertips and thoroughly-warmed swivel chairs, we had traced the donut dribbling, rehearsal ditching beasts back to their elusive cave, where a plethora of appalling evidence was uncovered.

Copy of Couchmen_Uniform_03_Zzzzz
Photo by Zach Ashcraft, Instagram @couchmendrumcorps

It seemed the Couchmen Drum and Bugle Corps is not actually a corps at all. Their mission is to promote their slacker philosophy and “Fake News” to the masses. The organization existed exclusively within the depths of the uncontainable and (conveniently) unregulated realm of the interweb as– an online presence. Of Course! We had cracked the case wide open. Where else could the collection of such ghastly creatures exist?!

Our morbid curiosity had gotten the best of us. We had to know– what made the Couchmen tick? And more importantly, how had they lured Heater, one of our very own alum into their rapidly growing community? Their over-indulgence in the deep-fried, sugar-laced pastries was apparently not the only thing feeding these beasts. They had been implementing their admiration for official drum and bugle corps to draw in fellow unsuspecting fans and enlarge the presence of their pack.

This tactic had worked on another talent in the uniform industry as well. Ringleader or “director” of the Couchmen Zach Ashcraft had caught the attention of Brent Becker, a designer for Stanbury Uniforms, on social media under the same guise. When we confronted Heater with her involvement with the “corps” she offered a suspiciously simple explanation.

“In June, I was contacted by Zach. He was planning to get a real uniform made for Couchmen, and was going through Stanbury Uniforms. As it turns out, we’re both mutual friends with Brent, and Brent suggested that my 2015 design be used as the framework since it would be relatively easy to translate into a final product,” stated Heater — a little too casually.

The plot was thickening alongside the copious amounts of caffeine that coursed through our veins to fuel our pursuit of the story.

The final design was created by Stanbury and shipped to Zach about a week before Drum Corps International World Championships. The uniform was officially revealed through a video on Wednesday, August 8, the day before Prelims, and was displayed at the Couchmen merchandise booth all weekend,” continued Heater.

Copy of Couchmen_Finalized

It was all becoming crystal clear. Was Heater simply a cog in the Couchmen’s elaborate ploy to obtain recognition at the Drum Corps International World Championships where #BandGeeks would gather from around the globe to be subjected to the allure of these imposterous donut-loving monsters? The debauchery!!

We imposed every interrogative tactic we had in our investigative arsenal in hopes Heater would crack under the pressure and expose who (or what) the Couchmen Drum & Bugle Corps really were. We finally extracted an explanation from Heater in her own words.

This group celebrates everything that drum corps is not about — lounging around lazily, indulging in sweets and pizza, and not touching your instrument.

The response was maddening! Was Heater too far gone? Unconscious of her own dissent into the Couchmen matrix? Attempts to save her now were futile. She had been inducted into the Couchmen inner circle with no hope of return.

Copy of Kelsey_Zach_Uniform

It was through these shocking turn of events that we wrapped-up with the revelation–the only thing real about this story– was the uniform itself!

We can only find solace in keeping alive the memory of the talented artist, designer, and Fresno State alum Kelsey Heater. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Art Summa Cum Laude and with both University Honors and CAH Honors. In expectation of her imminently successful future, Heater received numerous scholarships, including the President’s Honors Scholarship. With woeful regret, we are pained to deliver this legendary artist’s tragic cautionary tale.

Yet, on occasion, ever since that fateful day, when the scent of freshly baked donuts lingers in the unusually crisp morning air, we’ve found ourselves asking –“what is ‘real’ anyway?”

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