Sometimes you just click with another person.
The “puzzle piece” metaphor is a bit played out, and in reality, the feeling is much more nebulous than that. You might realize it in how easily the conversation flows, or how your differences complement one another.
For Esteban Nieves and Priscilla Paino, it was how their voices blended effortlessly together when they sang.
Nieves, 23, and Paino, 21, met as students at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg. Their instant compatibility proved to have staying power, both on and off stage — the pair, who got engaged earlier this year, perform acoustic folk together as Ever Since Summer.
Ever Since Summer will perform at Emmaus Road Cafe on Saturday. Nieves plays guitar, and Paino plays viola, but vocal harmony takes center stage in the duo’s sound.
Nieves is a Lancaster native and attended elementary and middle school in Manheim Township. He then attended Lancaster Mennonite High School, where he graduated in 2014. Paino is from North Wales, Montgomery County. The pair met at Messiah in 2012; Nieves graduated in 2018, and Paino expects to graduate in December.
The two first crossed paths through playing music in the student-led worship ministry program on campus. Their first impressions of one another indicated a strong start. Paino found Nieves funny and talented; he also dug her musical chops, and found her kind to boot. A few months after they met, Nieves asked Paino to play at an off-campus coffeehouse with him.
“I had never played my viola in any other context except from classical orchestral music,” says Paino, who is living in Dillsburg while she finishes her degree. “So, that was something that I was really pushed outside of my comfort zone in doing.”
Ever Since Summer’s music covers both the sacred and the secular. The band plays covers from artists like Noah Gunderson along with original songs tackling topics they feel aren’t always addressed in faith settings, like personal struggles and doubts.
“It’s going to still be music that’s centered and focused around God, but maybe not directly, and more of the lyrical content is about things we struggle with and things that are OK to talk about, but maybe aren’t always in conversation in churches,” Paino says.
Nieves is the band’s primary songwriter, but Paino has been experimenting with songwriting herself, too.
“I find I write the best songs when something is happening in my life that makes me frustrated, or makes me doubt, or makes me really happy or really joyful,” says Nieves, who now lives in Harrisburg. “My songs often come from those extreme emotions, and that does feel cathartic.”
He challenges audiences to ponder the song lyrics past first listen, too. “Haunted Love,” for instance, appears to be about romance, but is actually about addiction.
Nieves says he and Paino have a handful of songs in mind they’d like to record for a debut full-length album. Saturday’s show will be Ever Since Summer’s second time performing at Emmaus Road Cafe.
“It’s a nice hospitable atmosphere,” Paino says. “The people there are really friendly, and I think people feel really comfortable when they come.”
And Nieves is looking forward to seeing some friends and family.
“It’s just nice to be home for an evening and share our music,” Nieves says.