Consider our Survivor minds blown — apparently, during “Heroes vs. Villains,” several castaways formed a band while they were in jury sequester in the Ponderosa and it snowballed into them recording five songs and making a music video. Yes, really.
Here’s what you need to know about The Dragonz.
The Dragonz Were Formed by the First Three Jury Members of ‘Heroes vs. Villains’
During “Heroes vs. Villains,” Benjamin “Coach” Wade was the first castaway voted off the island and onto the jury. In the Ponderosa, he started playing the video game “Rock Band” with Ponderosa director Norwood Cheek.
Then when the next two jury members, Courtney Yates and James “J.T.” Thomas, arrived, they got “roped into it” and Cheek started filming them, which they wanted to include in the Survivor webisodes for the CBS website, but they couldn’t because of licensing issues.
“Norwood was there filming us, but then there was the problem that we couldn’t actually use any of that for the Ponderosa show because the music has to be licensed,” Yates told Entertainment Weekly in an interview, adding. “So Norwood and Coach were like, ‘We’ll just make our own songs and we’ll make a fake band!'”
And then they really did form a band. It started as a joke, but pretty soon they were writing original songs and recording them via GarageBand. Thomas could play a little guitar, Coach mainly wrote the lyrics, Cheek played keyboard on the computer, and Yates and Coach provided a lot of the vocals.
“This joke ended up actually taking on a life of its own,” said Yates, with Thomas adding, “It went from playing ‘Rock Band’ to playing around as a real band.”
“Coach was definitely the leader of the band. Coach made this happen, 100 percent,” said contestant manager Caitlin Moore. “He put in the hours. He sat there. I remember he had this little notebook and he was writing all day, trying to come up with his lyrics. And Courtney kind of thought it was just kind of silly and fun. But it turns out Courtney kind of had the best voice out of everybody, which I think maybe made Coach a little bit mad. But Courtney was really good at stroking Coach’s ego and letting him still take the reins.”
“In that moment, it became our lifeline. It became our goal and it started out as just screwing around and then, ‘Hey, this is pretty good.’ If it hadn’t been for Norwood and his experience in this, then it would’ve just tanked,” said Coach.
Even Jeff Probst Got in on the Fun
The higher-ups in production got wind of The Dragonz because they all wanted to wear their homemade T-shirts to Tribal Council and production said no way, which Coach got very upset about because they had already gotten permission — until production saw their homemade shirts.
So, actually, Coach refused to take his off and you can still see it in the “Heroes vs. Villains” episode “A Sinking Ship” where Danielle DiLorenzo was voted out.
But anyway, once host Jeff Probst heard about this, he came to the Ponderosa to see what it was all about and even jammed with them.
“Jeff doesn’t come to Ponderosa very often, and so when we hear from the powers that be that Jeff is coming, we’re scuttling around, super excited,” said Coach. “So he comes, and we’re all excited to see him. I’m starstruck, per usual. And I said, ‘Man, we’re writing this thing.’ He’s like, ‘I brought a didgeridoo!'”
“When Jeff came and they were performing in front of him he seemed to, like, really be into it,” said DiLorenzo. “The support from Jeff was shocking, actually. I didn’t think Jeff Probst would take the time to come and watch. Why would he do that? Strange times.”
The Next Step Was a Music Video
Cheek, whose background is as a music video director, told The Dragonz that “people would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to fly their band to this kind of location, so we have got to make a music video.”
“I set up all the shots of them out on the beach and on the rocks with the waves crashing and it just felt like some kind of Journey video. I mean, we were laughing so much when we were making it,” added Cheek.
“We’re standing on the rocks, so as the cymbals clash, a wave jumps up. We thought it was the funniest thing that ever happened. I actually still think it’s pretty funny,” said Yates.
“We’ve all seen those 1980’s hair band videos, and you think to yourself, ‘Man, they must have had a huge fan blowing on them.’ Well, we had the perfect spot, because that was all natural. The wind was really blowing that hard, and waves were really crashing that hard up on us. So it was the perfect spot for a music video, and all we had to do was just turn the camera on,” said Thomas.
They ended up only making one video, but they recorded five songs. And production had such a fun time that in subsequent seasons, they tried to get other castaways to form new fake bands.
Season 22 had “Monkey in a Cage,” season 30 had “Merica,” and season 36 had “Ponderosa.” But none of them took things quite as far as The Dragonz.
Read the full oral history of the band over at Entertainment Weekly.
Survivor hopes to film season 41 in the spring of 2021 for a fall 2021 premiere.