‘The Whiskey Poet” is brewing new music


It’s been about four years since solo artist Craig DeMelo, 28, released his debut recording, “The Whiskey Poet.” But with a stack of fresh material, he is looking forward to intoxicating fans with a new album in the near future.

“I’ve recorded two songs so far, but it’s a slow process,” he said. “I just need to get back in the studio and bang out some more tracks. I’ve written a bunch of songs that I’m dying to record.”

DeMelo, who has opened for artists like Howie Day, Hootie and the Blowfish, Matchbox 20, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, is thinking about putting together a disc of three or four songs to “tide fans over.” For a full-length album, he is considering releasing it one song at a time.

“I think that’s a really cool idea and I’ll probably end up doing something like that,” he said. “I just need to decide the final list of songs that I want.”

Because the album is yet to be completed, he hasn’t settled on a title. He has some ideas, but wanted to keep them a secret.

“I have a few concepts and things I’ve been thinking about,” said DeMelo. “But they’re in the vault.”

While he said finding time to record is difficult, writing new material was smooth sailing. The Beatles, Damien Rice, The Dave Matthews Band, as well as heavy metal acts and hip-hop artists, have been prime influences since he began singing and playing guitar when he was 16.

“I think everything finds its way into my music one way or another,” DeMelo said. “It’s cool because there’s something for everyone and it appeals to a wide range of people. But I kind of play the crowd at shows. I feel them out and play it by ear. Whether it’s the songs I write or the songs I cover, I hit every different group. It’s fun for me because I get to mix it up.”

He said his favorite songs to perform are his original, guitar-based tunes, but people always respond well to the hip-hop songs he’s been known to compose. He performs these tracks, along with popular hip-hop covers, at shows.

“My singer/songwriter stuff is my heart and soul but I do like doing hip-hop, too,” DeMelo said. “I’ve got a bunch of original songs where I can write a hook and rap verses. I do a cover of, “Regulate,” which is a fan favorite. People seem to really dig it.”

When writing music, DeMelo said he doesn’t solely rely on his own experiences for inspiration. Articles he reads in newspapers or things that happen to his friends often motivate him, including hardships.

“Sometimes you have to draw from somewhere else because you can’t keep writing the same kind of tunes,” he said. “It’s going to sound weird but it’s always good to have something bad happen because then you have a genuine, legit muse. It’s something to write a song about. If things are going well, and things have been going well for a while now, you have to pull from different places.”

As DeMelo said, things have been looking up for him lately. In March, he was honored as “Best Male Vocalist of the Year” at the Limelight Magazine Music Awards show.

“I was just happy to be nominated because I’ve never really been recognized for anything like that,” he said. “But I did win an honorable mention in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition in 2009. I was one of the finalists, so when I think about it, it’s cool to be recognized as a singer and also in the songwriting aspect.”

He also recently signed a deal with Brain Rot Music Publishing. The company, which has offices in Los Angeles and London, aims to feature his music on television shows, movies, and commercials.

But that’s not all. He and his wife, Stacy, are about to become parents.

“Our son will be here in 10 weeks,” DeMelo said.

While he prepares for his new addition and upcoming album, DeMelo is earning a master’s degree, as his job requires him to. He is an English teacher at New Bedford High School.

“I was a Communications major, so now I’m taking a bunch of English classes,” he said.  “Sometimes I’ll bring my guitar in for my students and they eat it up. They look at me differently once they see me play. I’ve been toying with the idea of opening up with it every year and just playing for them.”

DeMelo frequently performs at Knuckleheads in New Bedford and has toured throughout New England and California. For more information and a list of shows, visit his websites at http://www.craigdemelo.com or http://www.thewhiskeypoet.com.

Photo by John Sykes

Beautiful Tuesday: Folk with pop edge


Since Theresa Andrewski has taken over the lead singing role for Beautiful Tuesday, the sound of the band has changed from a more folk style to folk with a pop edge. The combination seems to have worked well thus far for the Cape Cod based band.

“The songs that we are playing now are a little bit more upbeat, a little bit more fun, but still staying with that folky sound with the acoustic guitar and keyboards,” Matt Almquist, who plays guitar and provides backup vocals for the band, said.

Almquist knew Andrewski could sing because he was in chorus with her for four years in high school.

“She’s been a huge addition to the band,” Almquist said of Andrewski who is now a preschool teacher.

Andrewski, who also plays guitar, said she has been singing for a long time, but she said a lot of people did not know what her singing was like, because she always sang with a group of people who were singing together.

“I was always very quiet about my music, so it’s kind of ironic that I’m the frontman of a band,” Andrewski said.

Andrewski said when she joined the band, she thought it would just be a fun thing to do, but said it has turned into so much more, as all of the members of Beautiful Tuesday have grown both musically and in their friendships.

“I think I fit right in,” Andrewski said. “I think we all have really reached a new level. We bring out the best in each other.”

Beautiful Tuesday was formed in May of 2009. The other members of the band include drummer Jayk Watson and keyboardist Eric Cheever.

“We’ve all been friends for years now,” said Almquist who is studying audio production at the New England Institute of Art. “Our common interest in music started it all.”

The band spent a year writing music and with about 10 original songs, Beautiful Tuesday played its first show in June of 2010.

Almquist has been playing guitar for 10 years. When he was in sixth grade, he took a short, semester long class in which the teacher had every student play guitar.

“Since that time, I haven’t put it down,” Almquist said.

Watson only learned to play the drums for the band. There was an old drum kit hanging around, so he started playing and has come a long way for someone who just picked up the drum sticks.

“He’s all self-taught,” Almquist said. “He’s already gotten an endorsement from SJC Custom Drums and Saluda Cymbals.”

But Almquist said the band has varied influences from Mozart, which is an influence on the keyboard player, to Spill Canvas and City and Colour. He said those three kind of sum up the music of Beautiful Tuesday.

“They have a lot of traits that we look to achieve in our music, such as quality lyrics in their songs, emotion in their music and things people can relate to,” Almquist said.

Beautiful Tuesday released a full length album in March that the band recorded at MGW Audio in Falmouth.

The three songs that Beautiful Tuesday has released from its album have included “Beauty in the Breakdown,” “Rain” and “Crash.” “Beauty in the Breakdown” is a typical love story about a relationship and looking back at memories from that time together. “Crash” is about a car accident. “Rain” is about a misguided person who is lost and trying to find her way. The lyrics in that song start out mello and somber, but the bridge of the song brings new light and hope and sends a message not to let the world bring you down.

“We always emphasize the bridge as being the most important part of the song because you can’t give up hope,” Almquist said.

The band made a video for “Rain” that was taped in Sandwich by Justyn Moro who did all the filming and editing. Almquist said the video pretty much just sticks to the story of the song. The video can be found on YouTube.

Almquist said Beautiful Tuesday plays out as much as it can, usually one or two shows a week. Almquist said the music scene on Cape Cod varies. He said there is a lot of pop/punk and hardcore and not a lot of pop/folk. He said the band wants to branch out over the next couple of months, playing out of state and spreading its music to as many places as possible. Beautiful Tuesday has played a variety of venues from Knights of Columbus and Veterans of Foreign War halls to The Central Mass Expo Center and The Colosseum in Rhode Island.

“I think it’s good,” Almquist said of playing with the other bands. “I’ve had people tell me our band is a refreshing difference when we’re at a show with a bunch of hardcore and metal bands.”

The music of Beautiful Tuesday has been played on college radio stations and WCOD, 101.9 FM, which Almquist said helps support a lot of local bands on the Cape with its Sunday night show called The Cheap Seats. Beautiful Tuesday recently co-hosted that show with Cat Wilson. The members of the band were allowed to bring in songs from other local bands that they like to listen to so they could be played on the show.

“It was cool to see how much Cat does for the music scene and how much she does at her radio show and to get a look behind the scenes at a local radio station was a good experience,” Almquist said.

At ‘home’ with Aston


Earlier this year, Aston, an Attleboro-based band that defines their music as, “pop-punk/rock,” released an album that took them two years to complete. They titled it, “Home,” and said it is their “labor of love.”

“We had the songs written, but we would play a couple shows, work, save up some money, and then drive up to New York to record a song,” said bassist Mike L’Homme. “It took a while, but the whole experience was absolutely worth it and we got what I consider to be our best achievement. We’re so proud of our songs.”

John Collura and Paul Carabello, formerly of The Ataris, produced the album at Silent Owl Studios in Pine Island, New York. L’Homme said he and the other members of Aston played a gig with them in 2007 and stayed in touch.

“When they ended up leaving the band, they asked us if we ever considered having them produce our next album,” L’Homme said. “They are such good guys and we give them a lot of credit because they helped us take it to a whole new level. They knew the style we were looking for and they helped us achieve that.”

Dan Alteri, Aston’s vocalist and guitarist, agreed and said, “my favorite experience in this band was recording the new EP with Collura and Carabello. Opening up for the Ataris in 2007 and meeting [them] was awesome and then to be able to travel down to New York and have them help us out was amazing. We had a lot of fun and it definitely is one of the highlights.”

While this marks the band’s sophomore album, they consider it an EP. Their debut release contained a dozen songs, but their new album consists of just six tracks.

“It was quality over quantity this time,” said L’Homme.

Aston formed in 2005, but L’Homme’s younger brother, Nick, recently joined and took over lead guitar duties and also provides backing vocals. They have been friends with other band members, Alteri, as well as drummer, Jeremy Quaglia, since grade school.

As best friends, they said they learn a lot from one another. They think their strong bond helps make them to be a solid band.

“We each have our own personalities, ideas, and opinions, so it’s a lot of back and forth creatively sometimes, but we all get along and work together to make our music as good as we possibly can,” Alteri said. “We all vibe off each other when writing [and] performing.”

L’Homme credited Alteri for being the ringleader when it comes to composing music.

“He brings the ideas and we all collaborate,” L’Homme said.

Alteris said that while is he is responsible for creating the base for majority of their material, it’s a group effort.

“I write the frames and then bring it to the rest of the band and they each add their pieces in and we work out the final structure together,” he said.

Bands like New Found Glory, The Starting Line, Blink 182, and even The Foo Fighters have always heavily influenced them. They are proud to write and play music they like to listen to.

“If it’s fun for us, that’s what we want to play,” said L’Homme. “We’re pretty much four friends who are in it for a good time and are doing the most fun thing that we know how to do.”

One concert they said they not only had a great time at but also helped propel their career was an event at Six Flags New England in Springfield, Massachusetts. After winning a contest through MTV, they opened for the Plain White T’s.

“It was right when, ‘Hey There Delilah,’ was the number one on the Billboard Pop Charts,” said L’Homme. “We played for 6,000 people and sold out of our T-shirts. It was the best day of my life.”

Over the last six years, they have opened for other acts like Secondhand Serenade, All Time Low, Permanent Me, Self Against City, Four Year Strong, Zox, Just Surrender, and The Army of Freshmen.

Most recently, they opened for the North Attleboro-based band YORK at the Ruins at the Colosseum on June 3.

“We were really excited to have them ask us to open for them,” L’Homme said. “It’s always cool to make a hometown connection with another band when you’re both from the same area.”

Aston’s new album, “Home,” is available on digstation.com. To further make their music more accessible to their fans, they plan to launch a website in the next few months where people can download the album for free or “name their price” and donate to them.

“A lot of bands have been doing it and we want anyone who’s interesting in hearing it to have the songs and put them on their iPods,” said L’Homme. “We’re really excited about it.”

In fact, L’Homme said anyone who wants a free copy of, “Home,” can get one by emailing him at mikelhomme@gmail.com.

Photo by Nick Fellow

Godsmack vocalist aims to reveal sensual side on solo tour


Sully Erna, lead singer of the Boston-based rock band Godsmack, is set to kick off a tour for his solo debut album, “Avalon,” with an eclectic ensemble of seven musicians who will help him share his new blend of seductive voodoo with fans. The show will hit the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford, Mass., on Saturday, May 21.

Erna said he is “super-stoked” for the tour, which will feature a massive drum explosion.

“Wait until you see this,” he said. “There’s this piece called ‘Cast Out,’ with a long chord that just rings out about halfway through it and everybody puts down their instruments and eight people go at it drumming at the same time. It’s sick. Some people are on hand drums, shakers, one guy is on a drum set. It’s like a ritual.”

He also said the performance will include “amazing” cinematic visuals and scenery. In that aspect, Erna hopes to emulate some of the bands he favored when growing up.

“Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac just took you into this zone and through this real musical journey through visuals,” he said. “We really want to pull people into the music here.”

The set list includes updated versions of Godsmack songs and will highlight Erna’s new material, as well, which consists of mystical world music with an alternative spin. He wrote a few tracks within the last few years but knew the style wasn’t quite right for Godsmack because it was too mellow and peaceful.

“It’s got a different vibe to it,” said Erna. “It’s very emotional. I love that I’m a part of this project that moves people on a musical level and isn’t so much about all the pyro and that kind of stuff. I put my heart and soul into it and it’s really meaningful to me. So far, people are embracing it the way I hoped they would and I hope they spread the word. I can’t wait to get out there and just enjoy playing and traveling again.”

Erna began the project with longtime friend Lisa Guyer, a blues singer with a four-octave range. She has opened for artists such as Pat Benatar and Ted Nugent, and recorded with guitarist Barry Goudreau of Ernie and the Automatics.

“I talked to (Guyer) first and said, ‘I think the dynamics of our voices work well together,’ and that was the nucleus of it,” said Erna. “From there, we met Niall Gregory, a percussionist from Ireland, and then it was us three.”

Shortly after, Guyer invited a few people to join the mix and Erna asked classically trained cellist Irina Chirkova of Bulgeria to become a member. It wasn’t long before the band completed their line-up, adding guitarist and vocalist Tim Theriault; keyboardist, vocalist and midi player Chris Decato; bassist and acoustic guitarist Chris Lester; and David Stefanelli on drums and percussion.

“Everything just kind of fell into place and little by little this thing became what it is,” Erna said. “I’m very grateful to have everybody. They are just phenomenal musicians from all over the world.”

All of them are multi-instrumentalists and are featured on his new album. He said they each bring their unique abilities to the group, ultimately creating a powerhouse of performers.

“They’ve all brought in their own influences and that’s why I think this whole thing became so special,” said Erna. “If we didn’t have a show prepared, which we do, it’s neat to see multiple people up on the stage play all these different instruments and jamming. It’s pretty cool to see everybody shifting around doing different things. I’m excited and everyone involved is excited because as a musician you want to play everything.”

In addition to being a vocalist, Erna is a guitarist, pianist, and drummer. He was three and half when he took his first drum lesson and started singing and playing guitar over the years. However, he recently developed a fond relationship with the piano. He believes is has a soothing, meditative affect.

“There’s just something calming about playing the piano,” Erna said. “Sometimes, it’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning. It grounds me and I feel very centered. I’ve definitely connected with the piano the last few years more than ever.”

He feels the piano is often under-appreciated at times and thinks of it as one of the most important instruments ever created.

“It has every note,” he said. “You don’t need a full band and you can really make it sound full with all the bass notes, lead notes, and harmonies. You can play by yourself and it can move you to tears at times if you play the right kind of melodies.”

Erna said those types of deep experiences also occur during live performances at small venues. Because stages and audiences are closer together, he is able to see just how much his music impacts his fans.

“I was doing an acoustic story tellers type of evening and I looked out at the crowd and see people in tears,” he said. “It made me think, ‘wow.’ When you’re writing a song, you’re not always thinking about how it’s going to affect someone. But when you bring it live and you see the emotion when you touch people through your own experiences, it’s the most rewarding part of playing in front of a live audience.”

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still love performing for arenas full of fans. Right after his brief solo tour, he will hit the road with Godsmack, Megadeth, and Disturbed for the Rockstar Mayhem Festival this summer.

“It’s great timing,” Erna said. “I think it will be a fun summer tour because we’ll be playing an hour of hits and then cooking on the grill by 9:30 and enjoying some drinks. I think it’s going to be more of a vacation than work. Godsmack are like my brothers and I need that side of me for balance, just like I need the more seductive side.”

White says ‘YES’ to the Zeiterion Theatre


As a member of the progressive rock band YES for nearly 40 years, drummer Alan White said while he doesn’t think they have ever performed in New Bedford, they are eager to play at the Zeiterion Theatre on Tuesday, March 29, as part of their “Rite of Spring” tour. For the brief tour, they will be performing in smaller venues, as they want to share hits like, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and “Roundabout,” with audiences in intimate settings.

“I’m looking forward to playing there and seeing all the fans,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to do any of the new music because the album isn’t finished, but we’ll be playing a mixture of songs that the band really loves to play and the fans love to hear, so hopefully everybody enjoys it.”

While the album is yet to be mixed and mastered, they wrapped up the recording process a few weeks ago. White said the sessions were “very good,” and anticipates it will hit stores by July. They were originally going to title it, “Weekend Fly,” but went with, “Fly From Here.”

“We always banter around with names,” White laughed. “It’s usually the last thing we decide on and it’s funny because one of the first things people ask you is, ‘what’s the name of the album?’”

In addition to being their first album in ten years, it’s also their debut recording with Oliver Wakeman on keys, as well as Benoit David, on vocals, who both joined in 2008 and have been performing with White, along with longtime members, bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe, ever since.

White said the chemistry of the band is solid, as is the new music. Their friend, former band mate, YES collaborator, and celebrated rock producer, Trevor Horn, produced “Fly From Here,” and influenced a lot of their latest material.

“He is a great songwriter,” said White. “The writing process was pretty much driven by him, (Squire) and (Howe), with the other guys making contributions. We’ve been playing with each other for so many years and it’s really professional. We work together to achieve our goal.”

One of the main reasons White said he has stayed in the band so long is because he believes they know how to keep their sound fresh and exciting. After become a member in 1972, he enjoys being part of a band that “wants to create new music all the time.”

“It’s one of those groups that’s always looking for something new on the horizon,” he said. “With pretty much every album we make, there’s a movement forward from what the band sounds like. We’re always looking for different opportunities.”

Before he became a musician, White planned to study architecture at a technical college in England. However, playing in bands at gigs since he was 13 took up most of his time, as he was focused on improving his musical skills and building a reputation as a qualified drummer.

In 1969, when White was just 20, former Beatle John Lennon asked him to perform with the Plastic Ono Band. White agreed and the concert was recorded, becoming the successful album, “Live Peace in Toronto.” He also played on the “Imagine” album, and was featured on the single, “Instant Karma.”

“John actually took me under his wing,” White said. “He liked being around me and he liked the way I played. He used to tell me. ‘Alan, whatever you’re playing, just keep playing it because it sounds good.’”

Lennon introduced him to George Harrison, and White performed on Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album. He said working on the album was quite the experience.

“When I was recording with (Harrison), about 15 people came into the studio everyday and picked up instruments, and it was like a regular group with him as the leader,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. Playing with them was a stepping stone in my career.”

White said he is grateful he has gotten the chance to work with acclaimed musicians, including the members of YES. He’s pleased to be on the road with them again.

“I especially love playing with a group of talented musicians like this,” he said. “They make it interesting. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s part of my life. I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t playing music on stage.”

The Zeiterion’s box office is located at 684 Purchase St., New Bedford. Tickets are priced at $65 and $49. Box Office Hours: Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one hour before each performance. For more information, visit http://www.zeiterion.org.

Kicking MASS for nearly thirty years


When Louis St. August, lead singer of the Boston-based hard rock band, MASS, found out they will be receiving the Legend Award at the 2011 Limelight Magazine Award ceremony at Club Hell in Providence, R.I., on March 12, he was, “blown away.”

“It’s such an honor and we’re really proud,” he said. “We’ve stayed true to ourselves and our style. We never strayed away from our type of music and people appreciate that. The e-mails, letters, and orders for our CDs and autographed pictures keep coming everyday.”

One of his most memorable moments in his music career was performing a sold out show at the L.A. Amphitheater, a 15,000-seat venue, the night after The Who played there. Growing up a huge Roger Daltrey fan, the evening was very special for St. August.

“The thing that really made me feel great was that the night before, Roger Daltrey was singing on the same stage I was on the night after,” he said. “We played with Hurricane and Stryper and we were the second act. I felt like I had the crowd in my hand. They were all singing along.”

While he’s been in the music business for 30 years, St. August said he still feels like he’s 18 years old, the age he was when MASS formed. As he was graduating high school and most of his friends were going off to college, he was busy signing a record contract.

In fact, there was a bidding war for MASS, as labels like Atlantic, RCA, and A&M, showed deep interest, and the band ended up chose to make a deal with A&M Records.

“I feel like I had already achieved my accomplishment,” he said. “It was something I wanted to do since I was 10 and I was so excited. I was always daydreaming about it and I always loved music. It was always in my blood.”

In order to work on what was to be their first album, they flew down to Florida and laid down tracks at Criteria Studios in Miami. While there, they got the chance to rub shoulders with several celebrity musicians.

“There were all these great artists walking around and they were so friendly and cool to us,” St. August said. “Julio Eglesis was recording an album with Diana Ross at Criteria Studios. They were in Studio A and we were in Studio B. Aerosmith were down there so were The Bus Boys and Stephen Stills. We got to learn so much.”

But, after they finished recording, friction began.  The management company they originally signed with wasn’t getting along with the record label and the band suffered the consequences.

“We were naïve and we signed our lives away,” said St. August. “The album was finished but the record label wasn’t going to put it out and it got shelved. After working on it for two and a half months, that was a big disappointment. We returned to Boston and hired a lawyer and it took us over two years to be free from the contract and the album just sat in limbo. We recorded a four-track, self-titled EP under our own label, MASS Records.”

But, in 2010, a year St. August said has been one of their most productive, MASS got the last laugh. Titling the album, “Fighter,” they released it through Retroactive Records.

“Now, I’m getting royalties for recordings I did almost 30 years ago,” St. August said.

Also in 2010, they re-issued their EP with a bonus track, this time calling it, “84 Unchained,” put out their hit album, “Sea of Black,” as well as recorded a few Christmas songs to benefit Toys For Tots to wrap up the year.

“2010 was great,” said St. August. “‘Sea of Black,” got the approval of longtime fans and new fans, and I’m really proud we released ‘A Very Merry X-MASS.’ A good friend of mine, Scottie Dunbar of Dunbar Entertainment, came to me with the idea to do it for Toys for Tots. We had another song, ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ and I also did a ballad.”

In less than two weeks, “A Very Merry X-MASS,” sold 600 copies. They ran out and had to print more.

“Kim Sholtz, wife of Tom Sholtz, the guitarist from (the band) BOSTON, ordered 40 CDs,” he said. “She sent me an email saying she’s always been a fan.”

In addition to raising over $3,000 for Toys For Tots, the band bought, “tons of toys.”  Ironically, in the same week, someone had broken into the Toys For Tots in Burlington, Mass.

“It was all over the news and I was like, ‘is this a sign from somebody?” St. August said.  “We drove down there and handed them all the toys. It was a great feeling to do that. We were happy to give to the kids.”

Through the course of their career, MASS released their first major label debut in 1985 with RCA, “New Birth”, produced by Tony Platt, which spawned the 45 single, “Do You Love Me.” The song reached the Billboard’s charts and the video was in rotation on MTV.

“That was our breakthrough album,” he said. “That record sold really well, selling more than 100,000 when it was initially released.”

While they were recording “New Birth” in New York, they were involved in a food fight with another band at an upscale Chinese restaurant. Although they were all asked to leave, St. August said it was worth it.

“We just laughed it off,” he said. “Joe Turner, the singer from Rainbow, was there with Thomas Baker, a producer. Someone from their table threw a piece of bread at us and we ended up throwing a piece back and a food fight ensued. You can just picture the faces of the people in this beautiful restaurant and as food was flying over their heads.”

Shortly after “New Birth,” came out, they left RCA and signed with California label, Enigma. Though Enigma, they released, “Take You Home,” in 1988 and then, “Voices of the Night,” in 1989.

As the nineties grunge scene took over the radio, MASS took a break from recording and used the time to write songs and perform. They released a “Best Ones” CD in 2000 with For Reel Records. As the years went on, labels overseas became interested in hearing some of the songs they had been working on.

“I sent some demos to various companies overseas and three or four were interested in releasing new MASS material,” St. August said. “We signed with the second biggest European record company, Escape, and in 2007, we came out with, ‘Crack of Dawn.’”

As to the future, MASS is currently looking to record a new album that they hope to release in 2012. In the meantime, they will be opening for Stryper at Showcase Live in Foxboro, Mass., on Saturday, March 26.

Don’t pigeon hole these Byrds


For the last two years, Rhode Island based band Jeff Byrd and Dirty Finch have been attracting flocks of fans throughout the Northeast. Last month, they celebrated the release of their new self-titled, twelve-track album at Bon Vue in Narragansett, R.I.

“We decided to do it at Bon Vue because it’s a fun place,” said Jeff Byrd, who plays guitar, harmonica, and sings. “We wanted it to be laid back and it was. We just played all night.”

Dana White, of Specialized Mastering in Boston, mastered the album. But, the band recorded and produced it themselves in Westwood Estates, a community center mobile home park in Coventry, Rhode Island.

“It was kind of a clubhouse and it had a pool table,” said Byrd. “There was no tension and no one was nervous. We just went in there with our equipment and took eight hours each day and recorded.”

Byrd said he enjoyed the recording process because they were completely in control. He felt as if they challenged themselves and were victorious.

“As much as it was work, there wasn’t anybody there to tell us what to do,” he said. “It was all on our shoulders and it really gelled us together as a band.”

Jeff Byrd and Dirty Finch is made up of bassist Shawn O’Brien, guitarist Dan Simpson, and drummer Steve DelTufo, all of whom sing backing vocals. DelTufo also said he is happy with the way the album turned out.

“We could still do it well while having fun,” he said. “My favorite song is ‘Waiting On the Sun.’ It’s laid back and it put the icing on the cake. I really love playing it live and seeing the reaction of the people. That’s what people really judge you on.”

Byrd said he likes all the songs for their own reasons, but is partial to “Waiting On the Sun,” and “Draggin’ Bones,” two songs he thought were “great to record.”

“‘Waiting on the Sun,’ came together quickly and naturally,” said Byrd. “I really like the tune of it.”

Both members said their music encompasses a lot of different styles and they don’t want to get too caught up in their sound. They fear that can limit them and they want the freedom to play whatever music they choose.

“I want to be able to do a metal song if I want to,” Byrd said. “But, I’ve also been a Beatles’ fan forever and they are in everything I do.”

DelTufo agreed, as he grew up on rock music and is heavily influenced by artists from Johnny Cash and Hank Williams to Motley Crue and Guns ‘N’ Roses. He said it’s important for them to be opened minded to many different types of music so they don’t marginalize themselves.

“I used to really love metal and I still do, but you have to take from everything to be original,” DelTufo said. “I try to find the good in all music.”

However, while they don’t care much for labels, they also know there are a few benefits of attaching a genre to their music. In fact, Byrd said they are noticing the positive repercussions of listing them as a country band online.

“We’re more alt-country, but after I listed us as country, we had four or five new requests in a few hours,” said Byrd. “One fan even congratulated us for being on Reverbnation’s number one Hot Country list. It was kind of funny. I was like, ‘What?’ It’s bizarre and it’s weird in my head, but it’s cool.”

Byrd is grateful he chose a category because more people are finding out about the band. It surprised him at first, but he is thrilled country lovers like their CD.

“I just want to be like, ‘here it is,’” Byrd said. “If you like it, you like it, if you don’t, you don’t. We were on iTunes and it’s funny because the classification of our band fits into Americana/alt-country. I had a conversation with the guys a few weeks ago and we realized we were a mix of country and rock. We’re somewhere in between.”

Right now, the band is in the middle of a mini-tour. They are gigging throughout Rhode Island, the Boston area, and New York City.

“We booked a bunch of shows,” Byrd said. “We’re going to be playing at National Underground in New York City. We played there before and we’re looking forward to it. Actually, the less we plan, the more stuff happens for us. It’s been a lot easier lately. We’re making a lot of contacts with musicians and radio stations.”

DelTufo agreed, saying he enjoys taking things one day at a time.

“We try not to predict the future,” said DelTufo. “It seems to be working out for us.”

Their current album is available on CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.com. Byrd said they have already started to write songs for another recording session, as their band is starting to take flight.

“It’s growing and it’s doing it’s own thing,” Byrd said. “There’s a lot more to come.”

                                      Photo by Kristen Pierson

YORK gears up for gig at Hard Rock Café


Hailing from North Attleboro, Mass., pop-rock band YORK is gearing up for their show at the Hard Rock Café in Boston. They will be taking the stage at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 14th, at the prestigious live music venue.

“It’s very exciting, especially hearing that a lot of local bands don’t get to play there,” said guitarist Mikey Taub. “To be presented with the opportunity is a feeling I can’t describe.”

Drummer Erick Cifuentes, who recently joined the band after a member departed, said he’s thrilled to be playing the Hard Rock Café. He said he’s pleased by how fast things are moving along for the band.

“When we first practiced, I told them that I wanted to make this my living because I live to play drums,” he said. “I am very fortunate on how fast things are moving and very excited to experience every step along the way with each member.”

Keyboard player Emily Rickard shares vocal duties with bassist Dan Pawlowski. She believes having two voices in the band, one female and the other male, creates a “good flow” in their music.

“A lot of our songs are based on love, friendship, and romance, so I think it helps tell a story better with a male and female vocalist,” she said. “Personally, hearing one person’s voice kind of gets annoying after a while. Switching it up gives people a break from one voice and it gives the other singer a chance to get their voice out there.”

Pawlowski agreed and said he has noticed a lot of bands are now breaking out on the music scene with multiple singers, often of the opposite sex. YORK works at balancing the vocal parts between the two of them.

“It’s kind of hard sometimes to both sing the same song equally, but it always works out,” Pawlowski said.

Guitarist John Shay said they “try to bring a nineties feel” to their songs. As is the case with most bands, they compose most of their music acoustically.

“One person usually writes the lyrics and starts us off,” Shay said. “Then, we’ll come up with a melody, verse, and chorus. We make sure the whole band is involved.”

Taub described them as a “band based on melodies.” He believes this helps draws crowds to their shows.

“When somebody hears a pretty melody that’s catchy, they stick around and they want to hear more,” said Taub. “Our originality is important to us.”

YORK often gets compared to Paramore, which they said they don’t agree with. Rickard thinks it’s only because Paramore vocalist, Hayley Williams, is one of the most popular female singers right now.

“When someone hears a female vocalist they automatically think of Paramore and I don’t think that’s okay,” she said. “It’s a totally different style of music than ours.”

YORK solely performs their own material as opposed to what other artists already have done.

“We want to be the band that people want to cover,” Pawlowski said. “It’s rewarding to show our songs to people and see them become part of it.”

Their first single, “Let Me In,” has been getting radio airplay on 94.1 WHJY’s Soundcheck, hosted by Jim Stearns. It’s also being played on 95.5 WBRU.

“It’s a big step for us,” Rickard said. “We’ve never been on a radio station before.”

While some members didn’t hear their song being played on either station, Taub was fortunate to tune into 95.5 at the right time. He said hearing “Let Me In” on air was “unbelievable.”

“I heard us for the first time on 95.5 last week and it was the most exciting feeling,” Taub said. “We were played at a regular time right after Nirvana. We hope people say, ‘hey, what’s this new music? I’ve never heard this before.’ I think it’s fantastic that we are reaching out to more people.”

This spring, YORK will be releasing their first full-length album since they have all been in the band. For the past year, they have been writing and recording new material.

“We have two new songs that we are going to bring to the studio in early February,” Pawlowski said. “They are a lot different from our other songs. There are going to be songs that me and (Rickard) will be singing on our own. These are the best of all of our songs because we really show our capabilities in them.”

For now, the band is excited about the opportunities coming their way, and they are confident their gig at the Hard Rock Café will be a success.

“We’re hoping for a big turn out,” Shay said. “We just want to have a good show.”

Other acts on the bill include 25 Pearl, Evey’s Late Night Dinner, and Project Blue Book.

Tickets for the show are $10 each. To purchase them, please contact any band member at thisisyorkmusic@gmail.com or Katie Botelho, of JKB Management and Booking, at jkbbooking@gmail.com. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Photo by Kristen Pierson

Ken Macy does it all


Inspired by artists like Tom Petty and Creedence Clearwater Revival, Worcester musician Ken Macy recently released, “Goin’ California,” a nine-track album on which he plays every instrument excluding drums. He spent a few months writing the material and another four and a half months recording.

 “The whole idea of the record has to do with California based artists,” said Macy. “I was really intrigued with that sound. The song itself is about stardom and how somebody wasn’t very honest with themselves and everything sort of came back to bite him. I kind of ran with that idea for the rest of the record. It was kind of my ode to them.”

Macy, who is currently doing acoustic shows to promote the album, said he feels as if it’s his most complete to date. He handles vocals, guitars, bass, harmonica, some percussion, and tambourine. Kevin Haverty plays drums on the record.

 “He has a fantastic ear and he is also a songwriter, as well,” said Macy. “He helped produce a couple of tracks and is part of the overall sound. The songs range from all different styles, from rock, to country, to blues. I really like the title track a lot. ‘Season Girl’ has nice harmonies, and ‘Quiet Storm’ has a nice feel to it. Those are my three favorites.”

As he writes, Macy said he often comes up with a guitar line or a chord progression first. Other times, he focuses on lyrics.

“Sometimes I come up with both,” he said. “Then, the songs sort of develop themselves. I just play what I feel and what feels comfortable to me. That’s the stuff that comes out on the record. It’s all natural; there’s no auto tuning. What you hear is what you get. It’s very honest and true.”

Macy began playing guitar when he was thirteen. He started off teaching himself, and was trained musically for four years.

“Guitar was my primary instrument,” he said. “I did a lot of session work and side work with bands and eventually started doing his own songs.”

As time passed, he developed his voice. With each show he performed, the better he became.

“The more you do something the more you understand it,” Macy said.

Macy is a four-time Worcester Music Award winner. He said winning was great, but even just being nominated was “excellent.”

“It let’s me know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing with music,” he said. “I really appreciate it.”

Right now, he is looking forward to putting a full band together to tour. He hopes to begin touring by spring or summer of next year to promote, “Goin’ California.”

“I appreciate the great responsces I’ve gotten from fans about the album,” Macy said.

“I’ve really been thankful for everything I’ve had thus far.”

In his spare time, Macy enjoys watching baseball and hockey. He also likes the beach and photography.

“I love taking pictures of people and landscapes,” he said. “I was born on Valentine’s Day, too Even if I’m single, I still get presents. It’s great.”

To find out more about Macy, check him out on kenmacymusic.com. His music is available on iTunes and cdbaby.com. Friend him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/profile.php?id=722617130 and on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/kenmacy.

TSO tribute band tours for charity


With a nine-show holiday tour that kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. at Stadium Theater in Woonsocket, R.I., the 11 members of Ornament, Southern New England’s premiere rock orchestra, are ready to get their fans in the spirit of the season. Performing the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the band is touring in order to support several local organizations.

“This is our fifth tour and we’re hoping to make it the best and biggest one,” said Chris Nunes, who plays bass, sings, and produces for Ornament. “We hope everyone can come see us to help raise money for good causes. We use a small portion of the money to cover our expenses, but everything else goes to the charity.”

Nunes, who also works as Band Director at Westport Middle School and helps out with various musicals within the district, said Ornament will also be performing at Twin River Casio in Lincoln, R.I., at the Lighthouse Bar on Saturday, Nov. 27th at 8:30 p.m. Their third gig is at Westport High School on Friday, December 3rd at 7 p.m.

“It is to benefit the Westport Music Boosters Association,” he said. “We want to help raise money for music programs in local schools.”

The next night, Saturday, Dec. 4th at 7:30 p.m., they will take the stage at the Seaport Inn and Marina in Fairhaven, Mass.

“The Seaport Inn show will feature a toy drive with the Salvation Army,” Nunes said. “We’ll be at Keith Junior High School in New Bedford on December 10th at 7 p.m. to support the Veterans Transition House. On December 12th, our show is at Mansfield High School at 4 p.m. The money will go towards the Mansfield High School Youth Hockey league.”

While their Dec. 17th performance at the Whites of Westport in Westport, Mass., at 6:30 p.m. is a regular gig, The Plymouth Memorial Hall show on Dec. 18th at 7 p.m. will feature choral members from both Plymouth North and Plymouth South High Schools. Thirty to forty members will be in attendance.

“They will do a few numbers with us,” said Nunes. “Part of the proceeds will help restore the piano they use. We are going to be finishing up the tour at LaSalete Shrine Auditorium in Attleboro, Mass. on January 2nd at two in the afternoon.”

Since they toured last year, Nunes said Ornament has had a few line up changes. One of the new members includes violinist, A.J. Salvatore.

“For me, playing in this band is an opportunity to work with some really talented musicians,” said Nunes. “Not only are they very skilled, they are just dedicated to perfecting our craft. I don’t play out with any other bands because we rehearse year-round.”

Nunes said they each work hard to be authentic to the music. They are getting to the point where they are starting to be recognized in the area.

“People have told us that if they close their eyes, we sound just like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra,” he said. “That’s what we’re going for and I think that’s the biggest compliment we can get. People are getting to know what we do and we are finding a lot of new fans, as well.”

Every year, Ornament changes up the set list to keep their show both interesting for their faithful followers and exciting for people who are seeing them play for the first time. Nunes said the light show is completely different, too.

“We are up to 56 lights now,” said Nunes. “It’s fun to play this music. It’s the best of both worlds for me. I get beauty of the classical music with the power and energy of rock and roll and it just combines together to give the music something special.”

To find out more about Ornament and their upcoming tour, visit their website at www.ornamentband.com. Friend them on MySpace at www.myspace.com/ornamenttso and find them on Facebook by searching for Ornament Fan Club.

Bringing great entertainment to New England since 2011!