a melodic rock trio from NYC
a melodic rock trio from NYC
My earliest Rock n Roll memory was Little Richard. His giant, sweaty, visage was filling our old tube color tv screen. All I remember was face paint and screaming - scared 2 year old me senseless, but there's no question he left an impression.
From there it was Saturday mornings with The Monkees (gateway to The Beatles) and The Jackson Five. To this day those early J5 singles are still among the catchiest hooks ever recorded, and if you're black and of a certain age, chances are you got 5 of your brothers, sisters, cousins or friends together in a line and tried getting those steps down. It was also around this time that I used to crack my Mother up with James Brown impressions - 'Good God! Hey!'
Shortly after I turned 5, we moved to Jersey with my Dad and I became aware of A.M. radio. I associate the expansiveness of The Hollies 'All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe' and Rod Stewart's ragged 'Maggie May' with long rides to the Jersey Shore. Dad had the 45 of Aces 'How Long' - he wore out the grooves singing along to that record. But when he was really serious, he'd break out Marvin Gaye's LP 'What's Going On'. Dad sang in the men's chorus at church, He had a good voice but sometimes we'd avert our eyes because he could get a bit dramatic. I was an introvert, but I could ham it up too when the right song came on, like the time I amused some of my older cousins by tearing loose on the dance floor to Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition'
I got my first electric guitar after seeing the movie 'The Buddy Holly Story'. Like a lot of kids, my progress on the instrument stalled when I couldn't master 'Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star' I also remember being bummed when I realized a lot of the grooves I loved on funk records were played on something with 4 strings called a bass.
By 8th grade I had my own radio, and as I began seeking out music on my own I became more aware of musical genres beyond designations of 'black' or 'white' music. I laughed at my white friends at school who assumed all 'black' music at that time could be classified as Disco. I liked Disco just fine but Parliament Funkadelic were NOT Disco. They were more out there than most rock bands. You couldn't really label Earth Wind and Fire under one genre. At least everyone new world superstar Bob Marley was reggae. One of the greatest things about radio in the mid to late seventies is that they played Pop, Rock, Funk, R & B, Disco and even a little Country music all on the same station. You got to hear a bit of everything.
Like a lot of listeners sometime between '79 and '80, I began switching over to F.M. radio - 'No static at all' as one of my favorite bands said. Hearing radio in stereo for the first time blew my mind more than the compact disc would a few years later. The added depth and clarity made songs like Lipps Incorporated's 'Funkytown' and M's 'Pop Music' seem even more futuristic. Chic's 'Freak Out', George Benson's 'Give Me the Night and countless other songs spoke to the air of possibility and wonder in a city night.
Music was moving quickly now. A band called The Police was trying to fuse Rock with Reggae. 'Planet Rock' and 'Pac Jam' owned summertime cookouts signaling the emergence of Hip Hop and Electro-Funk and everyone in the neighborhood started trying to break dance. One of the most interesting musical developments at the time was the rivalry that played out over the radio between Rick James and a new kid named Prince Rogers Nelson. In a few short years, Prince turned into a supernova of creativity and contradiction that would have a profound effect on me.
As a teenager I sang in the youth choir in church. The first time I saw footage of Jimi Hendrix setting fire to his guitar at Monterey, young conservative me just shook my head and wondered what all the acclaim was about. My opinion changed considerably once I listened to 'Are You Experienced' in Art School. I started reading everything I could find about the man. Contrary to the wild, self destructive image I'd had the bios revealed a soft spoken, gifted songwriter who just happened to express himself on 6 strings as maybe no one has before or since.
Pratt Institute was where I started getting into Classic Rock. The Who, Yes, and '70s era Genesis were the bands I appreciated most at the time. A co-worker from the campus bookshop named Edgar took it upon himself to educate me about more current bands that weren't getting radio play. He introduced me to Bad Brains, Fishbone and Living Colour. He also turned me on to Sonic Youth, XTC and the Replacements. The year I left college my musical tastes were spread across a fairly broad spectrum. The 4 albums in constant rotation for me back then (in no particular order) were 'Three Feet High And Rising', 'Daydream Nation', 'Skylarking', and 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'
I started thinking about forming my own band around the time I was jamming with 2 good friends who both played drums. They each had very different styles so it was a very fortunate learning opportunity that allowed me to mix it up on guitar. The 3 of us worked together and in the mornings we'd listen to '90s rock radio. In the afternoons we'd listen to New Orleans funk legends The Meters. They were incredibly loose and tight all at the same time. I got to spend some time in Louisiana and see some of the awesome musicianship that's such a part of the fabric of life in New Orleans. Strangely enough, the college radio station down there introduced me to 2 favorites who weren't from the region; Wilco and the Dismemberment Plan.
Of course these are only some of the artists, albums, and songs that have affected me over the years and the list continues to grow. When I'm writing songs now, I try to reconcile my love of Al Green and Sly Stone with my love of Radiohead and Super Furry Animals. I certainly can't claim that all the musicians mentioned here have a direct influence on my sound. All of these artists do have one thing in common. Their approaches to song craft may vary, but each of them knows how to deliver a memorable tune. In time, I hope our little band can do the same.
Dave and I have been playing together for quite a while as Underpup. We started out with a bass player named Maureen. Maureen is a talented visual artist who plays bass in unorthodox, yet very interesting way. Her droning, atonal style played a big part in shaping much of our early material.
The newest member of our band, Katherine, is a more traditional bassist with a melodic sound. As such, our angular punk is beginning to give way to more intricately composed songs. The challenge we face is to embrace the more structured songs while maintaining our raw energy and edge.