By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Artist: The Apocalyptic Fist of the Black Death
Album: Volume II: Born of a Broken Jar
Hailing from the Cuyahoga Valley, experimental metal act The Apocalyptic Fist of the Black Death provide an avant-garde approach to modern extreme metal. Through the use, and misuse, of odd time signatures, samples and bone crushing riffs, they have stamped out a often-attempted-yet-rarely-successful niche. With a sound and approach falling somewhere between The Dillinger Escape Plan, early Mastodon and the Mike Patton-led Fantomas, the band fully and equally embrace experimentation and brutality, sacrificing nothing in between. Their live shows are proof of this.
Recently, AFOTBD dropped their sophomore EP, Volume II: Born of a Broken Jar. On this release, the band have successfully expanded upon their earlier work, while showcasing their signature sonic intensity. In a nutshell, there is no sophomore slump!
Volume II: Born of a Broken Jar opens with the brief but mood-setting instrumental, “Haunted.” With a beautiful and eerie minor key piano piece, mood and atmosphere are immediately established, lending the perfect segue to the first full track, “The Whole in Things.” This proggy little number gets right to the point, with a barrage of slamming riffs that aim straight for the jugular. The drum and guitar work immediately catch the ear, as their interplay and odd rhythmic structure are utterly infectious.
From there, “Charlie Murphy’s ‘True Hollywood Stories'” is packed with blast beat-to-chugging riff/drum interplay, with a grinding riff that commands your attention. Finally, the EP closes with perhaps its most ambitious track, the ten-minute “Born of a Broken Jar.” Grinding, chugging riffs lead off the track, before an almost blusey, Zappa-esque lick takes the track in a more groove-heavy direction. By it’s middle, this track gets very interesting, breaking down with a quieter, Middle Eastern guitar lick, reminiscent of the more ambitious moments of Nile, before building itself back into a soaring and slamming conclusion.
It’s safe to say that The Apocalyptic Fist of the Black Death are, without a doubt, among the most ambitious acts to emerge from the Northeast Ohio music scene, of really, any genre. With Volume II: Born of a Broken Jar, the already forward-thinking act have pushed their own envelope, creating a small but loud statement with the confinements of an EP. It leaves you on the edge of your seat, desperately craving more.
Key tracks would include all of them because well, there’s only four, and they all stand out quite well. However, the massive crescendo that is “Born of a Broken Jar,” the EP’s final cut, is nothing short of a masterpiece, that only gets better with repeated listens. All in all, a must-have for fans of experimental, heavy, progressive music.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Artist: Third Class
Album: Virginia’s Playlist
Release Date: 1/1/17
For nearly two decades, Northeast Ohio’s Third Class have dazzled audiences from across the region and beyond with a fierce passion. With an intimate and immediate delivery, Lee Echard Boyle and Co. consistently hit the mark with songs that boast as much dry wit as they do emotion. On their latest offering, Virginia’s Playlist, the Indie Rock mainstays craft a heartfelt, touching and often cynical story that takes the listeners across time and space, with all of the whirlwind emotions in between.
With Virginia’s Playlist, Third Class have taken their unique brand of quirky Indie Rock and Folk Pop and have sprinkled in subtle hints of Americana, Garage Pop and Baroque Pop for a 20-track massive opus. Not only is this perhaps their most ambitious record to date, but it serves as a refreshing reminder that the band is still searching, still hungry and still eager to push the limits of their songwriting one step further than the next.
Kicking off with the tongue-in-cheek “College Radio,” Third Class come out swinging in a charm all of their own. “We’re college radio but no one plays us, We never played a show where people paid us right, And in our pinky toe we’ve got more talent than you could ever know, Your bass rig towers high,” is a part cynical, part facetious, slightly-ambiguous look at either the local scene, or perhaps a parallel to the greater music scene in general.
A swarm of lush acoustic guitars and strings dominate “Radio to Cassette,” before the piano-driven “The World Sounds Like Poetry,” and the folky “Being and a Ball,” draw from personal reflection. From there, “Kiss You Until You Bleed,” “Lonely for You” and “Crying in the Dark” drive home the sincere melodramatic love songs that are trademark of Third Class. Somewhere between the brooding of Neil Young and the bluesy swagger of Springsteen, the songwriting carves its own niche of pure lyrical poetry.
The Neil Young-esque “Hardwood Sky” and the Baroque Pop of “Lonesome Dove” change the pace slightly, leading off the climatic second half of Virginia’s Playlist. “Colors of You” and “Better Mood Today” take a page right from White Album-era Beatles songwriting with a quirky baroque piano taking the lead on the former and a more subtle approach on the latter.
As the record draws to a close, tracks “Me and Wally” and “Witch Hunt” paint the melancholy picture of a summer sun setting of the reckless abandon of youth. Closing track “Sweet Potato” is a soaring glimmer of hope lead by a beautiful and frantic piano that fades off into the sunset.
Virginia’s Playlist is not a record you should put on at a party, and perhaps that is its most endearing quality! It is a record that demands your full attention. Best experienced by a few full uninterrupted listens. Third Class have crafted a record of continuity, a record that once heard in its entirety, it sticks with you. It is also evident on this record that the band have not hit their plateau in songwriting. Standout tracks include “Radio to Cassette,” “The World Sounds Like Poetry,” “Hardwood Sky,” “Grow Up in Portland,” and “Witch Hunt.” However, Virginia’s Playlist will leave the best impression if listened to from start to finish.
Virginia’s Playlist is available directly from the band at thirdclass.net.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Album: Perceptions of the Damned
Since 2011, Northeast Ohio Death Metal mainstays Psyclosarin have been offering up their unique take on the genre. With enough massive riff and slamming grooves to bring any mosh pit to its knees, the band have carved themselves a special niche on the scene. With dozens of high profile performances at notable venues such as the Agora in Cleveland, Psyclosarin have set the stage as one of the leading forces in a new generation of Extreme Metal.
With their latest release, 2016’s Perceptions For the Damned, Psyclosarin take the overt brutality of classic Death Metal and sprinkle in a slight but significant touch of the atmospheric drone of Black Metal for a refreshingly exciting collection of very heavy songs. Similar to the approach taken by acts like Behemoth and Vader on recent releases, Psyclosarin favor neither style over the other, but sacrifice nothing, keeping up with straight-forward yet extreme ethos of the hybrid sub-genre, Blackened Death Metal.
Perceptions of the Damned opens with the rousing title track. A true Death Metal Slammer complete with grinding riffs overtop blast beats for an unrelenting pulverizing track with a middle section vaguely reminiscent of Powerviolence and a closing guitar lead-to-final refrain that climaxes into the highest reaches of hell.
From there, the slow opening of “Limb from Limb” does nothing to prepare for the insanity that’s to follow. Crashing into a wall of chaotic, frenzied riffs, the track introduces some more Black Metal riffing styles for some serious textured sonic torture. “Thrown to the Wolves” offers more gigantic riffs while “All Hail None,” the undoubted standout of the first half of Perceptions of the Damned, boasts another wall of massive guitars, but the real moments of genius hit just two-thirds into the song, as the song begins to shift into an unexpected slamming groove.
“Sever the Cord” begins with an interesting melodic swarm of guitars, taking a brief but welcomed left turn, before igniting into another nuclear assault of riffs and chaos. The Thrash-like riffs that hit by the middle of the song are also a definite highlight! “Born to Burn” showcases more of what Psyclosarin seem to do best, with twin guitar attacks shifts from Black to Death Metal-style riffing seemlessly. The album closes with the Thrashy “Rampage,” with riffs that rival the most technical and brutal moments from Machinehead.
All in all, Perceptions of the Damned is an unrelenting, ugly collection of songs that rarely comes up for air. Amidst the chaos, there are several moments of genius and some really well-crafted material that comes across to perfection. The production does great justice, by balancing the harsh technically to where nothing sounds sacrificed; a rare feat in the age of extreme digital compression. This record is Psyclosarin coming into their own, and serves as an exciting landmark of what’s they’ve done and where they’re heading. Standout tracks include “All Hail None,” “Thrown to the Wolves,” “Born to Burn” and the title track.
Watch the official music video for “Limb from Limb” by clicking here.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
A great perk to following a local music scene is the undoubted authenticity of hungry musicians. At nearly every turn, in every local venue, there are new and unique artists, experimenting with the future or improving on the past. Those who put in the blood, sweat and tears, especially while maintaining a family and a day job, is nothing short of impressive. But it’s the passion that keeps the scene alive.
Such passion can be unlocked in the music of Spy Convention. As one of the Valley’s most intriguing newcomers, Spy Convention consist of two local doctors, Asif Khan and Zafar Sheik, who, by near accident, decided to take their passion for music to the next level.
“We met by chance at a school function for our kids about 3 years ago, and one day Zafar came over with his family,” said Khan. “There was a guitar sitting in the house, he picked it up and started singing. I was totally impressed and shocked! I had no idea he could sing. We only started writing together in January of 2015, and wrote ‘You Are Not Alone.'”
Featuring a refreshing blend of Post-Punk and early Goth/Darkwave, tracks like “Baltimore” and “Gravity” channel The Psychedelic Furs and Echo and The Bunnymen, while “You Are Not Alone” hints at Interpol’s more updated Indie sensibilities.
With their first batch of singles, Khan and Sheik carve out a unique sound that’s both reminiscent of the past yet feels like the present.
“We both have influences that are quite varied. However, we think everybody has a connection with the music they grew up with and, being of a certain age, that 80s sound resonates with us. It’s kind of in our minds so it naturally comes out in the songwriting process,” said Khan.
Khan indicated that both Indie and Alternative music have both played a crucial role in their musical development.
“As fans of music in general, we have a tendency to search out new music, and there’s always lots of great music being made. We’re fans of indie and alternative bands so all those sounds we’ve heard from the 80s to the present is just a part of us,” said Khan.
With the music of Spy Convention relying heavily on atmosphere, covering such music depth as a duo can get tricky. However, Khan said that both him and Sheik have found a rhythm to crafting their sonic structures.
“We do everything ourselves, drums, guitar and bass primarily by me, and vocals synth by Zafar,” Khan explained. ” Zafar writes the music and lyrics as an idea for a song. We get together and start throwing more ideas out, very simple piano lines for example, and it starts to blossom from there. Our approach is to layer instruments together to get a full sound.”
He also indicated that it’s important to be their own worst critic and to keep it honest in order for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.
“Occasionally we will scrap an entire song and start over if need be. This happens rarely but needs to be done if we don’t like it. We also made it a point to criticize without any ego involved. If something is horrible, we say it,” said Khan.
He added that most importantly, they have to be having true fun in order to keep it worthy of their efforts.
“We started the project first as a diversion with no real expectations. We still really don’t have any expectations. It’s fun, and ZERO pressure. We have kids and lives that demand our attention, so music is purely an escape,” he said.
With the Post Punk Revival of the last decade or so, artists as diverse as Interpol, The Killers and Death From Above 1979, along with relative newcomers like Cloud Nothings, Health and Soft Kill, have in their own unique way, channeled the likes of 80s greats such as The Cure and Joy Division, but have expanded on those ideas to varying levels of success, both artistically and commercially. Spy Convention have focused on, if not perfected, the atmosphere of the era while giving it a new spirit.
Khan said it’s the impact of the song that transcends both genre and era.
“It’s not a style or genre necessarily, but the song itself. If you connect with the song, that’s what really matters,” Khan said. “We both love Interpol and The Killers. We don’t really focus on longevity of bands, but we appreciate the song. The song is what stands the test of time. There have been one-hit wonder bands and everyone latches on to it because it’s a great song. Nothing else, more or less.”
He explained too that what he found in the music that inspires him also had the ability to move him, and that good music lasts because of its ability to do so.
“What is it about that music that connects with people? Maybe it’s the simplicity of the music, like the driving bass line, or a well written vocal line that allows everyone to participate, sing along. Was it the production? It could have been current events. It’s hard to say, but for a song to move millions of people is quite amazing, and powerful,” he said.
Heading into 2017, Spy Convention looks to hit the stage, and is currently in the process of auditioning live members to round out a live lineup.
“We have desires to play live and are currently auditioning musicians,” said Khan. “Ideally, we’d love to play live in 2017; we’ll see what happens. We aren’t looking for much, but all the attention is great. We are grateful people like the songs and we’ll just keep writing as long as we can and have fun doing it.”
A full-length release is in the works for the next year as well.
“Our next phase is to complete an album of 7-10 songs,” said Khan.
Spy Convention have released a slew of singles, some of which have been in regular rotation on The Homegrown Show on 93.3 since August 2016. Those tracks, along with a cover of INXS’ “Don’t Change” and Rush’s “Time Stand Still,” can be streamed exclusively on the band’s official Soundcloud page by clicking here.
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By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Since its inception over three decades ago, Hardcore music has utilized extremity to take a stand. Through Hardcore, the voice of a misanthropic youth was given a primal yet intellectual platform, to rage against a society gone mad. And through this blast of angst and energy, a message of hope and empowerment is brought to light.
Such is the tradition of this extreme extension of Punk Rock, a tradition proudly carried forward by the likes of Mahoning Valley’s newest powerhouse, Annihilate!
Annihilate began roughly a year ago as its members began searching for something they just weren’t getting from their previous bands. It wasn’t until these individuals came together and begin making noise, that a clear path was to be set.
“This band is more or less the product of two previous bands breaking apart. It started off as The Event Horizon which only Billy (Russell, vocals) was a part of at the time. One day he messaged me on Facebook telling me he liked my drum covers and that he wanted me to be their new drummer and that was about it,” said drummer Andrew Blose of the band’s formation.
Blose also said that it wasn’t until co-founding member Nick Cavicchi jumped to lead guitar that Annihilate really found it’s stride.
“Nick was actually playing bass with us for a while. It wasn’t until Annihilate that he started playing lead in the band. As ATI we were still having problems with writing music as well as other personal problems between members so we made the decision to let go of one of our guitarists, rewrite all of our songs and change the name to Annihilate. This was when we made the decision to start writing more Hardcore-driven songs,” said Blose.
Of the music of Annihilate, Cavicchi said that it was very akin to the classic Hardcore bands of the 80s, like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys for example, for rallied against the establishment and emphasized the ideas of individuality and empowerment.
“The music we write is in my own opinion pretty true to the OG Punk bands as far as the meaning goes. It’s about staying true to yourself and your friends. It’s pretty much like how Dead Kennedys said ‘fuck you’ to the establishment and the weak-minded people around them. What I think it means to be a Hardcore/Punk band these days is about just being yourself,” explained Cavicchi.
He added that the band is more concerned with it’s message of unity and keeping in step with those who seek it, rather than fame or glory, or the multitude of negativity from those who perpetuate such negativity.
“This band was founded around being friends and playing shows to our friends. Personally, I’m not in this for fame or anything like that. I’m in it to make a stand. I’m in it to write against racism and all the bullshit fascist mentalities people have. If people don’t like how we have songs against racists and weak people who bully people, then they can fuck off,” said Cavicchi.
Interestingly enough, 2016 has proven to be a big year for extreme music, particularly Hardcore. Rightfully so, bands such as Nails and Full of Hell have been in the national spotlight being featured in mainstream publications like Rolling Stone and Vice. The members of Annihilate feel that this is an exciting time indeed to see this music begin to flourish.
“I feel like it is a huge time for extreme music. You see more and more fans of heavier styles of music showing up left and right and it’s a great feeling. We’ve kind of been the ‘black sheep’ of the music scene for decades so it’s definitely awesome that metal is becoming more accepted in our culture. The music we know and create is making a huge impression on people,” said vocalist Billy Russell.
However, they are unsure as to whether or not they would fit in with it completely.
“We don’t really know if we fit into the scene or not. We’ve never really thought about it that way,” said Russell.
“Deciding whether or not we fit into a scene is kind of funny when you think about it,” added bassist Graham Kirk. “The whole rise of Punk rock was based on the idea of not fitting in and that idea stayed true when it evolved into Hardcore. But if the entire Hardcore scene is just a bunch of misfits looking for a purpose then you can count us in.”
Cavicchi explained that although this scene is taking off nationally, and regionally, it’s yet to catch on in their hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.
“Our local scene in Youngstown is not so great for Hardcore music and fans. Regionally it’s alright, but Cleveland is where it seems to shine. Most venues here in Youngstown aren’t the biggest fans of the energy hardcore brings but I can see their angle. Cleveland, on the other hand, is pretty good for bands like us to play. Personally I’d like to see more venues open-minded to Hardcore and Punk bands playing even if the shows get wild. Those are the shows people remember for years,” said Cavicchi.
He also expressed the important of house shows and more DIY situations where the fans can be more directly involved.
“So for me, 2017 should be a year of more bands playing in Youngstown. Hell, even new bands can play house shows and not worry about what people think. Most bands around here are out for personal gain and I want to change that. We should come together and support each other. That too should be a big change made within the next year,” Cavicchi said.
More so than almost any other genre of music, Punk and Hardcore artists have always maintained a direct and somewhat personal relationship with their fans. The members of Annihilate are fully embracive of this practice and utilize social media to its maximum potential.
“Social media is definitely a great tool for gaining more of a following. We have all of these resources like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. at our disposal to connect with people from all around the world. They didn’t have that opportunity before the Internet crawled into the mainstream, so I’d say we’re pretty lucky to be a band in the generation we’re in as far as publicity is concerned. And I think shows should have a huge impression on the audience,” said Blose.
However, they indicate that a strong live show will leave the longest lasting impression on fans above all else.
“You want to captivate them in that moment and have them leave with something that isn’t tangible,” said Blose. “It takes more than standing in one spot and running through the motions to accomplish that. I’ve seen bands play that have impressed the fuck out of me musically, but they had one or two people watching them because they weren’t doing anything. They weren’t moving around, they weren’t interacting with the crowd; they just looked down at what they were playing the whole time and walked off stage when they were done. You’re only as good as you make yourself look.”
“As far as live shows go, I remember playing with Hatebreed and Acacia Strain when I was in Cherry Poppins and talking to Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. He gave me advice on how to get fans to show more support and what it means to be a part of this scene and what he told me has stuck to me since. He said, ‘I remember playing in front of a crowd of 10 people. Going, setting up and performing, not knowing what is going to happen next, but it didn’t matter what happened next. All we wanted to do was give a message to people that we didn’t give a fuck what people think. Just go out there and make them want more every single fucking time.’ I remember that clearly because that showed me that the bands I look up to have been in the spot we are in and we have the potential of doing something great,” added Russell.
Annihilate has some big plans moving forward into 2017. As of October 2016, they’ve began work with Billy Duganne at Legion Productions on recording their debut EP, which the band hopes to release by year’s end. In the meantime, you can listen to Annihilate’s debut single, “3:15,” by clicking here.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
An assortment of some of the area’s most well-known and eclectic talent will join forces this Friday at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts for a career-spanning tribute to Prince. Since his passing on April 21 of this year, there has been a far-reaching cry across the musical landscape for the iconic multi-instrumental songwriter. A fact no different here in the Valley, as musicians from acts such as The Zou, The Vindys and Jude Benedict and The Last Drop, among many more, will take the stage to express their love, admiration and gratitude for the works of The Purple One.
The event was spear-headed by Kyle O’Donnell and John Anthony, both of whom will be taking part in the performance. O’Donnell said musicians from Youngstown, Warren, and Pittsburgh, as well other parts of Pennsylvania will be taking part, for a diverse representation of the region.
“I actually didn’t even meet some of the guys in the band, who are from PA, until 2 days before our first rehearsal, but I’m excited that they’re willing to bring their talents to Youngstown for a night,” said O’Donnell.
The initial bond that unites these musicians is, of course, the music of Prince. Anthony said that following his death, he decided to analyze himself as a musician and just how important of a role Prince played.
“With the passing of Prince, I felt as a guitar player I always wanted to dive more into his musical vocabulary but always pushed it aside because my focus was always working on different music. Myself and our drummer, Kelvin Newell, had spoke about doing a Prince tribute show for years however we were never able to make a particular date work with our schedules. Once Prince passed, I like everyone else, began to revisit a lot of the music and felt that it was time to really study his guitar playing,” explained Anthony.
There’s no denying the impact Prince made on the musical landscape. Khaled Tabbara of The Zou explained the significance of Prince’s discography and how it influenced the sound of artists to follow.
“Prince’s is one of the greatest artists and performers in the history of modern music. His impact on rock and popular music is unsurpassed. Equal (or greater than in some ways) to the Beatles or Dylan. Even if you think you don’t like Prince, he is probably your favorite artist’s favorite artist. If you like, Beyonce, Beck, Dave Grohl, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Rhianna, Trent Reznor, or most things you hear on the radio, you are listening to music made by Prince fans,” said Tabbara.
O’Donnell said that his legacy is on par with that of greats like Michael Jackson.
“Some people might not believe it, but Prince was once talked about in the same breath as musicians such as Michael Jackson. Actually, the story goes that Michael Jackson asked Prince to sing on his song “Bad,” but Prince turned it down. Jackson is responsible for the best selling album of all time, so being considered to be on his level speaks to Prince’s talent,” said O’Donnell.
“He put out 1999, which is a totally cool, electronic synth-pop record, and about a year later, dropped Purple Rain, what many consider one of the greatest rock records ever made,” added Tabbara.
Anthony said that although he discovered Prince slightly later in the game, the impact was felt no less.
“Prince was an artist that I did not discover until high school. My parents did not play him in our house and it wasn’t until his performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction in 2004 that I found out who he was,” said Anthony.
O’Donnell, Tabbara and Anthony all agree that this tribute will give justice to Prince’s musical and cultural impact and turn casual or non-fans into believers.
“This show will obviously showcase the classics, but it will also showcase some of the lesser known tunes. I bet that we will have some audience members say to themselves, ‘Oh, I know this song,’ but they might never have realized that it was Prince. I think that this will really outline how even the non-fan was impacted by Prince’s music,” said O’Donnell.
“This show is full of musicians from across the musical spectrum; rock guys, pop girls, jazz and classical cats, funk and R&B fans. We all come from different musical influences, but we are all huge Prince fans,” added Tabbara.
All three musicians share an excitement and enthusiasm upon performing with one another, bringing out the best in one another and doing so in such an unconventional fashion.
“Many of the musicians who are playing this group were picked because of their love of his music. These individuals are some of the best musicians in the area who look at taking an artist’s work and playing it at the highest level of musicianship possible,” said Anthony.
“This is perhaps the most interesting part of this gig. I feel like the story behind the story is the band. In the past, myself and John Anthony have done a number of tribute shows with multiple groups of musicians,” added O’Donnell.
“I’ve known a lot of these musicians for a while, but I’m really excited to have a chance to finally play with them. It’s going to be a really dynamite show,” finished Tabbara.
O’Donnell said that although he doesn’t want to reveal too much, this tribute will be one to remember, with plenty of surprises in store.
“Well, I’m not going to give away too much about the set list, but Prince was very unique and eclectic, so the audience will experience a wide range of styles and themes. We will play music from four different decades, so we plan to cater to both the casual fan and the diehard one.
“Performance wise, we’re going to have a pretty good balance of group playing and solo jams. We have a huge amount of talent in the band and we want to showcase that as much as possible,” O’Donnell said.
“Like many of the other tribute shows that we have done, it’s always exciting to see the people who come to these shows because typically you see the excitement and nostalgia that a lot of this music is going to bring them,” added Anthony.
Lastly, O’Donnell commented that all of the greats to come before and after Prince, the timeless music will continue to inspire and intrigue generations to come.
“I think that Prince’s lasting influence was already being felt, even before his death. When you think about artists like Prince, David Bowie, Elton John, etc., it’s easy to go straight to the crazy outfits and the odd behavior. Beneath all of that, they are all incredible musicians who are very proficient at their craft. Moving forward, I think that future generations will have more awareness of who Prince was, the level of talent that he possessed, and just how prolific of a career he had,” O’Donnell said.
The Tribute will take place at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in downtown Youngstown on Friday, June 10. Here is the complete lineup of musicians involved:
Vocals: Khaled Tabbara – Youngstown, OH (Band leader for The Zou)
Guitar: John Anthony – Youngstown, OH (Guitarist for The Vindys)
Keyboard: Doug Finley – Pittsburgh, PA (Guitarist for Jude Benedict and The Last Drop)
Bass: Dave Traugh – Kiski Area, PA (Bassist for Jude Benedict and The Last Drop)
Drums: Kelvin Newell – Warren, OH
Backing Vocals: Katianne Timko – Youngstown, OH (K808)
Aux. Percussion: Jon Pincek – Pittsburgh, PA
Trumpet 1: Tim Tuite – Youngstown, OH
Trumpet 2: Kyle O’Donnell – Youngstown, OH
Trombone 1: Brian Mayle – Youngstown, OH
Trombone 2: Sean Durkin – Youngstown, OH
Saxophones: Stephen Harvey – Rochester, PA
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
As the seeming endless pool of unique original talent continues to pour out of every corner of the Mahoning Valley, one quartet is bringing the raw intensity of unrefined punk rock to the forefront.
Where’s Winona Now?, a fresh-faced teenage punk rock outfit, is carving quite the niche into the local scene. With memorizing high-profile performances throughout the area including Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in Youngstown, Dave Grohl Alley in Warren and the Outpost Concert Club in Kent, as well as a slot on one of 2016’s most-hyped events, Revive Arts and Music Festival, the band continue to steamroll their way onto the scene, picking up fans at every turn.
Through heartfelt and empowering lyrics, partnered with powerful music, the band are set to lead the next generation of the Steel Valley music scene.
Consisting of vocalist Lucy Sawyer, guitarist Tyler Toporcer, bassist Ryan Augustine and drummer Connor Lane, Where’s Winona Now? formed out of friendship, and a general love for music. The band’s sound is primarily in the vein of punk rock, with the influence of the fuzz-soaked alternative scene of the 1990s.
“Lucy is into a lot of Nirvana and Bikini Kill, Ryan likes Nirvana, Green Day and classic rock, Connor is into more metal bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Metallica, and I’m all over the place,” said Toporcer of his influences.
Despite coming from a much younger generation, Sawyer said that growing up, classic rock radio was a staple in her home.
“Definitely! My dad was always playing non-stop music,” said Sawyer.
“My dad listened to a lot of Metallica, and we’d listen to Rock 104, and I got into music that way,” added Lane.
Much like the band’s key influences, Where’s Winona Now? connect with their audience through deep personal lyrics that reflect where they are in their lives. Through long jam sessions, the band carefully sift through their music and piece together each song.
“I write all the lyrics. Definitely about personal events, relationships and not-so-good relationships. They jam and I pick out the parts that I like,” explained Sawyer.
One of the recurring themes through the band’s songs is the idea of embracing imperfection and being comfortable in one’s own skin.
“I think the point of [the band] is that we’re not perfect. And we want to reach people like that, we want to make sure everyone knows they have somebody,” said Sawyer.
“It’s a nice thing to relate to,” added Toporcer. “Not being pressured to be perfect, just be yourself.”
This is a sentiment that Sawyer said is lacking in popular music today.
“It’s just really general stuff, and I get that. But there’s not much that’s real personal that makes you feel that way too,” said Sawyer.
The members of Where’s Winona Now? all agree that they are at their best in a live setting, where the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. Original songs such as “Tell Me Why,” “Bad News” and “Her Song” capture the raw emotion the band conveys through both their music and lyrics. And with a slew of noteworthy, attention-grabbing live performances already under their under their belt, the band has successfully hit the ground running.
One area the band have most successfully carved a niche into is the revived downtown Youngstown music scene, where the band feel most at-home.
“I definitely think it’s better that the scene is coming back here, because we had to drive up to Kent and Akron to play shows a lot,” said Sawyer.
It’s nice to play shows where people around here are excited to hear us rather than try to get 20 people to pay for tickets to drive up to Kent to see us,” added Augustine.
Sawyer said that she believes it’s very important to have a strong scene in a central location such as that of downtown Youngstown with all of the great culture and talent that surrounds it.
“I think it’s important just because locally it feels like we were culturally starved for a little bit, especially after the Wickyards shut down,” said Sawyer.
As the downtown Youngstown scene continues to expand and rebuild, Where’s Winona Now?, along with a handful of their peers, find themselves smack in the middle of an exciting new movement.
While band look to hit the studio for their first proper recording in the near future, they have a few high-profile performances to keep fans satisfied for the meantime.
“We’ll be at the BuzzBin Arcade and Music Ship in Canton on June 3 and Revive Arts and Music Festival in downtown Youngstown on July 16,” finished Toporcer.
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