Local acts prep albums and EPs for 2018

The year 2017 was fertile ground for growth of new local bands and the expanding landscape of established bands in the area. Here is a sampling of what 2018 will bring for local acts.


Chris Rutushin, Rick Deak, Patrick Majernik and Scott Burns will release their third album this year. Rutushin called it a big step forward from the band’s 2012 debut, “The Firefly Sessions.”

“We draw from a lot of influences, including Britpop, world music, Americana and blues, and on our new album, some of these genres are more direct and some of them aren’t,” he said. “It’s a happy balance of all. All four of us work on the writing process together. I am not saying this did not happen in the past, but with this new record, the songwriting process feels more natural and organic. Some songs on the new record include ‘Long Way Home,’ which has a Rolling Stones vibe, and ‘Lone White Horse,’ which has a post-Britpop indie vibe.

“We have been talking about releasing ‘Wildflower’ on vinyl, which would be more exciting. We were hoping to release the album on Record Store Day, but there is no way. We are still going to play on Record Store Day 2018 at The Record Connection (in McKinley Heights) to showcase the new songs. I would like to also put out a music video for ‘Long Way Home.'”


The band — led by brothers Adrian, David and Cristian Labra — garnered airplay on The Summit (90.7/91.3 FM) with the song “The Middle” from its self-titled EP and became a popular local live act. It will try to continue that success with a full-length CD expected in the spring. The band also features Bob Young, Danny Svenson and Matt Hayes.

“We will have 11 or 12 songs featured on it and we are currently in the early stages of recording,” Adrian Labra said. “One of the songs featured on the new CD is called ‘Alright,’ and we have a video for that song that we recorded with Jim Stickel of ‘Youngstown Playlist.’

“I think that this new album shows our development as a band. We felt our first recording, ‘The Labra Bros. EP’ was more bare bones, but with the new songs, we are finding our niche. We have other songs on the new release, but we are trying to put more emphasis on ‘Alright,’ which we plan on releasing as a single.”


The Warren blues guitar player has no fewer than four releases planned for 2018.

“Maui in the Sun,” originally slated for 2017, features music he wrote with his late father, Peter Knapp of I Don’t Care fame, in 2003.

“Working on our music again was like working with him again, and that has made the process very inspiring and got me back in the groove regarding recording and producing my original music,” Knapp said. “After two years of working on the material at Tune Town with Mike Talanca, ‘Maui In The Sun’ is finished and I feel like our songs are now ready to be released.

“Special guests on the album include John Sferra, Gary Lee McKimmie, Teddy Pantelas, Jeff Bremer, Roger Hatfield, Bill Scudieri, Kevin Mazey, Mike Talanca, Matt Petrarca and Darren Thompson.”

Two additional projects were influenced by his father. “Early Demos of the I Don’t Care Band,” featuring Frank Bayzie, will be the first new music from that group since its 1976 Buddha Records release “Ask Anyone,” and Knapp is working on a spoken word record of his father’s writings.

Knapp, who plays about 150 gigs a year solo and with other bands, also plans to release his first live album, “Live from Realsville,” which will include his favorite live recordings from the last 10 years.


Fred Whitacre, who has played in such area bands Ctrl+Alt Rewind and White Cadillac, is working on a solo release for 2018 as well as a Kitchen Knife Conspiracy record.

His 2013 solo debut, “The Stars May Be Hollow,” featured songs from a project where every track was written and recorded in less than five hours. The new record won’t have the same restrictions.

“This time around, I can be more selective and take my time,” he said. “I think this will create a more cohesive record. Vocally, I really want to nail this. My songs for the last album were really on a rigid time restriction. If I’m feeling saucy and want to layer multiple vocal lines, I can do that this time around. Many of my influences include The Carpenters, Weezer and Bad Religion. I love them because of their vocal patterns and harmonies. This next record will allow me to really explore my range. No rush but more refinement.”

Some of the musicians he’s working with on the project include Scott Lowry and Paco Magallon on guitars, Noll Hartman on bass and guitar, Angie DeNicholas on acoustic guitar and vocals and Daniel Gordon on piano.

KKC — Ian Pethtel, vocals; Jeremy Cibella and Kevin Lewis, guitars; and Whitacre, drums — has a series of albums in the works.

“Hopefully, we’ll release all of the albums by the conclusion of 2018. Knowing our past history, it might take until 2021, but we’ll set this goal and try to stick with it,” Kihm said.

Pethtel said the band is not going to go for a theme, like they did on their 2014 release, “Seven Deadly Sins.”

“These songs won’t have that thematic connection, but we’ve got a bunch of crazy ideas,” Pethtel said. “In the past, we’ve written songs about everything from the trains wrecking to the legend of El Chupacabra. So nothing is out of the realm of possibility.”


Bernadette Lim is no stranger to local audiences as a member of The Zou, creative director of Black Lace & Burlesque and a regular in Rust Belt Theater Company productions. She will add solo artist to that resume with a 2018 album that has the working title of “Iridescent.”

Lim said her sound is primarily driven by vocals and piano and has R&B and atmospheric elements. Over the summer, she collaborated with Sam Buonavolonta (of Sam Goodwill) on the song “Wait” at the Historian Recording Company, and she said the recording experience was incredible.

“I remember driving there, nervous as hell, and once I walked in, I just felt so comfortable and inspired,” she said. “Working with Sam broke down a lot of barriers for me. I’ve always been so apprehensive about sharing my work with people, especially someone I respect so much musically. I’m really happy with how our song turned out.

“I’m currently recording a few songs at FF Studios with Chris Hartman (of Frederick Fleet). We’re wrapping up a song called, ‘White Flag.’ It’s one of the first songs I wrote on guitar, and believe me, I should stick to playing piano. Hartman, being the super talented musician he is, recorded the guitar track and helped me make this song into a really cool, unique sounding jazzy-pop track. I’m looking forward to a more creative and collaborative year.”


Singer-songwriter Leo D’Angelo successfully fuses elements of blues and Americana in his music, and his 2018 release, “A Will & Testament,” will be his first collection of all-original material. The goal is to open up new doors and share his music with people.

“Altogether there are nine songs on the album,” he said. “Some I’ve been playing for a couple of years and a few are newer to the set. Most of the songs on the album are Americana, like ‘Have A Ball’ and ‘My Blue Tattoo of Sweet Jane Lew,’ but some of the newer songs flirt between the lines of folk and classic R&B like ‘Behind Blurred Lines.’ My friend Pat Majernik plays drums and percussion on the album as well organ.”


Hayden Brooke will release his debut full-length album this year, tentatively titled, “After Neverland.” in 2018. He called it a collection of new and old songs that he has been working on over the years, including “Manana,” “Porno Queen” and “Simply Sweet.”

“I feel as though we have really progressed since our previous EP release ‘LIMBO,'” he said. “The cumulative attempts at recording in the past, have led us on a journey of discovery. There’s more instruments and musicians featured on this record. We have Patrick Majernik recording keys, piano as well as drums and auxiliary percussion (he’s also the recording engineer). Adam Shuntich will be laying down electric guitar tracks, as he previously did for my band on the last release. We’ve also been attempting, successfully, new recording techniques and using very little post effects. We’re trying to make it feel like a live album without actually recording it in that manner.”


The upcoming album by the indie rock act featuring Chris Hartman, Gene Wilson, Mike Wagner and Dave Cirelli has been in the works for three years.

Hartman said he started FF as a one-man show that performed exclusively at open mics, but it has evolved into a full band with guitar solos, thoughtful music and devoted fans. Hartman and Wilson wrote all of the songs on the new record, described as mostly fast-paced, no-frills rock songs.

“We could speak volumes about each song on the album, but we’ll just provide a summary instead,” Hartman said. “‘No Black Hole’ comes to mind first. It’s a solo-laden, rocket-propelled burner about the amazing things that can happen when people come together. Then there’s ‘Keep It On’ and ‘The Spins,’ two catchy, fast-paced bangers about surrendering to the timeless power of music. There’s the paranoia-fueled ‘Voices’ and ‘It’s a Crime,’ that explore the recognition of and rebellion against the system, much like George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ Finally, there’s ‘Tricked’ and ‘Pillar of Salt,’ our most cathartic songs, that are about being stuck in the past and lacking personal identity.”

The band is in the middle of recording the album, which is scheduled for a spring release.


Lee Boyle started the new year releasing “Poem Idea,” a solo album being released under the name of his band, Third Class. He described the sound of the solo recordings as poetic pop.

“(It) showcases a less-is-more mentality in that my songwriting style has become catchier and more minimal in instrumentation,” Boyle said. “I’ve made a conscious effort to write happier songs for once in my life, and I’m excited to try to make a more positive impression with a lighter and more romantic feel to the songs. I’ve made a conscious effort to write happier songs and I’m excited to try to make a more positive impression with a lighter and more romantic feel to the songs.”


The C.S. Lewis book of the same name is the inspiration for “The Four Loves,” an EP in the works from this Youngstown band.

“Thematically, it’s going to reflect the four aspects of love that’s addressed in the book, and how they apply to the world we live in, for better or worse,” said Jennifer Elizabeth Rose, lead singer, guitar and keyboard player and songwriter. “Our hope is to draw conclusions as to what the world needs during these dark times, particularly when it involves universal love.” Rose said.

The band successfully combines the goth post-punk elements balanced with a melodic sludge metal influence. Guitar player/songwriter Rick Polo said the band hopes to expand on the sounds they established on their previous records, “Empress (III)/Emperor (IV)” and “Aphrodite Laughs.”

“We aren’t even sure where it’s going at this point, but we are excited to embrace our electronic, industrial and trip-hop influences and see what happens! It’s been a lot of fun,” Polo said.


“Almost Great” is the tentative title for the Turbo Lovers’ planned 2018 release, recorded at Mars Studio in Ravenna. Guitar player and vocalist B.J. Lisko said the band (Christian DeSantis, drums, and Keith Dougherty, bass) differed a bit from its formula of big choruses, big guitars, big hooks and melodies.

“Comparatively to what Turbo Lovers has done, it’s a touch more metal in parts, but also a touch poppier in terms of song structure,” Lisko said. “Rehearsals are a necessity, and we seem to necessarily avoid them whenever possible, but we’ve played together so long now, it’s sort of old hat at this point. Our style is still firmly stuck in 1987 and we’re proud of it.”


Whiskey Pilot, a veteran of such festivals as Federal Frenzy and The Big Kick It, captures the no-nonsense, sheer pop sensibility of The Replacements, Silkworm and Pavement.

Possible titles for its upcoming EP include “It’s Still Tolerable” “Whoopsie Daisy” and “Mediocre at Best,” according to lead singer / guitarist Dominic Ferreri. The band also includes Jack Mocker, guitar; Ben Ratner, bass; and David Ramsey, drums.

Ferreri said that the band may shoot for six or seven songs on the upcoming EP, instead of five, the number included on 2017’s “It’s Tolerable.”

“The new songs are more collective in theme and in sound than the last release,” he said. “A couple of the new songs that will be on the EP are going to be called ‘From the Beginning,’ ’96 Regal’ and ‘Mickey Mantle’. The lyrics, obviously, are drawn from our life experiences, and the songwriting revolved a lot around the E chord.

“The new record is more cohesive than the last one and the songs flow a lot better. The last EP was a mixture of old songs that we wrote early on and some that we had written right before we went in to the studio. As far as reflecting on our growth, I don’t believe we really grew at all. We’ve mastered being ‘pretty alright.’ Don’t let our mediocrity fool you, we are really excited and it’s going to be great to listen to while you vacuum the living room or mow the lawn.”


The noise rock duo might be a new act, but the band’s sound embodies a heavy dose of early 1990s nostalgia, influenced by the likes of Halo of Flies, Green Magnet School, Unsane and Cherubs. Jake Brandenstein (bass and vocals) and Dante DelBene (drums) plan to release an EP called “riB” in 2018.

Brandenstein and DelBene both agree that whenever the band plays live, there’s always an element consisting of nervous energy — not nervous as in shyness, but rather uncertainty. It makes the duo’s live set is captivating and surprising to the listener.

“When people see us for the first time, they don’t know what to expect when they see a two-piece consisting of a drum set and a bass guitar with only two strings on it,” Brandenstein said. “That sort of puzzling aura is what we wanted to emulate on this EP. A year ago, we had a completely different mindset and hadn’t quite found an identity. Recently, we composed a litter of noisy pieces that perfectly encapsulate who are and where we’re headed musically. Compared to our old material, we feel this EP is sharper, more focused and reflects the energy of our live presence.”