New year, new music
Local acts have big plans for 2019
By GARY S. ANGELO
Tribune Chronicle correspondent
Many area acts have new music planned for the new year. Here’s a rundown of what to expect from more than dozen area acts in 2019.
Hubbard native Katianne Timko and Austintown native Khaled Tabbara now live in Studio City, Calif., and the music they’ve made there has been featured in several national advertising campaigns.
The pair is releasing new songs (with accompanying videos) monthly that eventually will be compiled as an EP in 2019.
“Our most recent single ‘Check It’ kicks off this new record,” Tabbara said. “We’ll keep releasing singles monthly and music videos for a few months until we decide to drop the rest of it sometime in 2019.
“As far as musical influences with this new music, we worship Rick Rubin and a lot of the noisy layered production of the Bomb Squad and the Dust Brothers. Also, the Spice Girls are in EVERYTHING we do. We’ve also been taking in a lot of new inspiration from Open Eagle Mike, Lizzo, Ariana Grande and Tank and the Bangas,” Tabbara said.
“We’ve been really lucky in 2018 to get to make art together every single day. The plan is to keep it up in 2019 and make tons of music, album art and music videos and then get all of it out to the world.”
The Deadbeat Poets / Blue Ash
Deadbeat Poets will release a full-length album, tentatively titled “Box Full of Tears,” in 2019 on the Australian label Grown Up Wrong! Records. Led by Frank Secich, the band also includes Infidels’ bandmates Pete Drivere, John Hlumyk and John Koury. Secich said power pop hooks and catchiness are on steroids with the new material.
“The combination of John Hlumyk on bass and me on rhythm guitar makes this new record powerful,” Secich said. “This record will feature some really wild songs such as ‘She’s With Me’ by Drivere, ‘Box Full of Tears’ by Koury, ‘Easy For You’ by Hlumyk, ‘Sanitary George’ and ‘Joe The Myna Bird’ by me. It’s nice being in a band where everyone sings and writes songs. We will also cover The Infidels songs ‘Michael’ and ‘Don’t Walk Away Marie.'”
When Jim Kendzor joins the lineup, the band becomes Blue Ash, the rock / power pop act Kendzor and Secich led in the 1970s. Blue Ash also has new music planned for 2019 on Grown Up Wrong! Records. Secich said “Dinner At Mr. Billy’s” is in the same vein as Blue Ash’s classic material.
“Jim Kendzor could still sing like he is 18 years old. Kendzor and I have been active in the music scene since 1966, and we are glad to still be putting out quality music,” he said. “The album will include a newly re-recorded version of the classic Blue Ash song ‘Halloween Girl,’ a cover of Badfinger’s classic ‘Baby Blue,’ a new song Kendzor and I wrote called ‘Cousin Dicky’s Shirt’ and a song called ‘Flagpole 3:05.'”
Expect a more production-heavy sound on the band’s upcoming EP, according to lead singer Jackie Popovec. The EP does not have a title yet, but it definitely has a new musical direction.
“With our previous album, I wanted to incorporate more guitar parts for John Anthony, but with this new EP, I would like to include more breathing room for the drums and the horn section,” she said.
“I have been test-driving some of these new songs at our live shows just to see how our audiences respond to them. I had people telling me that these newer songs are their favorites, but they do not appear on any albums yet,” she said.
“The song that I am really excited about that will appear on our new EP is called ‘Misery,’ which to me feels like pure rock ‘n’ roll. This song is more complicated arrangementwise, and the drums are the central focus of the song. Our latest single ‘Want Your Heart’ is an example of the production-heavy direction we are going for on our newer music.
“When writing these new songs, my most recent musical influences have been the Black Keys, The Record Company and a little bit of Florence and The Machine,” Popovec said.
The Warren blues guitarist calls his upcoming release “Decay In Our Cities” a “grand tour of the blues” because every style of the blues is represented. The album balances social-economic-labor themes with stories of old bar rooms and the people of his hometown. Musically, it includes acoustic fingerstyle, blues-rock power trio, slide guitar, Delta blues, New Orleans and Chicago blues.
“The first single off the album, ‘Nobody Wants To Budge’ is about the political war dividing the country and sounds like a classic B.B. King song,” Knapp said. “The title track features the power trio sound and speaks of the toughness and resiliency of living in the Rust Belt.
“Also exciting is that my father, Peter Knapp, makes a ‘guest’ appearance with a spoken word track called ‘Scary Dude,’ backed by only my guitar. The song ‘Sideshow’ is an old song I wrote as a tribute to a local band I grew up listening to in the bars around Warren and Niles. The track ‘Song For Jim’ is about a dear friend of mine who passed away in 2018 and is my first ever instrumental original composition,” Knapp said.
The Youngstown band’s single “Reckless Love” will be featured this month on the compilation “A Fistful More of Rock & Roll Volume 1.”
Sal Canzonieri, founder of the New Jersey punk rock act Electric Frankenstein, created a compilation series in the late 1990s called “A Fistful of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” which he documented the very best of all of the garage punk greats of the ’90s and 2000s, and Canzonieri is relaunching the series with the January release.
Turbo Lovers guitar player B.J. Lisko said, “The comp also features some notable rock acts including Electric Frankenstein, Backyard Babies, The Hip Priests and the Adolescents. They’re currently taking pre-orders on colored vinyl and CDs. It’s awesome to not only be included, but to have been chosen for the first volume of the relaunch. The original ‘Fistful of Rock’ comps introduced me to so many cool rock bands that I hadn’t heard before … It’s an honor to be included.”
Excellent musicianship runs in the blood in the Rutushin family. Chris Rutushin fronts Radio Lark, and his brother Michael Rutushin leads Larry Elefante, which will release its debut album, “I Get Sentimental,” in 2019.
The album draws on his experiences living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Athens. Side A incorporates a little bit of honky tonk, outlaw country and what Rutushin likes to describe as “back porch” music, while Side B is comprised of groove-laden strolling songs.
“For me, ‘I Get Sentimental’ is an homage to family, friendships and failed love and the bittersweet in general,” Rutushin said. “This album is my first studio effort. I wrote most of these songs while living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and most of these songs are about failed love and about the idea of meandering through love in general and trying to find home or the idea of home.
“There is a lot of swaggering vibrato on the album and this swagger in the music overcompensates for the content of the songs. It’s like I am giving myself a pep talk. I like to take something that is broken and fix it with gold,” he said.
A Kickstarter / pre-order campaign for “I Get Sentimental” will launch in mid-January, when the digital version will be available. A vinyl release is planned for late February.
Guitarist / vocalist Dominic Ferreri said that the band currently is working on a few singles at Crushtone Studio in Cleveland with producer Jim Wirt. Wirt played bass in the ’80s power pop act Fools Face and has worked with such acts as The Plimsouls, Alien Ant Farm, Fiona Apple and Incubus.
“We are in the process of finishing three songs entitled, ‘From the Beginning,’ ‘Regal’ and ‘Grey,'” he said. “All three songs dabble in run-of-the-mill nihilism and backhanded positivity. We think it’s going to be pretty good.
“So far we aren’t sure whether we are going to package them together as an EP or release them all separately. There is a strong chance that we will never release a full album. Short is better. We think it is less annoying.
“Honestly, we’ve somehow become less diverse. We decided to kick the experimental stuff out the window and roll with what we know, like the E chord, standard tuning, that sort of thing. We are actually really looking forward to getting these little ditties out there,” Ferreri said.
Formerly known as Facepunch, this Youngstown alternative rock act features Eric Albenze, on lead guitar and Mike Hermensky on lead vocals and rhythm guitar joined by new members Howard Burns, drums, and Anthony Village, bass.
The band will release three singles in 2019 — “Oh Boy,” “Bitten” and “Gravity” — recorded in Cleveland with producer and engineer Jim Wirt.
“Working with Jim Wirt was a great experience for us all,” Hermensky said. “His years of background in the music industry pushed us to be the best musicians we could and to play to our full potential. Working with him gave us a cool grunge rock sound, which even surpassed our previous sound.”
The Service Monkeys
This Youngstown punk rock act, which captures the DIY spirit of Husker Du and early Soul Asylum, will release an EP titled “At Your Service!” this year. Singer and guitar player Alex Richards said the EP will include new versions of some older songs.
“Our new EP includes a total reimagining of fan favorites such as ‘What’s The Story?’ and ‘Knives Out!’ We are also including a never-before-released song called ‘Walk The Plank.’ We’re completely taking a whole different route with the new album. We’re combining a more alternative touch to our sound, while still keeping those punk roots in our music. We are currently about six songs deep into the writing process and can’t wait for everyone to hear what we have in store.
“We take influences from almost everything, from local bands like The Moms and Washer, to big ones living the dream, like Weezer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Descendents and NOFX have always influenced us so much throughout our musical structures and songwriting. We’re influenced by a lot of punk bands around the area, but most of all, we’re influenced by all of the support from our fans who push us to keep going. We wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”
Hawkins may live in Columbus now, but her Youngstown root still are near and dear to her heart. Her upcoming release, “When You Love A Traveler,” will include 13 originals with areas musicians adding upright bass, percussion, fiddle, steel pedal guitar and brass.
The title track was inspired by a trip she and her partner took last summer from the Adirondacks to Maine.
“It kind of fits as the overall theme for the record, because many of the songs talk about adventures I have had in different cities and states,” Hawkins said. “I did not realize how much I was influenced by my travels until I lumped all of my favorite songs together to be recorded. I think my favorite part of my adventures is that they are all crazy, only half-planned and just filled to the brim with adventure, breathtaking scenery and connections with people that I will never forget.
“I have fallen in love and out of love, reunited with family I haven’t seen in 20 years and met new people who became lifelong friends, all while traveling,” she said.
“I am so excited about this record, because it is so personal to me, and when I listen to it, I can’t help but smile. If someone was meeting me for the first time and said ‘tell me about yourself’, I would hit play and let my music do the talking.”
A release show is planned in March at Westside Bowl in Youngstown.
Songwriter and musician Alex Myers will release a full-length album under the name Mumble King. Myers, who also writes and records under the hip-hop moniker MCACM, is working on the record with Kenny Halbert of the band Wild Wings.
“The lead track is called ‘Before Long We’ll All Be Dead,’ and that will set the tone for the album,” Myers said. “That was the first song I wrote that catapulted me to write more songs and birthed Mumble King.
“Like the name of that song, the album will be a raw, in-the -face collection of how I feel about the world as it is. Stylistically, the album will be in the vein of acoustic punk with indie, folk, and hardcore elements. I intend to utilize the vast amount of talent the Youngstown area produces, and ask other musicians to play on each song. I’d like to release the album by November.”
Between The Witches
Between the Witches released several singles in 2017, but the band (Bob Smrecansky, guitar; Eric Tharp, bass; Ian James, drums and electronics; and Tony Cucitrone, guitar, modular and electronics) will release its debut album in 2019. Its sound is reminiscent to heavy experimental acts such as Don Caballero and Breadwinner with the progressive rock approach of “Red”-era King Crimson.
“The songs are already written,” Smrecansky said. “We are ironing out the details. Musical influences for us are all over the place. We all love King Crimson, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Yes.”
The Youngstown alt-rock veterans — whose sound harkens back to the layered guitar sounds of Galaxie 500, The Chills, Flying Saucer Attack and Bailter Space — will head into the studio soon to begin work on a full-length album. Guitarist / vocalist Ed “Sarge” Villabona said that the band has worked on a whole set of eight new songs for 2019.
“On these new songs, I incorporate more alternate tunings in my guitar playing more so than I did on our previous recordings,” he said. “This makes you think differently, and melodies come out of nowhere. I am playing a lot more droning and angular guitar arpeggios with these new songs.
“Our sound has changed a bit. We have a new drummer, Bill Griffith (who has played in local act Rainbow Tribe), and he has more nuance in his drumming. … The new songs are more open and ethereal, and we go off into musical tangents. The songs have more unpredictability within the context of the melody that is there in the song.”
The songwriter plans to release a five-song EP in February titled “What A Shame.” It also will include a a music video for the song “Daytrippin,” which he directed, and a deluxe package will include a CD, a sticker, a T-shirt and a screen print of the album art, signed by local artist Chauncey Hay.
Stylistically Brooke is going for a more stripped down and light approach, whereas his previous release, “LIMBO,” was a straight-forward pop rock album.
“(It) will feature light percussion, no drum set and center itself around the unique finger picking of an acoustic guitar,” he said. “If you took the sounds of ‘LIMBO’ and married it to the new songs, I think you would have a good understanding of where our sound is heading. There’s a lot more work put into not just the recordings, but everything surrounding it. Proper logos done by Lexi Kays, album art by local artist Chauncey Hay and a beautifully crafted bio by Shilo Niehorster.”
Earl Lee Graves
Youngstown native Michael Andrecic played lead guitar with Zhopa Mira and The Automatons, but he tackles all the instruments on his new solo project Earl Lee Graves. He will will release a six-song EP titled, “Oh $!%#, Earl Lee Graves Goes Hard in The Paint” later this year.
“I always ended up being the lead guitar player in the previous projects I played in out of necessity, but I’ve always been more than that,” he said.
“The music of Earl Lee Graves is very song-oriented. Since this is the first time I’ve sang for any project, I’ve spent a lot of time on the lyrical content and the melodies. I’ve noticed I have some weird views on reality and life, and I want that to shine through.
“Also I’m really proud of the drum tracks I’ve captured on tape. Earl Lee Graves is psychedelic lo-fi indie rock with big, big percussion,” he said.