The jukebox is blaring something you cannot seem to recognize. It sounds new but awful. It sound manufactured and made on a computer by a soulless hack who made the beat on a lunch break and sold it for 1.2 million so some rich teen princess could sing over it or some guy with a fohawk could front his very own pop/rock collective. This sounds very mean-spirited, but it is not meant to be. Some music is just so drab and calculated.
And then some tattooed middle aged guy with a receding hair line steps up to the jukebox, puts in a couple of bucks, and ten minutes later you recognize the booming sounds of Boston’s guitar wail, the harmless fun of Jimmy Buffett’s croon, or the wailing rock and roll yell of Steven Tyler.
TheRockin45’s is an old school rock group through and through. The band is even named after the old 45 vinyls that a growing number of older dads and ironic hipsters still buy (the 45 resurgence means that my new vinyl copy of Sticky Fingerz costs $45). The band is Matt Nappo on guitar, Mike Barone on drums, Bill Capozzi on bass, and the ever-ready Mike Scarione with the vocals. The band is special for their long sets of party rock songs throughout history. This isn’t the dance music booming through clubs one minute and gone forever into the ether of nothingness the next. Remember LMFAO’s Party Rock from summer 2011? Neither do we.
The group has a natural knack to perform material that spans the breadth of the musical lexicon. For example, the band can cover brand new tunes with a big guitar edge. And they do not choose the songs that vanish within a month, for they know a good song when they hear it. No, these songs have weight. These selections show the largeness of the guitar and the immortality of a great dance hook not created from a software program template. But they perform many classics as well, not to mention a whole slew of old school rock originals. The music floats quietly and then barrels through the audience, as they anticipate the grand scale that hook-based guitar rock is known for.
The group also maintains a lot of love for music in a very real and tangible way. The band sends 50% of their digital sales to the Fender Music Foundation that funds music education and indie music culture from young and talented musicians that made not be able to make ends meet while following their pursuits.
It is a very wholesome ideal, and something that ultimately brings us full circle. TheRockin45’s has the utmost respect for rock and roll music as a whole. But it goes a little deeper. Despite the idea of manufactured soulless pop hackery, they really do appreciate and adore all kinds of music. It appears in their material when they cover the Zac Brown Band with energetic gusto, and they play big bombastic guitar songs with a mighty drawl. It is time to party. But better yet, it is time to show respect. These things can come together when a group so devoted and in love with who came before them agrees on that big unifying theme.
The Levity Ball was honored to sit down with Matt Nappo to learn more:
What was the first year of TheRockin45’s official banding together like?
“The band came together as CA3 and it was much different at the beginning. I was the guy who put the band together as well as the set lists, arrangements and wrote the originals. The first year with the current lineup was very exciting. We immediately attracted a huge following, thanks in large part to a group of locals that had adopted us as the mile favorite, on Freeport’s nautical Mile, a seaside destination in Long Island, N.Y. WE started playing 4 or 4 gigs per week on the mile and even went through the off season, at a time when none of the clubs there ever had bands in the off season. We were the first and we were packing to clubs to the point where the sidewalks outside would be overflowing into the streets for hours. The first few gigs we plead on the mile we played 5 and 1/2 hours straight with no breaks and we became known for that. Musically we were raw and loud and full of energy.”
I don’t want to ask what your direct influences are because it’s so cliché, but is there one artist that you place in this immortal pedestal and the band would not be the same without them?
“Not really a single artist. I am the writer of all the original material and I have been writing for 45 years. I always tried to draw on new influences constantly as a write and the diversity of our originals show that. It’s kind of hard to put a in a genre. On Reverbnation, we’ve been a Pop band, a rock band, a country band and even a modern dance and done well in all those genres. Performance wise, it’s all about high energy and Mikey brings kind of the fury that Meatloaf had in Bat Out Of hell to everything he does. I don’t think that’s intentional and he’s not a fan like I am, he just has the persona. The band is more like a 3-piece East Street band meet the Ramones. High energy, full tilt until somebody calls the cops.”
What are you feelings on this new vinyl resurgence?
“As out name suggests, we grew up on 45 RPM singles and loved when records were records. Personally I’m not a format snob. I love Vinyl, but I don’t hate anything that you can listen to music on.”
Do you see it as a glorified trend or is there something richer and longer lasting in a contemporary embrace of this classic medium?
“Somebody somewhere is working on a chip to put in your brain that delivers a personal soundtrack of you choosing directly to the nervous system. Music delivery has changed so much. All we care about is that somebody wants to listen to us.”
Do you have as much respect for new music as you do the past music, or is it a different type of feeling?
“There’s so much music now and there’s more to love and more to not to love and there’s more to hate. We respect a lot of new stuff but try not to get caught up in what’s trending. So much of what’s new is recycled of what’s old in some way so it’s all good. I personally hate when I hear someone my age complaining that music isn’t what it was in the old days. They sound like their parents and grandparents. The minute you stop growing, you start dying. There’s always something new that you can learn from.”
What are some bands or artists you really enjoy that would surprise a few people?
“Barenaked Ladies, Nine Inch Nails, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Kings Of Leon, Sade, Tower of Power, Hermans Hermits, Eminem, The Chemical Bros.”
What place does music and this group have in your personal life?
“Is my wife going to read this? Haha,it’s all consuming at times. I write songs in my sleep, I play while I eat and edit recordings on the throne.”
What do you believe is the main thing about music and/or the industry that has changed in the last ten years?
“The music industry as it was is dead. The new model for monetizing music is still being created. Of course those with the hammer are using it to take advantage of artists in the distribution end. Like Jeff Zucker said “we’re traded analog dollars for digital pennies”, when it comes to corporation s. but individual independents are starting to use the current opportunities for self-distribution to cut some of the corporations out of the picture. We will always be independent and we’ve had great success where we couldn’t arrested back in the day when major labels ran the show.”
What is the quintessentional album?
“Too many but some that immediately come to mind: Born To Run, The Beatles (white album), Dark Side Of The Moon, Bat Out Of Hell.”
I am an album guy first and foremost and I almost always listen to music in an album format front to back. Do you see the album, and I mean releasing music in 10-12 song sets, as a dying form of release?
“In a large way…yes. Short attention span theater and all Artists in the social media era have to keep producing and releasing to keep the audience. Singles come out often and then the album. Of course the album will still be available but it’s hard to have the patience and time to work on an album without being distracted by “the feed me now” internet.”
Great music and everlasting music goes through a time-test and cultural sifting. Is there any groups now you believe have a great chance of remaining elites in 20-30 years time?
“Great question! I guess I’m pretty clueless about forecasting. My guess would be some the hip hop stars will have a lasting effect. I like Eminem’s chances of still being celebrated 40 and 50 years from now. I can’t think of one pop or rock star at the moment that I would bet would have the lasting impression a Beatles or Led Zeppelin has.”
You seem to see old school rock and roll as a close companion to dance, where I would argue that many fans see them as very separate entities. What do you think of this balance between rock and roll and party dance?
“Music is music and whatever people get up and dance to is dance music. It doesn’t matter to us if some DJ wants to play it in a trendy club or it is part of the cultural perception of dance music. We get people dancing to some songs that would have never been considered dance music.”
You work with the Fender Music Organization and donate a percent of digital music sales to their efforts. I think that is a big testament to your respect for music as a whole. How did that come about?
“That was really an option choice with the online distributor that puts us in all the mp3 stores. We like to give back but hate the politics of Charities. The Fender group is good at seeing that most of the donations actually get the people or causes that they represent so we chose them. We do a lot of pro-bono shows when we can.”
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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