A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN A YEAR
The confetti has settled (but we're still finding glitter in curious places), the horns have long ceased honking (but an occasional ringing still lingers in our ears), the dogs have stopped shaking because the fireworks are over (though we may still find a little "surprise" in the basement or random corner), and all that's left of 2016 is the unshakeable hangover--figuratively AND literally as some of us old guys are still rehydrating, rubbing our necks, and recovering!
Well-rested and ready to conquer the world or raging headaches with that mysterious spasm behind the left eye aside we're still feeling the New Year's Eve effect as a flood of well-wishes, hope for new beginnings, prophecies of a prosperous and positive new year, and even celebratory cheers for the death of a brutal 2016 ripple across our favorite social media. Well, while most of these folks are focusing on the future we here in Roi and the Secret People decided it was worth pausing to take one last look backwards at what was actually one helluva great year that left us overflowing with optimism of all that's to come in 2017--a reflection that finds us beaming with thanks for all the people who joined us on this year's epic journey and helped us work towards the big goals we set in 2016!
ROI AND THE PLAYOFF PEOPLE
Like any and every year we had plenty of ups and downs during this one--some slam dunks, some fumbles, some solid drives, some setbacks, and a healthy share of touchdowns. Yeah, there's plenty of NFL playoff talk and bowl games on the TV as we type this so why shy away from the sports analogies? :) Sitting here studying RSP's 2016 game-film and analyzing our ever-evolving game plan brings to mind a favorite Vince Lombardi quote:
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we shall catch excellence.”
In the 2016 season Roi and the Secret People didn't achieve perfection or accomplish every single goal--but in the pursuit of those goals we made a heck of a lot of halftime adjustments which lead to some unexpectedly really cool things happening for the team. And by TEAM we don't just mean the musicians in RSP--some truly amazing people joined us on the playing field to help the entire RSP family catch a lot of excellence.
A TALE OF TWO AND A HALF ALBUMS AND A VIDEO (that became another video and then another video and then...)
We began 2016 already working on what we figured would be a completed album by year's end (ah, the proverbial best laid plans of mice and men...). In late 2015 we entered Philidelphia's Cambridge Sound Studios to work with friend and mentor Jim Salamone. Two days and about 50 keyboard overdubs later we had song and single #1, "Saturn Girl," completed--a space riff-rocker we've been excitedly sitting on now for 16 months! You can't imagine the willpower it has taken to not release it.
With "Saturn Girl" in the can and plenty more songs to get to we made plans to produce an accompanying video to keep our fans satisfied while we pushed forward with working on the full-length album. We loved the product our friends in True Fold Media produced for the "Phoenix" video [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utUp930wV7Q ], so armed with a film team ready to rock in the rolodex we scoped out locales from The Lehigh Valley all the way up to the coal country of Mt. Carmel, contacted dancers and actors, drew up storylines, dreamed up sets and costumes, and got as far as figuring out what direction to take on funding the project...which is to say we're still figuring that part out :)
For in the midst of mixing "Saturn Girl" and dreaming big video dreams we were offered the opportunity to write a song for a horror movie soundtrack. Matt McGuire from Airitech Creations contacted us wondering if we had anything "swampy sounding" we could contribute to their film DEAD AND DEADISH. It just so happened that we had a riff lying around that had been presented to us by musical co-patriot and Acoustic Kitty Project Alum Mike Carr. With this riff rattling around our collective brain we tossed ideas around the ol' basement practice space and soon found ourselves driving the gorgeous country road sojourn to the woods outside of Milford, NJ to record at co-riff-author Mike Carr's Holland Studios.
With the basic tracks recorded, the help of Ed's daughter Maddy (the big-voiced leader of her own musical project shooting raw video at rehearsals), and fan footage from a recent Halloween gig, we put everything in a package and sent it all down to Airitech who then in return presented us with a brand new band video: a movie scene teaser and live RSP montage for what was now the album's second single, "Hungry:" a dark tale of a bleak landscape where humans, vampires, and zombies fight for food. We capped this era off with a live show and video-release party at Rivals in Easton where the single boomed on the big screens.
["Hungry" video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AYrh8H6urg ]
At this point it was still early 2016. We had two songs in the can, a video for one, a video in the works for the other, and Plan A of pushing forward and banging out a year's-end album of all new original material still in place.
If your instincts are telling you "I don't think the next part of the story is 'They finished the album'" then congratulations--your instincts are still in proper working order. We suddenly found ourselves sidetracked yet again...but if there's one thing we in RSP are REALLY good at it's rolling with the punches. And I'm going to go ahead and assume we can all agree that if there was ever a year full of a lot of punches to roll through it was 2016!
But the good news is that when we say we were sidetracked again it means we seized the chance to pounce on yet another opportunity that began blossoming before us. Long-time fan and supporter of the band, John Paul DeBard of WSCI radio contacted us about a really cool multi-media event he was throwing: we would do an interview and play live in his Center Valley radio-and-recording studio with a small crowd of invited guests and then all drive over South Mountain into Bethlehem's Southside and kick off his Summer Music series with a live performance at The Tally Ho (an extra honor considering the fact that The Ho, once a thriving music venue, hadn't had live music in years--we would be the first band to kick start that tradition again).
Well friends and brethren, the long story short here is that John Paul engineered and recorded the entire proceedings, our friends in True Fold Media were also on site videoing the performance (as well as collecting fan videos), and upon listening to the tracks and viewing the playback we all realized we had the chance to head in a completely different direction with our album plans. So now, instead of Plan A (remember Plan A?) of recording a whole original album in Philly with Jim and shooting corresponding videos, we now had THREE different studio recordings in three different recording studios including a complete live performance videotaped. This hodge-podge potpouri collection of events lead to the concept of TRUCK STOP SUSHI: a Double A-Side album featuring the two studio tracks and a greatest hits collection from the live WSCI concert.
As we write this, that album, TRUCK STOP SUSHI, is mixed and mastered, the cover and liner art has been approved ( thanks Bill McConney ), and the album is headed for the final stages of production. Early 2017 will see its release (on vinyl!), corresponding tour dates will follow, and rumor has it the live performance is finding its way to an eventual DVD release...but you didn't hear that just now from us ;)
The year-long meandering journey that started with "Plan A" and lead to this soon-to-be-released eclectic album was joined by some extremely special professionals who we would like to honor with our first round of thanks now:
Matt McGuire at Airitech for kick-starting the "Hungry" project and then producing its video--a seemingly innocent and isolated request whose completion was arguably the key cog that turned the TRUCK STOP SUSHI machine.
Madelaine "Maddy" Golden for shooting the RSP rehearsal footage that became the heart of the "Hungry" video (and extra thanks for her couple of stints as guitar tech/roadie :) ).
Ownership and staff at Rivals in Easton for hosting the "Hungry" video-release party. Thanks for your continuing hospitality.
Michael Carr, co-author of "Hungry" and owner/engineer at Holland Studios--site of the song's recording and final mixing of the TRUCK STOP SUSHI WSCI live tracks. Thank you, Mike, for your knowledgeable guidance and comfortable surroundings which made it easy for us to achieve maximum creative comfort. Thank you also for your patience as we bombarded you with with email after email of mixing requests! The tracks sound great!
Jim Salamone, owner/engineer Cambridge Sound Studios and guitar solo on "Saturn Girl." It was a pleasure and an honor watching you work your wizardy.
Todd Mecaughey, recording engineer, Cambridge Sound Studios. You are a calm in a storm and your peaceful strength made it easy for us to pull our best stuff out of ourselves.
John Paul (JP) DeBard, Owner/operator/engineer at WSCI Radio and Studio 73. The man of many righteous hats. Obvious thanks go to everything he did that will now end up as our new album, but we would also like to thank JP for all the times he has coordinated with us to pick up and drop off his light rig that we use at live shows (believe it or not, trying to make timely plans with musicians is not an easy job!). Thanks as well for the many other things he's done behind the scenes to keep the project balls rolling.
Alex Firkth, True Fold Media, for shooting the live footage at the TRUCK STOP SUSHI sessions. We look forward to all that is to come.
Dennis Drake at The Music Lab for Mastering of the album. Historic. 'Nuff said.
Bill McConney. Not only has Bill been a musical collaborator with his band The Roux and his solo work in Bastard Sons gatherings but his rich mind is the genius behind many of our live show posters as well as the upcoming work on the TRUCK STOP SUSHI album art. Yes had Roger Dean. Pink Floyd had Gerald Scarfe and Hipgnosis. We have Bill McConney.
TRAIN KEPT A-GIGGIN' ALL YEAR LONG
The twists and turns of the TRUCK STOP SUSHI tale are merely a single slice of our eventful 2016's pie. Besides the Tally Ho gig mentioned above we were invited into quite a kaleidoscope of Mid-Atlantic venues this year including some famous firsts, some returns to haunts from band lives past, and some blessed opportunities at fantastic well-attended festivals. Despite all of us in RSP having long histories of playing live music (our first gigs happened before some of our audience members were born!) 2016 hosted some career milestone events for us. Please accept our general thanks to all of you out there plugging away at the righteous jobs of running rock clubs, booking and promoting those clubs, organizing festivals, and just simply making sure bands like us have the opportunity to get our music out in front of the people. Please check out the following links to some of those venues and events who hosted us and please give them your support.
It seems unbelieveable but 2016 bore witness to our debut at the historic Funhouse in Bethlehem. We can't wait to rock this venue and its amazing crowd again!
Rivals in Easton's Circle is home to one of the valley's best in-house sound-and-light systems and has been host to many of our most special events.
Pearly Bakers--the big room with the big glass front window has been something of a homebase for RSP.
The State Theater. What else needs to be said? What an honor it was to join the "Easton Rocks" festival at this registered historic site that hosts some of our biggests heroes and nationally touring acts.
Big humble thanks to Dana Gaynor and the Jamageddon team for choosing us as one of The Lehigh Valley's best Jam Bands at this weekend festival. Jamageddon #2 is this January 27th and 28th...we'll be there again!
Simply said, Easton knows how to throw a party! The city festivals are some of our most looked-forward to gigs of the year.
The best of Philadelphia were at Liberty Fest. The sunburn was worth it.
Milford Days. They race beds down the street, fly old planes REALLY LOW overhead, and were extremely gracious hosts who served up primo grub. Great family fun.
Tally Ho. Here's to hoping they keep the live music momentum going!
The Grape Room (former Grape Street Pub), Manayunk, Philadelphia. Great dive bar, grill, site of second stage at Liberty Fest, and respite from the heat.
New York City. Some of you versed in band history know of Mike's, um, "storied" past and the band's beginnings in The Big Apple. We were stoked to get back and visit some old friends at the Leftfield at Ludlow and The Alphabet Lounge this year. Looking forward to getting back.
Cigars International, Hamburg. All we can say is you just gotta experience it...C.I. has actually been a great place for us to experiment acoustically which has lead to a lot of fresh approaches to the songs. A unique show each time. Good beer, cigars, and an outdoor patio.
BANDS OF A FEATHER
While playing the above and other places we've had the chance to meet a lot of unique and hard-working fellow musicians/bands. Sometimes these meetings are a one-night stand affair of too-much fun and rock-n-roll debauchery...and sometimes they turn into meaningful relationships that lead to something bigger. Our favorite example of this from 2016 was racing off the Grape Street Pub stage during Liberty Fest to make way for the next band who happened to be a smokin' stoner-Sabbath-vibe-meets-70's-glam-riff-groove-rock act named Wicked Hollow who just absolutely killed it. After they packed up we started a conversation that ended up as a gig trade--our debut performance at The Funhouse was a big enough night, but with those guys opening up it became a truly epic event that no one there will soon forget. So here's to you guys and a bunch of other folks who we've met on the tracks:
Wicked Hollow. Check out their new EP!
Acoustic Kitty Project
The Bank Street Band
Dan DeChellis Trio
OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS
2016 also saw us attend the Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg. Experiences and inside looks at the regional industry there lead to us flirting with and negotiating for professional band management--an experience that helped us not only learn some VERY important lessons about contracts and fine print but also guided us to learn about ourselves and our band priorities and overall mission. The process helped define us, focus us, and we emerged unscathed and all the wiser!
IF YOU DO WHAT YOU LOVE, YOU'LL NEVER WORK A DAY IN YOUR LIFE
At the beginning of 2016 three-fifths of the band was teaching at both Lehigh Valley chapters of the School of Rock. Ed has since moved on to pursue some of his other passions while Mike and Jason continue to share their knowledge and guidance with the rockers of tomorrow. It's truly a blessing to have a place of employment in which you get to work in the field you truly love. We are not only musicians working in a music school--the Easton School of Rock is an environment that helps support the sometimes tenuous decision to pursue music full-time by allowing us to teach music while also being extremely flexible in allowing time off for gigs. And it's not just owner-operators Ray and Sue Thierren who give us that opportunity--our amazing and knowledgeable fellow teachers all rise to the occasion to help each other with sub-lessons when gigs and tours take us away from the school. So here's to the best job with the best owners and the best staff to work with. Oh, and the best darn kids in the universe!
THE BOYS IN THE BUBBLE
Nothing survives in a vacuum, and we in RSP can't survive in our own little bubble. One of the biggest keys to making a band and a scene thrive is having a supportive local/regional media. Not only do they simply tell YOU what's going on and when & where we're playing, but we truly wouldn't be where we are without the help of people who believed in us enough to take the time to write reviews and blogs about us, bring us on their radio shows, and record video blogs about us. So we not only thank the following folks for pushing us forward in the public eye but we ask YOU to in turn support the people who support us and make this scene the big family that it is:
When the year began Dustin Schoof at dustinschoof.com ( Be Scene!) and Gerald Longo at Lehigh Valley Underground had emerged as THE voices for the scene and all things happening under the radar of the larger arts establishment. Their joining of forces is a huge voice for the voiceless and helps poise our scene for the next level. Their constant reviews, pictures, yearly "best ofs" and mentions in the weekly "what's going on" segments are more appreciated than we can express.
Thanks to long-time supporter and poster of many pix and vids Lori Lee of What's Going On Lehigh Valley. She's not just a reporter--she's the one heating up the dance floors.
We are all blessed here in the valley to have so much support from so many community and college radio stations. These stations are important free-form islands of free speech where local music lives alongside the classics. Supporting them supports us and builds community.
Extra thanks to Kevin Farkas for CONSTANTLY spinning RSP and taking the time to come to a rehearsal to remote interview the band.
Ann Thatcher at The Balcony radio show
Special mention to AJ Fritz and Professor Socrates. WLVR is the voice of Bethlehem and is also home to RSP's own Dr. Deep Cuts (AKA Jason), Thursdays at 6pm
Keeping Allentown hip for decades
Hear it on "The X"
Locally-grown NPR affiliate
AND THE AWARD GOES TO...
Over almost two decades we've watched the Lehigh Valley Music Awards grow into the classy event that it is. We thank them for pushing on through hard times, naysayers, and the ton of work it takes to organize and host such an event. We also thank YOU the fans and industry peers for your votes of confidence by nominating us in several categories. The March 2016 event saw our True Fold Media/Alex Firkth collaboration "Phoenix" video garner a "Video of the Year" nomination, and both Glen and Mike received nods for Best Bassist and Vocalist.
THIS year every member of the band is nominated in their individual category, and RSP as a whole is up for "Best Band" and video again for "Hungry." So THANK YOU to everyone who has given us this honor. Fingers crossed--see you at the awards!
RALLY 'ROUND THE FAMILY
And finally...and most importantly...you, THE FANS. It's been implied throughout this letter, but let us make it very clear here and now: YOU are the heartbeat pounding through all of the stories above. You were at the release parties. You crammed into WSCI for the live appreciation show. You were at ALL the gigs. You tuned in to the radio interviews. You engage us online, share the links, spread the word, and buy the merch at the table. You are more than just fans--you are friends and family. You keep us doing what we do. We can't thank you enough. THANK YOU. And stay in touch.
THE JOURNEY IS THE END
As you can see it's been quite an eventful year (to say the least!) filled with so many people coming in and out and swirling all around both our personal and band lives--from casual fans to hands-on hard-working collaborators. As we reflect back on everything that's happened we hope that in our pursuit of the perfect "thank you" wrap-up report of 2016 we've achieved some excellence by not leaving YOU out :) Please rest assured that we spend significant time at rehearsals discussing all of the blessings in our band life as we reflect on all the people we see in the clubs, on the streets, in the studios...even in our homes. No matter who you are you belong to the rich tapestry of RSP--you ARE a Secret Person! 2016 is history. We look forward to creating just as many memories and stories with you in 2017!
See you down on Dog St....