As February rolls in, I don’t think it is possible to discuss rock ‘n’ roll without pausing to remember the victims of The Station fire, which happened 17 years ago. I remember the morning after, getting up to go to work with our LAN line ringing off the hook from my roommate’s mother calling to make sure he was alive. He was, but 100 music lovers were not. I went to work up in Mansfield, still not realizing the scope of the catastrophe, only to see my boss leave because two of his cousins were at the show. I can’t count over the years how many people have told me they were supposed to go or knew someone who went. It is chilling. In the end they found a patsy, a 26-year-old kid, doing what he was hired to do on every stop on the tour and never blowing up the room — till that night. The Derderians were taken care of because they were rich and well connected. Great White was banned forever from Rhode Island, but the real culprits of this mass manslaughter got off light. February 20 will always be a solemn day in here for our lost sons, daughters and everyone else harmed. We will never forget.
Less Than A Felony – 27 Years
After speaking of mass murder, it is refreshing to move on to a band called Less Than a Felony. 27 Years was birthed in a safe zone where Less Than a Felony conjure voodoo in a shed in Smithfield. I was struck by how many of the tunes start in a prayer, notably “Somewhere In Between” and the title track. The melody takes you through like a U2 wave. Yes, these guys are Irish, but I maintain a lot of that guitar style emanated from Keith Levene-era Public Image Limited. “Comes And Goes” is a more aggressive guitar-fueled raver that takes the energy of Hendrix and mixes it with the swagger of Bo Diddley. I give this a solid 5.9 because with EPs, there isn’t much to choose from and one really needs that one classic song to carry the weight. Less Than A Felony is one of my favorite live acts, so it was an honor that vocalist/guitarist Charlie Greene took the time to talk about the history of the band and run through the stories behind the tunes of 27 Years with me.
Marc Clarkin (Motif): How did Less Than a Felony come together?
Charlie Greene (Less Than A Felony): We met in Jamaica Plain 17 years ago — three Irish lads looking to write some original music. Dessie, our first bass player, moved to Australia, so Ruairi and I moved to Rhode Island and we were on the lookout for a bass player. That’s when Damon Blair crossed our path. Then we started writing our second recording. After bouncing around several recording studios, we hit upon the late Great Joe Moody and completed our previous recording. We did some video with local legendary videographer Brett Davey, who coincidentally helped with and produced our latest video.
MC: Can you take us behind the scenes and into the infamous shed for some of the backstories behind the tracks?
CG: I wrote “Somewhere in Between” for a good friend who went through some unexpected departures with two family members. I penned it late night, when I do my writing accompanied by the solitude of the night. “27 Years” was about I lived in London at 19 years old. It was quite chaotic and turbulent, so my escape was catching Bob Dylan shows and Stiff Little Fingers while hanging out in some Irish pubs and listening to Irish folk music. Some days I’d walk Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus looking to buy old second hand LPs in basement record stores. It all seems like a lifetime ago.
MC: How about “Comes and Goes?”
CG: “Comes and Goes” is a fictional song that came to me in my time of creativity. It’s about a catwalk model who lived a double life robbing banks and strutting her stuff while everybody was oblivious to it. I hope to do a cool video, maybe with Brett Davie! We loved the music we put to it; it is very rocky excellent bass and drums.
MC: What about “Don’t Care?”
CG: “Don’t Care” is a song of observation. One summer night I saw a couple having a disagreement on the street. I thought it was a worthless exhibition, but they seem to have it down and then it just took a life of its own from there. We recorded at a nice big studio in Lincoln with Chaimes Parker behind the desk overlooking the Blackstone River. At our last show, Paul Jalette joined us on stage. He brought some untapped energy with background vocals plus guitar, and he’ll join us again too! We’re currently working on new music, so we hope everyone enjoys this EP cause there’s more to follow…
895 Matunuck Beach Rd
By ROB DUGUAY
The setup for a rock band is a fairly standard one – the drums, guitars and bass that make for an amplified sound. The end result comes from the artistic direction the band goes in, and it can go in a variety of ways.
Rhode Island rock act Foul Weather Friend blends of power-pop and Americana on its new EP “Hang Out/Hang On,” which came out Jan. 20 via the Warren label 75orLess Records, to create an accessible style of alternative rock. The recording’s production, courtesy of lead guitarist Martin Walsh at Subterranean Studios in Waterbury, Connecticut, is clear, with all the instruments coming through pristinely.
Foul Weather Friend has local ties to the area due to bassist Bruce Humphrey being a Warwick resident, with drummer Dana Lemoine being a native to the city and vocalist and guitarist Steve Nagy calling Cranston home. Walsh is from North Kingstown and is currently living in Providence. This quartet’s new release has a no-nonsense approach with stellar solos and straightforward melodies.
“The six songs chosen to go on the record were worked out over the last year while we were practicing,” Nagy said of the making of the EP. “A lot of the songs are influenced by suburban American life in the early 21st century. When it came time to go into the studio we wanted the songs to cover a lot of musical ground, from power pop to blues-rock to a country-folk sound. Along with handling the production, Martin [Walsh] also did the guitar and keyboard work. We took six months to record, which allowed us time and space to craft the songs. We’re happy with the end product and are hopeful that others also enjoy it.”
“Good Day” starts off with a cool drumbeat from Lemoine, while Walsh and Nagy’s guitars exhibit glossy tones. Leaning towards the country-folk route is “A Million Cuts,” a song about heartbreak that never seems to end. A deep, bluesy sound encompasses “Mercy In Retrograde,” while the track can be considered a borderline rockabilly number with a twangy vibe.
“Misfits” has a slight surf aesthetic, and “I Got Nothing” captures the rough ‘n’ tumble times life can sometimes bring with sheer distortion coming from the six strings. Closing out the record is “Moment In Time,” a blue-eyed soul ballad that flows with emotion.
Nagy, Walsh, Lemoine and Humphrey have two gigs coming up, one at Askew in Providence on Feb. 22 and another at the News Cafe in Pawtucket on Feb. 28. For the Providence show, they’ll be celebrating the EP’s release with Providence rockers Deadlands, Psychedelic Clown Car and Plug. In Pawtucket, the band will be sharing a bill with Providence punks Stubborn Hearts, Providence garage-rock trio Sugar Cones and The Underwires from Newport.
Whether you’re only going to one show or both, grab a copy of Foul Weather Friend’s new record. It’s a wide-ranging release that’ll please an abundance of tastes.
To learn more about Foul Weather Friend, follow the band on Facebook or visit foulweatherfriend.bandcamp.com
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