Tag Archive | "local music"

Why Here? Musicians on the Influence of the East End: Nancy Atlas

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Nancy Atlas performed with special guest drummer Chad Smith during the first of her Fireside Sessions at the Bay Street Theater on Friday, January 3. Photo by Michael Heller.

Nancy Atlas performed with special guest drummer Chad Smith during the first of her Fireside Sessions at the Bay Street Theater on Friday, January 3. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Michael Heller

Nancy Atlas spent her childhood in Commack. The daughter of an avid fisherman, she began coming out to the East End with her family from the time she can remember. Eventually, her family bought a house at Lazy Point when she was 7. “We spent any day off there we could,” she says, laughing. “It was literally 1970’s jump into the station wagon, pee in the mayo jar and head out east.” At 17, she moved to England to attend Cambridge University, where she studied art and art history, with an eye toward a career as a graphic artist in the advertising business.

 

MH:  So after graduating college in the U.K., how did you end up back in the United States?

NA:  That was a very rough time… It was 1991, and I came back around the time that O.J. Simpson was being followed, so I had a complete and utter nervous breakdown….I couldn’t process moving back into the United States.

 

MH:  Did you move directly here?

Singer-songwriter Nancy Atlas. Photo by Michael Heller.

Singer-songwriter Nancy Atlas. Photo by Michael Heller.

NA:  I did. As soon as the option presented itself for me to choose where I would live, it was a no-brainer. I always knew I’d live out here in some capacity. My brother was renting a house right near the Quiet Clam, and that was the first place, but I’ve lived in almost every town: I’ve lived in Southampton, Amagansett, Sag Harbor—for about  seven years—Springs, for four years, over by Louse Point…

 

MH: So what inspired you to pick up a guitar? Did you have any musical background?

NA:  I wrote songs from a very early age. My musical education is that I did a year of piano when I was 10, and then I studied 10 years of viola—a lot of people don’t know that—but then I wrote on piano from the time that I was about 11 years old. That was around the era of Debbie Gibson—Remember her? I wasn’t trying to be Debbie Gibson; it just came naturally that I would write my own songs, so there are videos out there, lurking somewhere, of an eighth-grade talent show of me singing a song I wrote with seven girls singing three-part harmony. When I look back, of course I would have been a songwriter. So when I got into high school I was still doing the viola, but I started to take graphic art more seriously, and that was the price it paid: the music kind of veered off a little bit. But I was still known for music, like in high school I was Best Musician—Commack High School, 1989. There’s probably a good photo floating around of that too! (laughs) But I think that when my life choice came, in college and when I was becoming a young adult, I really had to stick to it, and once I picked up a guitar, I knew that I could die for this; I knew that there was a commitment to the music that I didn’t have with the art. There was always an insecurity with the art… I always kind of wasn’t sure, and with music I’m very, very confident; I don’t really write for anyone but myself. And I think as an artist you go through periods where you have to learn how to not write for people again.

 

MH:  So at what point did you realize that playing guitar was the thing?

NA:  I was very depressed before I came home—truly depressed, not just sad, but clinically depressed—and I couldn’t find a job, so I decided that I had to do something to get myself out of the funk. So I just went down and bought a used guitar on Portabello Road for 60 quid, and started learning Van Morrison songs and tablature stuff—totally self-taught, and I never looked back. I started going to open mics, and I started writing songs within three weeks of picking up a guitar. It was immediate because I had had that background of the piano from when I was younger. And when I went to the Stephen Talkhouse I think I was playing guitar a total of three months, and a producer said, “Who the hell are you?” (laughs) So I started working with a producer, and got sucked into the many dreams of rock ’n’ roll stardom…and here I am, still going!

 

MH:  So what keeps you here on the East End, when your career may have taken off if you had perhaps moved to a bigger city like L.A. or Nashville?

NA:  That’s a very layered question, because the things that keep me here are starting to disappear… and I might disappear. I’m getting tired of a lot of the crap that’s going on in this town right now.

 

MH:  “Right now” notwithstanding, what continues to keep you here?

NA:  Well, I don’t mean to be existential, but that depends on your definition of “making it.” Because I feel like I’ve “made it.” I’m a successful songwriter who has a gorgeous house a block from the ocean, a beautiful vintage car and three great kids, and am still doing it. I really don’t mean to nitpick, but people say that to me a lot, like, “Geez, do you ever get upset that you haven’t ‘made it?’” And I’m like, “Well, what’s ‘making it’?” Because is ‘making it’ playing Jones Beach, or having a song on the radio? Would I like that? Sure! Would I love to play Red Rocks and be on tour? Sure! But it’s all relative. I really, truly believe that, and if I really wanted to do that, I’m the type of person that would move to Nashville and see my kids on the weekends—I’m an A-type; I don’t talk about stuff, I get it done. But the raw beauty, the quiet… as an artist I’ve always felt that the East End calls to a certain type of artist, in that it delivers, and I draw off of the raw beauty—that’s the short answer.

Why Here? Musicians on the Influence of the East End: Jim Turner

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East End musician Jim Turner plays at a local benefit for Haiti. Photo by Michael Heller.

East End musician Jim Turner plays at a local benefit for Haiti. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Michael Heller

Born in New York City and raised in Northport, Jim Turner is the product of musical family: His mother, brother, and sister were all musically oriented, and his father was a trumpet player in college, so it was only natural that at age 14 he picked up the guitar. His brother showed him a riff called “John Henry,” and then a friend in school showed him how to play “What I Say” by Ray Charles. “And from there it kind of just grew,” he says. “I wasn’t going to be a musician. It was just a side thing.” He moved back to New York City at age 21 to study acting, and before long found himself being cast in major roles in Broadway musicals, including Joseph Papp’s Public Theater production of “Blood” and opposite Nell Carter in a production called “Dude” with the cast members from “Hair,” while all the while continuing to play gigs in restaurants and coffeehouses. In 1978, he moved out to the East End.

 

MH:  So what was it that made you decide to come to live in Sag Harbor?

 

JT:  I was really in the guts of the New York professional world. I look back at that now, and I realize that I was around the big time. I wasn’t the big time, but I was around it, so I saw what the high level of competition and the high talent, and how disciplined and how professional you had to be in that world—you had to go out for a lot of auditions on Broadway stages, and it was terrifying. I got cast and I was around these people. There I was in this Broadway show with top talent like Nell Carter and a lot of other famous people, and it was like the big time, it was shocking, I was really honored. But I continued playing music, and you know, I was in that New York world and here I had been in that Manhattan jungle for so long, that I finally got to the point where I—and it’s really kind of mundane, what I’m going to say—I just got a longing to live in the country. I wanted to switch gears…. Suddenly I just did not want to do the urban thing. I look back and I had spent almost 12 years, including college, in New York, and I just got this longing to be in nature—almost like a Thoreau—and I was looking to go a hundred miles away, because I didn’t want to cut the cord. I didn’t want to leave New York, because New York is a universe. But I met a woman, and she lived out here and I visited out here, around 1978. She was going away the following summer, so I rented her house out in Sag Harbor for the summer, and I was smitten by this area. I had this huge, romantic thing: I wanted to be with clean water…. my life was a concrete jungle, and the city was so challenging to live in, so bang I rented her house and later on I moved out here.

When I came out here what happened was I was able to get the music going, playing music out here, right away. Playing music out here was suddenly so much easier than in New York. In New York you finish playing a gig and you’re on the subway, or on the street. Here, I came home to my cottage I rented and I’m out here with the crickets and the night and I’m thinking, “This is relaxing! This is healthy!” Since I’ve been out here I took off and formed my own band in 1988…. I backed up a lot of people for years and played solo, and it took off pretty much in the late ’80s. I did concerts at Guild Hall, I got a role for Time-Warner doing an ad for Optimum, and since then I’ve just been out here doing hundreds of gigs.

 

MH:  So what keeps you out here, seeing that this is not the music capital of the world?

 

JT:  One of the answers to that is that it’s kind of easy living here, in a country-life kind of way. Now, it’s not easy financially because it’s gotten very expensive, but I’ve kind of lucked into something that I wouldn’t have been able to do in New York. I get a lot of work out here, especially May through September, so rather than be on the road as a musician—and it may not be as romantic—I can actually have a life and not be out in motels travelling the country. What I found in New York as a struggling artist was that it was very difficult to make money and to be in the city; out here it’s still hard, but it’s easier: I come home to this home, and I have peace and quiet. I do get hired, and I’ve done well, and gotten paid pretty well. But on the other hand, I agree that in the off-season it’s kind of dead, and that’s the downside to it.

I once heard something in a music seminar, and that was, “Don’t get addicted to the local music scene, because that can shortcut your career.” I might have done that. I might have been someone who went to L.A. or Nashville, or could have had a big career… and yet, at the same time, I’m not sure I was looking to be a star; I think I just wanted to play music and have a relaxed, healthy life—it’s as simple as that.

Why Here? Musicians on the Influence of the East End: Inda Eaton

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Musician Inda Eaton. Photo by Michael Heller.

Musician Inda Eaton. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Michael Heller

Singer/songwriter Inda Eaton found her way to the East End 10 years ago after spending the majority of her life living in southern California, Arizona and Wyoming. She is a child of parents who always wanted her to be a musician — which never seemed to be a question (“I just knew,” she says.)

 

MH:  So, coming from Wyoming and the West, how did you end up here in Amagansett?

IE:  My music manager at the time was in New York, so I would come to New York quite a bit for music, and it was through friends and connections that I would come out here to visit. I went to school in Boston — I went to BU to study journalism — so I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the east; but I really didn’t know about Amagansett or East Hampton. In fact the first time I came I was completely shocked—I didn’t even tune into my “Great Gatsby” history lesson of the Hamptons; I really didn’t come here with any stars in my eyes at all, I was just coming to visit, and I was really utterly surprised in the most pleasant of ways. Growing up in the West anyway I could never have stereotyped that a place so close to New York City—which is like Gotham City—would have so much beauty.

 

MH:  The Hamptons are not the hotbed of the music industry like Los Angeles, New York or Nashville, yet after 10 years you’ve stayed here. What has kept you here, even though it may have been harder for your career?

IE:  The reason I was able to dig my heels in was because I did some voice-overs and I did some music-computer interactives for the children’s museum when it was being built, so that was the first reason to be here: “This is a project I can do.” I wasn’t even thinking that this would be my final resting spot; I’m here for this project. And then some other opportunities opened up, one after the other, and I thought to myself, “Hmmm, I think I’ll get more involved in the production side.”

There are some really great people out here. You can’t throw a rock out here without running into somebody who writes or makes music. That’s been very stimulating and interesting to me. And not only their work, but the camaraderie of it, the music community. I travel a lot; I go back and forth between the West, I do a lot of education work. I do a lot of playing. But somehow when I come back here, I feel very nurtured. The music scene, the music community…I think the landscape lends itself to some major creativity that’s probably beyond what I can even articulate. I know it’s obvious when we talk about visual art, and how that can happen through color and light and landscape, but I think it’s often overlooked when we talk about music as well. I couldn’t articulate to you right now, at the kitchen table, how I think that’s changed my writing, but I know that it has.

And I think there’s an edge, I think on Long Island, the history of rock and roll on Long Island is huge, and there’s a tremendous contribution to rock and roll in edginess from Long Island. You would think that that wouldn’t be out here because it is so calm, and everything out here is so “chill,” but having said that I think our year-round community… we give that appearance in our flip-flops, but I don’t know of anybody out here who doesn’t have to figure out some way to exist; maybe that’s the edge. We’re in our flip-flops, but we’re all clinging on to our reserves to figure out how to stay in this beauty. This is not a place where you can go work at the plant, or have abundant work, really; you really make your own existence here, and it has to be a very creative existence. And I don’t know of anybody out here—in the arts or not—who doesn’t have to think twice or three times how to pull their act together to put food on the table…maybe that’s the edge. Amidst all this beauty, we’re trying to develop our own situation.

Interestingly enough, if you ever get invited to a benefit you should go, they’re great shows. They’re great shows because different musicians come together who maybe don’t play together often, and all of a sudden this party happens. But if you looked around and said, “How are these musicians pulling this off?” you really don’t want to ask them that; the reality is that it’s scary. You wouldn’t want to look at their ledger sheets; their ledger sheets don’t balance, really. You want to talk about the leap of faith? I know that’s in every artistic community, but it’s comical, because here we’re doing the benefits, and the truth is we could be having a benefit once a month for all of the brothers and sisters in music. And I think that’s the edge, I really do. That’s the edge.

Why Here? Musicians on the Influence of the East End: Joe Delia

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By Michael Heller

Montauk resident Joe Delia–known for his band, Joe Delia and Thieves – has been a musician for most his life, having studied and performed music ever since he was 12. He was one of 12 children in an Italian family in Rockland County, New York, and at age 15 he and his siblings gained notoriety as they hit the charts in the mid-1960s with a family act called The Brothers.

“We were signed to RCA records,” he says, “Sid Bernstein was my manager when I was 15 years old, so I had a lot going on professionally as a child.” Not long after, because of his proximity to New York City, he met studio musicians in Rockland County who helped him get his foot in the door in the so-called “closed shop” of the New York City clique of studio musicians.

 

MH: So how did all of this lead you out to the East End?

JD: While I was working in the city, I studied arrangement and film scoring with Don Sebeski, who was just a great orchestrator and great educator, and that was really a good part of my training professionally. Sebeski was a real key to my professional work; I worked as an arranger and a pianist in studios. Then I met director Abel Ferrera [“King of New York,” “Bad Lieutenant”] in the late ’70s, early ’80s and scored films for him for 20 years, and that’s what really got me into the business.

In ’92 Abel was out here for a week or two, staying in Hither Hills. I came out and said, “I just want to live here,” and a year or two later bought the property and built a house. I had the house for a few years, then met PJ [his wife], ended up getting married and moving upstate. Sold the house here, and life took on another path. It’s been almost 20 years now; we had a son, Jake, and it became a whole new thing.

After not having the house in Hither Hills, the headquarters became the house in Rockland County, and as PJ and I were getting on with our lives we would come out and rent and spend basically a week or two. But we were out a lot, and maybe five years ago this rental came up for us, and so we said, “We’ve got to do it.” So we’re basically in and out of town commuting to Montauk.

 

MH: So what keeps you here, and why do you keep coming back, even though it might be considered by some to be a detriment to your career?

JD: It’s a great question. I think it has to do with the fact that I’ve had a long career that was New York City and L.A.—mostly New York City—but was really an international career; all of the films I’ve made have played all over the world and I’ve made records, etc.  I’ve had a mainstream career in that sense, so that this is another chapter. It’s not a matter of trying to break into the mainstream, obviously, it’s not about coming out here and getting a major record deal and advancing my career in that sense. I think it’s … well, not a “postscript” to my career, but another chapter.

 

MH: How would you describe that chapter?

JD:  It’s wonderful. I would characterize it as doing something that I haven’t done a lot of for 20 or 25 years, which is writing songs and performing them. I’ve been writing themes and background scenes for years and years in the studio. I’ve done some interesting touring over that period—I was with David Johansson and Buster Poindexter for five or six years, and in between I toured with Dave Edmunds—I toured the United States and Japan with them, and so that was great—So I’ve been around, but it’s been in and out of my basic career as a musician writing themes and film music. So I characterize it as really something new; writing songs and performing them. It’s thrilling, and it keeps me coming back. And I think the fact that there’s been a certain amount of acceptance and that people seem to like what we’re doing and that there are songs that people know is really wonderful too. To play, and have people out there who know the songs is really cool.

 

MH: So what keeps you going? What drives you now, to keep writing and doing this?

JD: It’s that feeling of when it does connect. I’m a terrible golfer, but I think the metaphor is the same: you can be a terrible golfer, but if you hit one good one, you get out on the golf course the next day. And I think that it’s a little bit the same with doing this: If you have a really good show and get that input back that you get from the audience. It’s really about the audience; if there’s an audience, it will really get me there. And Montauk’s a great audience. There’s really a nice, vibrant music community out here, a lot of great musicians and wonderful people.

Last Party for Merry Maker Vivian Walsh

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Vivian Walsh.

Vivian Walsh of Vivian and the Merry Makers Steel Drum Band died last Thursday.

By Kathryn G. Menu

After 40 years of bringing island music to East End audiences, Vivian Walsh, the frontman and founder of Vivian and The Merry Makers Steel Drum Band, died last Thursday morning at Southampton Hospital. The 76 year-old Sag Harbor resident had been battling pancreatic cancer.

As news of Mr. Walsh’s death spread through the community, a Facebook page dedicated to the band and created by Mr. Walsh’s friend Willow Keller became a virtual memorial to the singer and steel drum player. Scores of people, from the East End and beyond, logged on to share memories, and offer their condolences to a man known for his music, his straw hat, Hawaiian shirt, and stage presence.

“We will miss this gentle soul with a big heart, who made this world a happier place,” wrote Sag Harbor resident and friend Chris Tice last Thursday, after announcing the news of Mr. Walsh’s death.

“I will always love and miss you Vivian Walsh,” wrote longtime friend Mariah Kelly. “You’ve been a big part of my life for 47 years. I will miss our Sunday chats. Rest in Paradise, you sweet, kind soul.”

“You will surely be missed, your booming voice, boisterous laugh and twinkling eyes,” wrote Sag Harbor resident Melissa Ann Mitchell.

Mr. Walsh was born on December 3, 1937, on the Caribbean island of Dominica. According to his goddaughter, Debra George, already an accomplished steel drum player, Mr. Walsh moved to the East End in the mid-1960s, and quickly began booking gigs for his steel drum band. Over the next 40 years, Vivian and the Merry Makers became synonymous with outdoor summer traditions, whether it be Montauk’s Blessing of the Fleet, or outdoor concerts at Southampton’s Agwam Park and Sag Harbor’s Marine Park.

Merry Maker drummer Jerome Liggon has played with the band for 21 years. He met Mr. Walsh when his band played the Westhampton Beach Village Green. Mr. Liggon, a drummer with the band Déjà Vu at the time, reached out to Mr. Walsh and the next week the gregarious bandleader called him and asked him to join the Merry Makers.

“What impressed me so much about Vivian is how everyone gravitated toward him,” said Mr. Liggon. “I learned stage presence from him. You don’t realize the impact someone has had sometimes until that person is gone when it is someone that great.”

Ms. George said the family had originally planned for a small gathering of friends and family at Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor last Sunday, but after posting an announcement on Facebook, over 100 people turned out for the event, which morphed into an impromptu concert.

“I could not believe the turnout,” said Ms. George. “We had more than 100 people come and the band rocked it out. It was exactly what he would have wanted.”

Mr. Walsh is survived by twin daughters, Valencia and Valantine Walsh, as well as four grandchildren. In planning a final farewell for Mr. Walsh, Ms. George said the family will likely hold an event this May or June, ideally in Sag Harbor. Mr. Walsh’s cremated remains, she said, would be floated out to sea at the memorial, which she hopes will feature several bands.

And that will include he Merry Makers, according to Mr. Liggon.

“The last time I was with Vivian when he was coherent he communicated to me that he wanted the Merry Makers to continue on,” he said. “We have to find a new steel drummer, but I think we can come up with something. I believe we already have someone who can sing. Scott Hopson is a second generation Merry Maker and is up for it.”

“I know I wouldn’t want to be the steel drummer who has to follow Vivian’s act,” Mr. Liggon laughed. “No, no, no, thank you.”

“To me, the perfect way to celebrate Vivian would be to do something in Sag Harbor,” he added. “Sag Harbor was his home and he loved that village.”

Nancy Atlas, Caroline Doctorow & Inda Eaton are Bringing the West to Bay Street in “Way Out East”

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Inda Eaton, Caroline Doctorow and Nancy Atlas will perform at Bay Street Theatre Saturday.

Inda Eaton, Caroline Doctorow and Nancy Atlas will perform at Bay Street Theatre Saturday. Photo by Grover Gatewood.

By Tessa Raebeck

Like many great ideas, it started at the kitchen table.

Building upon years of dinner conversations, East End singer songwriters Nancy Atlas, Caroline Doctorow and Inda Eaton will come together Saturday at “Way Out East…A Journey in Song,” the second show devoted to the combination of their talents.

After selling out the inaugural “Way Out East” concert at East Hampton’s Guild Hall in October 2012, the trio is reuniting, this time at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre.

“There’s a thing about harmony singing,” said Ms. Doctorow, “and it’s kind of hard to beat three women singing together, because it’s a very appealing sound and situation and it sort of creates one new voice out of the three voices.”

“It seemed like a natural idea to take to the stage for sure, as we all have a certain vocal pocket and timbre that we sing in,” agreed Ms. Atlas. “This definitely grew from pure roots.”

The artists first crossed paths at a songwriter series many years ago, but had never had the chance to get to know each other. That first get-together quickly evolved into regular dinner dates; they have now been meeting at least once a month for the past four years. They’re not unanimous on whose idea or house it originally was, but that doesn’t matter.

“Before we knew it, guitars came out and we were singing at the end of the meals,” said Ms. Atlas, who lives in Montauk and performs with her band, The Nancy Atlas Project.

“Those dinners really feed our souls,” said Ms. Doctorow, who leads Caroline Doctorow and the Steamrollers, “because we talk about everything and it makes you feel—it ’s very comforting to know that other people have felt the same as you.”

“There’s not been one time that I didn’t leave one of these gatherings feeling a bit more inspired,” said Inda Eaton, who lives in Amagansett and lends “a tad bit of maverick energy” to the group with her grassroots band and Western roots.

Between them, the three acts have opened for Blues Traveler, Hootie and the Blowfish, The Band, Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Buffett and Crosby, Stills and Nash, just to name a few. Ms. Atlas, Ms. Doctorow and Ms. Eaton, who will be joined Saturday by a few members from each woman’s band, have combined their rock, folk and indie music into a western, distinctly American sound.

With her two friends in tow, Ms. Eaton will return to her home state of Wyoming for a short tour at the end of April.

“This is our hometown show before we go out West,” said Ms. Doctorow, a native New Yorker who lives in Bridgehampton. The set list on Saturday is comprised of “the exact songs we will be playing out on the prairies,” Ms. Atlas added.

Since moving their collaboration from the dinner table to the stage two years ago, the artists have been working together when they can, singing backup at each other’s shows, playing on one another’s records and using each other for inspiration.

“What really helps is the camaraderie,” Ms. Doctorow said. “If one of us is having a problem—the music business is a very tough business—what’s so great is to lean on the experience of the others and the wisdom and the advice.”

“Both Inda and Caroline have given me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten in this business and I would hope they could say the same about me. We are truly lucky to have found each other,” said Ms. Atlas.

That mutual understanding enables the singer-songwriters to turn their stylistic differences into a harmonious collaboration of their songs for “a lovely, laid back experience,” according to Ms. Atlas.

“Because of the camaraderie, we’re able to bridge our own music styles,” Ms. Eaton said. “Music is its own camaraderie, but there’s an additional camaraderie that goes on that I think comes from the uniqueness of our careers, there’s not too many other women singer-songwriters.”

“To spend time with other women singer-songwriters is very empowering,” she added. “We deal with a lot of the same issues…it’s great to run things past each other and get some of that professional support.”

Each woman also brings distinct skills to the business side of the table. Ms. Eaton is technically savvy—a “multimedia wizard” according to Ms. Doctorow—and can direct the effects and equipment side of a show. Ms. Atlas deals with financial logistics and the people that come with them, negotiating money and ticket prices.

“She’s really a good person to have to go to bat for us if something’s not right with a venue, etc.” said Ms. Doctorow. “She’s very strong in that way.”

Ms. Doctorow covers the “nuts and bolts” of an event, she said, booking the radio, writing the show description and making sure everything is in order to move forward.

“Caroline writes all the time,” said Ms. Eaton. “She’s very prolific and so she’ll put something together and I’ll think, ‘Wow, I didn’t think about that.’ Or Nancy will come up with this real powerhouse song and you walk away thinking, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about that, how inspiring was that?’”

Ms. Doctorow wrote a song for Ms. Atlas, aptly called “Song for Nancy” in 2011 and “My Sunday House,” a song she wrote for Ms. Eaton, is on her latest record.

“What it’s about,” she explained, “is how music becomes your religion when you’re on the road. You live and breathe it and it becomes a vehicle for revival of your spirit.”

“Inda and Caroline understand me in a way that few others do,” Ms. Atlas said, later adding, “We are able to discuss things at a very real and deep level with all the fat cut off. I truly cherish my monthly dinners.”

“You get invited to someone’s kitchen table and that’s where the music sounds the best,” said Ms. Eaton. “That’s the best way to hear music and harmony, just as it comes out of the kitchen table. That’s my hope for the show, is that people get a sense of the authentic essence of a song.”

 “Way Out East…A Journey in Song” is Saturday, April 5, at 8 p.m. at the Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For tickets and more information, call the box office at 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Earthreal Live at 230 Down in Southampton

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By Tessa Raebeck

An original band of local South Fork musicians, Earthreal, will play 230 Down in Southampton, the underground music venue with a full game room, beers on tap and no cover charge. Earthreal delivers a “brand new sound that combines elements of rock, reggae, funk and jam with powerful vocal melodies to create a textural and progressive sonic experience,” according to drummer Tyler Armstrong of East Hampton. Southampton natives Tom Price, Danny Zikeli and Erin Simmons join Mr. Armstrong.

Earthreal will play on Saturday, March 15 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 230 Down, 230 Elm Street in Southampton. For more information, visit the band’s Facebook page.

Chasing the Beast: Local Band The Montauk Project to Release First Full-Length Album

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The Montauk Project, Chris Wood, Mark Schiavoni, Jasper Conroy and Jack Marshall, performs at Swallow East in Montauk on Friday, February 28. Photo by Ian Cooke.

The Montauk Project, Chris Wood, Mark Schiavoni, Jasper Conroy and Jack Marshall, performs at Swallow East in Montauk on Friday, February 28. Photo by Ian Cooke.

By Tessa Raebeck

Despite the hype surrounding Montauk as an ever-growing tourist/hipster destination and the tendency of audiences and critics alike to judge a band by its members’ hair length rather than its sound, The Montauk Project remains dedicated to one thing first and foremost: making good music.

Started as a jam band by three friends, with a few local gigs and a Facebook page, The Montauk Project has grown steadily in the three years since; this month, the homegrown band is purchasing its first tour van, releasing its first full-length album and performing at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, one of the world’s largest music festivals.

The group formed in early 2011 when longtime friends Jasper Conroy, Matty Liot and Mark Schiavoni started jamming at Mr. Conroy’s house, a bungalow overflowing with instruments, surfboards and local vagabonds just a few blocks from Ditch Plains beach in Montauk. Chris Wood joined shortly thereafter and, when Mr. Liot left the group in 2012, The Montauk Project solidified its current line-up: Mr. Wood on bass, Mr. Conroy on drums, Mr. Schiavoni on vocals and Jack Marshall on electric guitar.

The band is decidedly homegrown. As they drive to Mr. Conroy’s house to practice, the band members can see the Montauk radar tower, where the conspiracy theorists say the government conducted secret time-travel experiments as part of the “Montauk Project.” Mr. Schiavoni, of Sag Harbor, and Mr. Conroy have been playing music together since high school. Mr. Marshall is the grandson of John Marshall, the namesake of East Hampton’s elementary school and “a local icon,” as Mr. Schiavoni puts it. Mr. Wood grew up playing in Montauk on his father’s fishing boat, the Sylvia S, which was docked nearby when the band performed at Swallow East last Friday.

After Mr. Marshall, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, joined last year, The Montauk Project continued its evolution from a jam band to a heavier, more cohesive sound, although its sound remains in constant development.

“We still jump around a lot with our sound,” Mr. Marshall said before the show Friday. “We definitely kind of have more of an idea of what we want to do, but at the same time, we’re still kind of venturing.”

“Still developing,” adds Mr. Schiavoni, as Mr. Marshall says a song they recently wrote surprised the band with its natural departure from their other music. Having yet to decide on a name, the group simply calls the song, which they premiered on Friday, “New Jam.”

The Montauk Project will release its first full-length album, “Belly of the Beast,” on March 25. Unable to pinpoint a specific genre, the band created its own term for The Montauk Project sound: “beach grunge.”

“We have sort of this ’90s nostalgia thing, but it’s not so depressing. We don’t do heroin, you know, it’s not like we’re Nirvana,” explained Mr. Schiavoni. “So, the beach, I think, adds a little light. We’re not grunge ’cause we really aren’t grunge—Jack [Marshall] showered today. He smells like shampoo, he smells great right now.”

“Very pleasant,” added Mr. Wood.

The Montauk Project's Mark Schiavoni. Photo by Ian Cooke.

The Montauk Project’s Mark Schiavoni. Photo by Ian Cooke.

Although The Montauk Project doesn’t clearly fit into a specific genre, “our sound from the beginning to the end of a set is pretty collected, it’s solid, there’s consistency,” Mr. Schiavoni said.

“It’s boring,” the front man said of albums that have a song followed by another just like it, “and I think in a generation where everyone has what I call IPod ADD—where you have to listen to shuffle, people can’t listen to an album—I think it’s very important to have diversity in your album and in your set.”

“I think when you listen to the majority of legendary rock bands that you think about, like Led Zeppelin or even more recently, the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers, they all have that kind of thing,” added Mr. Marshall. “If you listen to different albums from any of those guys, they jump around—but they can get away with it because when you listen to any of their songs, you don’t have to question, is that this band? You know.”

The Montauk Project was invited to perform at SXSW—the largest music festival of its kind in the world—on March 12 and was able to raise enough money at the concert Friday to help the guys purchase their first tour van, which will take them to Austin.

“Everything is a new experience,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “In a way, out here, it’s definitely more comfortable. So when we go to an unfamiliar place, you never know who’s listening, so you kind of have to stay on your feet. It can be a little more unnerving. But then again, you never know who’s listening in Montauk…. So it almost doesn’t matter, you have to play on your feet wherever you are.”

“We’re also going to the biggest music festival in the world, so it’s every single major player in every music department is there, so you can get more exposure,” added Mr. Conroy.

From answering questions to crafting their songs, the group works as a collective. The creative process usually begins with an idea from one member that is then filled out by the rest in collaboration. “The Beast,” the title track to the new album, begins with the lyrics, “Fortune tells if a man is well, but the rage in his eyes shows his other self. But keep it clean, your destiny, as you go out to sea to chase the beast.”

“We have a pretty nice bond with each other where we can all kind of feel out, all right, you’re doing this, and then we all kind of seem—after a couple tries—to get something right away. It’s kind of cool to me, to have a good connection with everybody and so you [can] jump on something.”

“Yeah,” agreed Mr. Wood. “It’s like an unspoken connection. You just kind of start grooving out of nowhere and it just works.”

The Montauk Project will perform at The Stephen Talkhouse, 161 Main Street in Amagansett, on Saturday, March 8, at 8 p.m. For more information and upcoming shows, visit their website.

Local Band on the Brink: The Montauk Project at 230 Elm

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The Montauk Project at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City (Photo by Ian Cooke).

The Montauk Project at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City (Photo by Ian Cooke).

By Tessa Raebeck

On the brink of releasing their first full-length album, The Montauk Project returns home this Saturday, February 15 with a concert at 230 Down in Southampton.

Since forming three years ago, the local, all-original rock band has been busy making a name for itself, playing frequent gigs on the East End, up-island and in New York City.

With the long hair of rock and roll and the laid back attitude of local surfers, the four band members are all East End natives in their mid-twenties. Sag Harbor’s Mark Schiavoni plays vocals and guitar, Jasper Conroy of Montauk is on the drums and adds vocals and bass player Chris Wood and lead guitar/vocalist Jack Marshall both come from East Hampton.

Mark Schiavoni of the Montauk Project (Photo by Ian Cooke).

Mark Schiavoni of the Montauk Project (Photo by Ian Cooke).

According to the band’s bio on the music site ReverbNation, The Montauk Project’s music “sounds like the beating wings of an immortal hummingbird flying through a war in heaven. Powerful, loud, eclectic, rock and roll.” Their musical influences include The Black Keys, Stone Temple Pilots and Blind Melon.

On March 25, the Montauk Project will unveil their first full-length album, “Belly of the Beast,” which will feature 10 original songs recorded at their home studio in Montauk, including the already released tracks “The Beast” and “Black as Night.”

The Montauk Project will perform Saturday, February 15 at 8 p.m. at 230 Down, located at 230 Elm Street in Southampton. For more information, visit themontaukprojectmusic.com.