April 29, 2010

Big Red’s Blues Brothers

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The Attic Tones, when free from the constraints of academic life, are shuffling constantly through an encyclopedia of blues riffs, either borrowed from the blues tradition or invented in one of their jam sessions. Lately, though, the only time that Cornell’s pre-eminent blues bland has had to explore new tunes has been during their concerts. It’s been a busy semester for The Attic Tones, who have played for a plethora of audiences; from benefits and fund-raisers to house parties. JAM Coffee Hour, in addition to constantly overhearing each other play, exposed band members Prithvideep Singh ’11 (vocals), Jordan Bernstein ’11 (lead guitar), Jean-Paul Montant ’11 (rhythm guitar), Ricardo Villareal ’11 (drums) and Brian “Hans” Han ’11 (bass) to one another’s sound, which they have fused together over time into an evolving workshop. At this point The Attic Tones feed off of each other very well, in a way that makes each concert unique to the mood and chemistry that they find there. You can come hear them this Friday at the Statler, where they will perform with a capella group After 8, and at the Nines later in the night. The Sun got to sit down with the Attic Tones, and got a sense of their group dynamics as well as their main motivations and inspirations. The Sun: How long have you been together? Prithvideep Singh: We’ve been together for a year and a half. J.P. and I met each other because we were international students. They had this open mic kind of thing, and I was like “Whoa yeah we both like the blues” so we hit it off right then, and he knew all of these guys. Jordan Bernstein: We all lived together in JAM freshman year. We all finally met each other by hearing each other in different rooms, which kind of sparked something.P.S.: JAM has coffee houses every Sunday, so every one of us individually would be like “let’s go play something” and then we’d be like “that guy sounds awesome.”Jean-Paul Montant: The funny thing is, not me, but all these guys ended up renting a house together sophomore year. When we had the space to practice and all of the instruments in the same room; I remember the first time we tried it, we tried this cover by B.B. King, and it was just really easy. We were all cracking up.P.S.: It was ironic. I told [J.P.] first semester that there was a B.B. King concert in Binghamton and I was like “let’s go, let’s go” and he was like “two friends of mine are coming” and it turned out to be Hans and Jordan. I had just finished an Eric Clapton biography, and I saw that Jordan was reading it as well. I thought “shit, this kid likes the same music that I do.” It’s funny that B.B. King is king of the blues, and the band hadn’t even started at that point. The concert was our first musical experience together.Sun: So Ricardo, when did you come in?Ricardo Villareal: I had never played drums before. These guys had a hard time finding a reliable drummer. I just kind of jumped in. We got this really shitty drum set and just started playing. Sun: When did you go from covers to writing your own music?  P.S.: We play mostly covers. Blues is mostly a cover genre. J.P.M.: The thing with the blues is, there’s not that much song writing like other genres. It’s more about adaptation. Muddy Waters was one of the big first names, he wrote songs, but from him on Clapton covered his songs, Hendrix covers his songs, etc. The Rolling Stones took a lot of these songs and twisted them a little bit. We’ve written a couple of songs and we’re always trying to bring new ideas; we change a song so that it fits the band. We’ve written two songs that we play every set, “Weekday Blues” and “Drunken Ballad.”J.B.: We have this song, “Steppin Out”, and the intro riff is based on a riff from a Blues Breakers CD that we all like, but we pretty much took the whole middle part of it and wrote that part. We do that with a lot of songs. J.P.M.: For most of our songs we take the lyrics and the main riffs but structure them to our liking; we are always trying to find new grooves. Sun: Is it just this year that you’ve started playing a lot of shows consistently?R.V.: Towards the end of last year we started playing parties in Collegetown. J.P.M.: We also got pretty lucky meeting the people we’ve met, ‘cause, when we started playing the first time we played at the Nines. It turns out that the owner George is really into the blues, and there aren’t that many bands at Cornell that play old school stuff, and he really liked that. Sun: Do you play there regularly?J.B.: The Nines is like our second home. It’s an intimate setting, George likes us and we’ve got a good sound guy there. Sun: When you listen to blues, what stands out to you?J.B.: We’re all pretty well versed at this point, but for Prithvi, J.P. and I, since we were kids, the blues has been kind of a textbook for us. Getting back to the way it makes you feel, it’s like a dynamic thing, there is a lot of technicality and a lot of proficiency on the instrument, but at the same time its such a release. It’s the ability to take your head out of it; it becomes a meditative kind of thing, to solo and to play with guys that you are connected with. P.S.: We definitely play off each other. We generate a feel. I can feel when Jordan wants the solo, I can feel it in the way he is playing.J.B.: In “Steppin Out” Hans takes a bass solo before I take a guitar solo, and if he’s really really on, my solo will feed off it. R.V.: It’s all about the solo.J.P.M.: There’s a lot of improvisation. A lot of the songs we just go along with. In practice we’ll just be like “oh I like that.” We can play the same sets for a long time, but the solos are going to be always changing, it’s never changing. For the people watching I think its fun too. J.B.: Different solos every night.Sun: So you don’t rehearse that much anymore?R.V.: We should.P.S.: At this point we’re playing one or two gigs a week. With academics it gets hard to find an extra two hours of practice.R.V.: The set is pretty solid as well. P.S.: We have about 15 or 20 songs that we pull in and out depending on the venue. Sun: What are your ambitions for the band?  Brian Han: We pretty much play for ourselves in one respect. In the end, our audience means a lot and we want to inspire people. If you feel passionate about something, especially in the context of Cornell, if it’s not related to your academics, still pursue it, and music is definitely one way that we channel that. P.S.: We’ve been getting some pretty good responses. It’s great to be able to know that people like what you’ve put so much effort into, and appreciate what you’ve put a lot of time into. J.P.M.: We’re not interested in people trying to download our songs. P.S.: We had a show at the Johnson Museum at the beginning of the semester. My job is to get the crowd going and I was scared of that, because I was like “this is a museum.” I wasn’t sure, all I know how to do is get people tapping their feet. We tried to mellow it down to have a museum feel. We had a 15 minute break, and while I was getting a drink people were like “your music makes me want to dance,” and I was like “are you sure” and they were like “yeah let’s do it.” By the end we had 200 people dancing and jumping. J.P.M.: I could see the police officers shaking their heads. J.B.: The band is definitely a defining part of our college careers. We will be able to take it with us for the rest of our lives. And we want to make a lot of money. Check out The Attice Tones online at: www.facebook.com/AtticTones or live Friday night at the Statler and the Nines

Original Author: Joey Anderson