By Eric Schlittler
As we ramp up to Arts on the Square, our Interview Swap series picks up this week on the Highway 81 Revisited stage. On deck for this round is our interview with Bret Alexander. Bret is well known as a longtime member of local favorites The Badlees. He took some time to speak with us about the formation of his new act Gentleman East, which is an entirely new group that also features Aaron Fink of Breaking Benjamin fame. Gentleman East will grace the Highway 81 stage at the Arts on the Square event on July 26.
H81R: Can you tell me a little about the formation of Gentleman East?
BA: This spring, Paul Smith and I left our long-time band The Badlees. We immediately started putting together a new group to take things forward. The Badlees decided to close up shop after we left, so The Badlees’ drummer Ron Simasek came into the fold soon after. Meanwhile, I recruited our pal Aaron Fink to join us. He was in a good place to do that, so it just worked out. We have all been friends and played together for a long time. It was a really easy fit.
H81R: I saw there was a posting on your Facebook recently about the group’s New York City debut at The Bitter End, at which you played some new songs. Where is the group at in terms of writing and recording music?
BA: We are still writing and finding out what works. It’s settling into a real straight-up, two guitars, bass and drums rock band sort of vibe.
H81R: Are there plans for a debut album or EP in the works?
BA: Yeah. We start recording in a few weeks. We want to have an EP done by late summer/early fall.
H81R: How are you differentiating this band from the Badlees? Do you feel if there is any confusion out there among the fans, with the two bands currently active?
BA: I’m sure there is still some confusion. There are still a few commitments being played out in The Badlees world. That will be done by holiday time.
As far as differences, The Badlees music was real layered with lots of instrumentation. Real Americana. Harmonies, mandolins, acoustic guitars, etc. Gentleman East is going to be more of a stripped, rock approach. Darker and groovier. Blues-based for sure.
The new band isn’t really a reaction against the old one. The Badlees thing is great. It’s really just the next stop along the road. That is the vibe everyone is feeling right now.
H81R: Having been in a group that has toured nationally, do you think local music audiences are different in this area than in other locales?
BA: Every area and every scene has its own unique vibe. The vibe in Scranton is different than the vibe in Wilkes-Barre, and they are neighbors. So naturally Austin, Texas, is different than Philadelphia. I would love to see a more booming original music scene here. Certainly the talent is here. That is for sure. The consumers just have to catch up somehow.