By Michael Lello
What started out as a songwriting project grew into a recording project, and starting this Friday, a live band. Heavy Blonde, featuring former members of And The Moneynotes, will make its debut at The Bog, opening for Floating Action.
After ATM had run its course, singer, songwriter and guitarist Mike Williams began working on songs by himself a few years ago with no clear goals in mind.
“I had a whole ton of stuff I worked out between 2010 and 2011 that I ended up just scrapping completely,” he said. “I tried to revisit it and use it for this, but this came together really organically, where I just came up with one full song, I didn’t have lyrics yet, and another one where I had parts and no lyrics.”
Next, he brought his brother and fellow former ATM member Roy into the mix. Mike took an organ their parents had been threatening to throw out to his apartment.
“So the organ was there, and it just kind of became this routine,” he explained. “Roy’s in New York, but he’d come home every couple of weeks, and I just happened to have a really productive stretch, where I’d have a couple new things to work on every time he came home. And we really heavily arranged a lot of that stuff in that early phase. It was six months straight of us getting together, me on the acoustic guitar and him on the organ, and really putting the songs together.”
Part of that process, Mike said, was Roy’s vocal arranging. Needing a third singer to bring the three-part harmonies alive, they brought in J.P. Biondo of Cabinet, and with drummer and another former ATM bandmate Setty Hopkins on board, the core of Heavy Blonde was in place.
The group tracked 11 songs last year in sessions helmed by Nick Krill of The Spinto Band at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia, where even more Moneynotes, Pat Finnerty (guitar) and Brian Craig (percussion), as well as saxophone player Nick Driscoll, who played with Roy in The Bog Swing Band, joined the fray.
While the recordings are complete, Mike said Heavy Blonde hasn’t decided on how or when to release them. Singles are a possibility, an album is a possibility, and various formats are possible at this point, too.
“We set up a great studio band. Now you have to figure out how to make that work as a live band,” said Mike, adding that the lineup for Friday’s show is Mike on guitar and vocals, Roy on bass, Finnerty on guitar, Hopkins on drums and Craig on percussion. “We need to make it as a five-piece or a four-piece, the smallest possible band that we could make work. Once we get that down, we can add pieces. But we need to have a core foundation.”
Asked to compare Heavy Blonde’s sound to that of And The Moneynotes, he offered a comparison between And The Moneynotes and former bandmate Mike Quinn’s solo material.
“You could tell it’s the same person, some of the same people involved, but it’s not the same thing. It’s as different as our first EP in 2006 was from our full-length album. It’s evolved. You’re not going to get the same thing. And the presentation is going to be a little different, too. We’re going a little more electric with this. We’re not doing any acoustic instruments at this point.”
Heavy Blonde has only two shows scheduled so far, and both are in the familiar confines of The Bog – Friday’s gig, and March 26 with Teen Men, a Spinto Band side project. He hopes to have shows in Philadelphia and New York, and possibly beyond, booked in the next few months.
“I just want it to get enjoyable and have it maintain that enjoyability,” Mike said. “I don’t really have huge goals I guess. You want people to come out, you want to get that fanbase that you have just because you want it to be fun to play, and you want to know that people like it. That always makes it a little bit more fun.
“But the main thing is I want to be able to get together with these same people and continue doing it. That’s something that I missed, I think. I got away from playing in a band for a couple years, and I just missed what it feels like to actually put something together and record it. My goal is just to keep everybody, including myself, happy and interested in this, so that we can continue to do it.”
Highway 81 Revisited presents Floating Action and Heavy Blonde, Friday, Feb. 21, The Bog (341 Adams Ave., Scranton), 9 p.m. $5, 21 and over