By Michael Lello
Photo by Keith Perks
It’s only been a few years, but Northeastern Pa. band Suze learned quite a bit between the making of their 2012 debut album and their recently released second album, “Sounds From Thursday Evening.”
“Oh sure, a lot,” said Suze vocalist and guitarist Adam McKinley. “Not only in the recording aspect of it, but in the songwriting aspect of it. The first time, we were still kind of rookies at writing songs, and a lot of the songs had kind of a jam aspect to it and didn’t have much of a structure. So this time, we had all of the songs written. That was kind of the approach, to have them more structured and have them a little shorter.”
The group recorded the album at McCrindle Building Recording Studio in Laurel Run with Jody Busch Jr. McKinley also credited guest horn player Carl Krupa, of the Woody Browns Project, Abstract Peoples and Subnotics, for taking “the songs to a new place that they weren’t at when we first recorded them.”
While the group only has a few albums under its belt, it has been around – in one form or another – for seven years. The current lineup – McKinley, Kevin Gallagher (drums), Brandin Shaffern (bass), Adam Gabriel (lead guitar) and Angelo Miraglia (keyboards) – has been together for five years.
McKinley explained that the band grew from a party at a friend’s house in West Wyoming. He was asked to play, even though he hadn’t played a gig before, so he asked Shaffern to play with him. Other members came and went until the current lineup solidified.
Asked if the individual band members share a lot of common musical influences, McKinley said “yes and no.”
“We are all fans of classic rock, especially Pink Floyd, Cream,” he said. “At the core, we all like that stuff. Kevin is more into ’90s stuff, he likes all kinds but it seems to me he kind of gravitates toward that. Brandin is into jam bands more so, like Phish. I was always into classic rock and I’m a big Jack White, Black Keys and White Stripes fan. Adam’s a big Zappa and John Scofield fan, and Angelo is into all kinds of stuff that I never even heard of, even until this day.
“There’s different elements, but the core was the same – rock, blues-sounding stuff.”
Last month, the band played its album-release show at the River Street Jazz Café, and it will return to that venue this Friday, April 11 with a show that also includes the Justin Mazer Trio. With the longevity of the Jazz Café and Northeastern Pa. bands from the jam band scene finding success, like Cabinet, Rogue Chimp and Miz, tapping into a community of likeminded fans has paid off for Suze so far.
“One of our goals a few years ago was to actually get into the Jazz Café to play,” McKinley shared. “Senunas (in Wilkes-Barre) was home base when we were just a cover band. Once we started writing more and more original stuff, we wanted to play it for people, and a majority of the bars in the area weren’t interested in that. And we all went to the Jazz Café to see the shows.
“I think we all felt that our style of music would fit the room in one way or another. We don’t necessarily consider ourselves a jam band, but there are aspects of what we do that would appeal to jam band fans.”
In addition to this weekend’s Jazz Café gig, the band has a June show lined up at the new Factory Underground in Wilkes-Barre and is set to perform on the WBRE show “Pa. Live” on April 18, McKinley said.
As for the band’s long-term goals, they are pretty big, but also reasonable.
“I think we’re a little more proud of this project with the strides we made,” McKinley said. “We’d like to see this maybe get some kind of recognition, not just locally, but regionally, and obviously nationally would be great. I think the long-term goal is we want to keep making albums. It’s almost like getting a tattoo and you want to keep getting more. The long-term goal is to stay together first of all, and hopefully make a solid living.”