By Emma Furrier
Hailing from New York and freshly signed to Unispan Records, Weird America is a name you are going to want to remember and with a name so catchy, how could you ever forget it? The four-piece rock band may still be bounded in their youth, but the sound they have created is highly reminiscent of bands that came years before them. With musical inspirations that you’d likely find on a Dad Rock playlist, the spirit they harness in their music is anything but outdated. Formed in 2016 by rhythm guitarist/vocalist Billy Vas Pappas, lead guitarist Daniel J. Caprio, drummer Peter Scarpitta and bassist Bobby Joe Finnegan, the band have honed their craft and chemistry in the crucible of live performance and writing over the past five years.
The heart of the band lies in their live performances, where they get to let loose and exuberate the spontaneous energy that gave them their namesake. In the wake of COVID-19 and the elimination of live music from the entertainment sphere, bands had to learn to pivot and accommodate audiences in new, inventive ways. Harnessing this digitalized world of livestreams and online concerts, Weird America used this new landscape to their advantage. I was kindly invited to attend one of their virtual shows in April, which was held over Zoom to raise money for UNICEF and the global water crisis. Utilizing their platform not only to spread their music and invoke positivity, they also helped out a great cause and further impressed me with their humanity— not to mention the high-energy of their performance that left me satisfied in the way only live music can. The setlist for their virtual show consisted of 12 tracks, many of which are yet to be officially released. Having since garnered a Battle of the Bands win under their belt from Hofstra University’s “Label’d” competition, the band are set to record a double single as they return to the studio this June.
Upon first listen, Weird America maneuver around their instruments to embellish a modernized classic rock, southern rock, and alternative rock hybrid. Implementing many classic guitar riffs and drawling vocals, their sound invokes a particular, intoxicating reflection of American rock music. With their own unique styling, you are immediately immersed into this new, weird Americana. While the band’s lyrics, mainly penned by frontman Billy Vas Pappas, often are centralized around youthful affairs like first dates, forming relationships and getting out of your town, it is the power of their instrumentation that grounds them and reminds listeners of their youthful energy masked in a highly mature sound.
Weird America has the central goal to utilize their music to make their audience “feel, move and get weird”. Another indicator of their youthful spirit that is highly utilized in their songs, is that they clearly are eager to explore different sounds, styles and genres, fluidly gliding in and out without any harsh juxtapositions. Their no-holds-barred approach to music is exemplified in their debut EP, '$5 Omelette' (June 2019), which contains five original songs and was engineered by Mike Makowski (RoyalTMixes) at Livin Live Studio in Queens, New York.
The structure of the songs themselves is anything but conventional, and leaves listeners hanging on to every note. Just when you believe a song has come to its end, the pickup of guitar or the final snare of drums wakes you up again and guides you into the next track with ease. The EP’s opening track ‘Medicine Man’ kicks off the EP with a contagious blues riff before being joined in with percussion in the chorus to invigorate listeners. The breakdown of the song is slightly sedated, but Pappas’ vocals strain with powerful emotion and the tempo picks back up in a way that perks you up and pulls you in deeper. The song fades out with a clutter of spoken vocals overlaying the music and blends seamlessly into the following track, ‘Danny Killed a Man’, almost as if it is a continuation rather than an afterthought. These two opening tracks are the strongest in their effort, blending blues guitar with rock inflections, and topping it off with a killer jam session fueled by electric guitar and persistent percussion. Thematically, these songs are stronger, and are shrouded in a darker, deeper meaning that is left up to interpretation. The finale of ‘Danny Killed a Man’ refuses to be disregarded, leaving listeners in a headbanging state of being. The dark haze lifts as the third track, ‘How to Start the Show’ begins and finds its footing in a lighter and slower production reminiscent of early 2000s pop-rock blends. There are moments on the EP where I am just for a second reminded of acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers in Pappas’ vocals and their musical arrangement. ‘Movie’, the fourth cut, gravitates in a similar realm, while adventuring into a groovier side of their sound that is both effortless and charming. The final track, ‘Take a Walk’ nicely ties up the EP with a similar lighter sound, and concludes with the pretty intonation of piano. From start to finish, Weird America encourages listeners to embrace each shift and get weird. If this first EP is anything to go by, it is a strong start for a promising new rock band.
If you would like to find out more about Weird America and keep up to date with their latest releases, you can find the links to all their socials below via the icons: