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inspirations that you’d likely find on a Dad Rock playlist, the spirit they harness in their music is anything but outdated.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:
By Edward Burnett
I had the pleasure of interviewing English band TxtTalk back in February when they were promoting their single, ‘Hollywood’. The interview was a fun chat which gave a real insight into the bands methods which you can read here. The boys from Hastings are back on our radar again with the recent release of the follow-up single ‘Head Out’. This release is a groovy and chilled track that combines numerous genres with aspects of funk, dance and even reggae beats all featuring. This combination results in the ultimate chill-out song for Summer 2021. Yet as fabulous a sequel as ‘Head Out’ is, I’m here to talk about ‘Hollywood’. Now that I’ve had a couple of months to truly ponder on this song, I find myself loving it more and more, truly thinking that this is a top, top track. I feel this single release succeeds in all three areas of discussion: theme/lyrics, tune/music and artwork.
Starting with the lyrics and tale of TxtTalk’s ‘Hollywood’, the song discusses the themes of stardom and how just maybe it’s not all what it’s cracked up to be. These are important messages to be being delivered by a smaller and upcoming band. It’s a unilateral message of keeping one’s head screwed on and not getting caught up in the glitz and glamour that comes with success in the entertainment industry. Falling into that trap can famously (mind the pun, I know, I know) lead individuals to stray from the beliefs and style that got them to the pearly heights in the first place. This message can clearly be shown in the track’s chorus as the boys sing “Cause this is Hollywood/And I bet you've never felt this good/You've got to give yourself/Brand your soul for someone else”. Here there’s the sarcastic jibe about how you’ve achieved the golden dream that everyone strives for, you must be feeling amazing? This question is satirically posed with the asker knowing full well that you don’t feel amazing as you’ve no doubt had to sell parts of yourself to get into the scenario, shown by the soul branding imagery. Few bands not only address this particular important topic in their music and even less would be so bold as to focus on it on an early single. TxtTalk deserve massive commendation for not only doing this but for doing it so effectively and stylishly.
To achieve this style though, the tune of the song has to be as crisp as the unique topic. The music itself on the single we are now talking about is therefore the core of the release and ultimately the way in which the band can convey the all important message featured in their lyrics. The track is bouncy and pop heavy but unmistakably indie. Therein lies the perfection melodically. This positive and fast paced tune allows the listeners to zoom along the song without seeing the time instead being lost in its fun and funky attitude. The single never goes too heavy either despite the at times depressing topic of losing who you are, rather TxtTalk maintain an upbeat melody throughout ensuring the stardom paradox is fulfilled via the musical notes themselves. Yes it sounds so fun and happy but in reality what is being sung is deeply sad when thought about. The fact the band can convey the overall theme of the song via the music itself rather than just the lyrics is an immense feat which demands recognition.
Finally, the artwork on this single is truly beautiful with the massive canvas do inter-sprawling characters and Hollywood references all culminating in a Where’s Wally-esque image. The picture was drawn up by friend of the band Zak Comyns and Zak’s creative work really isn’t lost on the band either. The guys said about it that “there’s a lot of references in the artwork, from the Church of Scientology to Marilyn Monroe, it's really cool to take a closer look at”. To have a young band so committed to putting out quality album covers alongside of course the amazing music within, is a real treat.
All in all, ‘Hollywood’ is a stupendous single full-stop, let alone when considered it’s been released from an upcoming band. With mature topics and a truly fresh tune which is all wrapped up with a gorgeous and clean-cut artwork cover, the listeners are well and truly given the full package. This is indie music in its prime and the UK industry should feel very proud to have a talented band like TxtTalk firmly on the way up. Already following up this gem with the great ‘Head Out’, the boys from Hastings genuinely have a glittering career ahead of them. After a review like that, I bet they’ve never felt so good. I’ll see myself out.
If you would like to find out more about TxtTalk and keep up to date with the band's latest releases, the links to all their socials can be found below via the icons: