Ska? Grunge? SKRUNGE!
Today's Heart of the Underground entry comes out of New York. I originally found this band in the comments section of twitter doing their part to support the small bands just trying to make a name for themselves. I couldn't really place the sound. It wasn't ska and it wasn't rock. It was some kind of genre-bending new thing without a name. Lucky for me, they made up their own name for it and agreed to chat with me about who they are, where they've been, and where they're going.
Headwormz: First, just tell me your story. Who are you? Who does what?
Not from Concentrate: (NfC) was founded in 2008 by Drummer Joseph Giunto and Bassist Alan-Arthur Aurelia. Alan-Arthur quickly recruited Jenna Calderon on Guitar, Michael Simanovsky on Baritone Sax and Piano, and Margaret Hampton for lead vocals. Our first show was at Don Hills on August 23, 2008 at Don Hills in Manhattan. That lineup didn't last, and the core quickly became Margaret, Jenna, Alan-Arthur and Joe. We were all in college, and as much as this core tried, it wasn't built to last. Margaret wanted to write Pop, Jenna wanted to write Punk, Joe was only interested in Country and Alan-Arthur was only playing for about two years and crazy enough to enroll as a music major like the rest of us.
As college ended, the pressure of creating a record and the prospects of touring increased and Joe left the band. Right after we got our first-ish band van! Ironically the first one we got was junk, paid cash for it and Hurricane Sandy took it out. We barely owned that Jalopy a month! It was tough, but Jenna, Margaret and I kept going and did some acoustic tours. After we returned, Margaret wasn't able to help with her payments to our new van (purchased honestly) and the van fell to Jenna and myself. Margaret subsequently left the group.
And then there were two
Jenna and I were left to push Not from Concentrate forward. We continued to write and record, trying to fine good personnel for NfC. In 2015, we released two singles "Little Voices" and "Product of My Century" ushering Jenna in on lead vocals and a new Alternative Rock sound. That same year, we teamed up with drummer Alex Rodier and singer Hanna Cosgriff; beginning a serious push of a 2.0 version of NfC. We also began playing and touring with ska/reggae legend King Django. Unfortunately, after almost two years, Alex and Hannah left after a trip to Austin, TX to record our second E.P. with a noted recording producer. By the time we got back, this incarnation was finished and everything was put on hold. Jenna and I continued to perform with King Django until our last gig; a NYE 2020 party.
Jenna and I took our tacks and began salvaging what we could and put Jaime on vocals. This allowed us the opportunity to scrap some tracks and create better ones. This E.P. was released in 2018 and called "Trapped Under Glass".
In 2019, we received a grant from Staten Island Arts (our local arts council) to create "No Name", a concept E.P. about a fictionalized mass shooting in a school. The record takes the listener from the night before, through the event and ends with first day back in school after the event. All the songs are different perspectives of the same event: The shooter the night before, the shooter the day of the shooting, a kid in the fated classroom, and the teacher the day after in front of the classroom. This E.P. was released on September 12, 2020 (what was supposed to be the first day of school) with an accompanying digital comic book to aid the listener through the experience.
After tracking the record was finished (thankfully before COVID), Jenna revealed to me that she was Trans while we were working remotely with our engineer/producer. It was a lot to take personally, and for the band. I had spent years working to push a female band, and now it was a Trans band. We went through some very rough moments in 2020 as a married couple, but I kept my eyes on the prize and the more I listened to "No Name" that more I realized that songs like "Face 2 Face" are about Jaime struggling with their inner feelings.
Thankfully, things have calmed down in both the band and our marriage I that regard and like one of our earliest songs says "Everything will be alright if we try".
where's the name of the band come from?
The name came from our first drummer, Joe. He had the name as an idea for a ska band since high school. To him it was "the perfect name for a ska band". After he departed, went through a brief period of trying to change the name, but funny enough, Not from Concentrate was already too well-known. Over the years, we've come to take the definition of Not from Concentrate meaning that we provide "the pure stuff" without anything being cut or watered down.
cliche question I ask everyone: what's the better process: music or lyrics first?
For Jaime, lyrics definitely come first. They carry around a notebook, always waiting for the next moment of inspiration. Sometimes, Jaime ends up combining bits and pieces from other songs they've written once we are jamming with a drummer. Oddly enough, Jaime wrote some of their best lyrics for "No Name" while proctoring final exams since the subject matter hits so close to home for them since they are a school teacher.
For me, I can do songwriting after I have a skeleton. I can compose riffs and some basic ideas, but lyrics do not come easily for me at all. I'm best suited at arranging a song, helping to figure out a good pocket, fixing the occasional lyric, etc.
Your Twitter page says "music on a mission" care to elaborate on that?
Even from our beginnings, we always felt that Rock music is stagnant (at least at the industry level) and we are constantly striving to break new ground with what we create. We don't get the sense that any current famous artists, regardless of medium, create works of any real depth or push the envelope. We fill the need of listeners who crave the unconventional, need music that's against the grain and bands that stay authentic. It may not even be the sound we create, but releasing No Name with a comic book. Our mission is to help people think outside of the box with all kinds of music and at all levels. From the riffs, to the lyrics, the marketing, to even the live show itself.
Ive listened to all your music and there is a very distinct switch from a punk/ska sound with horns...I think I heard a clarinet?....to a more rough grungy sound. What prompted the change?
As our lineup changed over the years (at our ska peak, we were a 7-piece band) our influences and sound began to adapt and change as the songwriting skill increased within the band. One of Jaime's biggest influences is Dave Grohl, hence the grunge style being so prevalent. We've come to call ourselves "Skrunge" to describe our sound. We find it a lot of fun to have our creative hands in different genres. We've actually found it helpful to help build fans. Depending on the crowd at any given show, we can change our setlist to accommodate to what folks want to hear. We've always kept ska roots in some way or another because we've found the ska scene to be one of the most open-minded scenes in NYC. At a ska show, you can catch a roots reggae band, a metal band, a Reel Big Fish style ska band, and a Pop Punk band, all in the same night.
Yes, you totally hear Clarinets on "Too Late". Good ear!
social media land seems to filled with a billion bands just trying to be heard, and so many are significantly better than popular music. What do you think is holding small bands like you back from being able to dive into the Mainstream in an age when it's "easy" to get music out there?
Having good and steady live music scenes are extremely helpful and for the past ten years or so, that has not been possible to achieve for most bands. With the advent of the DJ and EDM, the music industry has been focusing on that as the trend and the public are very distracted by advertising in their phones, social media, etc. which present "trends" right to you. And if a band gets a good promotional budget and tries to purchase ads on social media, they are easily buried by those with bigger budgets (corporations, industry bands/artists, etc.).
Even when you finally get rolling, to actually have staying power becomes the next challenge. Many bands in NYC don't understand the concept that it's a good thing to steal each other's fans, which is a real hindrance. It's very much everyone for themselves.
Remember, that's also only the exterior issues, never mind lazy members, people coming in and out of the band, finding photographers, graphic artists, and other volunteers to help are the internal struggles that can keep a band in the horrid cycle of never getting out of the practice room.
I read on bandcamp you did an acoustic tour. Any chance we'll get some unplugged jams in the future?
It would definitely be a fun to do in the future. We've never written songs that were intended to be performed acoustically; we honestly did it because we couldn't get a drummer for the tours. Lol
how has the rona plague impacted you? Were you playing live?
Our last show was on 2/22/20 and we had gigs booked through July. It obviously royally sucked having to cancel all of them. Jaime is a NYC math teacher, so they had to begin virtual learning, and I have been collecting unemployment because my job is playing gigs. On a positive note, it's given us the opportunity to focus more closely on the No Name E.P.; it's release and online promotion. We are excited and ready to get out there and perform again.
Whats your plan for 2021? Live shows? More songs?
More songs for sure! We have a few songs already in working order and have started jamming with other musicians again. Depending on how the restrictions go here in NYC, we may do some acoustic shows if they don't allow a "full band", but the ideal is to be back with a full group. We've been really working to branch out creatively and are looking to record an instrumental single this year and maybe delve a little bit into samples and some EDM tricks.
last bit: What do you want the world to know about you, your music, or anything else...the floor is yours.
When you listen to Not from Concentrate, you hear a journey. A real journey of a band, not with parts buried by managers and PR people. Some songs aren't that great, but some have really resonated with people. One of our earliest songs "I'm Free" actually helped a young man who was living in Scotland and was homeless due to a band home life. That single track literally helped him get back on his feet. That's what music is. It's there to help, and even if you help one person, imagine what they would've done if our song didn't exist?
Think of Not from Concentrate like a musical buffet for Rockers. It's a little bit of everything, and I'm sure there is at least one song anyone who likes music will enjoy.
Check out all the links below to follow the journey of this awesome band, keep up to date on their new release and live shows, and - of course - subscribe to the AudioAngst news letter to stay informed every time we bring you new bands from The Heart of the Undergound.
BAND SWAG BELOW!