Susquehanna Americana


February 19. 2013 5:21PM
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The one thing that separates bands from their audience is the recording process, an often tedious period lasting days, weeks, or even months locked away in a room attempting to capture the sound their listeners have come to expect.


Cabinet, the six-piece Scranton act that blends bluegrass, folk, and country into a distinctive auditory experience, broke down that invisible barrier with its fourth record and second studio album, ??Leap,? due to be released Nov. 20.


Using the Kickstarter-like website Pledge Music, longtime fans raised the money needed to cover the recording costs while a select group gained access to the September studio sessions. For four days, they witnessed the album come together live, pushing Pappy Biondo (banjo, vocals), J.P. Biondo (mandolin, vocals), Mickey Coviello (acoustic guitar, vocals), Dylan Skursky (electric bass, double bass), Todd Kopec (fiddle, vocals), and Jami Novak (drums, percussion) to deliver a peak performance.


??It just forced us to be on point. It??s like, ??Well, we have these days booked and we??re going to have people come in, so we??ve got to do it.?? We had no choice. It kind of forced us to be on our game and really concentrate and try to play to the best of our ability,? Coviello emphasized.


??We??re pretty much a live band. We play out all the time. We??ve kind of forged our sound onstage, so it seemed natural just to record a live album. We were hoping it would have that energy and a live feel to it and not necessarily sound too stale or sterile.?


It??s hard to imagine Cabinet being stagnant. The group has toured across the country for years, rounding out their latest Fallowen Tour ?? which took them as far as Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee ?? with a performance on Nov. 21 at the River Street Jazz Cafe (667 North River St., Plains), where it all began over six years ago.


Building Cabinet

??I think it was Eddie Van Halen,? Coviello surmised as to why he first picked up a guitar at the age of nine or 10.


??My dad had a bunch of vinyl and CDs and stuff. I think I heard ??Eruption,?? which goes into ??Ain??t Talkin?? ??bout Love,?? and I remember hearing that tone. I was just like, ??Man, that??s so badass,?? so I think that kind of started my interest.?


It??s an unusual answer considering the genre he would later play, but he credits Pappy with expanding his musical taste when the banjo player moved to the area from Cleveland, Ohio.


??He introduced me to a guy named Tony Rice, who is a fantastic bluegrass, flatpicking guitar player. From him, from the different channels and all the different people that have played with Tony, I learned about a whole bunch of other different bluegrass musicians and even guitar players, the people that Tony Rice was influenced by, like Clarence White and Doc Watson. I have Pappy to thank for that,? he noted, joining him and his cousin, J.P., for jamming sessions at the time.


??We started going to the open mics down at the River Street Jazz Cafe and we met our bass player, Dylan. He was engineering sound down there and playing bass with random groups. ?So he started jamming with us and he introduced us to his friend Todd, who played the violin and fiddle, and he got up there and we were jamming.


??I think our first official gig was in April of 2006. I think we opened for The Recipe at the Jazz Cafe.?


Their sound developed organically from these ??nice, happy, accidental jams,? becoming what many have dubbed bluegrass, though Coviello hesitates to label it so easily.


??We??re not necessarily a bluegrass band. We have the instrumentation of a bluegrass band, and we do some old bluegrass standards and stuff, but we also play rock ??n?? roll. We play reggae, too. We fuse a lot of different genres of music,? he pointed out.


??All of us in the band have wide musical tastes, so we connect on some things and we disagree on some things, but that??s what being in a band is, I guess.?


The big ??Leap??

The group has always returned to their ??home away from home,? the Windmill Agency Recording Studio in Lake Ariel, to record its ??newgrass? music, a mere 10 minutes away from Coviello??s Moscow home.


??We recorded our first album there. We did the mixing and the mastering for our live album there and for the live DVD. ?(Owner) Eric Ritter is a wonderful dude. He??s one of a kind, but he knows how to push you enough to get the best takes from you without being pushy,? he stressed.


??I think (??Leap?) shows a little bit more of the diversity of our sound than the first one, and it was our second album, so we kind of had an idea of what we were doing. There are some newer songs that are a little bluegrassy but maybe not lyrically or vocally.?


The 11 soulful melodies on the new record continue to touch on themes pulled from everyday existence, such as the Americana opening track, ??Doors,? written by J.P.


??The way I interpret it is there are many doors that you can choose ?? ??doors?? being a metaphor for choices, I guess ?? but which one is the best one for me and which one am I going to choose?? Coviello asked.


??Everybody??s going to hear it a certain way or relate to it a different way.?


Even the CD cover provides a unique perspective of Lake Wallenpaupack, where he spends much of his downtime from the band, turning the serene water on its head.


??(Our manager) Bill Orner, who did the design for the album art, switched it upside down and it worked, like jumping headfirst. It??s like you??re taking a dive and you??re looking out,? Coviello explained.


??I think the main objective is just getting our music out there to as many ears as possible. We??re taking a leap, I guess. Just the way we recorded the album with the audience and with everything ?? we??re going for it. We??re taking a nice little leap, and we??ll see what happens.?


While Cabinet are no strangers to stages all over, playing South By Southwest, Floyd Fest, Musikfest, and opening for Hot Buttered Rum, Railroad Earth, Rusted Root, Dark Star Orchestra, Blackberry Smoke, and more, the biggest and most memorable jump for the 26-year-old was right here in Scranton at the Allman Brothers Band??s Peach Music Festival on Montage Mountain in August.


??We got to open the whole festival. We got to play on the big stage. Growing up in Scranton, I??ve obviously seen concerts there and never in a million years would I think, ??Oh yeah, I??ll be up on that stage one day.?? It was kind of humbling to be able to do that, and obviously to be playing with Zac Brown Band and Warren Haynes and the Allman Brothers. It was pretty trippy,? he recalled.


??I think a lot of people that hadn??t heard us before got to hear us at the Peach Festival. It was good just to play in front of more people. ? People say, ??Oh, I don??t even really like bluegrass, but I like you guys,?? which again goes back to that we??re not really a real bluegrass band.


??We??re high energy. We??re just trying to have a good time. I think people can read that or see that.?


Download Oxygen from Cabinet's new album, Leap, below for free:




Cabinet with opener Julie and Kris Kehr, Nov. 21, doors 9 p.m., show 9:30 p.m., River Street Jazz Cafe (667 North River St., Plains). $10.



 
 
 


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