Wilkes-Barre band Alma Mater gets harmonious with debut EP ‘Cloud Cover’
Debut releases are a tricky thing. They’re not unlike first dates — a great initial impression sets the tone, while memorable goodbyes leave listeners wanting more. “Lightheaded,” the first single released from Alma Mater’s debut EP “Cloud Cover,” comes out of the corner swinging with songwriting prowess beyond the band’s tenure together. Guitarist/vocalist Vinny Amarando, 21, said the band’s harmonies are what sets them apart and makes them worthy of a follow-up engagement.
“As we tried it we realized how many different things we could do with it,” Amarando said. “I think it’ll probably be the most noticeable thing about our sound.”
Amarando, who serves as Alma Mater’s main vocalist, said this sort of approach is a shift from band members’ previous projects, which focused on instrumentation over everything. He and drummer Jerry Maloney, 22, played together in projects as students at Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre, while guitarist Jon Higgins, 20, was part of bands they shared bills with in their teenage years.
The three first came together in 2014, with Higgins behind the board to record Amarando and Maloney’s new band at his studio, Higgins Audio. The two asked Higgins to join them when the group, then known as Cloud Cover, went through a lineup change. The name change came when the band was contacted by a label that claimed one of their artists was already recording under their moniker. It didn’t take long for the band to settle on a new name.
“It was basically a week of us trying to figure out a name that fit best,” Amarando said. “Jerry was the one that figured it out. He heard someone use the words ‘alma mater’ and he was like, ‘Hey, that could work.’”
If Alma Mater conjures up images of pop-punk and all the snottiness that comes along with it, you’re half right — Amarando said the band is heavily influenced by Green Day, but the three also draw from Brand New, as well as local acts like The Menzingers, Tigers Jaw and Title Fight.
They’re hoping to follow in those act’s footsteps and extend their reach outside Northeastern Pennsylvania, with their first step, “Cloud Cover,” releasing Feb. 17. It’s available now on Bandcamp, with a release show to follow sometime next month. For more information, follow Alma Mater at Facebook.com/AlmaMaterBandPA.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @GeneAxtonTL