It helps if there’s a desire to make amends. Or in our case…. to pick up where we left off and finish what we’d started. On June 12th 2004 we hit pause. Things had gotten complicated. It was time to take a break. A break that lasted eleven years.
It’s been my experience that the joy of playing rock and roll music with your friends is not just about music and sound. It’s about energy and a feeling.
When it’s right, that energy and feeling has an addictive quality. A pull. You’ll always want to revisit it.
David Link and I had disbanded our beloved post metal noise machine called CLAYMORE around the same time George Tsiaras’ hardcore outfit HONKEYBALL were on hiatus. David’s brother Christopher was on leave from indie pop-smiths LAZLO BANE. This created an opportunity.
What became GIVE got together for the first time on April 1, 2000.
Although all four of us came from different musical backgrounds we were blessed to have one important thing in common. After years of writing, recording and touring at home and abroad in other bands we came together at a time when none of us had any illusions about success in “the big music business” anymore. We were guys in our late twenties and mid thirties set free with a back to the basement teenage outlook.
Mission? Write tunes and have fun.
Folks who were fans of our prior bands were curious and our first Boston show (opening for HEIDI at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge) was sold out before we went on at 9:30. We recorded our first and only release, a 5 song EP called “The Dog Days Of Summer” at New Alliance studios with engineer Andrew Schneider. After a few more shows and before the release of that record David had moved to California. Claude Yama, George’s band mate in HONKEYBALL stepped in on bass. Claude is the epitome of cool. He’s steady. Confident but not cocky. His laid back groove is somehow exactly on the one and perfectly “back”. His style was seamlessly in line with the arc of where the band’s writing was headed. He had to audition though. I needed to hear him play “You Never Miss The Water Until The Well Runs Dry”. He delivered of course. But I can say I’ve seen him sweat. David Link is no joke.
By this time it’s early 2001 and our EP is about to come out locally.
J. Bennett wrote in The Weekly Dig….. “GIVE is just the kind of band that could infiltrate the comm-rock circuit undetected before reorganizing the ranks to suit their own design." A really nice nod to what we were doing. Our labor of love (ha!) had begun to attract some people in the music business. Go figure. Mike Mushok from Springfield Nu Metal giants STAIND had shared bills and traded shows with HONKEYBALL years earlier and was very interested in seeing the band play live after hearing an advance copy of the EP. He booked us to open the first night of their “Break The Cycle” tour in the US at The Casino Ballroom up in New Hampshire. “It’s Been A While” was already the #1 song in America and their new label mates PUDDLE OF MUDD were in the middle slot. This was Claude’s 2nd show. All of this happened very quickly. Our age and experience (we may have been the oldest people there) were an asset. We were able to confidently focus and deliver while really soaking up and enjoying the experience of playing in front of a packed house on a big bill. It was so much fun and kids who saw us there ended up coming to Boston to see us again and buy the EP.
Boston radio heroes like Tracey Stark, Ben Kochan, Carmelita, Matt Burns, and Derek (Deek) Diedricksen were playing the band on their shows and Deek even convinced Oedipus to put us on the WBCN Christmas Rave at Bill’s Bar after we’d won our preliminary night at the 2002 Rock and Roll Rumble and competed in the semi finals. Mike Mushok, his producer Geoff Abraham, and Dennis Brennan (DISTURBED’s road manager) showed up to see us that night. It was exciting.
But alas…. our little dance with the “big music business” perfectly coincided with the downloading revolution and the rapid collapse of the label system. By the time we signed our contract with Mushok Productions (it took a year of lawyer-ing) there was really no such thing as artist development anymore. Mike and STAIND were in a world where if they didn’t sell more than 7 million copies of the next album it would be considered a disappointment. Crazy. Our window had closed. It was fun while it lasted and nice to be considered. We got funding to finish some recordings, though. Win!
We got back to the business at hand. Continuing to write and record songs that we could enjoy and play for our friends. From late 2001 to the end of 2002 we recorded 8 additional songs that were never released but sold on homemade cds at shows. Three more with Andrew Schneider. Two with Paul Kolderie and three with John Weston. All except the Kolderie tunes were mixed by Christopher’s LAZLO BANE band mate Chad Fischer in Los Angeles.
Chris stepped aside at the end of 2002. His pop sensibility and song craft had been the perfect counter balance to George’s edge.
Where would we go from here?
Enter our long time friend and fellow traveler Tony Savarino. We’d known each other since the days of The Cambridge Music Complex and my time in a VAN HALEN tribute called DIVER DOWN. A guitar player’s guitar player. A LEAD guitar player! He’d already filled in for Chris on a couple of gigs and knew all the tunes in short order. We started writing.
Those days in our rehearsal space in Waltham were some of my favorite memories in the band. The core of our sound remained but we stretched out and dispensed with any rules. Tony’s talent and style could compliment anywhere George wanted to go… and George is a stream of consciousness musician. We wrote a lot of new songs and played them at shows but we never got the chance to record any of them. We hit pause.
In the years between then and now all of us remained active in bands. Claude moved to Germany but he and George reconnected for a HONKEYBALL reunion show in 2011 and another one just last year. George also played shows with a new band that he and longtime pal Zachary Leighton formed called THE 86'ers. Tony launched his flagship guitar instrumental band THE SAVTONES and continues to put out records. I stayed busy recording and touring in many bands as well.
George showed up at my door in the summer of 2014 and stayed for a while in between apartments. We dusted off an old cassette that had boom box recordings from our rehearsal space on it. This was the only document of a bunch of those Tony era GIVE tunes.
We sat in the front room of my house and listened to it like a couple of teenagers. “Colosseum” and an unnamed tune that became “Dismaster” jumped out at us the most. We vowed to make pro recordings of them.
It wasn’t easy. Claude was only in The States for a few days a couple of times a year. We digitized the cassette and shared the files to get reacquainted with the tunes and pulled together one rehearsal. We recorded those two tunes and another brand new one at Galaxy Park Studios in Watertown with our friend Richard Marr at the controls. Nick Zampiello at New Alliance did the mastering.
Doing those GIVE 3 sessions was our second chance. A revisit to that energy and that feeling. It was still there. Just had to hit play.
The opportunity itself was a gift. Rock and Roll is the fountain of youth.
p.s. We did this reunion recording project so that we could crank these tunes in our cars. If you’d like to hear them, find GIVE 3 and more here…