With a sound described as "indie-rock covered with a thin grime of punk," Shemp—named after the "often forgotten" member of the Three Stooges—is no ordinary high school band. So far, the eight-member band—comprised of Mamaroneck High School seniors—has recorded an album; played venues like the Emelin Theatre and 72 in NYC; and refused to compromise their artistic integrety. Band members include Alex McGrath, Anthony Dean, Charlie Kirby, Devon Bonadonna, Jonny Greeman, Kyle Bokert, Michael Bianco, and Nick Viagas
According to Bianco, the band prolifically wrote songs last year, however, only 10 made the cut for their album "My Night's Entertainment."
"We began writing dozens of songs over the summer of 2012. Most of them had some facial blemishes, a weird smell, or a severe personality disorder. The songs on the album are the ones that got a shower and some counseling," he said.
Bianco talked to Patch about the band's influences—Pavement, The Pixies, The Strokes and Can—as well as the challenges of working with so many different personalities.
Larchmont Patch: You've defined your sound as "indie rock with a veneer of punk." Can you explain a bit more about this distinction? How does the punk come into play?
Bianco: We strive to play vital and valid music that isn’t afraid to breathe, be passionate, and to frequently be loud. We felt it necessary to bastardize the word “punk” in order to highlight this particular element we feel is important in our music. In the world of processed and packaged music, listeners deserve a heads- up, and this was our method of delivering it. Sometimes the punk quality in a song is only an undertone, and other times it’s at the forefront, but even if it’s entirely missing from the song, punk always remains an influence; our songs are always in the ineffable spirit of punk.
Larchmont Patch: Is it hard to manage the creative differences between eight band members?
Bianco: Yes and no. Our number serves us in many creative ways; all eight of us contribute a unique portion of what in collective is Shemp. A band member or two usually will write a song and then the line-up is dictated by whatever that songs specifically needs. We usually flesh out songs during repeated practices. For example, in the case of "Bob Costas," Anthony Dean had written the music but didn’t pen lyrics yet. He chose to put Devon Bonadonna as the singer, and during the rehearsal Devon wrote the lyrics on the spot, letting Anthony focus on lead guitar. We recorded the spontaneous moment for reference and then later in subsequent practices solidified the song. We encounter difficulties and differences on the business and management side of the equation, but with votes and debates we grudgingly get though it!
Larchmont Patch: How did the band form? Are you all former band geeks or self-taught?
Bianco: The band formed as a recreational hobby. We’re all friends, and everyday we would gather in a basement to jam on songs. In order to let everyone play every instrument they wanted, after each song we finished, we switched instruments clock-wise. This action was dubbed “Shemping." We eventually came to describe ourselves as Shemp. Even to this day, the name’s origin seems fuzzy, but we knew then that it even had the proper cadence.
Shemp easily conjures up the right image to describe our motley assortment of individuals: band geeks, autodidacts, audiophiles, and everything else under the sun. The connotation to the stooge, Shemp, is also a fitting one. Often forgotten in lieu of Curly’s falsetto memorability, the original member of the trio remains underappreciated. When Shemp died, the stooges resorted to replacing him with an actor who resembled him so poorly that he was called “the fake Shemp." Yeah, we hope that doesn’t happen with us…
Larchmont Patch: Explain the picture on your album cover.
Bianco: After deciding to title the album “My Night’s Entertainment," we wanted to capture a theme of darkness and fun. In physical copies of the album, we included a picture of our dingy rehearsal basement; a picture of us in a car at night; and a picture of our friend underneath an overcast sky. But we were still left wondering what would be the cover. We decided we wanted the cover to be an art piece by a local Mamaroneck High School artist. After searching, we discovered a painting by Maya Samach that worked!
Larchmont Patch: Are you signed to a record label?
Bianco: No, we’re not. We actually self-produced this album and are currently independent. We’re definitely interested in being signed, but nothing has worked out yet.
Larchmont Patch: Future plans?
Bianco: We want to play more shows for a wider audience, and we are also are looking into the how we’ll produce our next album. With college on the horizon, we want to get as much done before becoming busy again. We love everything we do as a band and we want to make the most of it.
Larchmont Patch: Where have you played so far?
Bianco: We have played a variety of places. We have played restaurants like Crossroads' Bar & Grill in New Jersey, and Victor's Bar & Grill in Hawthone. We have played at community centers and music venues like 72 in Manhattan and the Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck. We have played in festivals like Playlands' "Oyster Arts and Music Festival" and, of course, at our very own Mamaroneck High School!
Larchmont Patch: "Hobo God" was one of my favorite songs. Can you explain the lyrics?
Bianco: "Hobo God" is about wanting something and having no idea how to achieve it. It’s about fantasizing about a euphoric future, but doing nothing to ensure it.