Freelance Writer
Carry The Zero, Music Feature in Worcester Magazine
02.15.06 | No Comments
Category: A&E

Minus the corporate crap, and Carry The Zero

Nothing personal against Adidas, but Carry the Zero intends to prove that you need not be “macho” or a “goon” who sports that three-striped sportswear to rock.

Echoing our recent article about Miss Fortune, Carry the Zero seconds the cynicism about big conglomerates and label presidents who know squat about music – ruining, or at least tainting, the industry with buckets of boy bands and fist-pumping pseudo rap-infused hardcore.

It’s such a common cry from bands that you wonder how the biz, with very few true supporters, got to its present state. Could it be ….. Satan! Nah, it’s probably just money.

Nevertheless, rock bands like Carry the Zero vow loyalty to their craft, and hope to usher back an age where it meant something (other than looking great with a belly-button ring) to make it on the cover of Rolling Stone.

“The radio bothers me a lot,” says Matt Erhartic, Zero’s guitarist. “It’s just that I used to do work at a record label that will remain nameless, and a lot of people there just didn’t know – they might as well have been selling diapers or baby food. They just have no passion for music whatsoever so it jaded me in some way, and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I quit there, but I got to know all the A&R guys just in case.”

But they wouldn’t sign if it meant too much of a compromise in style.

“I don’t want to be a puppet,” says Erhartic, “but at the same time I want to make a living. I don’t want to end up like Harvey Danger, where there is no career development and then you’re yesterday’s news.”

Today’s news is that for months, Carry the Zero has been knocking around Tremolo Lounge studio with Roger Lavallee, the person they affectionately hail “New England’s answer to Phil Spector.”

“Roger is a total popsmith, if you will,” says Erhartic. “He knows when to pull the plug and say, ‘guys, that sucks.’”
Tentatively titled Rev ‘Em Up (a song that details the discontent with big label crap), the band will celebrate the seven-song debut with two shows this month (see below).

It has apparently been tough to find the right mix of characters. Erhartic is the 11th guitarist in this trio, which has undergone 22 lineups. Erhartic, in fact, joined as second guitarist at the time, when the band also had a trumpet player aboard. Veering off the highway from Gas, Food, Lodging, Erhartic complements Zero’s founding members Ed Paquette (bass/organ) and Bill Gaudette (drums). All three sing.

With an older EP (Television Theme Songs) and some rough demos (namely the supposed title track) out of Tremolo to light our way, it’s safe to assume that Rev ‘Em Up has a full tank.

The band describers itself as “left-of-the-dial indie/pop with a stylistic mix of your dad’s old Kinks and Stones records.” The Stones/Kinks cues certainly don’t dangle out there nakedly in

Carry the Zero’s songs, but in trying to zone in on the comparison, the listener can detect an element of classic rock stylings that serve as an undercurrent. “Bad Intentions” does bring thoughts of “Paranoia” to mind. Lovin’ those creative keys on “Apologies,” where the band’s Elvis Costello references finally make sense.

Carry the Zero is bursting with promise. As a young band, they are young sounding, and seem to still be finding its niche. At once, it can sound pure rock ‘n’ roll, hardcore, alternative and indie. When the three have got time behind them, all of these ideas they incorporate into tunes like “Running on Empty” will be smoothly sculpted (and probably will be on the new release). Hopes run high for this debut by a talented, spirited trio.

“Even though we’re a three-piece,” says Paquette, “I think we come across as a lot bigger.”

“We’re looking to take it as far as we can,” says Erhartic. “We understand that it’s not the hottest stuff – it’s not rap rock or candy pop, it’s kind of in between. It’s almost for the people who have been alienated by all of the crap on the radio. I don’t think we’re breaking any new ground, but it’s an alternative to Dope and Slipknot.”

DETAILS:
What: Carry the Zero
When: Jan. 19 and 26
Where: Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner and the Lucky Dog Music Hall (respectively)

Babaloo!, featuring in The Boston Globe’s City Weekly
02.15.06 | No Comments
Category: A&E

Ran in City Weekly section of The Boston Globe, January, 2001

BABALOO!

The band grooves. And it plays its share of rock clubs. It pleases young, jam band fans. But to call Babaloo a rock band is like calling Burger King a barbecue restaurant.

One of the defining factors that exclude it from being a rock band is its lack of a drum kit. The solid slap of the typical skins is shoved aside here for a jambalaya of world rhythms on congas, maracas and other handle things that dangle from the percussion tree.

“We just don’t play rock at all,” says percussionist/trumpet player La’Zik Chillem. “We don’t have a drum set, which is a phenomenon to me. We bridge every gap in prejudices. Our sole purpose is to be sweaty and celebrate and enjoy life through the spirit of our music.”

Though it isn’t rock, jazz or folk, Babaloo pulls elements from African, Latin-American, reggae, salsa, Irish, Samba, ska, mambo, bossa nova, juju, cha-cha, calypso, Caribbean and other sandy music. In fact, Chillem says this band is best suited for jamming on a cruise ship or an island somewhere. Sesame Street ought to think about booking Babaloo to play on the street with the Muppets. It would be perfect.

Babaloo has enjoyed bills with Maceo Parker, Burning Spear and most recently, on the Levi Stage at the Santana show at the Tweeter Center.

“We are something we originally created, and I don’t think anything sounds like this. I’ve been working in the Boston scene for 15 years and I’ve never experienced anything like this. Every show we go to, people’s heads spin and they tell me this is the best band they’ve ever heard.”

Marked by quick electric reggae guitar chops, layered percussion, slinky bass and bright lines of trumpet, Babaloo calls its sound “Punk Mambo Hardcore JuJu,” and named its first two independent albums (on its own label, Butcher’s Ghost) to reflect that.

“We just took the rock out of punk rock and put in mambo,” says Chillem. “If I were to compare it, it would be Tito Puente mixed with the Ramones. Mix King Sunny Ade and the Sex Pistols and that’s hardcore juju.”

Musically, the band could be compared to Tito Puente or King Sunny Ade, not to the Ramones or the Sex Pistols. The punk comes in the form of attitude – the DIY ethic.

‘97’s Punk Mambo! would make even the biggest tight-butt feel like strapping on a coconut bra and grabbing onto some hips in a conga line, particularly the undeniably fun “What’s in the Banana,” “McDuff,” “Samba Formosa” and “Your Dough.” Hardcore JuJu, released in 1999, is a lot more of the same good stuff.

Six years ago, the basic sound for Babaloo simmered in a Jamaica Plain cellar called “The Hole,” where singer Bruno Molto and guitarist Mary Beth Cahill traded licks on guitars and…. Kazoos. The basement eventually became a microcosm, or reflection, of world music. Joining the voices, guitars and kazoos were the trumpet, congas, bass and anything else that would fit. It was about the mood, the people and the music. Pure punk approach – not a punk sound.

According to percussionist/guitarist/vocalist Mike Weidenfeller (a.k.a. Peter Pants or Captain Kickass), there have probably been between 20 to 25 members of Babaloo over the years. And the names of the players change even more.

“We don’t really take the names too seriously,” says Pants, “so whenever somebody thinks of a name that’s more funny than their old one, they change it.”

Presently, the line-up and names are: Chillem, Pants, el Presidente al dente or B (who is really Molto), freebassist Slim “Family Man” Goody, vocalist/timbales player Pongo Jankowitz and percussionist/vocalist el Plenero de Pspino, Puerto Rico or Furioso. Molto tells us that Smith Crankshift (Cahill) got shot by an arrow last year, and has since only played sporadic gigs with the group.

Got it? Doesn’t matter.

Sung in seven languages including Swahili, French, English and Spanish, Babaloo’s music is as diverse as its members.

“We’re subterranean culture out of Boston,” says Chillem, “kind of like Brooklyn. We’re very diverse, open-minded and high-spirited people, except like now when I’m completely run down.
“Every one of us is very different. We’re like the League of Nations, man. We’re eclectic. We come from difference places, family, upbringing … music even. When you’re in a band you’re with each other 24 hours a day, a lot of things happen. It’s like a family. No matter what happens. Even if we scream at each other, we meet at the music. Music is our safety net. It’s a beautiful thing.”

They meet at the music, and meet at the Milky Way, which certainly isn’t the Love Boat. But Babaloo and its many fans can pretend they’re on a cruise ship. Feel free to bring a limbo bar, leis or straw hats to heighten the experience.

Random Music Column I, Worcester Magazine
02.14.06 | No Comments
Category: Music Columns

Issue Date: Nov. 24, 2005
Worcester Magazine

Cookie Full of Arsenault

Last time out: As the result of health issues, guitarist and singer Gary O will play his last gig before heading into musical retirement on Sunday, Dec. 4. O has played in the Gary O Show, Blue Water, the Buggs Moran band and Blues You Can Use, and will finish off his run with Dark Horse on Dec. 4 as part of the Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert. The show also includes the Blue Water Band, Bad Habit, The Usual Suspects, Last Breath, Shakey Ground, Johnny and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivors, Roy Bean, Three Guys Plumbing and Johnny Harrison. O will also perform some solo stuff. It’s a $10 donation and runs from 1-10 p.m. at the Kas Bar on Route 20.

Oops, the CD isn’t done yet: The recording and most of the mixing is done, but Charlie Ball tells us that, regrettably, the new Plainfolk disc won’t be ready for this Saturday’s Green Rooster show – though the band is still playing. Plainfolk may have been rather ambitious time wise, but it is still psyched about the product and it seems it’ll be worth the wait (the release is a few weeks away, says Ball).

A hornier Craig: On Friday, Craig invites a horn section to join the band for the first time at Tammany Hall. The jam band also has a CD that’s on its last lap, ready to cross the finish line, but probably won’t be complete for this particular show. We’re sure to hear about it when it is, as Craig ought to hold classes for bands on how to promote your group.

Club notes: Be sure to call your favorite club or pub to find out what they’ve got going on Thanksgiving Eve. And remember, you don’t want to be hanging and ruin your meal. On Friday, Crash Midnight, Of the Hour and Sumo share the bill at Ralph’s; Little Big Wheel’s rolling in for the first time since its CD release party, at the Lucky Dog; the Chad LaMarsh Band returns to the Irish Times; Tom Rush makes his annual Turkey run to the Bull Run; Guiding Star and DJ Buddas host an “Old Hits: Raytown Reunion Dance” at Club Marque. On Saturday, Pharmaceutically Gifted is back at the Java Hut; Campaign for Real Time headlines Ralph’s; Arch Enemy leads the lineup downstairs at the Palladium; and Skulltoboggan rocks the Lucky Dog. The Change plays Thanksgiving Eve, plus Friday and Saturday night at Sakura Tokyo. David Foster and the Mohegan Sun All-Stars take care of the weekend at Union Blues.