Rocky and The Pressers!! (Interview with Eric Sullivan)

I first met Eric Sullivan of Rocky and The Pressers while he was hosting the Tuesday night open mic at An Beal Bocht, 445 West 238th (at Greystone Ave.), a year or so ago. On May 4, 2013 I went to his bands highly attended record release party at The Mercury Lounge.
Rocky and The Pressers are: Eric Sullivan (vocals/guitar), Mario Rincon (vocals/guitar), Seth Nicholson (vocals/drums), Rocky Russo (bass), Danny McDonald (vocals/guitar/saxophone), Dylan Hume (vocals/keyboards/trombone), and Adrian Colon (percussion)

Hey Eric, thanks for doing this man. I really dig the album and the performances I’ve seen so I want to help get the word out. Here are some questions:

1.Where are you from?
I grew up in Fleetwood, New York til age 10, then attended elementary school in Riverdale at Fieldston. We lived in Hastings when I reached high school. Year after high school lived in Park Slope…then back to Riverdale. So…I’m from the Bronx mostly.

2. How did you come upon this type of music? And would you simply call it reggae?
As a teenager I was listening to a lot of Sublime and their influences…back to the source. Most people don’t know how big a reggae head Brad Nowell (lead singer) was…his listening went pretty deep, obscure references permeate his lyrics, but he was also quite obviously a huge Bob Marley fan. I became a student of Marley primarily and then discovered so much more reggae…and I’m still digging. And yes, I really would call it reggae…it’s reggae.

3. What was your first instrument? (after the paintbrush heh)
Got a guitar at age 3 but didn’t learn to play until 12. At school they started us on recorder and then I learned saxophone.

4. Where did you meet your bandmates? How do you ever get everyone (6 players) together to practice?? hahahahaha
Went to The Fieldston School HS with Rocky and Danny who were both in my younger brothers grade and friends of his. Two of them always had bands in high school as I did…later on we were between projects and we all started jamming at An Beal Bocht…Mario is from the neighborhood and I used to play little league sports with him…he got invited to one of our very first rehearsals…Seth knew Rocky from mutual friends at SUNY Purchase…Dylan as well. Danny Flinn and I started the thing as sort of a duo. After a year and half we parted ways. Now we have Adrian on percussion, he used to hit the MaGoos open mic (5602 Broadway)….really talented dude. None of us work nine-to-fives so we live broke and with our parents…but we have time to rehearse.

5. Would you discuss the “Dance at The Playhouse” image and title? (I think we spoke about it a week ago or so)
It’s a poster that hangs in Mario’s family home in Maine…it was made in 1954 by a man named Tudge Whittimore as an invitation for a square dance that was held in the community “playhouse” which is the building we did our core tracking in. We thought it was alluring and it said a lot of things. Intriguing. Plus it was a welcome solution to the problem of settling on some kind of logo or branding…and an album title and cover art.

6.Who are you listening to lately (if anybody)?
Haven’t been listening very aggressively. Needed to clear my head to be able to mix. I’ve been going back to a lot of reggae on the daily…just keep finding old artists I never knew, it’s endless. Also checking out some early calypso from the 1940s…Gordon Lightfoot and Scott Walker every day.

7. Do you go to record stores to buy CDs or LPs or download or stream music?
I stream from YouTube or groove shark mostly. I don’t carry an iPod or smartphone so I have no need to download…I buy CDs occasionally.

8. Do you have a favorite reggae artist? Dub? (I think we spoke of King Tubby once) Ska?
Reggae has to be Bob Marley…he’s the biggest because he’s the best. I don’t listen to dub all that much, I’m more after the song. Not too much ska really.

9.Great Arrangements on “Dance at The Playhouse” is there a particular producer or record you took your cues from?
Thanks. Nobody in particular. I am a very big Michael Jackson fan…Quincy jones’ work is heroic. The production and arrangement of Scott walker’s 4 solo records has also made a powerful Impact on my style.

10.What do you hope this record does? Are you hoping to attract major label attention? Expand your audience? Get more gigs?
I just want it to be heard…all over the world. And I’d like it to take us all over the world….and to the venues that I’ve always wanted to play.

11. Some of these tunes have an old school, almost doo-wop feel (I guess I’m thinking of the tune ‘Hurricane’) was that an influence?
I’ve definitely been exposed to lots of doo wop …my uncle is an encyclopedia of doo wop and has turned me on to how vast a genre it is. It’s actually something I plan to study before going on to write the next record. That and more of the early calypso and other island forms.

12. So I’ve seen you guys twice at The Mercury Lounge, great sets. I was impressed with how balanced the sound was. Do you check each other? Do you go by the rule nothing louder than the drums?
We just try to keep the guitars low…bass high…vocals clear with enough verb to cover mistakes.

13. You have the bulk of the writing, singing, producing duty, does everyone pitch in for their particular parts or do you have parts in mind for them?
I direct the music pretty thoroughly…guys get annoyed some times but I always try to explain my reasoning in terms of why it’s best for the song. I have parts that I can’t do without especially drum beats…they’re so important to get right. Guitar parts are more open ended a lot of the time. I’m kind of a hard ass…to be honest.

14. Do you have a favorite author?
Good question. I can’t pretend to be extremely widely read…but the best writing I have read was by James Joyce…and also Umberto Eco…smarty pants stuff.

15. What was the name of the punk band you were in? Your played drums, right?
Eye banker…yes I played drums…we put out 5 songs and played 3 DIY shows.

16. The harmonies are really smooth and natural on this album, do you all go to a particular voice teacher?
We have worked a couple times with my old vocal coach, Ilana Davidson. She is a Riverdalian and is involved at the An Beal Bocht scene sometimes…such a great vocalist and instructor. She helped us with some vowel replacement methods…helped us with dynamics on the song “home”. In particular…we haven’t had the money to do more work with her for several months now.

17. I dig the sequencing, was it easy to have these songs sit well next to each other?
Thanks for noticing…they were tough decisions that were made only at the last minute. There are very clear reasons for the sequencing but I am forgetting them.

18. Where did you record? Did you record any of the parts simultaneously? Where did you do overdubs?
We tracked drums bass and two guitars simultaneously in the playhouse in Maine…we did primary overruns there and all the rest including vocals in the year that followed…mostly at our rehearsal space, Rocky’s basement.

19. How long did the album take to make and are you happy with it?
It took 18 months…waaaay too long. We are happy with it and proud.

20 So you’re played in Maine on Friday and An Beal Bocht on Saturday, do you have other NYC dates lined up and where/when can we purchase “Dance at The Playhouse”?
We’ll be at Joes Pub on June 7th! And will be at Mr. MaGoo’s in July and August…having a good ol’ time.

Dance at The Playhouse will be available on iTunes within the month! (I heartily recommend this album it’s a great summer listen with interesting arrangements and beautiful melodies) plus The Villalobos Brothers lent their talents on this one! http://villalobosbrothers.com/

In the meantime give a listen!! https://soundcloud.com/rocky-and-the-pressers/sets/dance-at-the-playhouse

Thanks, as always, dear reader for tuning in! Dig it! Enjoy this weather!! -p

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