NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— Most of guitarist Justin Giacchetto’s gigs are at bars.
Of course, the North Salem High School junior gets a big kick out of that, along with his even younger bandmates: Wilson Yarnall, 15, on bass; Eddie Fiscella, 15, on keyboard; Tara Curran, 14, on vocals; and Owen Hughes, 13, on drums.
“I actually always thought that we couldn’t play in bars,” said the 17-year-old, chuckling through the words as if getting away with something.
Like the bars booking them, their parents are comfortable with it, said Justin’s mom, Allison.
“We’re so much happier that our kids play music than play sports, because we’d so much rather sit in a bar and listen to music than sit in the freezing cold for a baseball game or something,” she said. “And obviously when they play in bars they’re not allowed anywhere near the bar.”
The five teenagers make up the band Gilbert and, for the last year, have been playing live and getting paid to do it, all over the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island.
During a performance at Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard in North Salem, Gilbert played “Tom Sawyer” by Rush as an encore, because the crowd wouldn’t stop cheering, recalled General Manager Christine Covino.
“That’s how you know a band is legit, when they can play songs on a whim and nail it,” Covino said of Gilbert, which hadn’t practiced the song much, if at all. “Their energetic vibe and their up-for-anything attitude really adds to the atmosphere of our community-driven Saturday night cider events and we’re thrilled to have them back this year.”
From rock to funk to soul – and even a bit of gospel influence from Tara – Gilbert is trying to craft an original sound with the songs they choose to cover, and now the original songs they have in the works.
“Adults and children alike vibed with their ‘70s and ‘80s rock songs,” Covino said of their multiple performances at Harvest Moon last year.
They have also played at the Paramount Theater in Peekskill twice, on Pawling Public Radio live, as well as more local spots like Hayfields and Westchester Burger Company. Wilson, a sophomore at North Salem High School, said his dream is to play a gig in New York City – a bar, perhaps.
But, for now, the precocious quintet is focused on Bandjam.
“Even though it’s technically a battle of the bands, it’s surprisingly not too competitive,” said Justin, who spends every free moment he has listening to, playing and writing music. “It’s like, once you make it to this round [the finals], it’s not as much about winning as it is we just get to play on a really cool stage.”
Hosted each year at the Ridgefield Playhouse, which houses 500 seats, Bandjam has both high school and middle school competitions; and the event has been good to the members of Gilbert. Justin, who now has competed with three different bands, won in 2016 with Mr. E, a band that included his older brother Kevin, 18. Owen, has already won twice.
When they take the stage on April 30, along with the three other bands that also made the finals, Gilbert will reach for the brass ring of rock with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” and their first original song, “Juicing the Swine.”
“When we finished that we were like, ‘oh my God, this sounds original,’” said Wilson, calling it a “crowd pleaser.”
The bass guitarist said he got the ball rolling with a riff, and then brought it to the group, who “pieced it together.” Now the entire band is excited about writing more songs.
“Once we start doing that I think we’ll start flourishing,” he added.
“Juicing the Swine” may be Gilbert’s first and, for now, only original song. But, the members are constantly creating music.
“We can bang out instrumentals in like two hours if we want to,” Wilson said, admitting lyrics are the toughest part. “Justin is amazing. He writes stuff like crazy. He brings it in and we change it up a bit so everyone can work with it and we just kind of build off of that.”
In addition to the guitar, Justin plays bass guitar, keyboards and drums. He owns at least one of each instrument and can write music for all of them.
“When he’s not with Gilbert, he’s got a couple of other people who are always calling him to come over to write music,” Allison said, having just picked him up from one such friend’s house where he was writing music. “At this point he’s pretty in demand. Gilbert is far and away his priority though. But, that’s his social life.”
Asked what other hobbies he has, Justin just laughed.
“Honestly, music is most of what I do,” he said. “I do the annual rock show every year at school. I guess that’s music-related.”
North Salem High School puts on an annual rock show, now called Music Makers, which Justin, Wilson and Eddie will play in on April 28, just days before Bandjam.
“We’ve all played in multiple other bands in the past and currently, said Eddie, a sophomore at North Salem High School. “Sometimes it’s like a combination of members of Gilbert. Justin and Tara [perform an acoustic set] together.”
Outside of Gilbert, Wilson makes beats for his friends’ joke rap songs.
“I’m pretty good at it,” he said.
All five bandmates, four of whom sport rock-appropriate long hair, have been playing music for years. They all participated in School of Rock in Bedford, which is how Owen and Tara, who attend John Jay schools, got folded into the mix.
“It’s been probably the best year of my life,” Wilson said. “It’s the most music I’ve ever performed in front of other people. I haven’t had a band that lasted that long and it’s just fun being in a group of people and doing something that you love with people that you have so much respect for.”
To see what Gilbert has coming up, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pg/GilbertTheBand/events/.