NORTH SALEM, N.Y.--It’s been a few months since we last caught up with Gilbert, the five-member band of teens from North Salem that is scheduled to play at this year’s “Celebrate Somers” event Sept. 9. Between that performance and others, one of which is scheduled to appear on TV this fall, there was a lot to catch up on.
If you’re not paying attention to their Facebook page, or if this is your first time reading about them, then read on; you might someday say that you saw Gilbert before they were “Gilbert.”
Don’t let their age fool you; the self-described“rockabilly-bluegrass-jazz-punk” band who covers everyone from Stevie Wonder to Black Sabbath and Rush doesn’t sound like garage music.
Tara Curran, 15, for instance, might style a song with the gravelly texture of Janis Joplin’s voice, but sings with the stamina and technicality of a Broadway star. Justin Giacchetto, 16, can shred like Kirk Hammett.
Though their Celebrate Somers set will include mostly covers, Curran reassured, “It’s still a lot of our own sound.”
With a Facebook following of 475, a recently recorded demo, and an upcoming appearance on the PIX11 revival of “Wonderama,” it’s safe to say the band is gaining momentum. They’ve accumulated a strong local fan base playing at bars they aren’t legally allowed to patronize yet.
With prompting, Owen Hughes, 14 (drums), Wilson Yarnall, 16 (bass), Giacchetto (guitar), Curran, and Eddie Fiscella, 16 (keyboard) can recite the basics; they’ve been playing together for two years, they all met through “The School of Rock Bedford” music camp, and banded together when three of the members’ previous attempt at a group fell through.
Unprompted, they will tell you that the heart of their success is the dynamic of a group of kids that just likes hanging out. While their youth has elicited ageism in business dealings, such as venue owners not paying them at the same rate as older musicians, it just might be the ingredient that fosters their creativity and chemistry.
“Gilbert is a lot of fun because we all enjoy playing music together and also like hanging out,” Fiscella said. “Sometimes, we’ll just go to the movies or Chipotle or something; rehearsals and gigs rarely ever feel like work.”
Perhaps the security of having four best friends along for the ride has allowed “Gilbert” the freedom to proceed with unabashed creativity, or at the very least, given them a safe space to blurt out stuff, such as the name “Gilbert,” which they said was chosen simply because they needed a name for a gig and Giacchetto said it.
Not only did Gilbert stick, but they took the idea and ran with it, writing a fictitious back-story about silent era film star John Gilbert to use when people ask them why they chose that name.
The story has many versions and tends to evolve, they said, but at the crux of it, Gilbert turned to silent film because of his alarmingly high voice, and after hitting some setbacks, recorded a jingle for “Herschel’s Swine Pop,” a pork-based malt beverage.
What might seem like just a silly joke among friends, actually led the group toward the creation of their first original song, “Juicing the Swine,” which goes to show how their group dynamic feeds their music.
Though they only have a few original songs, they said they might bust a few out at Celebrate Somers. Regardless of whether they play covers or originals, they think their audience will appreciate their one-of-a-kind sound.
“When we wrote our first song, something about it just seemed very original,” Yarnall said. “We said ‘that sounds like Gilbert,’ it doesn’t sound like anything else we’ve heard; it’s very much our own.”