Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spitting Nickels - For The Love of Music - playing Motor City Rock Revue - April 5th Magic Stick

with - Deastro, The Silent Years, The Hentchmen, The Muggs, The Displays, The Pop Project and The Friendly Foes

(words: milo)
The genesis of Spitting Nickels can be affably summed up as: “three old guys from the De La Salle class of 1982 and two young guys from the De La Salle class of 1999…” respectively referring to bassist John Bissa, singer Dennis Miriani and guitarist Tom Furtaw, gelling with guitarist Chris Brosky and drummer Eddie Baranek.

“In early 2008,” said Bissa of the hard-rolling bluesy rockers, “we got serious about playing out, starting with a well-received gig at the Cadieux Café. We made a demo with Dave Lawson (from The Pop Project) and eventually an EP with Jim Diamond. We even managed to score an opening slot on a bill with Blue Oyster Cult in the ‘Rockin’ on the Riferfront’ concert series.”

“…that was the day Tom died…”


Furtaw, Miriani and Bissa grew up together, attending De La Salle High, class of 82. Early on, Furtaw and Bissa shared “a huge common passion for music.” Digging on radio stations like W4 and WABX, the pair matured into appreciations for power-pop, new wave and went “ga-ga about anything coming out of England. Tom had been raised on AM Gold and I was a Beatles freak…”

Bissa paints the musical/cultural landscape of Detroit in the mid-80’s as transforming from “…the strict caste system that drove you to listen to certain music based on ethnicity and income…” to being completely overhauled into embracing a varied blend of “Clash back to back with the B-52’s and then Prince.” Furtaw offered to Bissa, “‘…if the B-52’s can be a band, why can’t we?’”
The duo continued their refinement as passionate music heads and upon entering college, expanded their appreciations to the Manchester scene and Motown’s seemingly bottomless catalogue. The band idea never came to fruition in the 80’s and Bissa eventually joined the Navy and Furtaw went into public service.

In 1998 the pair was once again living on the East Side, “busy as fathers, and in our careers. The love of music continued, but always passively…”

After he was given a new bass guitar for Christmas by his “exceedingly thoughtful girlfriend” and witnessing the premier of the garage-focused documentary “It Came From Detroit,” the inspiration to form that dream band was recharged. Bissa wound up at the Northern Lights Lounge where he met back up with longtime local player Eddie Baranek (also of the Sights and Expatriates). The two got to talking about music and became (better) friends (having been acquainted,) – adds Bissa, “Eddie will ‘music-geek’ with anybody.”

“By early 2007, we had concluded to get together to jam. I had a co-worker who was of a similar disposition. Straight out of the blue, Tom also purchased a guitar and asked if he could participate. This was completely unexpected -- Tom had never taken played any instrument before.”

“This was an extremely rough group,” Bissa continues, with blunt honesty, “Tom had no musical experience and my experience was way out of date. Eddie was patient with us and continued to play...on the condition he could use the group as an opportunity to learn the drums. Soon, we hatched the idea of playing out -- and Eddie presented another condition: he didn't want to sing lead. This lead Tom and I to approach our old friend Dennis (Miriami) about singing lead -- which he jumped on without reservation.”At first, to avoid becoming ‘basement heroes,’ (as Eddie put it), they played charity gigs and parties, performing all covers, through 2007. Eddie’s participation was a bit erratic, as he was spread across numerous other bands – meanwhile, the rest of the boys were still honing their chops and getting used to each other. They soon started writing original material and Eddie’s friend Chris Brosky joined on guitar.

It was during the show with Blue Oyster Cult that tragedy struck. Ten songs into their 12-song set, on a perfect summer night, Bissa turned around mid-song and saw his friend Furtaw lying on his back, eyes rolled up. Medics rushed the stage and had him out of there in 15 minutes – but Furtaw passed away later that night.

“Everybody -- everybody -- was just stunned. You can imagine the magnitude of the tragedy,” said Bissa. The band pledged to continue, with no hurry to have a new fifth Nickel. They continued to play gigs and write through 2008.

Most recently, Ben Borowiak (former band mate of Brosky and De La Salle grad) has joined on keyboard and percussion.

Summing up the band’s taste and writing methods, Bissa said, “along with his prohibition on sing leading, Eddie has never brought us an original song. Instead, all of the rest of us have brought song ideas (some more complete than others) to "the cave" and we eventually "find" the song by trying various ideas. Clearly, Eddie's very strong musicianship is the stone on which these diamonds are polished, but all of the rest of have contributed original songs and musical ideas. And so the influences come from everywhere: 50s rock and roll, the British Invasion, the last fifty years of Detroit music, 70s blues rock, Manchester, Power Pop and 90s "alternative."”

Coming up, on April 5 (Eddie’s Birthday and the only day where there isn’t a game being played during Detroit’s hosting of the Final Four College Basketball Tournament), Spitting Nickels plays on a monster bill with The Silent Years, Deastro, The Hentchmen, The Pop Project, The Friendly Foes, The Muggs and The Displays – the Motor City Rock Revue.


“The central idea for this show is simple: we have a fantastic local music scene and, on that weekend, we have a great opportunity to share it with the world. For each of these bands to reach the kind of audience we think we're going to have would require a huge investment in touring and other promotion. For one brief moment, we have the world at our doorstep...we should absolutely take advantage of it.

"There is sometimes a tendency for the negative voices out there to get the most play. We're not going to be one of those negative voices. We're going to work hard to make a positive contribution to local music.”

The band looks to record a full length over the summer.

1 comment:

Eve Dopster Knepp said...

Eddie Baranek for LIFE.