Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jilted Brides


The Jilted Brides are a psychedelic folk/electronic duo originally from Melbourne, but now based in Lawrenceville. And yah, they do sing of love gone bad and the road to redemption.

"The name for us represents wanting to do songs about deep feelings and emotions, heartache and those journeys through the dark night of the soul," Nicole Skeltys told Patricia Sheridan of the Post Gazette. "We are sort of reclaiming the idea of the jilted bride."

The pair formed up in 2007, in Melbourne. Skeltys is a song writer and producer, with a long background in electronica with the bands Artificial and B(if)tek (which had Sony releases "2020" and "Frequencies Will Move Together"), and then performed folk rock with Dust, all in her native Australia. She sings, plays the keyboards, provides the electronics, and writes the songs.

Her partner, Tanya Andrea Stadelmann, sings and creates video projections for the performances.

After recording "Larceny of Love" in just six weeks in a backyard shed, the Jilted Brides decided to leave Australia.

They released their debut album in February after meeting PCA/Filmmakers director Charlie Humphrey, another 'Burgh bohemian, who took "Larceny of Love" for his Uh Oh Records label, and is pushing it via iTunes, CD Baby, and the JB's My Space site. It's also gotten some web love on Radio Freakout, an indy site that streams music that mainstream radio ignores.

The album features two concepts - psychedelic ballads on one hand, and electronic hymns that feature analogue synthesizers and choir on the other, entirely appropriate for artists as opposed to rockers. Pittsburgh-bred garage R&B it ain't.

They explain their sound as "...a little like a cross between Leonard Cohen, Air, the Carpenters, Boards of Canada, Bobbie Gentry, (and) Brigid Bardot (backed by) drum machines, old organs and '70s synthesizers."

The Jilted Brides got together in Australia in December of 2007. Skeltys had gone through a tough year: she had just broken up with her partner, dealt with her mother’s death, and been diagnosed with breast cancer, which is now in remission. She hooked up with her longtime friend Stadelman, a video artist and photographer.

The Aussies decided it was time to depart on an excellent American adventure, both having spent some time stateside earlier and bored with the down under life.

Stadelman spent six years here while her father worked in Chicago and Detroit, and came back later to live in San Francisco, where she studied photography for five years. Skeltys took a road trip with an American boyfriend across the US when she was in her teens.

The first stop was Vancouver, playing at the New Music West festival. From there they headed to the United States, where they spent several months traveling to various art colonies on residency status.

The pair visited avant garde hot spots in Montana, Washington state and Woodstock, documenting their travels through films, blog posts, and part of their book (what artist isn't writing one?). When the funded residencies dried up, they spent some time in New York City. The Big Apple didn't cut it for them; it was too much of an urban canyon; too expensive, too concrete, too gray.

They had met Pittsburgh poet (we do have some, and they are quite good if greatly undervalued by the locals) Scott Reagan while they were in Montana, and he invited them to the Steel City if they ever reached the east coast. They took him up on the offer in October of last year, and been here ever since.

The Rust Belt image and the reality of Pittsburgh were quite different, they found. The vibrant arts scene, green spaces, friendly vibe, and affordable living blew them away. They rented a flat in Lawrenceville, scored artist visas, and planted roots.

They've played several gigs around town, released their CD, and found studio space and day jobs to support their arts jones. They met drummer Al Vish (Una De Luna) and guitarist David Wallace (ex-Boxstep/Underflowers), who back the Jilted Brides' live show, and were dubbed the "Jilted Grooms" by Caralyn Green of Pop City.

Stadelman, who is a filmmaker and a photographer by calling, is teaching a course in film production at Point Park University. She's also involved with the Squonk Opera, doing video clips for them. She and Skeltys just finished a vid for Pittsburgh Citiparks.

Skeltys has started up a music-writing shop called "Pittsburgh In Love," crafting songs for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions.

Hey, so Jilted Brides they may be, but we wouldn't feel very sorry for them. Nicole Skeltys and Tanya Andrea Stadelmann are riding life's waves just fine, thank you.

Jilted Brides - "Feelings Never Felt Before"

Sunday, June 21, 2009



Lovebettie, an alt-rock band that's a natural for The X, recently released their debut album "...and we're never coming back."

Forming up in early 2005, the band started out as the songwriting duo of Alexandra Naples (lead vocals, keyboards) and C.T. Fields (vocals, guitar). They added Matt Sharrow on bass (recently replaced by Dan Mulkeen) and Justin Banks on drums and percussion. They're all from the Greensburg area, except Mulkeen, who's from West View.

Fields, 27, is sort of the band's renaissance man. Not only does he perform and write, but he has a studio where he produces acts, a graphic design company, and is working on a book. He's also putting together a solo album.

Naples fronts the band with a bluesy, mature voice, and she brings a sort of pop sensibility to Lovebettie, penning ballads to mid-tempo songs.

Their sound alternates between the mellow tunes done by Naples, and the grungier rockers, backed by Fields, highlighting the difference in writing styles (although neither one is shy about tossing in a catchy hook).

It makes it a little difficult to pigeon-hole their sound; Aaron Jentzen of the City Paper likens them to Brownie Mary while Last.FM calls their music a "neo-soul, rock-pop mash up."

Fields explained to Sarah Simkin of the Pitt News: “We aren’t punk, we aren’t metal. We’re whatever we want to be. We like it that way.” Sounds like alt-rock to us.

They've been busy hitting the stages. In the past few weeks, Lovebettie has played with Rusted Root, The Clarks, a show at Club Diesel fronting A Freudian Slip, and just finished a Red Bull Hot Topics Tour, hitting the local malls.

They've also shared bills with Liz Berlin, Kill The Drama, and Donnie Iris, and played as part of the Hell on Heels tour.

They've get their live music out the old-fashioned way, through various "battle of the bands," and the local club and festival circuit.

Last year, they took second place in 105.9 The X and Hard Rock CafĂ©’s Winter Rock Showcase, and posted good showings competing in Warped's Top Ten Bands, and California University’s Annual Rocks 2 Riches competition. They have been filmed for Comcast On-Demand and been featured in Spin Magazine’s Hot Pursuit.

The album was released on the band's own indie label, Symbiosonic Records, though they're on the lookout for major-label love. They're moving it the new-fangled way, through the net, via iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, and other sites. Hey, who needs money when you have Pay Pal?

And for the big question - how did they become Lovebettie? The group says when it was looking for a name, they had some buds come over, and they all threw words into a hat. They pulled out two slips, and Lovebettie was the luck of the draw. Hey, sounds as plausible as any other method, right?

Don't worry if you can't find them playing much in July; Naples and Fields just got hitched. How's that for making music together? But their schedule takes off again in August, so like most honeymoons, it'll be short.

And it was. In early 2011, the band released a new EP, "The Red Door." Thy continue to explore different sounds, from garage rock to jazz. To support the recording, Lovebettie is going on a national tour, visiting Chicago, Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis and Houston before they play the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

"Dirty Mary" - Lovebettie live from Club Cafe

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Spider Rondinelli

Spider Rondinelli on percussion, with Kenny Blake on sax, Keith Stebler on keyboards, and Steve Trettle on drums, performing "Birdland" at the Backstage Bar on Oct. 30, 2007.
(Sorry, it cuts off at the 4:00 mark)

Arnold Rondinelli was raised in the steel town of Clairton during the depression. And that's the only time depressing and Rondinelli have ever been used in the same sentence.

Spider Rondinelli - we were told he got the nickname from the way he thumped his kit - has been a force in Pittsburgh jazz since the early seventies.

He's mentored half the jazz artists in the City, and the other half he either hooked up with a band or hired, so it seems. He's known as one of the most entertaining and friendly guys in the business, both with other players and with the audience and fans.

After graduating from high school in 1953, he scored his first full-time gig with the band "Deuces Wild," featuring trombonist Tommy Turk, pianist Bobby Negri, bassist Danny Mastri and sax man Flo Cassinelli. They played the Point Vue Hotel in Brentwood, downtown's Midway Lounge, and the other local jazz clubs.

In 1960, Rondinelli was drafted and spent two years in the service pounding the skins with the Army Band, based at Fort Knox. The band also featured fellow Pittsburghers Art Nance, Clarence Oden and Sugar Man Stanley Turrentine.

"We played the black NCO club twice a week with Stanley's band and two nights a week with my band in Louisville," recalled Rondinelli in a Post-Gazette article.

After his discharge in 1962, Rondinelli returned home but still had an itch for the road. He joined forces with pianist Dodo Marmarosa, guitarist Ron Anthony and bassist Wilbur Ware and hightailed to Chicago.

For the next few months, the group performed at the Southern Hotel, Pink Poodle and the Gator Horn, sharing the stage there with comedian Lenny Bruce. The quartet sort of wore out their welcome in the Windy City, and Rondinelli eventually hooked up with the erratic pianist Red Garland, of Miles Davis quartet fame, in New York.

He eventually wended his way back to Pittsburgh and went to work with pianist Frank Cunimondo for a while, but still had some wanderlust. He left to join a group with Junior Williams, who he met in Chitown, and had offered him an opportunity to work in tropical St. Thomas and Aruba. Rondinelli was supposed to stay a month; he lasted four years.

Rondinelli got to meet Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, who later formed the seminal fusion group Weather Report, along with Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles on the Caribbean circuit. Hey, everyone likes to play the islands, right? And he still wears his trademark straw fedora when he performs.

After working in New York, Chicago, California, Aruba, and St. Thomas, Rondinelli came home to stay in 1972. He became the music man for Sonny Daye’s Stage Door in Oakland, playing and booking acts for the club.

"I would go to New York and book talent," said Rondinelli. "My favorites were Bob Berg, Joe Lavano and Steve Slagle. They all stayed at my house."

He also brought in NYC jazzmen Arnie Lawrence, Ronnie Cuber, and Larry Coryell. Rondinelli didn't forget the local acts, either, giving them the chance to showcase their licks for area affectionados.

Sonny Daye's has long since passed from the scene, but Spider keeps on gigging at the age of 74.

Rondinelli has performed at such venues as DeRosa's in North Versailles, the Viking Lounge in McKeesport, Dowes on 9th, the Backstage Bar, and the AVA Lounge. He also played the part of a Latin percussionist in the movie "The Cemetery Club." When he catches his breath, Rondinelli gives clinics to high school kids, and is featured in jazz festivals all over the region.

He's also a father figure to many Pittsburgh jazz players.

Saxophonist Kenny Blake, who first performed with Rondinelli in the mid-1970s, told Nate Guidry of the Post Gazette that the drummer is always thinking about fellow musicians.

"That's the way he is," said Blake. "If Spider goes on a gig and finds out there's more money then he originally thought, his first thought is to hire another musician. He's loyal to the music and the musicians."

Guitarist Ken Karsh adds this: "Spider Rondinelli, who has mentored a lot of the musicians in the Pittsburgh jazz scene and, more than anybody, has kept a lot of us working and kept the jazz scene going in Pittsburgh."

Now, he's regularly featured at Martini's in Jefferson Hills on Route 885, where he sweet-talked owners Ed and Candice Bloskis into giving him a shot in 2001 on the way to another gig.

Spider Rondinelli and the Jazz Giants make music there every Friday and Saturday. The nightly playlist features a heavy dose of John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis.

Pittsburgh was home to one of the great jazz scenes in the fifties and sixties, and while it may not be the top flavor any more, the City still holds its own in talent. And Spider Rondinelli is on the short list.

(Old Mon pulled a lot of the information from a 2007 article on Spider Rondinelli by Nate Guidry of the Post-Gazette.)

Slim Forsythe's CD Release Party


Slim and Parklane Drifters are releasing a full length album, "Bury Me Up On That Northern Tier." Sound Engineer and Producer, Sam Matthews at Holmes Street Sound mixed it, and the CD features ten Forsythe compositions, including the title cut.

The CD Release soiree will be the Parklane's home stompin' grounds, Lawrenceville's Thunderbird Cafe, on Thursday night, June 18th.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blistering Sounds From Banksville Road

Blistering Records

Jim Pitulski is a Beechview guy, and it seems like he's always had the music in him

Hey, ya gotta love music when your initial foray into the biz is hawking and stocking CDs and vinyl at Eides Records on Penn Avenue, where Pitulski got his start.

He actually got a pretty good primer there in Music 101, becoming a manager and letting touring underground bands crash in his pad when they came through town, even promoting some of the acts. It was a valuable lesson in street marketing.

He was in a metal band himself, an outfit called Angus Grim that was more ambitious than able. They figured they were going nowhere fast in the Steel City's small pond, so they piled in the van and went off to earn their fortune in New York City.

Well, they didn't exactly become the talk of the town, but the trek provided Pitulski with an opportunity to continue working on the other side of the industry street. He hooked up with a connection from the Eide's days, and finagled a day job as a salesman for Caroline Records, an indie metal outfit.

After Angus Grim broke up, he left Caroline for Mechanic Records, MCA's metal label, crossing over from the artistic to the business side of music full-time. He ended up being in the right place at the right time, during the first burst of the metal explosion.

Starting out with an indie label, he learned the tricks of the small, agile record companies, like using college radio and the stand-alone record shops to promote their sound. And as metal took off, the major labels came courting, needing to find guys that were fluent in the genre and its markets.

After working at Mechanic, Pitulski was recruited by Columbia, and then jumped ship to the Polygram Group for marketing and promotional gigs. He picked up on the nimbleness of the little fish and the muscle of the 800-pound gorillas.

But it was a connection from his first real job at Mechanic Records that sent him on his way. When he was there, he heard a demo from a prog band named Majesty that blew him away, and signed them to the label. They would later launch each others careers.

Majesty, in the meantime, became Dream Theater; a lawsuit from another group with the same name triggered the change. Then in 1992, just before the release of its second album, "Images and Words," the band's management walked. So they called their industry angel, Pitulski, who agreed to manage the group.

The single "Pull Me Under" became a hit, and the album went gold in the U.S. and platinum in Japan. Pitulski had walked into a rose garden.

"Pull Me Under" was Dream Theater's only hit. But it gave the group almost legendary status as one of the fathers of prog rock. Roundtable Entertainment, Pitulski's new management company, added other progressive acts to the roster.

But the rat race was getting to Pitulski. He left the management side of music and returned to Pittsburgh, back to home and hearth. But it was to be a short break. Another one of those connections he had made was about to pay off, again. (He's obviously one heck of a network guy!)

While working with Dream Theater on a European tour, he met Thomas Waber, president of the German label Inside Out, which pushed progressive rock bands. In the late 90's, Waber asked Pitulski about starting a US division of Inside Out.

Having a safety net under him was appealing and he could work from home, so he got back on the stool by representing Inside Out Music America from an office out of his Greentree apartment in 1999.

The operation got big enough for him to move to a Banksville Road address, and he found that in the PC age, running a label from Pittsburgh was every bit as effective as being in the Big Apple. He and his five-man staff helped IO Music America become one of the hot prog rock labels in the nation, even if it was a secret in Pittsburgh.

He told Aaron Jentzen of The City Paper that "We keep a low profile on the local scene. Not on purpose, but it just seemed like it didn't really seem to interest anybody that we were trying to run a national company out of Pittsburgh."

Pitulski added that the regional retailers were down with IO Music America's efforts, but getting the local radio, press, and promoters to give a little love was a task. Same ol' story about the Pittsburgh scene, repeated ad nauseum.

He also learned a lesson of sorts from his Angus Grim days. Pitulski told Mark Waterbury of the industry mag Music Morsels that "Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it's record companies finding out about what a band is doing on a local level that can actually attract them to you. Be the biggest fish in the smallest pond you can find."

Still, everything wasn't roses for him. He had side projects to juggle, and was finding it tough to branch out; several groups he liked didn't want to sign with a label so closely identified with prog rock and trap themselves in a nebulous genre niche.

Heck, even his trusty sidekick and PR guy, Eric Corbin, ran the Da Core and Screaming Crow labels, homes for punk and metal bands.

The final blow came in 2007, when the German distributor SPV took over IO Music America and decided to run it from their offices in Red Bank, NJ. Unwilling to give up his home and move further away from his family, Pitulski decided to stay in Pittsburgh. It didn't take long to be proven a wise decision.

In August of 2008, Blistering Records formed. It covered a wide range of music, from classic rock to prog rock to metal; they recorded all comers (although the catalogue leans heavily towards metal). The label was based in Sweden, but Blistering knew who to call on to run their operation in the states.

Yah, Jim Pitulski was their man. He was named the North American Managing Director, and is back in business on Banksville Road, merrily running another international label quietly from the industry backwaters of Pittsburgh.

Oh, one final bit of irony. SPV, who pulled the plug on Pitulski's Pittsburgh operations for IO Music America in 2007, is going bankrupt. Speculation in Euro circles is rampant that Pitulski might be able to buy the IO assets at a nice price.

Blistering and IO Music America both operating from Banksville Road? Hey, just thinkin'...might the South Hills become home to a 21st century rock Brill Building? And if it did, would anyone notice?