Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Aloha story - Newport Mercury 3/29/06 - full text

Greetings from Aloha

Happy to meet Aloha. Say hello to an ear-pleasing fresh sound from, from left, Matthew Gengler, T.J. Lipple, Tony Cavallario, Cale Parks. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOGRAPH BY SHAWN BRACKBILL

With The First Annual, Cutlass & The Hot Sexest
Sun., 4-2, 3-6 p.m.
Behind the Student Union, Roger Williams University, One Old Ferry Road, Bristol
Free and open to the public


The word "aloha" often is used as a greeting. In the case of the band Aloha, that's what they hope to be doing on their current tour.

"We're trying to expose as many people to us as we can," said Tony Cavallario, Aloha's 28-year-old singer/guitarist/keyboardist. Cavallario was escaping the 30-degree chill in his tour van outside a Lexington, Ky., club last Tuesday evening when reached by phone. The prog-infused indie rock band would be sharing the stage with the band Swearing At Motorists later that night, part of a club sweep it was doing to warm up for a 50-odd date U.S. tour in support of its upcoming fourth album, "Some Echoes" (on the Polyvinyl Records label).

While the band has hit the road extensively - albeit randomly - since its inception in 1997, Cavallario said that this is the first time Aloha has focused on taking the band to the next level, career-wise.

"When we play live, we're always full throttle... (but) what we're doing is finally following the advice that the indie rock industry has given all along," Cavallario said - namely, record an album, release it, then tour in support of it. "The alternative would be to sit back and hope someone happens to decide that we're the next big thing. By 'next big thing,' I don't mean that we're expecting to become the next Pearl Jam. I mean an art rock band that sells 20,000 copies (of the new record)."

"Art rock" is probably the most concise summation of the Aloha sound. At the core is a four-piece rock band - guitar, bass, drums and keyboards - but the tunes are highlighted with vibes, mellotron, organ, marimba and Casio, and band members aren't afraid to play around with unusual time signatures. There are moments on "Some Echoes" when it's clear that these guys have at least one Yes album among them, but they never come off as rank imitators of the prog genre, especially in terms of the excess, sonically and otherwise. "We don't go on stage wearing capes," Cavallario noted with a laugh.

Deep down, Aloha makes adventurous pop songs, and the 10 cuts on "Some Echoes," which clocks in just shy of 40 minutes, hint at the variety of influences at play. On one tune, you might be reminded of the psychedelic post-punk of bands like XTC, on another you may detect an affinity for '60s pop along the lines of the Beach Boys, and on yet another you'll realize why it makes sense that they've been compared in the past to singer-songwriters like Rufus Wainwright.

"We all appreciate jazz and instrumentally intense music," Cavallario said. "A lot of what we listen to is for education as much as enjoyment. We are definitely scavengers in that sense."

Over the years, Aloha has developed a reputation for improvisation, but Cavallario said that the songs in their live set are not going to stray the point where they are unrecognizable.

"We try to stay pretty faithful to the songs," he said. "A lot of the improvisation happens when we're going from one song from the next. There's definitely room for new things - you need to have some flexibility when you're playing the same songs night after night, otherwise we're going to get bored as shit."

For Aloha, putting together a tour is slightly more of a logistical challenge than it might be for a local act that scrapes up some dough, piles their gear into a van and hits the road. Cavallario, who often works for newspapers, lives in Rochester, N.Y. Bass player/co-founder Matthew Gengler, 31, lives in Cleveland and is pursuing a library degree. Drummer/keyboardist Cale Parks, 26, calls Cincinnati home when he's not recording or touring with indie giants Joan Of Arc and Cex. And keyboardist/marimba player/drummer T.J. Lipple, 28, lives in Arlington, Va., where he runs the recording studio Silver Sonya, along with Chad Clark of Beauty Pill.

"It's hard to leave our lives and spouses behind," Cavallario said. "But when we get in the van, there is definitely a brotherhood that we've developed from playing together. The fact that we're focused on a goal this time, it feels like work, it feels like being productive.

"I love to play live," Cavallario said when asked if he had a preference when it came to touring versus recording. "I am totally comfortable on stage. But it's sort of a fleeting thing. You play a show and then you move on. Recording is forever. The gravity of that is what gets me. Recording is where Aloha can really make our mark. It's a great feeling to make a record."


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