BY BRiAN LUSH
With the pending release of their third album ĎPLAY THINGí,
THE CRINGE have gotten down to business in terms of making their
brand of power pop something that is going to stand out in todayís
climate. The switch to a more serious approach to song craft can be
to the invaluable guidance and input from legendary producer STEVE
(U2, DAVE MATTHEWS BAND) but the bandís front man and songwriter JOHN
and his band of dedicated
deserve much of the credit. With ĎPLAY THINGí, the band transcends both
pop and garage rock with the all out prog rock of POISON while the
ĎNO CONTROLí will no doubt bring back a memory or two of SIAMESE
SAMSHING PUMPKINS. For anyone out there whining that rock n roll ainít
used to be, THE CRINGE just might be the band that you want shuffled on
i-pod along with SOUNDGARDEN and MUDHONEY.
spoke with JOHN CUSIMANO of THE CRINGE over the
phone. Here is how it went.
is quickly approaching. Whatís all going through your head in terms of
Iím trying to make sure that the team is assembled and that
everyone is doing what they need to do so that as many people know
record as possible. This is obviously the toughest environment for
records Ė ever probably.
Absolutely with the
internet coupled with the economy.
It is definitely easier to get a lot of different types of
music out there but itís still hard to have a big hit or sell enough
donít know if youíve heard about the long tail theory. Letís say you
bands Ė like the COLDPLAYS and the BRITNEY SPEARSí of the world Ė and
millions and millions of records. They are the front of the tail and
that is a
very, very high spike. As it trails off you get to find any kind of
want on the internet and you can be so genre specific that certain
certain types of music will find their ten fans and there are millions
like that that sell very few records. The key is to try to be towards
of that tail.
Now that all the work
that has gone into making this CD is behind you, how do you feel about
Itís hard to be objective about something that youíve lived
with and worked on and written for a year or for however long itís
trying to listen to it objectively in comparison to our last couple of
and I think this is definitely our most mature work. I think the
value is way up there and that has a lot to do with producer STEVE
The songwriting is really strong. We spent a tremendous amount of time
really nit-picky and would argue for hours over the right sound or the
types of lyrics. We didnít lay it down until everybody in the band was
Talk about the
genesis of this band. How did it begin?
Iíd been carrying around this name THE CRINGE with me since
probably high school. Me and a buddy started this band and back then it
joke that we were so bad that we made you cringe. We had this punk rock
aesthetic. As a band, weíve been together for about five or six years.
up that I have now is the ultimate dream band that Iíve always wanted.
truly a band with four distinct units that work really well together.
longer just a garage band with crappy songs and out of tune guitars.
we donít make people cringe anymore.
How did music begin
I guess it began when I was six years old when I started taking
piano lessons. My father also taught me three chords on the guitar and
myself guitar from there and I never looked back. I took classical
through elementary and junior high and in high school I got involved
playing in the jazz band. I also taught myself to play drums and bass.
had bands in high school and I always had bands in college. Iíve been
of music. The first album that I ever listened to Ė when I was three
- was SERGEANT
What other music influenced
First there was THE BEATLES and LED ZEPPELIN and all of the
classic rock stuff. THE WHO was a huge band for me. I felt that THE WHO
the complete package. They had punk rock attitude and fieriness. They
songs that had really catchy killer hooks. Live, they were this
massive stadium rock band. I really think they covered all of the
on I got into a lot of punk rock. THE RAMONES turned my world upside
made good music that was accessible. If you had the right attitude and
all of your emotion and truthfulness behind it, you could be in a band too. That was
really what THE RAMONES
started. Pre-punk, there was THE VELVET UNDERGROUND which was huge for
was TODD RUNDGREN who said that only a thousand people heard THE VELVET
UNDERGROUND when they first came out but every single one of them
band. IGGY AND THE STOOGES was another influence. They just got into
Ní ROLL HALL OF FAME which was fantastic.
Talk about each of the
members of the band and what it is that you think each of them brings
table musically and personality-wise that makes it all work.
Oh wow! Theyíd be much better at talking about themselves
than me. JONNY MATIAS is our bass player. We call him ĎTHE DOCTORí. He
definitely the anchor of the band and is without question the most
in the band. He holds it all together. Heís the glue. JAMES ĎROTOí
the lead guitarist. Heís a really complicated, layered and just an
guitar player. Heís the color. If the band is a black and white photo,
the color. SHAWN PELTON is just the greatest drummer. I donít know if
aware of this but SHAWN is the house band drummer for SATURDAY NIGHT
also a very in demand session drummer. Heís a full fledged member of
There are twenty six Saturdays a year when we canít play a gig with him
he is busy with SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Heís amazing. Heís thunderous and
How do songs get
written in this band?
For me, Iíll lock myself in a room with a recorder and a
guitar and Iíll start strumming a couple of different things and
pop into my fingers and
Iíll feel like
it is something that I can wrap a hook around. I start singing over
phonetically and from there a phrase will emerge. I build the rest of
from there. If I do that ten times Iíll bring ten songs to the band and
lucky, twenty percent of those ten songs will work and weíll all sit
down as a
group and rehearse and practice and work out our separate parts.
song is similar to the demo that I originally brought in and sometimes
completely different. Sometimes other members of the band bring entire
parts of tunes and we wrap them together. Thatís pretty much how it
very first part of the process is very private and then it just becomes
for everyone in the band.
songs off of
PLAY THING resonate for you the most and why?
NO CONTROL is the first single off of the record. We wrote and
recorded PLAY THING piecemeal over a period of a year and a half. We
a lot of touring, writing and other stuff and getting into the studio
CONTROL was the first song we did. I think it shows what we do well.
Itís got a
pretty strong hook to it. Itís the kind of song that we play live and
start singing along to it. It has this BEATLE-sque guitar arpeggio
verses and then in gets heavy and rocked out like NIRVANA or the FOO
in the chorus. There is another song called HIDING SPACE which I dig
itís a very layered song. Itís got a lot of keyboards on it. We had an
b3 organ for that song. I also recorded some cool backing vocals that
this psychedelic soul kind of thing. Itís a little bit of departure for
itís an interesting song.
Is music something
that you balance with your legal career or is the legal career on hold
During the day, I do the legal thing and run that business
but right now, Iím so wrapped up in the record that it bounces back to
a lot of time on touring and playing different gigs and working on
needs to get done to get the record out. Iíd say itís a fifty-fifty
you average it out over the course of a year. In this day and age you
anything form anywhere with an i-phone and computers and wireless
would you like
someone to come away with after theyíve heard this album?
Iíd like them to feel emotionally moved in some way. We want
to touch people. We donít want to make throwaway music. We want to make
that people think about and that can get the through a tough day. I
music to be something that everyone can relate to. I also want them to
their asses off too.