The musical partnership between DAVE GRAZIANI and CHRIS LEPRI reads like one of those fabled examples of rock n roll chemistry that could either create a spark or prove combustible. The Pennsylvania-based musicians have been in bands together since the age of seventeen. Their last band together Ė the appropriately named UNDER A DARK SKY Ė came undone by feuding. Drummer LEPRI had had enough of the infighting and departed early leaving GRAZIANI to reel from the departure. When UNDER A DARK SKY finally disbanded the first person GRAZIANI got on the phone with was his old musical soul mate LEPRI. ďThat band sort of died without him.Ē says GRAZIANI ďI called him up and told him about this idea that I had. I wanted to do something different. I asked him if he was in on it, and he was like Ďfine, letís do it!íĒ

This new project Ė nicked WHEN SUMMERS GONE Ė is indeed something different. The duoís debut CD ĎDECEMBERí is no mere collection of alt-rock compositions that go in one ear and out the other but a loose concept album that explores themes of loss and finding the strength to move on Ė something that this team knows all about. Inspired by the suicide of a dear friend from years ago, GRAZIANI proves his mettle as a songwriter and takes the listener on a harrowing journey made all the more intriguing by DAVE PIATEKís top-notch production.

ROCKWIRED spoke with DAVE GRAZIANI of WHEN SUMMER COMES. Here is how it went.

How do you feel about DECEMBER as an album now that all of the work is behind you and itís out there for people to hear?
I feel pretty confidant with it. There is some stuff that I would do better on it actually but I think it speaks pretty well for what it was written about and it was done pretty quickly.

Why the title DECEMBER?
Itís a loose concept album. Itís not like TOMMY or anything like that but all of the songs are inspired by a friend of mine who killed himself a number of years ago and that was the month that he died.

Hence one of the song titles Ė FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND.

So that incident was the direct inspiration for the entire album.
Most of the songs are inspired by it, yeah. That is what I set out to do with most of the songs. It was my way of dealing with things that I hadnít dealt with in a very long time.

Talk about working with DAVE PIATEK on this album. What was he like as a producer?
Weíve known each other for years. We have very different opinions on music and to be honest, it makes things come out a little better. He challenges me on a lot of things and we had fought about a lot of stuff and some good things came out of that.

How did music beginning for you?
Wow! Music began for me pretty much the first time that I heard MOTLEY CRUE when I was six years old. I really latched onto it and I never really looked back. I always saw it as something that I really wanted to do. I didnít really start to play guitar until I was fifteen. I tried once when I was eleven or twelve years old and I didnít know what a distortion pedal was or how to give it that really mean sound so I lost interest there for a little bit but then I came back around and stuck with it.

You play keyboards too right?
Yeah, I play some piano. I played them on that record. Iíll hear something in my head and then go to the piano. If it sounds great, then Iíll use it.

At what point did you meet the bass player and drummer CHRIS LEPRI?
Weíve known each other since we were sixteen.

WHEN SUMMERS GONE isnít the first time that the two of you have worked together. You guys have worked off and on for while with various other projects.
We really have. Weíve been together for a long time.

So talk about what it is that he brings to the table both musically and personality wise that makes it work.
Heís the best drummer Iíve ever played with. He is also an exceptional bass player. Heís also a great guitar player too. For a long time he was better than me but he quit playing guitar six years ago and it took me a long time to get past him. Heís probably the best all-around musician that Iíve ever played with and he knows what I want. When I write a song and I play it for him, weíll come together and Iíll play a riff and nine times out of ten, the beat the he lays down is something that I had in my head already. I donít have to explain anything to him and I donít have to do anything. He just gets it.

In all of the bands that the two of you have been in over the years, how is this project different?
The sound now is actually a little more mainstream. Everything we did before was a lot heavier whether it was a straight ahead metal band or Ė the last thing that we did was called UNDER A DARK SKY and that was moving towards the sound that we have now. It was kind of like hardcore music mixed with hard rock and weíve gone all the way with this new project.

There was also a rift between you and CHRIS before stabling WHEN SUMMERS GONE.
In the last band that we were in, things started to break down and everybody was fighting with each other. CHRISís heart wasnít in it because of other people in the band. He didnít want to be there and it pissed me off that he didnít want to be there. Everybody knew that this band was the last place he wanted to be but I didnít think that he was going to quit on me. We started looking for a new drummer and that didnít go over very well so we didnít talk to each other for years. That band sort of died without him and I called him up and told him about this idea that I had. I wanted to do something different. I asked him if he was in on it, and he was like Ďfine, lets do it!í

Explain the creative process between the two of you. How do songs get written?
I pretty much play guitar constantly and get good riffs. I actually had a plot for this album and there was a certain structure that I wanted the songs to follow. I was able to sit there and plot them out. Iíll get a loose structure for a song together or even a couple of songs and he and I will jam on it. I write some lyrics and demo it out and go over them again and make some more changes. On that last album, we threw it together so fast that a lot of the changes we made when we were recording the final copy. The ball was rolling and DECEMBER is what we ended up with.

The theme of this album is about loss and moving on. Are there any other themes that you would like to explore as a songwriter?
As weak as it sounds, Iíd actually like to write an album like a BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN album to be honest with you. I always wanted to be able to capture something like that, you know what I mean?

You want to tell a story.
Exactly. I think I kind of touched on that with a couple of the songs on DECEMBER, but I didnít get far enough.

I think you did with FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND and OCEAN BLVD.
That was exactly what I tried to do on OCEAN BLVD.

Itís very BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN-ian. I made up a word! Talk a little more about OCEAN BLVD.
Itís my favorite song - probably the best that Iíve ever written. Itís about Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Itís a place I used to go with my family when I was young. We used to go there every year and it was just your typical small beach vacation town with an amusement park. The amusement park was great! It was a very important part of my childhood. I went back there because my brother started going to college down there and I went there to pick him up and bring him home for the summer. It was the first time I had been therein six years or so and it was just completely different. They tore the amusement park down after it had been there since the forties. They bulldozed it and to put up condominiums and now because of the housing market, itís just a parking lot. They ripped out the heart of that town for greed and that is basically what the song is about.

How about TEN AND SIX?
The concept of the album is about this character going through the turmoil of the last ten years since his kid died and dealing with all of the grief. TEN AND SIX is the culmination of all of that and the character just loses his mind. The lyrics in that song are meant to be the character arguing with the kid who killed himself. Heís arguing with a person that is not even there. Itís called TEN AND SIX because those are the numbers on the MAD HATTERís hat and I thought it would make an interesting title.

After the explosion of TEN AND SIX, ECHOES is all that the character is left with. There are no answers. After this whole ordeal, the character comes to terms with living life the best way that he can.

What would you like a person to come away with after theyíve heard this album?
Iíd like for them to come away with hope. No matter how bad things seem as long youíre alive there is that chance to get past anything. Youíve just got to deal with it.