Q&A: John Salamone
By Raymond Simon
Music lovers who enjoy well-crafted songs and dynamic live performances should take note of the John Salamone Band. Together for roughly two years, this quartet from the Philadelphia suburbs is poised to reach a broader audience.
The band-featuring bassist Brian Beard, lead guitarist Nick Vacante, and drummer Zack Zimmer—wowed audiences and judges this past December at the Philly Music Network's SilverSound Showcase, taking first place. Its prizes include opening for Fuel later in 2011 and recording some tracks at SilverSound Audio Production.
Listeners curious to hear the band's blend of mainstream and indie rock are encouraged to download its recent digital release, September Songs (visit www.johnsalamoneband.com for more info) or check them out live on April 2 at The Legendary Dobbs.
Singer and guitarist John Salamone recently spoke to Origivation all about that stuff.
Origivation: How did the band get together?
John Salamone: Me and Nick grew up together. I've been playing in different bands with him for about 17 years. We were in a band called Glasshouse for four or five years and then it broke up. Afterwards, me and Nick were jamming and jonesing to play. We knew Beard from when he played in The Red Kings and asked him to join us, but he politely declined. At 8:00 a.m. the next morning he called back: "Dude, do you still need a bass player?" He said he couldn't sleep once we asked him. Me and Zack work together at Guitar Center in Plymouth Meeting. I went out for a smoke break and struck up a conversation with him. Zack is about ten years younger than me and had never been in a band before. He came down and played; we gelled from the get-go, personality-wise and everything.
O: What's the story behind the band's name?
JS: I always thought it was kind of stupid when a band names itself after one guy, like the Dave Matthews Band, because there are other guys in the group. We threw out tons of names. It was absolutely not my idea to call it that. It kind of just happened. We couldn't settle on a name and we had shows lined up and needed one.
O: What about your personal background? According to the website, you come from a musical family.
JS: My dad sang in bands for 15 years until he got married. He's a DJ and does weddings and parties. He's always had a massive record collection. As a kid, we never really had a catch but we'd sit there for hours on end and talk about music. We still do. He'd take me down in the basement and say, "This is Neil Young. This is The Who." The first time I ever performed in public, I was singing in church. I didn't think it was the coolest thing, but my parents suggested it.
O: How would you describe the band's music?
JS: I always have a hard time with this. It's about your frame of reference. I might play a blues lick from Led Zeppelin for an old friend and he'll say that reminds him of Elmore James or someone I've never heard of. But that's his frame of reference. So I guess I consider the band kind of pop music: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, guitar solo. I mean more the arrangements than the sound.
O: How does the band approach songwriting?
JS: There's no formula. We do it one of two ways. I'll come in with a song completely fleshed out. Nick is a better guitar player than me and he and the others will help with their parts. Or we're just kind of jamming and maybe Beard will play some cool bass line or something like that. In two years, we've written about 35 songs. Some we played then didn't touch for a couple of months. I write all the lyrics. I don't' really sit down and think about something. It kind of just happens. After the lyrics are complete, the song kind of reveals itself.
O: As a songwriter, do you have any specific concerns that preoccupy you?
JS: I don't think so. Lyric-writing is a very subconscious thing. All of my songs are just about life experiences, relationships—good and bad—or sometimes I just like the way words sound.
O: Let's discuss specific songs. Tell me about "Down to Earth."
JS: The music was written by Nick. It was something he had for years. Zack and Beard added some interesting things, too. This is our tribute to Pink Floyd. The chord progressions are very droney. There's an airiness to it, to the chords.
O: How about "Sail Into the Sun"?
JS: This is very different from all the others. It's very poppy and bluesy. I've always loved Tom Petty: he can write a song around four chords and keep things very simple. Once I was locked into a groove, I just wanted to stay there. I'd like to mention "Wrong vs. Right." I'm a big fan of that one. It's kind of funky for us and fun to play and Nick's guitar solos is awesome.
O: What's next for the John Salamone Band?
JS: To keep on doing what we're doing, only on a grander and grander scale. This summer I'd like the band to get out to L.A. We're also hoping to play some of the festivals: South by Southwest, Dewey Beach, stuff like that.