Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
Despite rising rents altering the landscape of NYC, Nick Schupak, lead singer of The Motor Tom, feels art will remain a constant. “People will find ways, no matter what, to do art here, because it’s just too fascinating of a place not to do art.”
The NYC-based rock band’s guitarist, Andrew Harding, explains this further, saying, “I think it’s hard to crush the spirit. Things have moved around a little bit. A lot of the innovation that you used to see here in the 70s in (the Lower East Side), there was a certain amount of economics to it. The rent was really cheap, nobody wanted to be here, it was an easy place for people to gather who didn’t want to have a full time job.”
“Obviously that’s not the case anymore,” Harding continued, “but the creativity is still here.”
The Motor Tom, which also includes Anthony Formichelle (bass), Luca Bertaglia (drums), and JJ Lindenthal (keys), knows all about this creativity, because they’re a huge part of it.
Jokingly deeming their style, “dum music for smart people” (typo on purpose), Schupak notes it was their producer, Gregory Lattimer, who suggested they focus on making good music, and not necessarily complicated music. “(He) advises us, and any artist he works with, not to over-think things,” Schupak explains.
“For a person like me, with my lyrics, and Andrew, with his musicality, and his abilities, there’s always that temptation to do as much as you possibly can, and make this gigantic, grandiose statement in as many words as possible, and with as many notes as possible. The more we constrain ourselves, (however), the better we find we’re actually able to transmute what it is we’re trying to say.”
What The Motor Tom has to say is largely influenced by the city they call home. According to Schupak, who grew up in the city, “It’s very often difficult to tell where the city ends and I begin.”
“I think what’s interesting about this place, and what I find compelling about most anything in nature, are the paradoxes inherent in it,” he continued. “Nothing provides more stress than this most unbelievably convenient city, for example. What John Lennon called the Rome of today, where everybody wants to come, is also as difficult a place as there is in which to live, and I find it fascinating that people continue to flock here, people continue to stay here. When you’re from here, it’s very very difficult to leave, for any period of time. You always want to come home.”
Harding adds, “It’s also, New York, it’s like, in some ways it’s more about an attitude ... I think there’s just this wild diversity that doesn’t exist anywhere else, too. It just makes it so the possibilities are endless because there are so many freakin people here.”
Another influence of The Motor Tom’s is the era in which they grew up. Schupak notes, “From our vantage point, a lot of popular music, and even not so popular music, but anything you might call indie, or rock, seems to deny a lot about what we grew up with. I won’t go into much detail about what they do, but one of the things they don’t do is talk about what we did when we were kids.”
One of the things the men of The Motor Tom did when they were kids was play video games. “We all grew up on video games,” Schupak explains, “and the people who are going to listen to our music, most likely, are gonna know about them, and understand some of the Final Fantasy references, and Mario references, and things like that.”
In 2014 the band released an EP titled Tracks, and they’re currently putting the finishing touches on an as yet untitled full length effort they plan on releasing this summer.
The full length project was recorded, in part, in a barn in upstate New York owned by Schupak’s family. While the experience was a good one for the band, Schupak notes, “As fun as a the barn was, it didn’t make for a good studio, so the acoustics weren’t great.” That said, he adds, “What we really did there is figure out what the hell we were gonna make.”
While the music recorded at the barn wasn’t fit to be released, Harding says it will still be present on the album in its own way, noting, “It’s almost like a fossilized layer under it, and then we just did a whole new thing on top of it.”
The Motor Tom’s barn sessions also provided them with one of their most memorable post-performance conversations to date, which took place in the nearby city of Kingston, at a small venue the band frequented while recording.
Schupak remembers, “After one of our shows there this sort of grizzly, somewhat weathered, motorcycle looking guy approached us each individually. When he approached me, he said how fantastic it was just to see our set, to enjoy himself, and to hear rock n roll. I noticed him throughout the set, he was really rockin out, having a great time. I gave him the, ‘Hey, thanks, man. That’s so awesome.’ Then he dived into a story about how his wife had recently passed away. He said his wife had died, he was living a strange, sort of directionless, existence at the moment, but for us to be able to give him just 45 minutes where he’s in a capsule, where it’s him, some music, and some pleasure, that was a beautiful thing, and it just really cemented us in this role as people doing something that is not the most important thing in the world, but it certainly has its moments of importance.”
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.