What is the name of your group?
How did the name of the band come about? When did it form?
(Dan) The initial idea of the band was conceived about 5 years ago or so, but we didn’t really take our first stab at the project until early 2010, as a band called Meth Mouth. That band played a couple of shows and recorded a yet-to-be-released demo tape. That band broke up when a member moved away, and the group that became Mallwalkers formed in its wake, and we started practicing and writing songs in late-2010. We had a lot of trouble deciding on a name (so much so that we played one show as Post-Mouth) so Stephen Schmitt created a giant list of ridiculous band names, and the group settled on Mallwalkers. We played our first show as Mallwalkers in early 2011, opening up for Screaming Females at Soundlab.
List your band members and the instruments that they play.
Dan Carosa: vocals
Jamie Rowitsch: vocals
Jordan Nittolli: drums
Andy Dennison: drums
Stephen Floyd: Bass
Stephen Schmitt: Guitar
Norelle Merlo: Saxophone
Chelsea Merlo: Trombone
Tony Flaminio: saxophone
Biff Bifaro: trumpet
Jenny Kubicki: booty shaking
Where are you from originally? If not from Buffalo, why are you here?
(Chelsea) Most of us are from Buffalo or surrounding areas with a couple exceptions.
What’s it like to perform in front of a crowd?
(Chelsea) We’ve all been admitted to Buffalo’s funkiest hospital and have been diagnosed with dancing fever.
(Dan) Have you ever seen that video of The Cramps playing in a mental institution? Sometimes I can’t figure out which side we’re on.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBMkJ8Zj9sc – Directed by Aimee Buyea (Sugar City inspired yo!)
What was the first tune that you remember “really” playing well, when you knew that you would be a musician?
(Chelsea) I learned to play Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” (Princess Diana version, of course) on the piano when I was 7. I don’t know that it was a game changer… I just didn’t have any other sheet music.
How would you describe your music style? Influences?
(Chelsea) All over the board! Mallwalkers draws influence from old school funk and soul, good ol’ punk rock, hardcore and garage rock. On a less musical level, all of the creative endeavors our friends are involved with influence us… be it creating videos and zines, running art spaces, writing blogs, performing comedy, or just being encouraging individuals!
(Dan) There’s a classic myth that the Ramones were trying really hard to be the Bay City Rollers, but because of a combination of their lack of ability and general weirdness as humans they created something familiar yet totally new within pop music. Conceptually, I initially wanted the band to be like that, but swapping out the Bay City Rollers for Otis Redding and Carla Thomas being backed up by Booker T and the MGs. However, as the band has grown in numbers and stylistically shifted a bit, I envision us as more of a punk rock Parliament-Funkadelic or something.
Ultimately, I wanted to create a band that had some of the musical elements of classic 60s and 70s soul and funk, but maintain the bite of punk rock. I feel like there are a lot of bands around who have roots in soul and funk, but kind of miss the point when it comes to capturing the urgency of that music at that time. By refocusing that style through a punk rock lens, I think we are able to generate that energy that’s lacking in a lot of other bands, while also being genuinely weird. In that sense, I feel like we draw a lot on classic left-of-center post-punk, new wave and garage bands like the B-52’s, Devo, Make-Up, Dirtbombs, ESG, Gang of Four, The Contortions, and countless others.
Did music come naturally to you? Or were you driven to learn and play/sing? What sparked the passion? Do you come from a musical family?
(Chelsea) For me personally, music didn’t necessarily come naturally, but I so badly wanted to be a musician and play in bands so I practiced and practiced until I was at a point where I could play with other musicians. I started piano when I was five, electric bass at 12, upright bass at 13, and trombone in high school. This is the first band I’ve ever played trombone in, and I’d only taken a handful of lessons so there’s definitely a learning curve. Fortunately, Mallwalkers focuses more on energy than honed technique. I played in my first punk band, Dynamite Kneesocks, when I was 12 and couldn’t imagine ever finding a hobby more fun than that, so I stuck with music and have been playing in bands ever since! My sister Norelle (saxophonist in Mallwalkers) and I were not athletically inclined children, so music seemed like a natural (and safe) choice and our parents were very supportive when it came to paying for multiple music lessons per week and driving us and our instruments all over town.
(Dan) Ha, definitely not. I didn’t really care much for music in general until punk rock broke my brain in high school, but have expanded my tastes significantly since then. My family is not very musical, though I do think listening to Oldies 104 with my mom when I was really young shaped my taste in pop music to some degree, and gave me a taste for 50’s rock and roll, Motown soul and the better known British Invasion and first wave American garage bands.
Which famous musician(s) do you admire?
(Chelsea) I’m fortunate in that most of my favorite musicians are friends that live right here in Buffalo! Listen closely and you’ll hear them too!
(Dan) This list could go on forever. Discovering Fugazi in early high school was a major factor in exposing me to a lot of different ideas, in both musical as well as personal/political realms.
Where is your favorite place to play/sing in Buffalo? Where would you most like to play/sing in Buffalo?
(Chelsea) Definitely the Polish Library!
(Dan) I’m very partial to spots like The Vault and Sugar City that are dedicated to having art for the sake of art, not as a side show to sell drinks.
What’s your day job?
(Chelsea) We’ve got quite the variety of professions in this band. I’m a marketing director and technology coordinator for a dental practice. Norelle is a manager with Wegmans. Jamie is a music therapist. Biff owns and operates Argy Bargy Screen Printing. Jordan helps individuals with mental challenges. Jenny is an esquire. The Stephens do mysterious important computer work. Tony is a maintenance master for a school. I think Dan is secretly a horse breeder, but I’m not sure.
What was the last live music performance that you caught? What was the best show you ever caught? What was the show that got away – the one that you never got to see?
(Chelsea) I went to see SWANS at the Tralf last weekend. Holy heavy! One of the best shows I’ve ever seen was Shellac at Babeville…. one of my favorite bands in such an intimate atmosphere. Jesus Lizard and Melvins both blew me away live as well.
(Dan) I just saw Cages last night in the back room of Hardware, and they were mind blowing as always. Even though we’re on totally opposite ends of the musical spectrum, I’d like to think we’re on the same path of creating weird music without trying to fit nicely into a pre-defined sub-genre, but that might be wishful thinking on my part.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9Z9PFfHbL4 – Directed by Pat Kewley (ice cream sandwich fights ice cream cone)
Do you play/sing covers or all originals? Ar a combination of both?
(Chelsea) Originals. We’re not opposed to throwing a cover in the set, but never made the effort to learn one.
If you could play/sing for one famous person (alive or dead), who would that be?
(Dan) If Rick James was re-incarnated, I bet we could do a killer version of “Ghetto Life” at the Polish Library.
If you could play/sing with one famous band (any time in history), what would that band be?
(Dan) Fugazi. Per their tradition, I would also bring a stack of $5 bills to give to anyone who wanted their money back after watching us.
What are your strengths?
(Chelsea) Naturally, having such a large group of people collaborating, we come up with some pretty eclectic ideas in songwriting, lyric writing, and “performance tactics” and “crowd participation techniques” (Examples include dispersing picket signs with nonsensical phrases, handing out Xeroxed Kathy Lee Gifford masks, and outfitting the audience in complimentary hospital gowns to name a few).
(Dan) Our diverse array of influences has definitely helped the band in creating something relatively unique.
What are your weaknesses?
(Chelsea) I guess our strength in size is also our weakness. Being a 10+ piece band poses some serious challenges. It makes scheduling practices, recording sessions, and shows both in and out of town an arduous task. Luckily, we’ve found ways to streamline the communication process and be as productive as 10 people with full time jobs can be!
Do you have a label? A recording studio? Have you recorded a CD?
(Chelsea) Our new album “Shake the Rust Off” officially comes out on August 1 on Peterwalkee Records. Pre-order packages are available at www.peterwalkeerecords.com. Our new LP was recorded by the wonderful Matt Smith at Hi-Lo, an analog studio in Eden and mixed and mastered by John Angelo. What’s a CD?
(Chelsea) Our LP release show is Thursday, August 1st at the Polish Library. Info follows:
Sugar City presents a celebration of the release of MALLWALKERS debut full length “Shake the Rust Off” on Peterwalkee Records at one of Buffalo’s finest establishments. Joining the party will be…
12/8 PATH BAND – Buffalo’s wildest marching band will be bringing a mobile party packed with worldwide rhythms
KITTY LITTLE – punk-fused power pop on tour from across Upstate New York
JOHNS – the most attractive band in Buffalo playing self-described dark garage rock ‘n’ roll
7 pm doors, first band by 8 pm
$6 at the door
All ages welcome and encouraged
Adam Mickiewicz Library & Dramatic Circle, Inc.
612 Fillmore Ave.
Mallwalkers – “Future Shock”
Directed by Pat Kewley
MALLWALKERS “Going Downtown”
Directed by Aimee Buyea
Photos: Ethan Calabrese, Lisa Brown
If you play in a group/band (or solo) here in Buffalo, and have an upcoming gig at a venue(s) in the city, consider sending buffalo rising an email requesting to be emailed a Q&A interview that we can then post, along with concert dates. It’s a fun and easy way to get your name in front of another audience that is interested in learning about the local music scene. The requirements are: