List your band members and the instruments that they play.
Rob Falgiano – vocals & guitar (interviewee)
Mike Criscione – lead guitar & vocals
Jonathan Hughes – bass
Ray Hangen – drums
For some gigs we have either Dee Adams or Katy Miner on backing vocals. For my cd release we’ll also be joined for a few songs by Will Holton (sax) and Walter Kemp (keyboards).
What is the name of your group?
Rob Falgiano Band.
Yes, I’m Irish.
How did the name of the band come about? When did it form?
In summer 2008 I got an opening slot for Jakob Dylan at TATS, but had no band. I asked Mike, Jonathan, Ray and Dee if they would back me up, and the chemistry was immediate. You can’t predict how certain players will interact, but we were all pleasantly surprised how easy it was. I feel lucky to play with them and the lineup has stayed intact even though everyone plays in multiple groups.
Where are you from originally? If not from Buffalo, why are you here?
I was born in Buffalo, but grew up in North Tonawanda. I bought my great grandparents’ house in Allentown. This is where I belong. I love to see Buffalo coming back up.
What’s it like to perform in front of a crowd? Give me three words.
At best, exhilarating.
At worst, devastating. (Yes. I’ve exceeded the word limit.)
When and why did you start playing?
I had no interest in music until high school, and it came from being an outsider. British bands like the Smiths, Prefab Sprout and Style Council made me want to be a singer though I had no real skill. I wanted to express myself and tell the world I was awesome even though they’d shunned me. To stick up for interesting weirdos like myself, though it was the “normal” and popular people who I considered the real weirdoes.
What was the first tune that you remember “really” playing well, when you knew that you would be a musician?
I started writing originals as soon as I knew three guitar chords. Most of the music I loved was more complex than that and it took many years to feel like a competent musician. But Pink Floyd’s “Mother” was a song I understood young, and it was simple musically, but complex emotionally. I still love playing it, though I don’t do it often.
Vaguely James Taylor-esque or Glenn Tilbrook vocal timbre, though I’d rather sound like James Brown or Chris Cornell. I play guitar and use a lot of extended voicings from a love of jazz and R&B, but write my version of pop rock. The major seven was my go-to chord for years, but my new songs bang harder on ninths and dominant sevens and I write in minor more often. The color palette has widened.
How would you describe your music style? Influences?
My friends say I’m hard to categorize and eclectic. I started as a singer-songwriter but whatever styles I get interested in I want to try. So I have different types of songs or mixtures of genres: funk, pop, old country, salsa, bossa nova, reggae, electronic. It varies with each cd. My new disc is more aggressive and physical. I’m singing at the top of my range on many songs. Heavy on grooves with a fair amount of rock guitar solos. It’s a full band sound. More of the songs from this cd can be played live than some of my 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?
Not really, though my rhythm and timing was good straight off. No one in my family played, but my brother is equally passionate about music. As I said, I got into music from feeling alienated and powerless in high school. My friends were into punk and we went to all the shows at the River Rock Café on Niagara Street. Other than the Dead Kennedys and Clash, I thought punk was humorless and too limited musically, and my tastes were wider. But the questioning of authority is something I still relate to. The Smiths are as punk as the Sex Pistols, just more melodic.
Are you schooled in music? From where?
I wasn’t schooled but I always had song ideas in a pop/ rock structure. This attracted musicians who were technically better than me who I learned a lot of theory from. My theory is functional now, though I don’t read.
Many of the schooled musicians I knew struggled to write music, while know-nothings like me had no technique but lots of songs. I think the best of both worlds is in the middle. All technique without emotion is robotic; all emotion without skill is hard on the ears.
Which famous musician(s) do you admire?
So many, and for different reasons. The Smiths, Sinatra, 50 Cent, Hank Williams Sr, Sharon Jones, Q-Tip. There are many lesser known musicians I love as much, or more: Paddy McAloon, Nick Currie, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge (jazz), Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, J-Live, Mike Doughty, Talk Talk. I like risk takers.
Where is your favorite place to play/sing in Buffalo? Where would you most like to play/sing in Buffalo?
I loved singing at Nietzsche’s, and did so for about 20 years, but haven’t for several years now. I don’t mean this arrogantly, but as I’ve been around a while, I’ve been able to play most of the Buffalo venues I aspired to, like the Tralf, Thursday at the Square/Harbor, Lockport Canal Concerts, Sportsmen’s Tavern, Tudor Lounge. The Seneca Nation has been very supportive. I’ve played at both casinos since they opened and still get hired for private events and parties on the reservation.
What’s your day job?
I worked with a guy named Heisenberg. He just retired.
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?
The last show I bought tickets for was to see the Brazilian Girls in New York City this summer.
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings played at the Niagara Falls Hard Rock two or three summers ago. They were amazing. Two straight hours of smart grooves. She’s my hero. The female James Brown.
I think it would have been great to see Miles Davis and his group around the time of “Kind of Blue.”
Do you play/sing covers or all originals? Ar a combination of both?
Almost all originals. I have a ton of songs! We only have one cover we do regularly, because I wish I’d written it. “Bonny” by Prefab Sprout.
If you could play/sing for one famous person (alive or dead), who would that be?
I’d love to write songs with Morrissey. I think I could write instrumental beds for his lyrics. Lately I’ve also been imagining doing remixes for rap / R&B / jazz artists too. If I was a full-time musician I’d probably pursue producing some national acts. I know how to arrange music and my studio editing skills have really grown. I can cut the raw material of nearly any individual performance into a workable part of an arrangement.
If you could play/sing with one famous band (any time in history), what would that band be?
Probably The Smiths in 1985 or ’86.
What are your strengths?
I realized long ago that there’s never too much to learn about music and life. I want to keep improving for as long as I play. I started taking voice lessons in 2008 and it’s helped a ton. I pretty much never give up once my mind is set on something. Even to the point of illogic.
What are your weaknesses?
I’m not in love with the timbre of my voice. I try to make up for it by singing all over my three octave range.
I wish I could hear melody in my head more often. Usually I need to sit with a guitar to get melodic ideas, though a few recent songs were written from the melody out. But I can come up with guitar parts and rhythms all day long.
Do you have a label? A recording studio? Have you recorded a CD?
No label. “Nice Mouth” is my 8th full-length cd and the first I ever recorded and edited at home. It was mixed and mastered at Mike Rorick’s Springville studio. Mike is the man and he cleaned up my messes. The cd has an interesting quality – it’s both polished and raw at the same time.
When recording, I didn’t give any of the players music in advance. They learned it on the sessions, which is closer to a jazz aesthetic. Some of the best performances were the first takes because it’s all instinct and feeling, without too much analysis. The brain often gets in the way.
Where and when is your next gig(s) in the City?
My next one is the cd release show with the full band at The Tralf on Sat Oct 12 at 8pm. $10 advance / $13.50 at the door. Can’t wait.
Preview songs from my new CD “Nice Mouth”: https://soundcloud.com/falgiano
Photos: John Ritz, Augusten Burroughs
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