How did the name of the band come about? When did it form?
Back in the band’s beginnings we were called Greenhouse Effect since our drummer owned a greenhouse where a couple of us worked in the summers. Around 2002, we found out that the name was already taken by a signed hip-hop band. In our search for a new name, Bill stumbled upon the poem Bookbuying in the Tenderloin, by Robert Hass, which contains the line “the streets suffuse the ten-cent howl of jukebox violence.” It was around this time that the band’s music turned more and more toward a rustic, roots-rock sound so creating a parallel to the days of the dime-driven jukebox was very natural and fitting. Plus Jerry is a jukebox junkie.
Ten Cent Howl is:
Bill Smith: Singer/songwriter/acoustic guitar/mouth harp/transportation guru
Jerry Hall: Bass/backing vocals/keys/jukebox hero
Harmony Griffin: Lead guitar/many things strings/teen heart-throb
Peter Ramos: Drums/percussion/random stage rambler
Tim Pitcher: Banjo/mandolin/all things strings/cosplay wizard
Teresa Weakley: Fiddle/backing vocals/undercover CIA operative
The band originally formed in the Southern-tier, primarily the Fredonia area due to many of us attending SUNY Fredonia, or at least pretending we did well enough to live off of student loans and 25-cent beer nights. Most of us moved to Buffalo within a few years of graduating or getting expelled.
What’s it like to perform in front of a crowd? Give me three words.
Exhilarating, Terrifying, Astounding
When and why did you start playing?
When? Each of us began playing music at a very early age.
Why? Playing and creating music allows people to communicate on a level that is impossible through language alone. Through the creation and performance of music you can express emotions from the deepest of depressions to the highest of hopes, from anger to love, from solemnness to excitement. Who wouldn’t want to at least try to communicate on that level? Not to mention the therapeutic value, which without we would be much grumpier people.
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?
Everyone in the band has come from more-or-less musical families, which certainly has contributed to our musical abilities in some fashion (even it’s just from listening to the car radio with dad while he insists on forsaking the melody to sing the harmonies on every song). That’s bound to rub off one way or the other. But the passion to pursue truth and beauty in music, beyond just a hobby or a hand-me-down, comes from a different place for all. And the strong mix of individuals who makeup Ten Cent Howl, with each tapping into their own unique vision (or passion), becomes our palette for creating great music.
Are you schooled in music? From where?
None of us have much formal musical education. Most of our understanding of music comes from home and from practicing in our bedrooms and basements; wearing out cassette tapes and albums as we tried to learn that riff, that song, that style. We learn from each other, too, and from our fellow open-hearted musicians. We live in the absolute best town for that.
Which famous musician(s) do you admire?
We each have our own favorites; some are similar and some are vastly different. We’re all big fans of Cash, Prine, Waits, Haggard, Dylan, Young, Hank, Beatles, Stones, Elvis. Peter is big on The Clash and R.E.M. while Harmony is a huge “Gutter Rock” fan: we’re all over the map!
Where is your favorite place to play in Buffalo? Where would you most like to play in Buffalo?
Hands down, our favorite place to play is Sportsmen’s Tavern – a venue designed and created around a love for Americana music. That place is the embodiment of the music we make. It’s the closest thing we have to a musical home. That’s not to say that newer music venues as well, though. As for places in Buffalo we’d most like to play, probably Town Ballroom, The Tralf, and Kleinhans Music Hall, maybe the FNC?
What’s your day job?
We all have very different day jobs.
Bill works for the BNMC as their transportation director.
Jerry is a math professor at Daemen College.
Harmony works for Buffalo BioLabs as a project manager.
Peter is a professor of American Lit at Buff State.
Tim is an interior/exterior painter.
Teresa is a news anchor for Channel 4.
How would you describe your music style? Influences?
These days, the word “Americana” is generally used to describe our musical style. Most people don’t really know what “Americana” means, though. Hell, we sometimes aren’t really sure. It’s like Fantasia from The Never Ending Story; it has no boundaries. “Americana” seems to relate to a style that pulls from the folk, country, bluegrass, rock, and blues genres. That characterization fits us quite well.
Our songs typically employ simple melodies with lots of musical and vocal harmonies, creating a complex canvas on which a story is told. Although many of our songs feel like old traditionals at first, due to familiar chord patterns and compositions, we tend to throw at least one curveball when it’s least expected.
Our primary influences are the outlaw country guys like Cash and Jennings, but also the folk guys like Dylan and Prine. You can hear many of our other big influences throughout our tunes too; Beatles, Petty, Dead, Stones.
What was the last live music performance that you caught?
The last musical performance caught was certainly something local: Leroy Townes, Flatbed, Shaky Stage, Twang Gang, The Heavenly Chillbillies, Folk Faces, the list goes on…
Do you play covers or all originals? Or a combination of both?
We play a mix, but lean towards originals. It really depends on the crowd/venue. We’d much rather play all our own stuff, but covers help get your “foot in the door” so to speak. And it’s always fun to pay homage to our influences. When we do play covers, though, we play them our own way.
If you could play/sing for one famous person (alive or dead), who would that be?
Johnny Cash or maybe Gram Parsons. I think they’d dig us.
If you could play/sing with one famous band (any time in history), what would that band be?
The Highwaymen or maybe the Traveling Wilburys. Wouldn’t that be fun!
What are your strengths?
As a band, our strength lies in our ability to meld our individual talents. We seem to know what each other is going to do in any given song at any given time, and have proven faith that they’ll do it well.
As individuals, we each have different strengths. Bill is an incredible songwriter and tremendous singer. Jerry has the incredible talent of not playing bass solos. Harm can shred any guitar but never over-plays. Timmy can play anything that has strings. Peter has impeccable rhythm and know exactly what a song needs and doesn’t need. Teresa is brand new to us, but she is an incredibly fast learner and a great talent (her greatest strength being her ability to put up with the rest of us).
What are your weaknesses?
We’re all very head-strong. Some might say stubborn. We also have no stylist.
Do you have a label? A recording studio? Have you recorded a CD?
We are unsigned, but produce our own music. We don’t have our own recording studio, but Dwane and Jay Hall sometimes invite us use theirs (Session Recording Studio). We have a few cds under our belt, but they’re helping to hold our pants up. You can buy ’em at our shows! (we have back-up suspenders)
We’re presently working on a new album that will be ready for our release party at Sportsmen’s Tavern on February 27th.
Where and when is your next gig(s) in the city?
We play this Saturday at Dinosaur BBQ at 10pm. It’s a FREE show!
We have more on the books. Stop by www.tencenthowl.com to find out more!
See more Sounds of Buffalo:
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:
-You must be living in the Greater Buffalo region… or you must be plotting your return
-You must have a public show coming up in the city of Buffalo, as our focus is the urban landscape
-You must have a photo of the band
-Solo acts are also welcome
-Video is a plus
-CD/Album/poster art is welcome
-Links to Social Media sites are a bonus
-Ability to take accept both praise and/or criticism is a must
It is up to the discretion of Buffalo Rising whether or not to publish the interviews depending on nature of content submitted, or lack thereof.
Please send requests here. Include “Sounds of Buffalo” in the subject box of the email.