Mike Brindisi & John O'Leary of the New York Rock
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Cracker's tenth and most recent studio effort, the double-album, Berkeley To Bakersfield, finds this uniquely American band traversing two different sides of the California landscape -- the northern Bay area and further down-state in Bakersfield.
Despite being less than a five-hour drive from city to city, musically, these two regions couldn't be further apart from one another. In the late '70s and '80s a harder-edged style of rock music emerged from the Bay area, while Bakersfield is renowned for its own iconic twangy country music popularized, most famously, by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard in the '60s and '70s. Yet despite these differences, they are both elements that Cracker's two cofounders, David Lowery and Johnny Hickman, have embraced to some degree on nearly every one of their studio albums over the last two decades. On Berkeley To Bakersfield, however, instead of integrating these two genres together within one disc, they've neatly compartmentalized them onto their own respective regionally-titled LPs.
As Lowery explains, "On the Berkeley disc the band is the original Cracker lineup -- Davey Faragher, Michael Urbano, Johnny and myself. This is the first time this lineup has recorded together in almost 20 years. We began recording this album at East Bay Recorders in Berkeley, CA. For this reason we chose to stylistically focus this disc on the music we most associate with the East Bay: Punk and Garage with some funky undertones. To further match our sense of place we often took an overtly political tone in the lyrics."
"This Bakersfield disc represents the 'California country' side of the band. Throughout the band's 24-year history we've dabbled in Country and Americana but this time we wanted to pay homage to the particular strain of Country and Country-Rock music that emerges from the inland valleys of California."
Cracker has been described as a lot of things over the years: alt-rock, Americana, insurgent-country, and have even had the terms punk and classic-rock thrown at them. But more than anything Cracker are survivors. Cofounders Lowery and Hickman have been at it for a quarter of a century -- amassing ten studio albums, multiple gold records, thousands of live performances, hit songs that are still in current radio rotation around the globe ("Low," "Euro-Trash Girl," "Get Off This" and "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out With Me" to name just a few), and a worldwide fan base -- that despite the major sea-changes within the music industry -- continues to grow each year.
Though known for its vibrant music scene, Ithaca NY is a relative fishbowl musically, often keeping its boundless talents within city limits for nobody outside the local scene’s elite to hear.
Meet the fish that jumped out of the water.
The New York Rock has been one of the city’s shining stars since its founding in February 2008 by Mike Brindisi (Guitars/Vocals) and John O’Leary (Keyboards). Began as a dream of Brindisi on the streets of Manhattan, the dream behind the New York Rock started with handfuls of change in the bottom of a guitar case following a brief stint on Saturday Night Live and a rough runaround in Nashville, when a trip down south after high school ended with “a broken heart, empty pockets and another tough lesson learned.”
Though superficially a fruitless expedition, the trip yielded a demo that eventually became the foundations of the band. Inspired by the city’s local scene, Brindisi moved to Ithaca, NY, where his first single, “Crawl,” jumped to number 22 on the most-requested chart of local station WVBR. Attracted by its low-key atmosphere and exceptional music scene, it was an excellent place to begin a career, and where he would eventually meet fellow founder John O’Leary.
Within the band’s first year, they had already opened for national touring act Gavin Degraw and off that first bit of momentum, saw the video for the band’s first single make it onto the playlist of Cool TV.
Within two years, Brindisi was in Howard Stern’s studio promoting the band’s first record.
In the time since, The New York Rock has begun to see their profile grow nationwide, from gigs at the notable Driven Music Conference in Atlanta to one-off gigs in places such as Nashville, Austin, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and a primetime gig at the legendary Bitter End rock club in Greenwich Village, NYC—a night the club was packed to capacity.
The band has also appeared on the 2014 Vans Warped Tour, making a single-show appearance in Hartford, CT and in the documentary Passfire, for which they wrote the theme song subsequently performed at the PGI fireworks convention in Iowa, an international event for members of the pyrotechnics industry.
Whether its for a stage of four fans like the early days or the 4,000 the band has played for at venues like Saranac Brewery, the band refuses to sell out, instead looking for a means to hone their craft to the point where nobody can deny their style as a powerful voice in today’s industry.
“We have always stuck to our guns,” Brindisi said. “We have always played rock. That's it. Good melodies, loud guitars and great hooks. We have never wavered… we want to keep rock alive.”
702 Willow Avenue
Ithaca, NY, 14850