Editor's note: While perusing the FMF schedule for worthwhile up-and-coming local bands that hadn't been previously covered in Orlando Weekly, we thought it was interesting that three of the bands on our list were playing the same venue (Back Booth) on the same night (Saturday, May 21). In the interest of efficiency, we thought we'd tell their stories together.
This three-piece has only been playing together since about August of last year; lead vocalist and guitarist Johnny Neverland is a fashion designer obsessed with everything Britain, bassist Danny Pena is an unknown artist who absolutely refuses to commercialize his work and drummer Brittany Wilson - who is still in high school - apparently dribbles a mean basketball.
Bizarrely, each member of the Fashion originally played different instruments: Neverland was a punk drummer, Pena was a guitarist (who was taught to play bass by Neverland) and Wilson knew bass and guitar. Pena came into the picture when he replaced the bassist in Neverland's former band, East Jackson. "Basically, Johnny taught me the bass lines I needed to know to play those songs in two weeks." Pena says. That speed teaching occurred again once East Jackson's drummer didn't show three hours before a gig. "Thankfully, Brittany showed up and I taught her the drumlines," Neverland says, adding with a laugh, "Also, we wanted a girl in the band."
Soon after, they played their first gig as a trio christened The Fashion. "The first Fashion show was just awful," Neverland says. They didn't have a bass amp and played through a home stereo. "We thought it was bad, but people really seemed to like it," says Pena. "Though I'm pretty sure we burned that first tape." They've gotten better. Although the only "real" recording they've made is a home demo put down at the end of 2004, the band writes and records new material at a fever pitch. And they've been making some grand plans at nearly the same pace.
Within the next year or so, the band hopes to relocate to England, and once there, "getting a crappy apartment, shitty jobs and writing more music." Pena was once so inspired by a co-worker's travels and stories that he feels traveling would make him better rounded. It would give Neverland the chance to dive into Britain's clothing industry.
"Besides," teases Neverland, "we like accents."
Bassist Chris Rae laughs, rolling his eyes. "That's the joke we've been telling during our sets lately."
High-brow humorists they're not, but the boys of On Cassette maintain that this level of cheesiness is a pretty vital part of the collective identity of this indie rock band. As the Strokes joke implies, the band is militantly against flash. Nonetheless, On Cassette's live show is a sight to behold, especially in smaller venues. "It gives us the opportunity to musically fill every bit of space," Matt Butcher explains of the three-piece's preference for intimate spaces.
In February, On Cassette entered ARS Studios to record its first 7-inch single. "We wanted to record it because we thought it would be really neat for a local band to produce a 7-inch," Rae says. Lowering his eyes, he continues, "I even funded it with student loan money." The release party was held at the end of March and 100 copies have been sold since.
In addition to being part of On Cassette, each member is part of another band. Valent is in Hurrah and is working on a solo project with Post Records. Butcher has an alt-country act and is also recording a full-length record. Rae plays bass for Mumpsy. Butcher and Rae are both members of The Department. These various outlets all bring something different to On Cassette's rich, indie-centric sound.
"So we're all really busy," Valent says of their extracurricular activities. "That's why we end up spending a lot of rehearsal time playing video games. Somehow, though, we manage to write an average of a song every practice."
The trio's hope is that the more songs that are written, the more they'll have to pick from when it comes to putting together a full-length record. In June, On Cassette may be heading to San Francisco to record its full-length album with an associate of John Vanderslice. Until then, it's a good idea to be prepared for more bad puns.
When Nee (banjo, vocals, keys, whistles, mandolin) explains that Band Marino started as a two-piece, he offhandedly mentions that they were a "two-piece who only wore one-pieces. We wanted to bring back both rock and the onesie." That twosome formed two days before their first show. "It was ridiculous; we couldn't play anything except for a cover of 'This Bud's for You.' We came out dancing to the Nintendo theme," vocalist/guitarist Nathan Bond says. In other words, this was not the most professional band in town. But a short time later, with the expansion of the band's roster - bassist Abraham Couch, guitarist Jesse Page (guitar, vocals, mandolin) and drummer Dylon York round out the lineup - and a clutch of diverse songs, the joke turned serious. Somewhat.
The ever-jovial Band Marino gets a lot of comparisons to Modest Mouse, The Pixies and The Unicorns. And they've got the banjo and mandolin to prove it. Still, their breezy yet touching sound is truly their own.
"We're looking to fill the full range of human expression," Bond says unabashedly. "There's a lot of really depressing or super-happy rock going on right now, and we'd just like to do what's inside of us. `Lately, we've gotten` really solid, we're getting better crowds, and our sound is becoming more concrete."
"We're also a lot of high fives and hugs," Couch says.
That jolly ambiguity transfers into other areas. Band Marino is now writing music for the soundtrack of the Brothers Nee's independent film, The Girl on the Train. As it stands, it's an even folkier, more mellow turn for the band. The filmmakers will be shopping the movie to festivals as soon as it's complete. Their first full-length album should also appear this summer. Bond says that the album is so eclectic, they're not even sure that they can describe it. "It will slice your face up, though," guitarist Page adds.