‘It’s business time’ for The Albrights
blog by Deandra Modica • December 23, 2011 @ 7:00am
What does it take to make it as musicians in Buffalo? The right image? Friends in high places? Ask any member of the Buffalo-based quartet, the Albrights, and he’ll give you a straight answer: a business plan.
As a fixture in the local music scene since 2009, the Albrights have built up a supportive fan base by sharing their talents in a variety of projects. Named after the Albright-Knox Art Galley, the core members of the band, Joe Donohue (vocals, keyboard), Brandon Barry, (vocals, guitar) and Matthew Crane, (bass, vocals) treat their music careers like they’re running their own business and look to Jack White’s do-it-yourself approach to the music industry for inspiration.
“We’re the founders and co-founders of our own organization,” said Barry. “This is a team that we all choose to be a part of,” Crane said. “This is our business team. We know where we need to go and we know what we need to do, so we have conversations and plan it out together. It’s a great business model for us.”
The Albrights’ rock, pop and blues-infused sound started to develop long before the band came together in 2009. Fresh out of high school, Donohue and Barry met and became members of Helicopter Pilot, a successful cover band that flourished in the Southtowns for six years. The two began to gain followers and learn the ins and outs of playing for a crowd.
“It was a really good place for them to build up their chops,” said Crane. “They were playing all the time and exactly tailoring sets of music to what people turned their heads to. They learned how people respond to live music in a bar environment and by doing that they were able to develop a chemistry, an ear and a relationship with their listeners.”
Although Helicopter Pilot only played covers, Barry and Donohue found that crowds were drawn to their shows because they gave their own spin to the songs they were performing. They developed their own sound and their fans loved it. The two eventually grew tired of being committed to only covers and grew confident in the original music they started to produce.
“I started writing songs and Joe had been writing songs for a long time,” Barry said. “We played around with it and it started sounding really good, so we played one or two of our originals with the cover band just to test them out and see how they sounded live. People really liked what we were doing, so we made the decision to go for it. ”
Donohue found the shift to producing original music liberating and believes they made the switch at the perfect time. “Somehow you’re told to keep all of your ideas inside and not share your creative side,” he said. “When you suggest something and it works, and someone likes what you came up with, it’s freeing. We figured out at a crucial time that you can play with other people, make music and make it work without having to study someone else’s exact work.”
Teaming up with Crane and drummer Aaron Ooden, the newly formed quartet released a five-song EP and began booking shows in the area. Over time they’ve become regulars at Nietzsche’s, Mr. Goodbar, Merge, The Mohawk Place, and the Niagara Falls Hard Rock Café, where they will participate in the annual Battle of the Bands this February.
The album, released by local indie label Buzz Records, was named the fourth best local album of the year by Artvoice, and the band plans on expanding their audience with Buzz in 2012.
The band was bitten by the theater bug after taking care of the music and acting in MusicalFare’s well-received production of Oliver! this fall, helping with the music for The Divine Sister and putting together a Holiday Special at Hallwalls with their musical side project, Erie Lackawanna Railroad. Barry says they plan to work on more productions and are excited to have a new creative outlet available.
After amicably parting ways with Ooden, the Albrights recently welcomed drummer Dustin Herzberger to the band and included him in their strong vision for future plans. They released their first music video for “Hard Times,” the first track on “Ask, Tell,” on Monday, are booking shows around the East Coast for the next few months, and hope to make it to Austin, TX for the SXSW music festival. The Albrights strive to start a conversation with their music and look forward to giving back to the encouraging community they’ve thrived in so far.
“We have several deals cooking right now and there’s a lot of exciting things coming up,” Crane said. “We hope to give back all the support that we’ve been given from the people of this city, make quality music, play good shows and represent Buffalo in a positive way. Buffalo is blowing up all over the place on preservation sites, advocate sites, activist sites, music sites, art sites, everything. The city is just erupting right now and we think we have a lot to offer to that.”
Catch the Albrights at the special New Years’ Eve show at 9 p.m. on Dec. 31at Nietzsche’s with Aqueous, Andrew J. Reimers Country-Punk Extravaganza, Erie Lackawanna Railroad, and Megan Callahan.
Photos courtesy of Eddy Silverio