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TRB: trb CD Review
By Gary Hizer
Urban Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 11/17/04

OK – I’ve been privy to this CD for little while now, having the benefit of hearing the advance promo that the band got out prior to release. I’ve tried repeatedly to write a proper review to no avail--it always comes out too wordy, too gushing, too much like I’m trying to kiss up for some reward.

The short and skinny of the matter is this--this is a great disc no matter how you look at it. If you’re already a Tony Romanello fan, this will be a must have. If Tony’s previous work never really did it for you, but you’re a rock fan, you need to check this one out anyway. This being the first full-length release as a band explains a lot in the transition. As bandleader Tony Romanello told UTW back in June, “This is a band in the true sense of the word. Everyone comes to the table with their 25% and their input as to what we’re doing now.”

In some situations that could be a bad thing, but instead of pulling the band in different directions, it has resulted in a surprisingly focused disc.

Disc opener “Ring and Remind” should take most listeners off guard the first time they hear it, beginning with a sampled drum loop and stuttering guitar riff that pans across your stereo from left to right before launching out of the gate. I could walk you through the disc song by song, but I’ll leave that for you to experience and pick your own favorites.

My own personal picks still hold up as the previously referenced opener “R & R”, along with “Atlas” and “Ballad of the Escape Plan”. On “Ballad…”, the band appeals to my Midwestern upbringing with a story that I’d best describe as a modern rock take on one of Springsteen’s flawed characters from Nebraska. Immediately, the band draws me in and I’m tearing down the highway with the top down “riding shotgun in the dark, holding hands across the wheel of the getaway car.”

The Edge (Z104.5) has already been playing “Better Days” on the Homegroan show on Sunday nights, and the station just recently added it to the afternoon playlist. Outside of the Tulsa area, I would expect this album to take flight at college radio first, and make a compelling argument for mainstream airplay.

Focus is the key to this album, in almost every aspect. The rhythm section of Josiah Borgos on drums and Paul Christiano on bass is incredibly tight and propels the band through the proceedings as a finely tuned machine. Likewise, Tony and Andy Callis mesh well, whether building a wall of guitars together, or with Andy laying in the chiming nuance behind Tony’s power chords.

Even the song structures themselves have tightened up, with only a couple of cuts stretching out past the four minute mark, both of which round out the album and close it sounding like “classic Tony”. Even still, their epic and dreamy sweep are reined into focus better than ever before.

Kudos must be doled out to producer Brad Mitcho and mixer Wayne Morgan. Not only have they drawn out some of Tony’s best sounding vocals to date, the sound and mix on the disc are outstanding all around. This isn’t something I normally focus on, but I’m still amazed at the sound quality and mix in general here. TRB raises the bar on what we can and will expect from local and independently produced discs in the future.

The band has decided to release this one itself and have secured a regional distribution deal that will put the disc in retail stores like Best Buy and Circuit City, chain music stores like Sam Goody and FYE, and independent record stores throughout Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas.

Unfortunately, it won’t be stocked at Target and Wal-Mart stores, but it went into widespread release as of November 9. It doesn’t matter where you go--just go get it!

Laying It All On The Line
By Matt Gleason
Tulsa World, Tulsa, OK 11/12/04

In the more than three months it took to complete TRB’s latest self-titled disc, the local rock outfit conceived a dizzying stream of musical ideas. Sometimes, those ideas stumbled from the gray matter of all those creatively involved and tangled themselves up in a tight ball. From there, the band and Brad Mitcho, the self-described anal-retentive producer who has been called TRB’s fifth member, could either slowly untangle the ideas, or just pitch the mess into the trash. Along the way, there were what Tony Romanello, the band’s guitarist, singer and lyricist, called civil disagreements. But, gosh, how could they not battle over each of the disc’s 11 tracks? So much is riding on this galloping horse of a project — including several thousand dollars of their own money. And, lord knows, all parties involved hope it’s a winner.

TRB, formerly known as the Tony Romanello Band, is one of the preeminent acts on the local music scene. It’s a perennial Spot Music Award-winner, and its 2003 EP yielded a relatively successful single, “Where Are You Tonight?,” which got play on the local rock station KMYZ, 104.5 FM “The Edge.” Local fame is rewarding, but it seems the band wants so much for itself and this precious album.

Romanello said he went into the sessions aiming to come out with a disc that’s both “commercially viable” but still has an “artistic side to it.” That’s a noble mission in a music business primarily focused on the former, and myopic on the latter. The elaborately-produced disc, which was mixed by Wayne Morgan, culls inspiration from an array of influences, most notably the Smashing Pumpkins, Catherine Wheel and My Bloody Valentine. Everything on it sounds grand, like an imposing monument built by humble architects in tribute to the gods of rock. And making things grand is what rock is all about, right? Mitcho agreed. “Rock ’n’ roll, let’s face it, is a comic book. It’s all rock ’n’ roll super heroes and stuff, like KISS with the makeup. It’s got to be over the top or it’s boring.”

To achieve the disc’s whopping guitar sound, Mitcho and the band actually had to prune down the flood of guitar tracks on some tunes. “One of the things that Tony and I talked about at the beginning of the record,” Mitcho said, “was making each individual instrument sound larger, rather than making it sound like there are more instruments.” Aiding that fuller rock sound was what Mitcho called “the magical Bogner amp.” “That was the saving grace of the album,” Mitcho said. “It ended up on every frickin’ song, we loved it so much. “It was one of those things where Tony was so dead-set on staying out of the norm. He’s like, ‘We can’t use a Marshall amp. Everyone uses a Marshall amp. Let’s use something else.’ ”

The way drummer Josiah Borgos approached his contributions to the disc is a telling indication of how the rest of the band approached their parts. “Everything that we did in the studio, you could tell that there was something unique going into it from everyone’s perspective,” he said. “My perspective was I wanted to stretch myself creatively and technically . . . I wanted it to be big and monstrous. I wanted to be able to move myself in a direction that I hadn’t gone before. “My first goal was to make the drums unique and special on its own,” he continued. “If you literally took the music away, the drums by themselves would be mesmerizing.”

Bassist Paul Cristiano, a veteran of the local scene who is a relatively new addition to the band, summed up all the performances as simply “inspired.” Guitarist Andy Callis, who started playing acoustic shows with Romanello back in 2000, said this disc is the culmination of years of toil and musical evolution. The first track, “Ring and Remind,” is like the band firing a flare gun into the night sky for all to see. Romanello said, “We put it as the opening track because people would definitely say, ‘Well, that’s TRB, but it’s new and it’s different.’” The song begins with a distorted, buffeting drum intro that starts in your left ear and slides over to the right ear, before the full song detonates. The tune comes complete with the Cristiano-devised “repetitive bass line, and super heavy groove,” plus Romanello’s aggressive vocals advising: “Face the chimes — the tunes that rage and disguise/Cup of lies — swallow it down now every time.” Mitcho remembers Cristiano taking the elaborate track very seriously, especially given that he — not the usual mastermind, Romanello — wrote the main part of the song. “Paul is actually the only person who is probably as anal retentive as I am,” Mitcho said. “The bass line is so brutal that he came in and was like, ‘I can do better than that. I can do better than that. I’m doing that again!’ And he did.”

During the making of the album, some tunes became favorites while others had less of a corona around them. One song, “No Regrets,” was the golden child the band hyped the most, but ultimately Mitcho said it couldn’t help but fall short. “This is one we all thought was going to be like the song on the record,” he said. “I don’t know if it became that or not. I still enjoy the song, but everyone had such high expectations for this song that you can only be letdown.” “Better Days” wasn’t by any means a disappointment. It’s a hard rocker, which Romanello said addresses how some local musicians’ sole mission is leaving behind Tulsa for a hotter music scene, but soon realize music scenes are basically the same anywhere you go.

While most of the disc is a testament to TRB as a solid unit, its leader goes solo on “Modern Myth.” The track is a stunning, stripped-down ballad. Romanello’s voice is soft and vulnerable as he lays bare his emotions while picking out a simple guitar melody. The song has an expansive sound, as if he were playing it alone in a spacious concert hall. Romanello remembered Mitcho’s advice on how to approach the song’s sublime vocals. “Brad was like, ‘Man, on the quiet parts, keep them quiet,’" Romanello recalled. “ ‘Take this as an opportunity not only for the listener to relax and not hear rock songs the whole album, but a chance for you to sing and not have to yell, scream or strain the harmony.’”

Whereas “Modern Myth” is a breather for the listener, “Claustrophobic” is a two-minute-12-second, Foo Fighters-like assault with zaps of slide guitar, in which the protagonist’s frantic mania spills over as he declares, “I’m unhinged!” Mitcho said the tune wasn’t an obvious choice for the record. “When we had our initial meetings, I was the only guy who wanted this on the record,” he said. “I understand why they didn’t want it on the record. “I love that at the meeting Andy was like, ‘It’s not even like a song. It’s a riff with Tony talking over it.’ And I was like, ‘Exactly.’ ” On the track, Romanello spits some of his lyrics over a telephone that was stationed in the vocal booth. Some of the throwaway tracks of Romanello speaking, especially the first line of the song, were “hilarious,” Mitcho said. “What’s so great about this is that I had all these tracks where I had Tony just say the verses with different inflections,” Mitcho said, “like (sounding like a grandstanding, blowhard politician) ‘The last straw is the shortest!’ ”

Needless to say, the final Billy Corgan-like scream, “Wide Awake!” on “The Lull” wasn’t funny. It was more of a throbbing headache, Mitcho said. “For some reason he couldn’t hit that scream,” Mitcho said. “Honestly, there was a point where I thought, ‘You’re going to have to write a new ending to the song because you just can’t do it.’ “The day he finally got it he was like, ‘Yes, I got it!’ ”

The final song on the disc, “Evensong” is a nod to My Bloody Valentine and is unlike anything else on the disc. It concludes with a comforting message of: “Angels are here . . . Say goodbye to all the tears you’ve cried/They remind you of the past . . . Lay down your fears, don’t be afraid.” Cristiano could use a bit of comforting himself if the disc isn’t as successful as everyone hopes. He admitted that after everything the band has put into the disc, he couldn’t see recording another one at this level. “My feeling is that we are not going to go down this road again,” he said. “We can’t. This is our shot right here. I don’t know if we’re going to make another local record again. We put everything into this record.”

However, Romanello wasn’t sure about Cristiano’s end-of-the-road scenario. “I’d have to say ‘never say never,’ ” Romanello said. “I know that the band has a lot riding on this, and no one really knows whether or not we might ever be in this situation again. “We’re putting all our cards on the table with this one, thats for sure though."

 

TRB: Rock Apostles - TRB returns from sabbatical to preach its good news
By Gary Hizer
Urban Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 6/04

First things first: Tony Romanello wants to make something perfectly clear from the get-go: “This is a band in the true sense of the word. Everyone comes to the table with their 25% and their input as to what we’re doing now.”

OK, maybe this would be a good time to back up a little. We all remember Tony Romanello, right? Yea, it’s been a while since you have heard from him. But he’s back, ready to take his music to the next level.

The band has been in what Tony referred to as a “hibernation period”. Perhaps sabbatical may be a more appropriate term, as the band has gone through a growth or evolution and has been far from sleeping, but instead working behind the scenes and out of the public eye. TRB is about to re-emerge, “Re-immerse ourselves in the scene and reconnect,” Tony says. Surely this is good news to the devoted fans that consider the band to be the crown jewel of the Tulsa music scene.

Refresher Course: In 2000, he released an album titled The Mumbleodd under his own name, out of the dissolution of his college band, Murmur. While turning plenty of ears, he quickly followed with Lo-Fi Dreams in Stereo. Spawned from doing acoustic shows with old friend and guitarist Andy Callis, the Tony Romanello Band formed out of a need to support his solo discs and released the Shades of Grey EP in 2001 – an epic sweep of modern rock. This was followed by Counting Stars, a solo disc that was actually started before the “Shades” EP and kept developing. Although a local buzz had been building, Counting Stars was a coming out party for Tony as a solo artist, exposing his artsy, Brian Wilson side. Nearly every local award that could be voted on – best album, rock band, and overall artist followed.

As the cycle supporting Counting Stars wound down, TRB found itself facing a turning point. Last summer’s EP, Where are You Tonight, signaled that corner, garnering plenty of radio airplay. Following an arguably successful summer last year, though, the band has made itself scarce, seemingly disappearing from view. If Where Are You Tonight marked what Romanello refers to as “a definitive moment for us a band”, its recording was merely the first in a series of events that would shape what the band has become. In the first half of 2003, after recording the EP, bass player Brad Hall left the band for personal reasons. After working with a few different people, Paul Cristiano stepped in. Cristiano, himself a veteran of Jenny Labow’s band and pop/rock powerhouse Royal Crush, is unanimously considered a true asset among the band members. As the others tell it, when Royal Crush was dissolving “Paul was looking for a better situation, and we needed someone to help us live up to ours” Consensus amongst the other members is that Paul “whipped the band into shape”, but he doesn’t necessarily see it that way. “I was able to bring an outside perspective and offer an honest opinion – as a spectator and a fan.” This outside perspective helped the band look inward on itself, with input and a perspective that many bands don’t get to experience. “This band already had good idea(s), as far as its direction and songwriting. I was just a piece of the puzzle.” The infusion of fresh blood into the band was revitalizing. As drummer Josiah Borgos shared, shortly after Paul’s first gig with the band they began the writing process and produced 3 new songs in a short period of time. Cristiano’s addition saw the band’s focus and attention to detail grow- both in their playing/rehearsing and their songwriting.

Ah, songwriting – that which can be the difficult part, but ultimately defines a band or artist. According to Paul, the songwriting process is truly a band effort, with everyone staying objective and checking egos at the door. Of course, you’d expect this to be a transition for Tony, having done the majority of his previous work and writing himself, but it hasn’t posed any problems. Cristiano is quick to praise Romanello for his willingness to let go: “To consent and put that aside . . . has been a big step in the evolution of the group.” As he sees it, that’s one of the things that sets them apart, expressing that “the songwriting in this band is on a different level than what I’ve experienced previously.”

Chrysalis Stage: Fear not TRB faithful, for all that writing has been put to good use, as the band has been busy in the studio recording a new album. Sessions commenced in early April at Glass House studios, with recording just recently completed. According to the band, a title and firm release date have not yet been set, as they’ve been focusing on recording, mixing, and continually rehearsing. With additional mixing, mastering, packaging and production work left to be done, the band still plans to stay on schedule and have the disc out by the end of summer. When prodded as to what to expect from the new album, ”focus” is the recurring theme in their descriptions. As the band refers to a refining or re-defining of the TRB sound, Josiah says the new material is “more direct, focused, and cohesive”. “Listen to the EP: take the short, three-minute song structures and straight forward rock’n’roll format and multiply it by 11,” he continues If you liked the EP, he claims that the new release will be “10 times better, more focused, louder, and heavier”. It promises to be a real rock’n’roll record with a couple of ballads. Modern rock with big guitars and big hooks. Indeed, those who ventured out to catch TRB at Mayfest this year heard a set loaded with new material and got a good idea of what to expect, previewing new songs like “Ballad of the Escape Plan”, “She Knows”, and “No Regrets”. The performance itself was a good indicator of the band’s focus during its “down time”. Concerted efforts on rehearsing and creating a more cohesive band sound were rewarded with the band sounding tighter and more in sync – a progression I’ve heard in them over the course of the last year. In the past, Tony admits, “we liked to ‘rough it up’ and just go out and kick ass.” but their new approach has polished some of the edges. The band’s new focus hasn’t taken the rock out of rock’n’roll, but sees them more concise – not veering off into “jam-land” or trying to overpower the audience with extended solos, instead functioning as a smooth, cohesive unit.

Ultimately, the band feels that the events of the last year: from the EP release, to the addition of Paul, to radio exposure, rehearsals, and recording have helped TRB evolve into a band on the verge of something big. Using what they learned from those experiences, and building upon a recently refreshed work ethic, TRB is ready to take it all to a new level. As the release of the new CD draws closer, the band looks to parlay what they’ve learned over the last year into bigger and better things. A part of the re-immersion that Tony referred to includes playing as much as possible, both locally and regionally, and extending their reach even further. The guys aren’t afraid to think big either – willing and ready to take on all comers and looking to break into the radio festivals and showcases like SXSW. Even Andy pipes up: “Saturday Night Live! We’ll get to play two songs (and meet Tina Fey)…”

Although releasing the disc independently, the band is planning on working it like a major release, first focusing on college and mainstream radio along with live shows to develop their regional following. They want it to be obvious that this is an independent release, but for all the right reasons, as they keep a hands-on approach to working it at radio.

TRB is ready to take its message and music to the masses. As Tony puts it: “We want to get as many people as possible to convert to the ‘Church of TRB’, in any way possible.” Preach on, Brother Romanello . . .

 

TRB Gains Momentum
By Hilton Price
GTR Boundary, Tulsa, OK 6/04

The TRB is ready for the next step. The band, once a solo project for Tony Romanello, has spent the last year building on the sucess of its EP "Where are You Tonite"? and several local awards. Now, returning to the studio to follow up the EP, the band is calm and focused, and rady to look beyond Tulsa for its successes.

The TRB, as it has begun to call itself after the release of the "Where are You Tonite"? EP, is a four piece rock band featuring singer/songwriter/guitarist Tony Romanello, guitarist Andy Callis, bassist Paul Cristiano, and drummer Josiah Borgos. Their sound incorporates a variety of rock and pop sensibilities, but th eband members see themselves and their defining sound as "straight up rock," especially on the new album. The band is recording at Glasshouse Studios, the same studio responsible for last year's EP.

Both Romanello and Callis are long-time Tulsans, and Romanello has plaed the local music scene since he was 13. A graduate of Bishop Kelley High School, Romanello was active both in his own projects and sitting in with other bands. He was a fan of the local music scene growing up, and took inspiration from watching past local successes work their way onto the national scene.

One of the band's goals, part of a plan they've developed to pish theur music into the national media, is a short production schedule for the new album. The band opted to set a strict time limit on their recording, instead of dragging the process out over many months.

Romanello thinks putting these tight constraints on the album has had a positive effect on the band. Romanello comments, "I think it's going to make us more focused, I've been really impressed with what what we've done so far. The preparation was key, I think."

Part of that preparation was working out the song structures before the band hit the studio. It also meant getting producer Brad Mitcho involved from early on.

"The thing is, Brad, the producer, was in on it from the very beginning." Cristiano says. "We started working on songs months ago, and even before he had the demos, he knew he wanted to be a part of it, and he had heard some songs and stuff live that he liked, and we just started working out arrangements. It's been well thought out."

For Cristiano, the newest member of the group, preparation is very important. Likewise, hard work and dedication are the ideasl the bassist identifies strongly with, and these ideals are necessary in finishing this new album.

"Right now it's just getting in there and doing it," he says. "We know what we are doing and it's just a matter of getting in to the studio and getting it done."

The sound of this new record will follow the rock feel of the EP, instead of the complex instrumentation Romanello used on his last full length, "Counting Stars".

"It's going to be straight up rock," he says. "It's going to be in the same vein as the EP where these are songs we've been playing live for a while, and they're things we want to reproduce that way and sound pretty true to form. I think that was one of the follies with "Counting Stars," with all the strings and horns, we couldn't reproduce it live real well."

That album, the subsequent EP, and the band's live show wont them several awards in Tulsa. Although gracious for the accolades, the band takes the honors with quiet humility.

"I tend to not think abou the success too much." Cristiano says. "It's nice, but we have a lot of wrk to do. It's nice to be recorgnized, but at the same time I try to have blinders on."

For Borgos, it's simply an affirmation. "To me, it's just a strong confirmation that we're going in the right direction," he says.

Despite these pleasant honors, Cristiano is quick to point out that as a band trying to make it on the national level, the competition isn't the bands they beat out for local awards, it's the bands on the radio.

"After you've been doing this a while, you realize the competition isn't here, the competition is the band on the radio," he notes. "If you want to be on a higher level, look at the guys that are there; that's your competition."

This doesn't mean that Cristiano or his band mates like everything they hear on the airwaves. Instead, they look at what each individual acut is doing right, and learn from that.

"Whether you like the bands on the radio or not, they are doing something very well," he says. "They're operating on a higher plane, they're not operating on a local level, because they did something better than everyone else. I think those bands did something right along the way, and it's wrong to ignore that."

Romanello echoes this sentiment. "What we respect more than everything is that we realize the work ethic, and the level they're at is what we aspire to."

The recording process takes them off the road for a few months, but they will return to active gigs soon and will have scattered shows throughout the recording process.

 

CD Review - Counting Stars
By Jonathan Wright
Skyscraper Magazine, Denver, CO 8/03

Just as its press sheet declares, Counting Stars was Tony Romanello's Golden opportunity to indulge in his Brian Wilson/Phil Spector urges, and the Tulsa native leaves no resource untapped in following such passions. The album is an extraordinarily indulgent affair, a grand statement of unmitigated pop ambition teeming with a kaleidescope of string and horn sections, and, predictably, not a whit of subtlety. From the first track to the last, it soaks in this relentlessly carnival-like atmosphere, its songs' lush, baroque arrangements manhandling the more delicate melodies beneath. Stylistically, it recalls Jeremy Enigk's brilliant Return of the Frog Queen, but where that album was balanced and cohesive, eah song flowing into the next, steadily building to a fabulous crescendo at the end of its tightly-packed half-hour, Counting Stars often seems like thirteen isolated mini-symphonies bound together only by their proximity on the same plastic disc. That said, if at times the songs nearly drown in their own overwrought arrangements, the obviously talented Romanello can still whip up some splendid pop moments: the ostentatious hello of "An Insomniac's Diary," the eternally memorable melodies of "The Artist" and "Novocain," or his gentle handling of "The Amazing Disappearing Man," for example. Featuring fellow Okie and resident genius Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips on percussion duties, Romanello's second solo outing is a flawed, if eminently listenable piece, which offers hope to the closet Wilson/Spector acolytes toiling in obscurity everywhere, and will perk the ears of anyone whoe wonders what The Verve would have sounded like if fronted by Jeff Buckley and if all their songs had the string section of "Bittersweet Symphony."

 

Ordinary Men
By Matt Gleason
Tulsa World - SPOT Magazine, Tulsa, OK 7/18

Tony Romanello wants to make this very clear: He plays rock music. It's the kind in which he plugs in his les paul guitar, counts "one, two, three" and the speakers just about burst. That's what the singer-songwriter-guitar slinger has done on the local and regional scene for threee years as the front man for the Tony Romanello Band. Its moniker these days, though, is simply the TRB.

Sure Romanello has won five Spot Music Awards and is revered on the local music scene, but sometimes, even now, Tulsans query him about what the TRB is all about. "We have a lot of people who are like, 'Yeah, I've heard of you guys. What're y'all? A blues band? Are you a lounge singer?" "No," Tony calmly tells them. "We're a rock 'n' roll band."

With the TRB's new four-song EP, "Where Are You Tonight?" Romanello said he just wants people to hear the title track on the radio - KMYZ (104.5fm) has the tune its in rotation - and make people more aware of the TRB's sound.

"We've been kind of coming from the underground for a few years, so we're ready to step it up a notch and get a little more visible," he said. "The goal was to make something that everybody is familiar hearing live, which is a four-piece band with loud guitars, drums and a lot of screaming and yelling all in harmony." Romanello said his solo album "Counting Stars" wasn't a disappointment, but it was "really out of left field." "It threw people off when they heard it," he said. "Hopefully this EP is what brings people out to the shows."

The TRB's on-stage vibe could have been the hardest thing to capture during recording sessions at Brad Mitcho's Glass House Studios, which spanned from December to May. But with Mitcho's help, they pulled it off, said TRB drummer Josiah Borgos. "Getting the songs to really sound like they were live and sound the way we heard them in our heads was pretty important," he said. Romanello said he couldn't stress enough that the EP was a collective effort by guitarist Andy Callis, Borgos, and former bassist Brad Hall and himself. "Very rarely did I take a song to practice and say 'This is the song. Learn it,'" Romanello said. "It really brought everybody into the mix more, which maximizes what we are good at."

The band's new bassist is Paul Cristiano, formerly of the now defunct Tulsa rock band Royal Crush. "It's good to have Paul come in as an outsider, sort of speak," Romanello said. "We've been kind of doing the same thing for two years, so it's nice to get his perspective on things." Romanello said he was floored by Cristiano's idea that the bands they all admire on the national scene shouldn't be their idols - they should be their competition. "That was inspiring, "Romanello said. "It's helped us take it up a notch."

One of the three studio tracks on the EP, entitled "Ordinary Man," means more to Romanello than any song he's written for a while. "It's based on the premise that there aren't extraordinary people," he said "There's only normal people who are capable of doing extraordinary things." One of the lines in that sons is going to be on our T-shirts: "Believe in the greatness of every dream." Initially, "Ordinary Man" and "History" were supposed to be a part of a musical suite, but it never became a reality.

On "History", Romanello writes about how one generation perceives another. But hypothetically speaking, if someone was to write the TRB's history up to this point Romanello said he would like to be remembered for his songwriting. "I believe in a lot of respects that songwriting is almost a lost art today, so it'd be great if we were remembered for our songwriting and, moreover, combining songwriting sensibilities with good ol' fashioned rock n' roll."

 

Toning Down the Sophisticated Production, it's Straight-Ahead Rock Time
By Chris Greer
Oklahoma Music Magazine, Tulsa, OK 5/03

"So whats the most logical next move for a guitar/songwriter virtuoso who has already ascended, at least on a regional level, to godlike status?

Simple. You reinvent yourself.

For Tony Romanello, 2002 may not have been a breakthrough year - he's been a hot commodity since dropping his post-grunge prog-pop sound via The MumbleOdd on us in 2000 - but it clearly provided himm the type of success and kudos that would make it a tough year to beat. Following up on MumbleOdd (an album he began while fronting the band Murmur and finished on his own), the sophomore venture Lo-Fi Dreams in Stereo and a full band EP, Shades of Grey, he turned out the long awaited Counting Stars album. With his high degree of production, the addition of a string and horn section, the Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd sitting in on drums and Trent Bell (of Starlight Mints and Chainsaw Kittens fame) producing, Stars lived up to all the underground hype. Recorded and mixed over a two-year period, the album cemented Romanello as the Yes or pre-Phil Collins fronted Genesis of Oklahoma.

The only drawback to the album is that it's pretty damn hard to pull off the same sounds likve. "We've only done it like two or three times and even then we had to pull an extra set of musicians," says Romanello.

So with all his Phil Spector-studio experimenting out of his system for now, Romanello is focusing on a more straight ahead rock album with his TRB band. Formed during the Stars recording sessions, the four piece (including bassist Jarrod Major, guitarist Andy Callis, and drummer Josiah Borgos) plans to market the EP in cities that were favorable to Stars. The as yet untitled EP will have 3 to 4 originals plus, depending on how they mix out, a couple of B-sides as well.

"It may be a different sound than what people expect from the band or me in general, but it's the direction I want to go," says Romanello. "At this time, it would be kind of stupid to shun the publicity we've gotten so far."

 

CD Review: Counting Stars
By Tom Maxwell
Modern Fix Magazine (Los Angeles, CA)

It seems the Frog Queen Jeremy Enigk has been dethroned. The former Murmur front man Tony Romanello has really outdone himself with this album, but don't let the name fool you because Tony gets plenty of help. Most of these songs have an orchestral feeling because of the strings and horns which come in the form of piano, cello, viola, sax, trumpet, and trombone. Tony's arrangements of the songs are immaculate and beautiful on so many different levels. On the surface is a pop wonderland of catchy interludes and amazing vocal ability, but if you are willing to fully download the whole album you will find extremely complete songs with deep and meaningful lyrical themes. "Counting Stars" frequently frequently changes gears from a purely pop stripped down acoustic song to a very grungy Murmur type of song, but definitely is careful not to steer too far off course. most notable are the tracks "An Insomniac's Diary", "Finally Found", and "Why Reminisce". The Slide guitar in "Why Reminisce" sends chills down my spine just like good music should. This guy really wants to identify with his listeners and his unabashed for of getting his point across makes him the new Frog Queen. My hat is off.

 

Festival Brings Large Pool of Talent
By John Estus
The O'Colly, OSU, Stillwater, OK 4/11/03

Some of Oklahoma’s most prestigious and respected musical talent will take the stage at the annual Bennett Jam on Friday night.

Bennett Jam has been relocated to the Old Central Lawn just off Hester Street due to the renovation of Bennett Residence Hall, the typical home stage of the event.

Historically, Bennett Jam has been a place for many Oklahoma State University students to showcase their musical talents and plenty of that will take place this Friday.

But the pool of firmly established talent is deeper than usual this year, with Tulsa’s critically acclaimed Tony Romanello Band headlining the event. Supporting are Tulsa’s funkified fusion favorites Jazzcow and peppy pop punk band HotrodboB.

The Tony Romanello Band has been persistently promoting their hard-nosed, post-grunge rock set in and around the Tulsa music scene for more than two years now, in support of front-man Tony Romanello’s internationally acclaimed solo albums, 2000’s “The MumbleOdd” and 2002’s “Counting Stars” as well as the band’s EP, “Shades of Grey.”

Romanello, a lifetime musician who also has a full time job as an engineer in Tulsa, has spent most of his time over the past few months promoting the aptly titled “Counting Stars.”

The album was essentially a two year process for Romanello, beginning with demo sessions with producer Trent Bell (Flaming Lips, Starlight Mints).

“We somehow managed to talk (Flaming Lips drummer) Steven Drozd into playing on the record,” Romanello, 26, explained in an interview this week. “We went down (to Bell’s Norman studio) sporadically over the next year and half, it took like 40 nights to finish it; 40 days and 40 nights.”

Romanello and his longtime friend and fellow Tulsan Steve Gooch put the record out on their label, Engine Shed Records. The release was accompanied with a largely successful College Music Journal radio campaign.

“Our first goal was to break the CMJ Top 200,” Romanello said. “I’ve always been a fan of college music and the college music scene and the CMJ charts. I think the CMJ charts is where I found out about a lot of the music I love now.”

“Counting Stars” stayed in the CMJ Top 200 for seven weeks and peaked at number 60, well above Romanello’s typical humble expectations and amongst some of his idols.

“Oh, it was crazy,” he gasped. “No. 75 was George Harrison, No. 80 was Zwan. And granted, they’re probably still on the charts, and we’re just long gone,” he said with a laugh. “We’re still trying to promote it as much as possible,” he said.

Even within the grandiose, spectacular sound of “Counting Stars,” Romanello can’t hide from his guiltiest pleasure: r-a-w-k.

The TRB, as it is known by fans, has plenty of hard-charging rock in store for the future, with plans for a new album well into the works.

“I love ‘Counting Stars’ and the sound of it and the depth of it musically, but there’s just something gratifying about rock,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t happen enough these days. Just some old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, just plug in our guitars and turn ‘em up and just go.”

Romanello has grown to love his live band, guitarist Andy Callis, 26, and drummer Josiah Borgos, a self-proclaimed 20-something. Bassist Brad Hall recently left the band due to personal changes in his life, and Jarrod Major, 19, formerly of Streamline, will fill in for Hall.

A staple in the TRB live set has been Borgos’s furious, precise drumming, although Romanello had some different first impressions of the New Orleans native.

“When I first met him, I’m like, ‘so what kind of kit do you have, dude?’ and he was like, ‘uh, I don’t have a kit,’” Romanello remembered with a laugh.

He would find out later that Borgos had to sell his kit for financial reasons. “I was like ‘dude, this guy’s gonna suck! He doesn’t even have a kit!’” he said. “This guy is ridiculous!” “So he bought a kit, and came to practice, and it was like, ‘oh. OK.’”

Romanello still talks about his memories of college at the University of Oklahoma on a regular basis and remembers coming to OSU for Bennett Jam on a few occasions.

And he still likes to pretend he is in college, he joked. Like a recent trip to Dallas for a show in Deep Ellum, for instance.

It was Romanello’s birthday weekend, and the band took him to Coyote Ugly to celebrate. “(The staff) found out it was my birthday because somebody told the bartenders that I don’t like to drink before shows,” he said. “They made a fool out of me and poured tequila down my throat. It was bad. I hate tequila.”

On Friday, Romanello and TRB will be back at college, and they promise to bring the rock to Bennett Jam like never before. Whether Romanello decides to relive the college experience afterward has yet to be determined, he said.

 

CD Review: Counting Stars
By - Glen Sarvady
CMJ New Music Monthly (New York, NY)

Its hard to rattle off the names of many bands from Tony Romanello's Tulsa stomping grounds but the Flaming Lips (from nearby Oklahoma City) inevitably spring to mind. Sure enough, Lips' drummer Steven Drozd plays throughout Romanello's 3rd solo disc, and Counting Stars shows a fondness for the orchestral flourishes that Wayne Coyne's crew has brought to its recent work. The similarities stop there, however - Romanello's symphonic grandeur is less synthetic and more front-and-center. For his most successful compositions, his ensemble swells to 12, including a full string quartet, and a four-piece horn section. The Beatles-esque "An Insomniac's Diary" sports an aching sweetness that recalls Rufus Wainright. Beneath the strings and horns, though, beats the heart of a power popper. (Here's some potential geographic significance: genre forefather Dwight Twilley hailed from Tulsa.) While Romanello's rock past in Murmur only makes itself known in his electric guitar on the edgier "Novocaine" and "Finally Found," it's easy to imagine most of these tunes delivered in a straightforward guitar/guitar/bass/drums setting. Unfortunately, Romanello's budget and inspiration wane before he runs out of disc, and on a few less-ardorned tracks he comes across as an overwrought coffeehouse folkie. Though too precious in spots, Counting Stars offers enough inventive twists and fresh energy to collar a pop fan's attention.

 

CD Review: Counting Stars
By - Jim Allen
UNCUT Magazine (London, U.K.)

"Paisly Meets Flannel in Tulsa, OK... Remember back in 1995 when Eric Matthew's mix of contemporary rock sonorities and Brian Wilson production values (It's Heavy in Here) was supposed to be the cat's pajamas?

Well, singer-songwriter Tony Romanello from Oklahoma has finally delivered on that promise. Post-Sergeant Pepper glockenspiel and horn section lead into Jeff Buckleyesque wailing. String quartets give way to distortion-laden guitars.

The presence of Flaming Lips skin-pounder and multi-tasking whiz Steve Drozd is further clue that Counting Stars is psych-pop successfully made modern."

 

CD Review: Counting Stars
By Thomas Conner
Tulsa World, Tulsa, OK 10/12/02

Sigh. The dreaded sophomore outing.

Two years ago, Romanello rode about town upon the shoulders of amazed local musicians and slobbering rock critics (ahem), lauded like a Greek hero for the victory and glory of his debut CD, "The MumbleOdd." The songs on that album were carefully structured chamber pop with serious singing and heavy guitars. It was a small semblance of classical beauty in a grungy world.

His follow-up is his Trojan horse. He wheels it through the gates, and we expect a big prize. Then out trickles trouble.

Romanello is no doubt a smart and talented musician, wholly deserving of the three nominations in tonight's 2002 Spot Music Awards, including Artist of the Year. That's why he's one of our performers at Saturday's awards ceremony.

"Counting Stars," however, suffers a little from excesses and extravagance. Romanello's ambition is to be praised, but it also may need to be reined in a bit.

It's the curse of the Flaming Lips, really. Everyone was so blown away by the immense orchestration and grandeur of "The Soft Bulletin" and, this summer, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," and now their fellow Okie rockers want to follow suit. But the Lips had been tinkering with noise and notes for two decades before those breakthroughs, and some of the up-and-comers might not be up to these challenges quite yet.

Romanello is up to it, surely, but "Counting Stars" sounds as if the excitement and the possibilities overwhelmed him. It's a magnificent record -- full of sound and fury -- but it's also fat with too much sound, too many parts.

On "The MumbleOdd," sometimes his songs threatened to wander away without quite resolving melodies and intentions. On "Counting Stars" this tendency finds an enabler in the massive, tangled orchestrations that nearly suffocate some songs, slowing down many that beg for speed and urgency.

There is an obvious Beatles yearning here -- from the George Harrison slide guitar underneath "Why Reminisce?" to the plunking, piano-driven, "A Day in the Life" feel of "The Amazing Disappearing Man" -- but while the ideas and compositions are bold and exciting, the execution misses the simplicity and clarity of "The White Album" by a significant margin.

Throughout the record, Romanello might be acknowledging his plight, sending out S.O.S.'s from the studio. He repeats an epigram for the sessions in his strong opening track, "An Insomniac's Diary," singing, "It's such a confusing tune. I'm not quite sure what to do."

In "The Amazing Disappearing Man," Romanello himself actually begins to disappear in the horns and pianos and drum loops and guitars and synthesizers and strings. He fights against the storm of sound by crying out the obvious, over and over, "It all gets twisted around." By "Novocain," he's numb, acquiescing with his own overdose of session musicians and admitting, "All the greatest triumphs become tragedies, all the brilliant plans become parodies."

Romanello is neither a tragedy nor a parody. "Counting Stars" is a template of genius, a black-and-white outline of exquisite chamber pop that got colored too brightly and spilled over the lines. Sometimes the orchestral assault works to his advantage, as in "De Leon," a song about the fountain of youth that uses the musical mob to punch the way for Romanello's light vocals, skittering guitar and cello. When he backs off even more, Romanello sounds positively relieved. "Why Reminisce?" is such a song -- loose, lively, utterly dreamy aboard acoustic guitars and quiet contemplation. It's a welcome oasis amid the damp, woolen thunder of the remaining sonic campaigns.

It's also a song about not looking back, about how freeing it can be to leave the past where it lies. My exhaustion with the ambition of "Counting Stars" is not a plea to return to the mildly simpler basics of "The MumbleOdd." Romanello is a visionary, and we'll be lucky if he keeps looking ahead and reaching for those stars. He just needs to also keep his feet on the ground.

 

Royal Crush, Romanello Romance Firehouse
By Doug Hill
POP - Norman Transcript, Norman, OK 10/11/02

..."This is a song called 'The Artist.' We recorded it right here in Norman with Trent Bell," TR said. Along with Andy Callis (guitars), Brad Hall (bass) and Josiah Borgos (drums), he replicated the fifth track from his celestial new album "Counting Stars" (Engine Shed Records, 2002).

Their rock was irresistable counterpoints of hardness and sensitivity. TR's vocals were pillow talk punctuated by brief cyclonic intensity. Sharp edge rock collided with dazzling emo pretties. TRB are making Tulsa's 21st century New Wave.

Romanello's band left the stage, and he sang solo, playing electric guitar. Romanell opened the song slow and rough. He bridged to silk panty-smooth.

"Counting Stars" is a amazing work, lush with viola, violin and glockenspiel. It's studded with Norman talent - Derek Brown (piano), Steven Drozd (drums), George Ahmadi (sax), and Boyd Littell (tablas).

Ritch as butterscotch sundae, Romanello's lyrics are seriously stream of consciousness. Existential heartbreaker "Tell Me, Please" is deep. "Orbits" is other-worldly, coming straight from Romanello's far out soul.

 

Artist Profile: Artist of the Year, Best Rock Band, Best Local Album
By Thomas Conner
Tulsa World, Tulsa, OK 9/06/02

- Best Rock Band
"Romanello's nominated as Artist of the Year and for his sophomore solo album. This, however, is not the complete picture. When he takes the stage, he's got an army of fierce rockers marching through and defending his unique compositional strategies. With the band, Romanello's sound often becomes a wall. The bricks in that wall -- including shy-but-deadly guitarist Andy Callis and ruthless drummer Josiah Borgos -- build something wholly different and solid, and audiences line up to hear it." -- The Tulsa World, 9/06/02

- Best Local Album
" It seemed impossible for Tony Romanello to expand the broad vision he displayed on his debut, the expansive and dreamy modern rock of 'The MumbleOdd.' 'Counting Stars' was eagerly awaited, and it delivered on its anticipation -- turning Romanello's musical world view into a grand vision of the universe. Stuffed with guitars, cellos, Fender Rhodes keyboard and drums by the Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd, 'Counting Stars' aspires to greater heights than your basic three-chords-and-the-truth basher. It's a magnanimous opus. " -- The Tulsa World, 8/30/02

- Artist of the Year
"Tulsa's boy wonder of modern rock has gone from Rising Star winner to Best Rock Act to this, our highest recognition for service in the line of local music. Not only did he return to record store shelves this summer with his eagerly awaited sophomore record, 'Counting Stars,' Romanello has been fighting the good fight for local music by establishing his record label, Engine Shed Records, with national distribution for some of its acts. An exquisite recording artist, a powerful live performer and a savvy businessman, Romanello is leading the charge." -- The Tulsa World, 8/30/02

 

Creating Tulsa's New Wall of Sound
By Thomas Conner
Tulsa World, Tulsa, OK 8/02/02
Photo Credit: Kelly Kerr, Tulsa World
Tony Romanello's solo CD contains equal parts spark, smoke and pageantry.

If you play by the rules, you'll lose. -- Tony Romanello, "An Insomniac's Diary".

Sitting next to a guy like Tony Romanello, you wouldn't guess some people revere him as a god.

He's just a local bloke, bellied up to the bar in a clean T-shirt and hair styled by the occasional run-through of his hands. He drinks domestic longnecks. He only plucks at the complimentary chips once I, the boorish journalist, begin devouring them.

Even I have deified him. Two years ago, upon the release of his solo debut CD, "The MumbleOdd," I declared his greatness to the World, and readers followed suit by voting for him every year in the Spot Music Awards -- Rising Star in 2000, Best Rock Act in 2001. Someone next to me in a nightclub last year guffawed, "He's gonna take over the (expletive) world."

But no Terminator is he. He's just a lone little Battlebot making his particular circumstances try to have as much spark and smoke and pageantry as human life deserves.

"I'm not going to be the next Beatles. I'm not doing anything earth-shattering," he said during a recent interview. "If I can reach someone with a song, that's the highest reward in life."

That's a surprisingly standard answer from a performer who consistently works out careful, strategic attacks on rock's rules. "The MumbleOdd" was a forthright rock record, but the guitars aimed a little higher, striking at hearts instead of guts. They imploded more than exploded, and the force was just as powerful -- a fusion, not fission, bomb. It wasn't a new sound necessarily, but it was good, great, sometimes breathtaking.

This is a guitar guy, by nature -- someone who got inspired to play by hearing Guns 'N Roses, who started his first band at age 14, whose first Tulsa projects included a stint in Jify Trip and a band called YSY with future Epperley and Aqueduct leader Dave Terry.

So in pursuing the follow-up recording, Romanello, of course, got rid of most of the guitars.

"I tried to really cut back on the guitars, tie them back, make them submit," Romanello said of the songs on his new CD, "Counting Stars." "I'm a guitar player first, but we took stuff that I normally would play on guitar and toned it down, played it through other instruments, piano and strings. I've always wanted to create a modern wall of sound like Phil Spector."

Indeed, "Counting Stars" approaches modern rock from the perspective of a composer, at the very least a studious arranger. The album opens with a string quartet, then a blast of horns and drum loops and a banging piano -- underneath which are some guitars, if you listen carefully. Many of the songs are crazy constructs -- chamber suites with the string quartet leading into freakish tangles of distorted noise, overly ambitious ballads that swell and crash like the north Atlantic, delicate introspections dancing on the wound steel of an acoustic guitar. No single track springs from the fertility of its predecessor, but they each take root and blossom, whether they're brilliant late-summer show pieces or scary, carnivorous lilies straight out of Pink Floyd's "The Wall."

"I wanted to do something that hadn't been done around here -- at least on an independent level" Romanello said. "I want to let people know there's different stuff going on in Oklahoma. Other than the Flaming Lips and the Starlight Mints, there are not too many people doing things that differently around here."

Indeed, Romanello's inspirations come from the other end of the 'pike. He recorded the album in the analog studio of Chainsaw Kittens guitarist Trent Bell. He digs Norman's Starlight Mints. The Lips' drummer, Steven Drozd, played all the drums on "Counting Stars," and Derek Brown from the Frequency Bliss played the keys.

The inspiration is less musical -- though there are certain similarities -- and more in the free-form, open-minded approach those bands have to recording.

"I grew up fascinated by the Beatles, by Bowie's `Hunky Dory.' That album was incredible. It had so much more than just straightforward guitar-bass-drums," he said. "It's hard to talk about how I get those ideas out. There's this little musician running around in my head, and it's a challenge to find common ground, to get the song out.

"I have ideas of what the song should sound like more than what the notes are. It doesn't come in an epiphany, but you have to be open enough to let the crazy ideas have room. It's mostly a feel you're going for, it's impressionistic. It's moods and colors. `MumbleOdd' has lots of references to color. I think painters and musicians are a lot alike: they don't know really what they're after until they get there."

This impressionistic creation takes time. Songs for "Counting Stars" began tracking in Bell's studio in March '01. The "Shades of Grey" EP kept fans tided over, but that was a band project, not Romanello solo. As he said, the band is geared toward the stage; his albums are geared toward your stereo.

When the band is on stage this weekend, in fact, it will be an expanded edition -- special for the CD release show. In addition to the Tony Romanello band -- drummer Josiah Borgos, guitarist Andy Callis, bassist Brad Hall and Blaine Nelson on the Fender Rhodes piano -- look for saxophonoist George Ahmadi, violinist Brent Williams and pianist Eric Knox.

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NewVo 2002: Burning, Intense Guitar Rock
By Joseph Felzke
Urban Tulsa Weekley, Tulsa, OK 4/17/02
Its all about the Tony Romanello Band.

The Tony Romanello Band’s debut ep Shades of Gray begins with a faint echo, the airy caress of a delay-tinged guitar. And then, it explodes, a shimmering wall of sound saturating the propel of the drums and singer Tony Romanello’s vocal whisper.

The rhythm is intense and the guitars are blaring, but not with a metallic slash. For the Tony Romanello band rocks nowhere near the present fad of excessive anger. This is guitar distortion that is beautiful.

Tulsa’s original music fans will be treated to the craftsmanship of Romanello, along with a full slate of local artists performing their own works at NewVo 2002, an original music showcase and all ages show at Cain’s Ballroom, 423 N. Main St., Sat., April 27, 3pm to Midnight. NewVo is sponsored by Urban Tulsa Weekly, Action Trucks, Neighborhood Financial Center, M.e.t., Anheuser-Busch, Tulsa Band and KJRH-TV.

In the ‘60s, kids were restless. They wanted to change the world and raise new societies. The ‘90s were the age of nothingness. The young looked around and saw no security, no safety, no purpose, and this reflected in some of the music. Nirvana captured the nihilistic decadence, but there were other bands that clutched the emotion, the bitter sense of emptiness. Sunny Day Real Estate found that intensity was their salvation. With elegant vigor they lashed out achingly electrifying rock. My Bloody Valentine unleashed a blissful heavenly fog that dizzied reality like no ‘60s psychedelia.

These dislocated feelings seem to have carried on into this very young 21st century musical climate, because The Tony Romanello Band eases wounds with blissed out guitar spirals. They’re drawing loosely on early emo and dream pop to create an emotive, uncompromising brand of thick haze rock. Shades of Gray is one of this year’s most lively releases. It’s an innovative arrangement of rock music, with the first three tracks forming a trilogy entitled “Part I”, “Part II” and “Part III”.

Over the course of these titles, Romanello and the Band twirl out a variety of moods, from dragging fizzling hooks to driving rapid power pop to flickering shadowy lullabies. This winding up and down allows the guitar atmospheres to undulate, so that occasionally broken piano notes and dreamy effects can slip into the melodic roar.

The Tony Romanello Band is Tony Romanello (vocals, guitar), Andy Callis (guitar), Brad Hall (bass) and Josiah Borgos (drums). The band formed when Romanello, fresh out of OU, began working as an acoustic duo with high school friend Callis. The pair eventually met bassist Hall, who describes himself as an old-school U2 disciple, and drummer Borgos, a passionate percussionist. This lineup began performing in and around Tulsa, and won last year’s Spot Award for Best Rock Band. Vigorous performances have gained them a reputation for being one of the city’s best live groups. “I know what it’s like to be in the audience,” says Romanello. “You become entranced with the band, and that’s what I think it’s all about: drawing people into your music.”

I caught the Romanello pack at The Loft recently. It was a show soaked in dizzy emotion. The fizzling washes of guitars created a trance-like color spectrum in the darkness of The Loft’s music room. This melding of howls: drums-bass-guitar, was like a jagged voice in a dream, and the whole thing together, the dark room and the howl, coalesced into some exaggerated otherworld. It was one of the best shows I’ve yet seen in Tulsa. When I think back on it now, it’s like remembering a stark flickering light in a shadowy abyss.

But away from the magical world of the live stage, The Tony Romanello Band operates well in that other outlet of the rock band: the studio. Minimalist production has allowed their spontaneous sound to gush forth on their debut mini-album. Recorded with an eight-track ministudio, Shades of Gray has a raw, underground feel. The drums sound like you are sitting next to them. The gleaming guitar walls come across clear and unadorned.

The band has released this CD on their own Engineshed label, a local company that releases material by a handful of other acts including Little League Hero and Standing On Zero. “As far as getting our music out to as many people as we can,” explains Romanello, “we can accomplish the majority of what we want to accomplish right now on our own label. So we want to ride that out as long as we can.” Like most of the interesting rock bands coming out right now, Tony Romanello and Co. are taking an independent’s attitude toward the music industry.

Borgos describes the mainstream of today as being about “nothing but the hit single”. “What happened after the mid-‘90s was that the industry went into a phase of total commercialism. Right now, the masses are exposed to nothing but a copy of a copy of a copy because the big labels think that’s what will boost numbers on the charts. But if you look to the past, the groups that really changed the industry were leaders. They did their own thing and people were attracted to that freshness. “So the only way things will change is if bands are themselves and something really new happens.”

That newness definitely isn’t heavy metal. We’ve all seen metal stumble about for decades in an attempt to milk out album sales. But rock can be fresh again. It’s records like Shades of Gray that explore the beautiful as opposed to the aggressive side of distortion that spark your interest and pull you in. The energy that’s in rock doesn’t have to be just about partying. It can be powerful artistry. The driving crash of guitars over drums can be gorgeous. The Tony Romanello Band expresses that.

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Four band lineup hot at Firehouse
By Doug Hill
Pop Magazine, Norman Transcript, Norman, OK 4/12/02
Photo Credit: Doug Hill/Pop Magazine
Tulsa singer/songwriter Tony Romanello (guitar) carries the Beatles around in his head. The Fab 4 figure prominently into his musical odyssey.

“I have most of the Beatles catalogue. Along with Jeff Buckley, Sunny Day Real Estate and U2, they’re one of my primary influences,” he said. “My parents were big on classic rock. Growing up, we listened to KMOD a lot.”

TR talked about his music before headlining an emo extravaganza with A Suncrush for Sweethearts, Standing On Zero and Lasso at The Firehouse on March 29. “My songs are very impressionistic. People have told me some creative interpretations of what they’re about. I like that and don’t tell them any different when they’re wrong,” he smiled.

TR explained what distinguishes his band from others. “There’s a dichotomy between artists and entertainers. We’re more artistic,” he said. “Some bands just go through the motions.”

Asked who gives a damn about his band: “I do, damn it! Also, we have a wide range of fans, and that’s something I encourage,” he said passionately.

TR’s T-town turn-ons: “Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (they’re fantastic), Rewake (trip-hop hooks with an incredible vocalist) and Shamrock (heavy modern rock).” TR confessed his guilty musical pleasures. “I love the late ‘80’s guitar virtuosos — Eric Johnson, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. Yeah, I’ve been made fun of for it,” he said.

Observing that the major labels have ruined popular music, TR found a silver lining. “It’s opened a huge rift for indie bands, creating a chance for lots of people to be heard,” he said. “This has influenced creativity in a positive way.”

First concert: “My really cool uncle, Chris Romanello, took me to the Scorpions at Expo Square Pavilion for my 8th-grade birthday. He also gave me my first Jimi and Led Zep tapes,” TR said gratefully.

...

TR performed solo and seated. He began with a lingering guitar passage, vocals almost an afterthought. Clever guitar dominated the set. “This is the Top 40 song if you want to dance,” TR said about an instrumental that was nothing of the sort.

His songs are mad pretty and complex. Sample titles: “A Red Shade to Somber,” “Singing Sirens (Genesoma Part 2)” and “My Opinions on the Tragedy.”

TR adjusted his volume as it grew late and the Firehouse audience became loud. Playing one of the toughest gigs there is (singing alone with guitar in a noisy saloon), he roared into the din. TR’s poetic words were frequently muffled by crowd and guitar.

He appeared to be living up to a credo expressed during the interview. “Always play the same. Rock out whether there’s 5 or 500 people.”

TR was in the singer/songwriter zone. His records go there as well, recalling the Starlight Mints, Tyson Meade and New Tribe. They’re trippy, sophisticated emo with guitars gently weeping, lots of plaintive vocals and cute electronic wanking about.

Sensitive lyrics fall soft as chinchilla against a feminine cheek. TR’s slow tunes hang in the air like a motionless dream. His albums are available at www.tonyromanello.com.

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CD Review - The Shades of Grey
By Joe Felzke
Urban Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 2/27/02

Tulsa-based Tony Romanello Band holds your attention. Their impassioned blending of emo, indie rock and power pop is truly unique, driven by the raw beauty of the electric guitar, and the heartbreaking experience of the love song. The band approaches both of these elements with a youthful, natural spirit, and the music pours like uneasy emotion, gripping the listener.

Composed of four songs, Shades of Grey has a stripped-down four-track quality that gives it a living/breathing charm. The songs are unbroken, fading in and out of each other so that the tension is never lost. At times there is floating softness, with feathery keyboard musings and chiming triad chords, and then the music will wind up into a gorgeous melodic roar that explores the aesthetic values of distortion. Tender melodies drift and blissful guitar walls gyrate. This is rock that draws you in, moving you through weeping landscapes of everyday pains.

Truly engaging groups are rare, and the Tony Romanello Band earns the listener’s attention through the natural flow of emotion. – J. F.

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