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Romanello is back: Rocker returns with a new band, new disc and plenty of 'tude
Matt Gleason, The Tulsa World
May 19, 2006


Tony Romanello, all of 29, isn't ready to hang up his Les Paul for good, despite what some people may have thought after he disbanded his local group, the TRB, last year. Yes, Romanello, who's synonymous with thought-provoking, blow-your-hair-back rock ditties, has indeed kept a low-profile ever since. He even moved to Waco to get a master's degree at Baylor University. But the singer/guitarist is set to make a grand reemergence on the local scene this weekend. He'll play Mercury Lounge, Friday, and Mayfest, Saturday.

"It's going to be different from what people have experienced," Romanello said, "but I think it's going to be vibrant, rockin', raw and rock 'n roll." His new band features TRB alumnus Andy Callis on guitar; bassist Matt Vandaveer, who played with the singer in his defunct Norman-based group Murmur; Mike Friedemann on drums, and Philip Zoellner, a local star himself, on keys/wurlitzer. Romanello and company will perform older tunes from "The MumbleOdd" (2000), "Shades of Grey EP" (2001) and "Counting Stars" (2002), but Romanello hasn't returned to the scene empty-handed. His new, six-song "Rock 'n Roll Fairytales EP" finds Romanello unleashing propulsive, grandiose rock tunes that come complete with squealing, distorted guitar riffs, '80's-style keyboard accents, and Friedemann's huge drum solos that harken back to the bombastic heyday of John Bonham.

For his vocals, the singer who produced most of the EP in his home studio, had a distinct sound in mind. "We went for like an old Elvis sound but distorted," Romanello explained. "It's kind of got a modern sound but with that echo Sun Records did all the time. It's trying to make things teeter on the edge of being a little too abrasive but also being accessible, so if people hear it they're wondering, 'What is that? I need to hear that again. What's going on?' "

Romanello also had a vision for his guitar parts, which were recorded at Trent Bell's Bell Labs Studios in Norman. "I stayed completely away from fuzz and no clean (tone)," Romanello said. "I was having some challenges coming up with the right guitar tone I wanted for this record. I wanted something to sound kind of retro-ish but also have some bite to it."

The lyrical content contains a bit of Romanello's disillusionment with the music industry, as is evidenced in the aptly-titled lead track "Rock 'n Roll Is a Fairytale." "It's almost tongue and cheek that 'Where are the rock 'n roll stars these days? Where are the good rock and roll songs?' " Romanello said. "It seems like you can listen to the old stuff -- Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Kinks -- and you can hear rock 'n roll. These days, I don't know if that's really around or not. If it is, you're not hearing it on the radio or TV."

Romanello closes out the disc with the six-minute epic "The Last Bar Chord Ever Played," in which he laments rock isn't what it used to be. "It's obviously a turning point in the whole disc," Romanello said. "So you set up the disc with all these over-the-top rock songs and here's this kind of ballad, halfway, talking about playing the last bar chord, you know, after kind of questioning the whole time 'Is rock 'n roll even around?' "

Well, rock will definitely be around Tulsa this weekend.

Romanello's back.

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