The Garden State may be reputable for its northern smog, and southern grease, but similar to its clandestine beauties of greenery, are vast, hidden music scenes. Bruce left his iconic footprints in the Asbury sands, and a myriad of musicians followed. Scaling the ladder of shore bars, a lucky few migrate northward eventually attaining well-deserved prominence. Hailing from Toms River, NJ, indie-folk, 8-piece, River City Extension
experienced their fair share of coffee shops and boardwalk dives. Guided by singer/songwriter, Joe Michelini, the symphonic, folk act is hijacking a national audience during their perpetual interstate voyages.
It's no surprise that River City Extension is rapidly acquiring a national following. His early years spent as a solo act, Michelini, akin to a messiah, lured an eclectic assortment of musicians who shared his eccentric, sonic cognizance. Their first studio and self-released EP, Nautical Sabbatical
(2009), was their escort to the road. The following year, they released their first full-length, Unmistakable Man
. Their eventual signing with XOXO Records provided the opportunity to perform with acclaimed act and label partner, Squeeze (who make a cameo on the vinyl release of RCE's first LP). Their popularity grew substantially as they interweaved the nation to play alongside artists like The Get Up Kids. RCE is now preparing to captivate extensive audiences during their festival expeditions.
Once an indistinct label on a Jersey bar's marquee, River City Extension is now being recognized as one of the indie scene's top prospects. Listening to the tracks of Unmistakable Man
certainly justifies, but the experience of their live performances wholly validates this anticipation. Their product is an ideal audile meld of traditional, folk instrumentation (a bountiful supply of chordophones) with Michelini's passionate rasps, which are delightfully contrasted by his female counterpart.
Now that I'm running low on promotional adjectives, here's what Joe shared with us about his home schooled past, the band's unconventional DIY techniques, and a distaste of Beach House:
Although you were birthed in the Jersey scene, your sound separates you immensely from your peers and predecessors. What influenced your eccentricity?
I don't want to sound art-snobby when I say the influence probably came from having no influence, but in reality the most creative kids are home schooled. I wasn't, well I was for about a year but I don't think that has much to do with it. I just mean my parents kept me out of the mainstream social culture for a while, and raised me to be creative. I do not think what we are doing as a band is radically eccentric so much as it contrasts a lot of mundane repetition that comes from being raised by an X-Box, or the back of a cereal box. People are more creative than they know. They are bound by invisible rules or how-to's, none of it is true though. And for the record I now own an X-Box and read cereal boxes all the time. It's just about childhood development I think.
It's apparent that many of the upcoming indie groups have taken the minimalist approach replacing instrumental accompaniment with synth and such. Why have you avoided this trend?
Again, I'd say I'm not consciously avoiding anything. We may put some synth in our music who knows. Sufjan Stevens did it, and that record is awesome. Nothing should ever be ruled out, even minimalism, in a band of 8 people. We're just trying to make good music, and write good songs, and be honest. Who knows I may honestly need a synth one day. In the mean time though, I'm not the biggest Beach House fan in the world.
You've performed with some notable names. What have you gained from these experiences?
We have learned so much. I've learned so much. Watching these bands, the way they perform, the way they operate, it's crazy. Even when it looks like everything is a mess onstage and wild and crazy, there should be a "don't try this at home" sign somewhere. These people are professionals. It's hard to know that coming up, though. Everyone, including myself, behaves like and mimics the bands they look up to. You realize over time that nothing is what it seems, and getting a better grasp on how what you are doing onstage translates to different audiences in different situations.
You've taken the DIY approach to whole new level. Tell us about some of the impromptu methods that you had used to fund your earlier tours.
We did this one thing where we offered to cook people dinner for tour donations. Different donations got you different things but that was one of them. I stole that idea from another band though. I can't remember who did that but we love to cook so, why not? I don't think we actually ended up cooking for anyone. Though the offer is still on the table (pun intended).
Where can we expect to see you? (festivals and NYC shows)
The closest local date is the Bamboozle festival on April 30th in NJ. We're playing with some great bands that day like Frank Turner, and The Gaslight Anthem. It's going to be a blast.
Update: River City Extension is scheduled to perform at the Newport Folk Festival, and more are expected.
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MP3: "Friends and Family"