Back when Michael Massimo's only musical outlet was his solo acoustic show, people could always tell there was something special about him and what he was creating. But something was missing. He needed a project that would better support his powerful vocals, intense lyrics and well-crafted songs. He needed a rock band.
While on hiatus from his solo career, singing for a cover band called Todd's Theory, Michael found himself in need of a drummer. This is how he came to meet Roger Sherman, sparking a relationship that today builds the core of the band, MASSIMO. "They needed a drummer," recalls Roger, "and rather than sift through the psychos that respond to ads in music papers, they chose to call local drum schools and tell them to send over their best. I was studying with Pat Petrillo at the time, and sadly, I was the best that Pat could scrape up."
Upon the dissolution of Todd's Theory, Michael and Roger refused to give up on the mutual respect they had for each other and the astounding potential they knew existed within their combined efforts. Michael had previously performed as a solo musician, but when it came time for a new project, he started writing material that was designed more for a full band setting, and he knew exactly who he wanted to get involved. "I asked Roger if he would be interested in working on my original project," Michael recalls, "and he was. I recognized him immediately as a talented player. He knew where I was coming from musically, appreciated my work ethic, and understood we had the potential to reach a wider audience together than I could alone. It was a natural decision to play together."
In addition to his drum skills, Roger brought a variety of other skills to the table. He was experienced in the music business, had already completed a variety of successful tours with other projects, and had a number of useful contacts. In fact, it was through those contacts that the duo has lined up Web designers, additional contributing musicians, and the engineer, producer, and studio owner that helped assemble the band's new self-titled EP. "I've been at this for quite a while," says Michael, "and at this point in my career, sometimes it's hard to keep going. Roger is always very supportive and encouraging, and he keeps my head in the game. We strategize together. It's easy to quit without support, but I don't feel like I'm doing it by myself now, and that's huge for me."
To help fill out their sound, Michael and Roger rely on a rotating cast of friends and fellow musicians. The pair was been working steadily with bassist Dave Bokhour, who made valuable contributions to the new EP, and they have worked with a number of different lead guitarists, including Jess Converse and JP Dougherty. But the core of the project is Michael and Roger, who don't seem to care whether Massimo is performing as a duo, trio, or quartet, as long as the music is being heard. Sure, they have hopes for eventual management and record label deals, but for now the focus is on playing shows and promoting the new disc, thus exposing as many people as possible to the band's material.
When asked about their goals for the future, Roger and Michael exude both a sense of humor and a confident vision that if given the chance, their music has the potential to make a lasting impression. "Our goal is world domination," responds Roger, only half-jokingly. "Or at least to develop a strong, loyal following that will do our bidding as we tour the world incessantly." He then admits that all he really wants for now is to keep the building process moving, and to eventually find a record label that will allow the band to do what it wants to do. If both those goals are attained, maybe then they can start working toward the world domination. Michael responds with a similar combination of modesty, confidence, and humor. "All I've ever wanted was to make a modest living playing music I write. Not a super rich living, just a reasonable one. Have a decent indie deal, tour the country tirelessly, keep making new fans along the way, and keep making records I'm proud of, that speak to people in a significant way. I'm realistic enough to see we may not be mainstream enough for the masses, though I'd rather have a devout smaller audience than a fickle larger one. But if what we do happens to lead to an eventual major label deal and international fame, who are we to say no?"
No matter what the goals may be, the band's new EP may help the guys accomplish them. What was originally planned as a simple live demo to be used for booking shows turned into something else altogether. "It was a very unplanned, organic experience," explains Michael. "As we started mixing, seeing what was digitally possible without rerecording things, and then adding the harmony vocals on top, it started sounding surprisingly good. Like, really, really good. Like 'we should put this out' good." The band proceeded with that in mind, through months of painstakingly careful mixing, and somewhere along the line Michael started thinking that if they could make these rough recordings sound so good, maybe they could do the same with older material. This is when he decided to put together a second, compilation disc entitled Now and Then, which included remastered versions of previously released songs, live versions of older songs, and some new material that nobody had heard until now. By the time they were finished, rather than walking out of the studio with a simple live demo to shop around for booking, the band had both a retrospective compilation album and a brand new EP.
Mixed by Grammy-nominated producer Perry Montauredes, the new EP showcases a style of music that the band describes as "John Mayer meets Live." It's epic, anthemic, and lyrically intense. Each of the five songs is filled with rich harmonies, undeniable hooks, and thought-provoking lyrics. The songs are built around a singer-songwriter approach, but fleshed out by a superb cast of musicians to give them a full band feel, and each tune weaves together a wide range of emotions and influences. Among that list of influences, there are singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne, John Mayer, Paul Simon, Elliott Smith, and James Taylor, as well as jazz artists like Pat Metheny. There are classic rockers like Kansas, Led Zeppelin, and Billy Joel, complemented by modern rockers like Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots, and Fuel. As the core of the band, Michael and Roger have come to appreciate blues, electronica, funk, jazz, pop, and rock, and there finely-tuned musical sensibilities are made apparent on this new EP. It is a powerful, poetic, and penetrating listening experience, and it is one that will leave a deeply satisfied feeling in the heart and mind of any modern music fan.
"I had never been completely happy with anything I'd done in the studio up until now," says Michael. "This time around, I was determined not to compromise anything. I especially wanted this EP to be something I could be one hundred percent proud of, and when I listen back to it, I am. It's a good feeling to have. Finally."
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