Todd Pasternack Returns to Upstate New York & Offers Eclectic New Trio ‘Bump’ (INTERVIEW)

In the time that passed since Todd Pasternack last recorded a new album, Facebook replaced MySpace as the number one community site, David Bowie was finishing up his last world tour, and a Bush was in the oval office. In other words… its been awhile for the former guitarist/vocalist of 90’s jam kingpins the Ominous Seapods and later upstate New York duo Marlow.

Pasternack’s story starts a bit earlier however when guitarist Max Verna announced that he was leaving the Seapods in late 1998, Pasternack was hired to replace him and filled out exquisitely in the band’s final few years. Soon after, he formed Marlow which then included Lo Faber of God Street Wine and Ted Marotta of the Seapods, and later would bridge the band down to a duo between himself and his soon to be wife Angela. Once kids were born and financial responsibilities had elevated, Pasternack did the fatherly best thing he could at the time and moved from the family from his upstate NY studio to the Philadelphia suburbs.

Having spent the last decade domesticating himself in suburban Philly with a steady career in digital marketing/technology, Pasternack and wife Angela Ford would find their musical escape in the form of singing to their newborn children or couch noodling on guitar, hardly a challenging stage for a seasoned musician like Paternack. Placing music on the back-burner wasn’t a choice but more a necessity when one starts a family, but in this case it was never an extinguished flame for the musician. Upon striking the good fortune of moving back to upstate New York recently, it only made sense for Pasternack and Ford to rekindle their musical interests.

So begins the story of Bump- which offers Marlow’s strongest moments of melancholy & melody within the introspective side of the “power trio” format, allowing the band to experiment musically among a vast offering of meaningful lyrics. Along with Ford is drummer Gregory Nash (Ten Year Vamp, Sirsy), whose colorful beats keep the arrangements honest.

As described on their website: Bump is a band. Bump writes songs. Bump plays them. Bump gets loud. Bump gets soft. Bump gets down. Bump is music. The powerful one syllable one word band name uniquely sums up the nine songs on Bump’s debut album Broken Fix released last October. The nine poignant compositions tap into reflective folk, razor sharp melodies and moments of passionate guitar rock combined with Pasternack’s warm earnest vocals. Broken Fix offers big classic rock hooks in “Hope It’s Worth The Prize” and “Easier On You,” while “Anymore” proves Bump can slow it down with delicate prowess.

 Throughout his musical hiatus, Pasternack always knew the musician in him would reappear, as he mentioned following an opening spot for American Babies: “ I was able to reflect in that moment on how long I’ve been doing this, how much I still enjoy it, and how much I need it as a part of my life.” Glide recently caught up with the singer-songwriter/guitarist to give us the low-down on Bump.

bumplp2Talk about the band some and why the trio format?  Why the band name Bump?  

The simple answer is it’s easier to operate in a band with less people and egos. [Laughs]. But musically speaking it really means you can’t hide behind a larger group of players. And “not hiding” became a core theme for the three of us as a band, though I’m not sure that intentionally influenced our decision to keep it a trio. I suppose I’m making it more symbolic than it really is. But we all felt like we were recently given a new chance at our lives and that we wanted to expose that, in a way. We couldn’t hide from our past, or our mistakes in life. And we didn’t want to.

Because the three of us are so comfortable together, there is a lot of trust in sharing musical ideas knowing we’ll support each other. When someone brings an idea to the table we always say, “Let’s at least try it. Let’s riff for awhile and see how it makes us feel.” That’s the best environment to be in as an artist.

As far as the name goes, it was just something simple that conjures up all sorts of interpretations. It’s funny what people think it means. Everything from having sex, to doing drugs, to knocking into someone – literally and figuratively – and even having a child. It’s one word packed full of meaning and we like that.

You had your own studio and were recording some time ago right? How did that experience help you with this project? Did you have any outside opinions or assistance with the recording?

Yeah, I have a bunch of gear that we used to make the Marlow records, and I used it to produce and record a few regional artists.

When we were getting ready to record Broken Fix we originally asked our old friend Devin Greenwood (who played with us in Lo Faber Band) to bring up his incredible, vintage gear from his studio in Brooklyn and record us. He called me literally a few days before our session was supposed to start and told me he just scored a gig playing B3 for jazz singer Melody Gardot and was leaving in two-days for an international tour. I was like, “That’s a great a gig! We’ll figure it out.”

So we ended up recording it ourselves the same way we intended, minus having an engineer. It was just the three of us doing it all. Setting up microphones, running cables, tracking it. There’s this incredible-sounding barn our friend has in Cambridge, New York. I knew if we could just find the sweet-spot for the drums and capture that, everything else would fall into place. We found it, and Angela and I set up our gear around Greg. We played all of the tracks live together – the jams and solos – and we captured the energy we were hoping for. We did the vocals, extra guitars, and percussion overdubs at the house. And then we were lucky to have Kirk Juhas play some piano and B3 on a few tracks that we recorded at his studio.

I started to mix the album myself after tracking, but quickly realized I needed help. I was way too close to it. A friend introduced us to Jason Beck who had just opened Akin Studios in nearby Hoosick Falls. Angela and I had heard him play solo piano live and we were really impressed with his originality and style. We met up, talked through the vision and meaning of the songs, and he just got it. I can’t tell you how incredibly collaborative Jason is. He really listens and it shows on the album. We had the album mastered by the great Larry DeVivo at his mastering studio, Silvertone. Talk about ears! And his gear is first class. Seriously. It’s sick.

How has your approach to songwriting changed over the years and what songs are an example of this change and any new strengths?

I love this question. And I think what’s changed the most is trying to find the most simple, honest way of expressing an idea as possible. Both lyrically and musically. But what’s great about Bump is that it’s extremely collaborative. Sure, I’m coming to the table with ideas most often but everyone shapes the song.

Angela is a big proponent of trying the unexpected and keeping us from getting too repetitive – which admittedly is not a strength of mine. I love coming back to riffs. She’s a classically-trained opera singer and pianist, you know, and also leads a jazz project, so those experiences and her musical background definitely influence how she hears and contributes to our music. She really pushes us to experiment more than we might otherwise.

Greg has such a varied taste in music and knowledge of genres – his input comes from such an informed place. And his drumming is so unique that it inspires Angela and me to try something we may not have thought of before. He’s also one of the hardest working drummers I know, period.

I do find it interesting that Bump naturally fits within the jamband scene, which has really evolved over the last ten years. I mean, it seems like any band can fit into this genre now! And I love that. The community is really open-minded and simply loves “good music” regardless of style.

Lyrically the album touches topics including unhealthy relationships and struggles with addiction that ultimately lead to discovery, renewal and redemption. What were you going on the musical/harmony side to complement these themes?  

Pairing upbeat music against serious lyrics can be an exciting juxtaposition musically-speaking. And we sometimes do that. But some songs just need the complete darkness. Take “Wrecking Ball,” for instance. This is a song about date rape. There is a middle section with layered vocals that was Angela’s idea. It has these swirling, haunting, dissonant harmonies. And even the jam is emotionally complex. I knew that the guitar had to be a voice during that section. It had to scream. We did our best to capture the horror of the experience. I think the song is almost painful to listen to because of what the song is about, but it’s a very important song. More woman are coming forward about rape than ever before. There’s a current wave of feminism happening that has to do with the violence against women. “Wrecking Ball” is a part of that wave.

Another song that really fits the mood of the lyrics is, “Anymore.” We each wrote the verse we sing, pulling from our own struggles. And the chorus is about the three of us coming together. It’s about why we formed Bump. It’s our therapy, our catharsis. That song brings tears to my eyes when we perform it because it’s just incredibly real for me.

“Poster Child” is another grim song about watching someone with addiction struggle to find themselves again. The search for who we are, who we think we are, and what we want to be, is pretty consistent through the album.

Do you have any plans for live shows and what can we expect from your earlier material and cover songs?

We’ve played a number of shows since we formed. Though it’s much trickier since Angela and I are both in the band and we have young kids. We don’t have a nanny. [Laughs] So we’re trying to play once a month or so. As far as earlier material, we’ll play a couple of songs from the Marlow catalogue like, “The Goodbye Girl” or “In A Hole.”

We’ve been having a ton of fun picking covers because we have no shame about the bands we love. So we’ve covered, “Dirty Work” by Steely Dan, “Driven To Tears” by The Police, “The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin, and “Angel From Montgomery” by John Prine. We’ll also perform some Pink Floyd and Tom Petty.

What has the Saratoga area provided for you in terms of creativity and a musical scene? Are there certain spots where you can go here music and feel you can build up a fan-base without too much traveling?

Angela and I moved back here because we missed the community of artists, musicians, and writers that are in the area. You’d think we would have found that in a great city like Philadelphia, but we didn’t. Not to say it isn’t there. It is, for sure. We just had difficulty connecting – most likely because we were raising two young kids out in the suburbs. Or maybe we’re just assholes, I don’t know. [Laughs]

There are some great original bands around here, though. Wild Adriatic, Let’s Be Leonard, Better By Morning, Eastbound Jesus, North and South Dakotas – there’s a ton of talent. And it seems there’s a lot of support for each other.

And venue-wise, Putnam Den here in town is a great spot to see a band. Killer sound and stage. And not far away in Albany you have The Hollow, The Low Beat, and Parish Public House, where we had our first gig as Bump opening up for Marco Benevento. Thank god [concert promoter] Greg Bell is still bringing incredible acts into the area.

What has been your most memorable experience as a performer so far in your career?

First thing that comes to mind is the first national tour I did with the Seapods when I was – my god – twenty-two years old. I remember how surreal it all was to be in the RV, seeing the country, and playing for all of these great people who loved the music and welcomed me into the band. I especially remember us opening up for moe. at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on that tour. And those guys were ridiculously kind to me, and embraced me into the fold, into the scene. Remember: they knew the Seapods for years before I replaced Max, so that meant a lot. They invited me up to jam with them at the show. And later on that tour we played at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip for a packed house. It was a mind-blowing experience to connect with people like that on the other side of the country. But yeah, that first tour was transformative for me in that it showed me that having a career in music was viable, though extremely challenging.

But the other memory I have is much more recent. We just opened up for American Babies the other week, and we had such a great show. First musically for the three of us – we connected deeply and performed well. But we also connected with a crowd that really hadn’t heard us before. Feeling a community build, albeit momentarily, as people connect to your songs, is something of a miracle. It’s a journey you all experience together song by song. It sounds really cheesy and metaphysical, but I believe that. But it’s also memorable because I was able to reflect in that moment on how long I’ve been doing this, how much I still enjoy it, and how much I need it as a part of my life.

seapods

Looking back at your days with Ominous Seapods – what do you miss most about those days?

There was something pretty magical about the Seapods in that it even existed in the first place. It was great to be young and part of a scene and a band that really had a shared vision and a common goal. It’s unfortunate the band broke up when it did because I felt we were just hitting our stride musically. But lives change. People change. Bands break up.

I wouldn’t say I necessarily miss the Seapods, though, as much as the community we had built up. It’s difficult for any artist to do that. To impact a large number of people. And there are still lots of mutants who reflect on those days and reconnect with us online. I don’t take that for granted.

I suppose with Bump, we’re trying to reignite that spirit of musical freedom and the safety to create anything we choose to. The three of us are in much different places in our lives, and our vision isn’t to be a huge band that tours constantly. We logistically can’t do that anyway. But what we can do is create music together that is meaningful to us and is hopefully translatable to those outside the band. I think many of the themes we sing about are universal even though they originate from a very personal place.

And we do hope to grow a community of our own, and we’ve started to. I guess what I’m saying is the intent and motives behind the band feel so much more – pure. We’re not influenced musically by the business or the economics as much as we would have been ten years ago. That will obviously work to our detriment to a degree in that we may not grow our community as quickly. But we’re okay with that. A small, loyal group of fans is worth more than a million disconnected ones to us.

Check out bumpband.net for info on shows, hear music the band workshops, and watch videos from live performances and their rehearsal space.

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