Off The Record Trio – Rock ‘n’ Retro
Written by Liam Sweeny on January 16, 2019
Music is life. It encapsulates a moment, and a note or two of a familiar song can draw up our best days, sometimes our worst. It is the soundtrack to our dreams, the strength in our footsteps, and it makes me proud to be here once in a while, giving credit due to the people turning the knob up for us all.
Off The Record Trio is a vivacious exploration of the words ‘classic’ and ‘retro’ that Singer and frontwoman Joanna Peterson Palladino-Resnick, Guitarist Geo Doody and percussionist Bob Resnick lead with unparalleled energy and fearlessness.
I sit down with Joanna to discuss the finer points of time travel.
RRX: I first saw the Trio play at the RadioRadioX open house. What impressed me was the energy you were able to project out into the crowd. It reminded me that, in so many ways, music is a visual performance as well. Can you comment on how the Off The Record Trio blends sight and sound when the lights go on?
JPR: OTR definitely has a point of view or “look” but our performance does go beyond the red beehive and vintage clothes. At the crux of it all is just a simple passion for the music, and that ends up propelling our entire show. I think there’s authenticity to what we do- which is ironic since we are decked out in 60’s inspired garb with our show personas. That passion and honesty resonates with the audience and we feed off of that as well. Next thing you know, I see video footage of a show and had no idea we were moving and shaking with so much ferocity!
RRX: You all play such a range of styles, very rooted in the ‘60s. Rock and roll, soft rock, pop, jazz… and everyone in the band has such a versatile repertoire. So I must ask; will we ever see some Off The Record original vinyl (Because we all know it would be cut in vinyl)?
JPR: HA! It’s funny. I always see our band as a cover band but other bands are always telling us to write our own music and that it isn’t that hard. I don’t know. I have incredible respect for songwriters and don’t profess to be one. I do imagine that if we do, it’ll be a collaboration with some of the area’s best pop songwriters (like Jeff Sohn), and then from there we’ll see where life and skill development take us. Though Bob, our percussionist, has written an original song- so maybe we’ll cover that first. (smile) Either way, this is great food for thought and I should chat with Geo about this. In the meantime, I think we are going to release a CD of 8 or 9 of our songs we just recorded in the studio with John Chiara. (But now I am thinking that maybe it should be vinyl.)
RRX: Working good covers is a difficult task. Bearing in mind that music is the metronome of history, you have an amazing opportunity to revive cherished moments in people’s lives. On the other hand, screw up one note, everybody knows it. Can you comment on how you select what moments you want to bring to the stage – what songs, what anthems?
JPR: I feel that pressure right before a show- but I have found that audiences can be quite forgiving. Bob always says that there are hundreds of good songs out there, so why torture yourself getting one perfect, when you can select one that is more suited for your own style (voice, range, instruments, band make-up, etc.). We start off seeing if everyone in the band likes the song. We all get a veto chip- where if 2/3rds of the band loves the song, but for some reason you really dislike the song, you can use your veto power and we don’t do the song. That’s rarely, if ever, happened.
Each song should make sense for us: Does it stand the test of time or if not, is it at least humorous or fun? Does the song tell a story and is it a story we want to share? Is this song so iconic and our arrangement and orchestration will do it no justice? There have been songs that, because of the lyrics, we haven’t done. Some of those old 60’s songs really perpetuated some intimate partner violence or abusive relationships and it’s just not anything I personally want to promote.
From there, Bob actually does the set list, with input from the band. At the actual night of the gig, all bets are off- we really try and respond to what the audience wants. Are they into a show or do they want to dance? Should we skip the ballad and replace it with a song with a dance groove? Every once and a while we do have to slow things down for a moment or two so I can catch my breath, regroup, and then power through the rest of the show.
RRX: Now you have a theatrical background, which shows for anyone who has caught Off The Record Trio’s act. The theater scene and the music scene seem fairly insulated from each other, but it seems like there’s probably a lot of connective fiber they share. What do you think each scene could learn from the other?
JPR: I think committed artists are always learning, and stealing, from each other – across all art forms. I know from the theater perspective, music and sound, are integral to a play or a performance and that the theater has always been deeply influenced by music (look at the Broadway musical). I have often felt that musicians, especially front men and frontwomen, understand that the theatrical, the physicality of telling a story and the connectedness with the audience, is an important aspect of their performance. I think of people like Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Janis Joplin, Cher, Nico/Lou Reed, etc. – they all understood this. Sometimes the theatrical may not be in the performance, but may be in the “script”- it’s amazing how an incredibly written song holds its own- regardless of who sings.
Not all songs can stand on their own though, and a performer can really bring new life to the song. The wonderful thing is, much like a script, each performer has the ability to interpret the song differently. I always say there’s a thousand and one ways to cook chicken and a thousand and one ways to read (or sing) a single line. So much opportunity and so much variation available and this keeps music, and theater, fresh.
I think we have learned a lot from each other already. Though if the theater community could continue to appreciate the simplicity of a short 2-minute 60’s rock n’ roll song- that would be great. And if the music community would appreciate a show’s actual start time, versus rock and roll time, that would also be cool. I am sure the audience would appreciate that too. I always hear, what time are you really starting- and it cracks me up. In theater world, it drives us crazy to hold the start time and wait for the house lights to go down. An 8 pm show – means an 8 pm start. That’s not always a shared value in rock and roll land.
RRX: Woodstock. The big Five-O. Two festivals; one, Watkins Glen, Michael Lang, one of the original organizers, versus Bethel Woods, the site of Yasgur’s Farm, the original location, by LiveNation. They both call Off The Record trio and want you to play. Are you all heading west to Watkin’s Glen, or south to Bethel?
JPR: I have to go to Bethel. Not only is it closer, but historically more women played at Bethel than at Watkins Glen – so I think we’d fit better there. OTR is more Sha-Na-Na and Sly and the Family Stone and less the Allman Brothers (though I love the Allman Brothers). And Watkins Glen happened in 1973 and Woodstock was 1969- a little more our speed.
RRX: I like to ask about influences, because most of the bands we’ve had on are working solely off original songs. So, maybe a twist; in ‘60s music, a lot of unique sounds have been brought up by uncommon (in America) instruments. And you all don’t just rock a three-piece yourselves. So can you name an instrument, something off the beaten path a little, that has influenced your sound?
JPR: Good question. What 1960’s rock and roll lounge band do you know that plays with a djembe and a converted tom-tom as the bass drum? I think our sound, and music selection, is heavily influenced by percussion and that makes our band sound just a little different that other 60’s bands out there. We aren’t replicating the music necessarily- we’re playing it slightly differently so we tap into nostalgia but are deeply rooted in the here and now.
RRX: Lastly, it’s shout-out time. Anyone out there, original or cover, that’s caught your collective eyes? Anyone maybe a little undervalued, unsung, under-recognized that you’d like to flick a lighter for? Also, do you have anything coming down the pipes that we need to put on the calendar?
JPR: We owe shout-outs to so many people who have supported the band over the years. Our triumvirate of support: Frank Nvoko from Big Frank and the Bargain Bingers for helping us find our first venue for our very first gig (one of the most generous guys out there), Artie Fredette (now of RadioRadioX) for booking our first gig at Bat Shea’s, and Jimmy Barrett from the River Street Beat Shop in Troy for always promoting the band or giving us a place to perform. I also have to give a shout-out to some of the awesome female led bands out there- but especially two of my favorites- The Big Takeover and Kitty Rodeo. You have to check them out.
As for upcoming gigs—yes!!! You definitely need to put the Second Chance Prom at Il Faro Restaurant on your calendar- January 26th 7 PM. Don’t put it on your calendar- go and buy tickets before they are all gone. It’ll be a riot- dress however you want (throwback, vintage, modern), eat tons of great food, and dance the night away. It’ll be a blast- dinner and a show for $60 a couple or $40 a person. You can’t go wrong. Check out our Facebook page or website for other gigs too (Indian Ladder Farms and the University Club)— but you don’t want to miss the Prom. (Especially if you hated, or missed, the last prom- it’s your chance to reframe history.)