It's not often that a regional band's long-term goals do not include playing music for a living, but the Influence has come to terms with the idea. Hell, I could make a New Year's resolution out of that. Finally, no letting myself down.
"We don't want to do this full-time, where you have deadlines and things of that nature," says Jaysun Dutt (vocals/guitar). It's intriguing that a somewhat no-name band with less than a year under its belt has felt a need to tell the record executives to kiss off. It may also sound a bit presumptuous.
"Not really," explains Dutt. "I wouldn't mind having some local success to where we can do some things on a local basis, maybe travel to some adjoining states and do some things like that. But I don't really foresee us going, 'Big time, big time.'"
Drummer Mark Bradbourne clarifies the band's anti-touring position: "Greg [Spielman, the bass player] has three kids, and he's not going to want to go on tour 200 days out of the year. I have my career; I don't want to jump out of that. If something came along and it was just fabulous, everything we could ever imagine, and we got to have complete creative control over what we were doing, then sure, I think we would seriously consider it. But the first indie label that comes along and says, 'Hey, we'd like to sign you'? It's just not going to happen."
So why bother? "Because I think what we're doing is worthwhile," says Bradbourne. "I just think we're creating good music that people can enjoy. Truth be known, it's really hard to find that nowadays."
All four members are already successful at their day jobs. Who can blame the band--Bradbourne (computer programmer), Dutt (self-employed), Spielman (computer consultant), and keyboardist Mort Albert (engineer)--for not wanting to give up health insurance, the 401(k), and a steady paycheck to pursue a one-in-a-million chance at musical stardom?
Though they won't be quitting their day jobs anytime soon, the men of the Influence do have something positive to offer the local music scene. Their tastes reflect the progressive side of the last twenty years of rock, with inspiration--influence, anyone?-- stemming from the Talking Heads and Elvis Costello to Dream Theatre and Ministry. The result is a complicated sound that stresses refined structuring and diverse styles. "It's not like we're cutting any brand new edges," admits Dutt, "but we're just taking a lot of different edges and putting them together. We're always trying to do something different with the music than what is really going on in the mainstream. We do like to experiment."
For Bradbourne, the Influence is only his second band (his third, if you count a stint with the University of Akron marching band). "I'm a very progressive rock type person," he says, "so I do a lot of odd meters and different kind of beats. It's not very normal. I guess I would classify it as progressive folk rock with a little bit of an edge."
Prior to starting the Influence last year, Dutt was briefly a member of Indian Rope Burn. After taking some time off, childhood friends Dutt and Albert decided to start a band. Via the Internet, the twosome found Bradbourne, who was searching for an opportunity to keep his drumming chops sharp. The band placed a "bassist wanted" ad in a certain area entertainment weekly, and Spielman found it on the magazine's website.
With only a four-song EP to date, the quartet is just starting to gain an audience. In the early going, the Influence has played with some of the most recognizable regional acts--including Strip, Peace Tree, and Axis--and has established friendships with all of them.
Despite the leg-up from its pals, the Influence still finds the local music scene at times uncompromising. One of Dutt's biggest beefs is with Scene: "I've seen on one page of the publication they'll be griping about how people don't support the local music scene, and then on the next page they'll rip a local band, that is working hard, completely to shreds. It seems like there [often] are more bad reviews than good reviews."
"As a musician," Bradbourne says, "I understand where Jaysun gets upset. It's really hard for some people to spend the money to go into the studio and put out their music, which is their soul, then have someone who they don't know come out and say, 'Well, this is the same old crap that everybody is putting out.' Which is true for the most part, but it just seems like lately everything has been negative."
But going soft on area bands would suggest they are somehow deficient to their national peers. And aren't reviews simply matters of opinion?
"As long as it's constructive criticism, then more power to the reviewer," Bradbourne says. "As long as they can back up their arguments of why, then that's fine. But if they just say, 'This is crap,' and are not supporting it whatsoever, then that's where people get irritated."
So, how does he deal with a bad review? "There's not much you can do, because it has been printed. You have to be mature enough and just say, 'That one person didn't like it.' Any press is good press. Even if it's negative. It's a double-edged sword."
The Influence. Saturday, January 16, Chuck's, 456 E. South St., Akron, 330-384-1792.