Why profile a rock band from Long Beach, New York who nobody here has really heard of, has yet to play a gig and remain without management or a record deal? Well, it’s the way four piece rock outfit My Son The Bum operate which intrigues me. That, and the contagious hard rockin’ tunes they constantly offer up on their website. AM’s Greg Phillips investigates.
Traditionally you form a band with your mates or bunch of local musos, play some shows, maybe record a demo … right? You continue to improve and define your sound until hopefully, you find an audience or an audience finds you. As My Son The Bum say in their own words, “We do every thing back-ass-wards.” In the few short years My Son the Bum has been a unit, they have released four albums and are close to finishing their fifth. They have never played a gig together and in fact, vocalist Ronnie Dee and drummer John O.Reilly have never even met. Is this the way of the music world in 2010, where a band forgoes the trials and tribulations of playing gigs, and instead releases album after album, hawking them around the globe via the web until hopefully one finally sticks? Or is this a band whose songwriter is just so prolific, that he craves to get the music out of his head, into the studio and out into the ether as soon as he possibly can? Main songwriter, guitarist and founding member Brian Kroll told me down the phone line from his home in Long Beach that it’s “Probably a little of all of the above!”
Kroll’s dilemma is that in an industry that loves to pigeon-hole you, he has so many musical influences and enjoys writing and recording in so many different styles, that he’s not even sure what he should be releasing to the public. The solution of course, is to release it all. So what does My Son The Bum sound like? Well, depending on which album you listen to, you’ll hear heavy rock, metal, punk, pop and even prog rock. The constant with everything however, is a world class production ethic, quirky lyrics, a fine sense of song construction and a very tight hard rockin band.
The current album is Bipola Victrola and is the band’s heaviest album to date. The decision to go with the heavier material was not so much a creative one, but made almost as a market research experiment to see what the response would be. Kroll explains. “The original track line up for Bipola was probably as diverse as the previous album Are We There Yet?, but we wanted to try to get some radio promotion. The feedback we got was that it was too heavy for college radio and not heavy enough for loud rock. In my infinite wisdom, I put on the table to one promoter … I said how about we put the heaviest stuff we have from all sources past, present, and future on to one disc. So that’s how those songs ended up on that.”
The fact that My Son The Bum has never played a single show is not an intentional decision either. It’s a logistical thing. At one point in time, the four members had all lived in the same area but due to one factor or another, they now reside in various parts of the East Coast. Drummer John O.Reilly lives in Pennsylvania and tours alongside Al Pitrelli (Alice Cooper band) in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Vocalist Ronnie Dee moved to Florida where he teaches vocals among other projects and can be heard on a recent Rick Derringer album. Bob Stander lives the closest to Kroll and runs his own studio. Stander is also the production guru behind the great sound heard on My Son The Bum recordings. Kroll is currently mulling over how a live version of the band might materialise, whether some or none of the recording band would be involved.
Australian Musician is not the only media outlet to pluck My Son The Bum out of the internet wilderness and give them some exposure. Respected Melbourne community radio station 3PBS had buddied up with the band long before we got to them. The music director from PBS, Peter Merrett, came across them through Radio Direct X, a music distribution service and was as impressed as we were. He passed the music onto some of the on-air personnel and My Son The Bum was being played on at least three of the station’s shows. “I thought they were great,” said Merrett. “Really interesting, different and their production is second to none. I’ve got to give Brian and (the distribution label) Wig City credit for that.”
With song titles such as ‘Issues Are Like Tissues’, ‘Nuckin’ Futz’, ‘Opinions Are Like Assholes’ and ‘Beer For Breakfast’, you’d assume that Kroll doesn’t take life too seriously. “Sometimes I feel I take it so seriously that it comes out comical,” is his immediate response to that claim. In fact Kroll is intensely passionate about music. He even takes regular walks to his local library to take out CDs to satisfy his insatiable musical appetite, as a conscious alternative to stealing music from the internet. The proliferation of music piracy on the net is also one of the reasons he has resigned himself to making the band’s music available to download for free.
“It’s an honour to be ripped off musically these days,” says Kroll of the internet download situation. “One person buys an album and can put the whole album up and the whole world can take it. Or someone can put up a whole catalogue and if nobody wants it, then nobody will take it. So following the premise that if people have to like you enough to steal you, I just thought … if that’s the way it’s going to be … then I’d rather be in control and I’ll put it up myself. So if people like it enough, they’ll steal it!”
You too can find My Son The Bum’s music on their website at www.mysonthebum.com. However, we strongly encourage you to give the band their dues and buy it.