Since their formation in 2015, The John Spignesi Band has steadily toured to build their following and establish their sound in the local jam scene. The John Spignesi Band features a line-up of experienced musicians, who know how to dazzle and entertain their audience, not only by way of their impressive technical skills, but also due to the engaging, fun and positive nature of their tone. Blurring the lines of Soul, Rock and Funk, the group shines on stage, as well as in the studio, constantly working at their craft.
- How and when did the The John Spignesi Band start and who are the members involved?
John Spignesi: In the beginning, JSB was a side project to another band I was in. I was playing pretty heavily with the other group and we had decided to take off the winters for some R&R. For me, I like always having something to look forward to and with no gigs on the horizon; I knew I couldn’t go an entire winter without making music.
I had been attending the Open Jam at Donovan’s Reef in Branford for about two years at that point and met some really cool local musicians, who I just kind of connected with almost instantly. Matt Alling (Drums) had just moved back to the Shoreline, I had seen Bob LaCroix (Bass) in various projects and Chris Mitchell (Keys) was another local guy who was always on the scene. With my main band taking a break, I recruited these guys and a couple of backing singers, and JSB was formed.
In the beginning, we didn’t play that often, and when we did it was usually only local. We also mainly did covers. It’s funny how things change. My other band ended up disbanding, and everything just kind of switched. JSB became a full time gig and we’ve been at it for four years now.
The lineup has changed slightly over the years but currently it is:
John Spignesi – Guitar/Vocals
Joe Jeffery – Bass/Vocals
Chris Mitchell – Keys/Harmonica/Vocals
Matt Alling – Drums/Percussion/Vocals
- If someone has never heard your music, how would you describe your overall sound and style?
John Spignesi: We like to mix in a little of everything into our sets. Genres span from a Santana vibe, to reggae, to straight-ahead rock. Since the beginning, we’ve been open to various styles, and more importantly when we improvise the jams are never the same. Sometimes songs will grind down to just ambiance and noise and we’ll transition into something else. We never use setlists. Maybe if there is a special guest or a substitute for the night, but for most shows it is completely off of feel.
- If any, which current artists do you listen to and respect for their artistic endeavors?
John Spignesi: Everyone here comes from different backgrounds and has different influences. Matt Alling comes from a very strong prog-rock background, Chris Mitchell was on Dead Tour for years, and Joe Jeffery is about as eclectic as they come! We have a lot of respect for artists such as Little Feat, Max Creek, Turkuaz, and so many more. Mainly its because so many of these artists started off doing the same as what we’re doing now. As a musician, you have to wear so many different hats, it’s like playing the music is the last thing on the list! Running the website, booking, social media promotion, and marketing are just some of the many things you have to do, and we all really enjoy the whole process.
- Do you remember any of the first instruments you played?
John Spignesi: My mother rented a saxophone when I was in Middle School, and man I wish I stuck with it. I’m pretty sure the only reason I played was because all of my friends were doing it. I think the first guitar I got was in 8th grade. My Dad bought it for me off of eBay, and it was some knockoff brand called a “G. Burton.” I can still picture it in my head, the strings buzzed like crazy, and the amp was so small I could pick it up with my pinky. It didn’t matter though. I played that thing non-stop, and probably drove my parents nuts.
- Where do you do most of your recording and production work?
John Spignesi: For JSB, we have recorded both of our studio albums at Ace Tone Productions, LLC in Bethany, CT. Matt Terribile is the owner/sound engineer, and man is he just a pleasure to work with. The thing I really respect about Matt is that he doesn’t give you any less than 100% while he’s in the studio with you. And in turn, he expects the same from you. He has no problem telling you if something needs to be changed. The product is coming out of his studio after all, so he wants it to be as good as possible, which is totally justifiable. He’s also a drummer and a singer, so he has a good set of ears for knowing what sounds good. I really can’t speak highly enough about working with Matt & the Ace Tone Productions crew. A great guy, and a great friend.
- Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer doing?
John Spignesi: No question, we are a live band, period. We enjoy the studio because after touring so heavily during the year, it’s nice to be able to work out the individual parts and nuances in the studio, but our bread and butter is live, on the stage. As I’ve said, our jams take off in a different direction every night. We could play the same song five nights in a row and it would sound different every time. I don’t think I could play the same thing twice if I tried!
- Which one of your songs currently gets you excited the most when performing it? And does it have back story?
John Spignesi: It definitely changes night to night, but recently it’s been “Tough Guy.” It’s got a little bit of a disco-feel, and I really like the message behind it. Pretty much the back story is that someone had told me (without knowing me that well) that I had no idea what it meant to “struggle.” The term itself is subjective, everyone goes through hard times, and we cannot cast a judgment upon someone just because we think that maybe they haven’t experienced the same things we have. Everyone interprets things differently, which is why it’s important to be conscious of that and respectful. The song is a response to that.
- Is there anything musically you believe you should have done differently in some way?
John Spignesi: For the first album, we did not track the whole thing together. It sounded good, but not the same energy as the second record. This time around, we really wanted it to feel like you walked into a room and there we were, playing for you.
- Could you describe your creative process? What do you usually start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas into a song?
John Spignesi: I have never been the type of person to sit down and say, “Okay, I am going to write a song now.” To me, it has always come when I least expect it. Sometimes I will draw upon experiences in my life, things I see or feel, and the words and music just sort of flow out of me. When that happens, it is truly a beautiful thing and I make sure to always have a pen/pad handy!
- What were your main compositional, performance and production challenges in the beginning of this project and how have they changed over time?
John Spignesi: I remember Matt Alling (Drums) pulling me aside during the Donovan’s Reef open mic one night and telling me to “let the notes breathe.” He was totally right. I mean, I was ripping arpeggios over “The Thrill is Gone” like I was Yngwie Malmsteen. For me, listening has changed over time. Sometimes the best thing to play is to nothing at all, and that is tough for a musician! Listening is so important, and knowing where to place your notes, is even more important.
- What are currently some of the most important tools and/or instruments you’re using in creating your sound?
John Spignesi: Chris Mitchell (Keys) now plays both piano and organ. That has upgraded our sound tremendously. He also has been known to add harmonica in every now and then. I’m telling you, this guy is a virtuoso to say the least. I have changed my setup over the years too. More recently, I have been trying to play some more slide guitar in our sets, especially after being exposed to Little Feat and Lowell George.
- How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?
John Spignesi: In today’s world, video is crucial. The social media aspect demands it! My background is in social media & video production, so I am always trying to work on new creative ways to expose us to new audiences and markets. If you want to get a sense of what we sound like, I think our most recent video at the legendary Toad’s Place gives a true sense of that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_0LdEKf8JU
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as a cultural, political and/or social vehicle – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of artistry and entertainment?
John Spignesi: Oh man. I try to stay away from that. I have no problem with expressing my opinion if I am asked, but not in our music. Social Media today has got everyone at each other’s throats, and it honestly makes me sad to see. I think one of the most beautiful things is when people of all different races, genders, etc. can turn off their minds for a few hours and just enjoy the music/art being created. That to me is true entertainment.
- With more and more musicians creating and releasing music on their own, what are your feelings on how the music business works right now with all the digital platforms and streaming services? Are you happy about them or would you change anything?
John Spignesi: As I stated before, you wear so many different hats as an artist. Today, I could release something online and someone in Sweden tomorrow could discover it. It’s amazing how far we come. It can be overwhelming with trying to keep up with all of the different platforms, but I feel like you have to stay sharp and always be ready for the next thing. I am a teacher during the day, and every day I learn something new from the students, just as they do from me. We can all learn from each other.
- What would you consider a successful, proud or high point in The John Spignesi Band’s endeavors so far?
John Spignesi: As I sit here and type this, I am getting ready for our four year celebration as a band tonight. We’re actually playing Donovan’s Reef in Branford, where we had our second gig ever as a band. It’s amazing to be able to walk in those doors and to see the respect and well wishes given to us by fans, family, & friends. I am truly grateful for these opportunities.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with all the new technology at hand?
John Spignesi: You have to be on as many different platforms as possible. Do what it takes to get yourself out there. You are the best one who can represent yourself!
- What is the best piece of advice regarding the music business that you actually followed so far, and what is the piece advice you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
John Spignesi: Be original. In the early days, I had seen what others were doing musically and tried to emulate it to an extent, but to be honest, it just comes across as copying. We have drawn from others, sure, but we have molded those drawings into something we can call our own.
- Reaching audiences usually involves exploiting media opportunities, and possibly working with a PR company. How do you handle your marketing? Do you have a team or do you do it all by yourselves?
John Spignesi: As of right now, everything is self-run, but that may change in the future! Who knows. Like I said, we enjoy doing it….for now!
- Tell us something about your latest music release and where fans can find it?
John Spignesi: Our new album is entitled, “Beautiful Dream” and it is set to release on May 25, 2019 at Strange Creek Campout in Greenfield, MA! This is our best work yet. You’ll be able to find it on iTunes, Spotify, and any other major music platform. We’re super proud of the end result, and we think you will be too.
- Do you have a specific musical vision or goal set in your mind for The John Spignesi Band to reach or achieve?
John Spignesi: Our goal has always been to reach that “next-level,” whatever it may be. The next level could be that big show, or the next album. We’re always looking upwards and onwards. Staying stagnant is not an option.