"We are all just connected in that same place of pure comfort and when [the performance] is over, nobody can really describe it." -Gabi Feliciano
It's that point of the semester where we're dreaming of finals being over and going home for winter break. If you're looking for something to get you out of that slump and motivate you to push yourself through until the end of the year, then you're in luck because Strip66 has the cure for you.
The acid jazz/funk band formed in Oneonta, NY. The band consists of Gabi Feliciano on saxophone/vocals, Mo LaMastro and Brian Gipson on guitar, Mikey Rotunno on the bass, and Ben Rudolph on the drums. After taking the music scene on as one of the street performances on Main Street for OH Fest last spring and rebranding from Rumble Strips to Strip66, the group released their debut album, "Rumble".
With the release of the album, Strip66 performed at a house show in Oneonta with fellow local bands Gorf and Gallons of Pork. You could feel the energy in the room when they hit the stage. Multiple audience members knew the lyrics to some of their singles and joined in with Gabi to sing along in the crowd. The performance was electrifying to say the least. Strip66 is a must-see band live.
If you ever had a chance to see Strip66 perform live, you know the kind of vibe they bring to the stage. This is the same feel they bring to this jam-packed album. As quoted from one of my friends, "The album made me want to get out of my seat when I was doing nothing to dance around.". Standout songs like "Minimal Drizzle" and "Creative Power of Self" do an amazing job to showcase each of the member's musical talents while having it flow well together. For example, Feliciano is able to access full range of her vocal ability with the different grooves created by the bass line of Rotunno on "Minimal Drizzle". The band is able to prove that vocal-less songs, such as "Acid Bebop", can still capture your heart without lyrics to clearly define the meaning of the song. Strip66 is a burst of talent not to be underestimated.
I was able to catch up with Gabi Feliciano, saxophone/vocals for Strip66 and good friend of mine, to get an inside look on the band's process with releasing "Rumble" since their formation and future projects.
Q: You guys had a name change from Rumble Strips to Strip66. What was the reason behind this change? What does the new name reflect?
"When we first decided to be Rumble Strips two years ago, we loved the name, but knew it wasn't 100% original. It didn't bother us at the time, but leading up this album release, we began thinking more about it. We realized that in order for our album to be heard by as many people as possible and to reflect us in our best light, we needed a unique and memorable name, and we needed it now. The ability to be found through a simple Google search is extremely important and it would have been so much harder to change the name down the line, as opposed to doing it along with our first official album release. It wasn't an easy decision, but we wanted to keep the personality of Rumble Strips in our new identity. Originally, the name Rumble Strips meant driving down a free and open road to an unknown final destination, while staying within your boundaries (rumble strips wake you up when you're swerving off the road). Our new name, Strip66, alludes to that same meaning, and 'Rumble', the name of our album, pays tribute to our original name."
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of being a part of Strip66? Most rewarding?
"I would say the most challenging aspect of the band is balancing it with school and all the other responsibilities that come with being in college. All five of us would love to just play music together all the time, but that isn't the reality. However, even in spite of all of our busy schedules, I think it's amazing how all of us still make the band a huge priority. I believe that all of the other things we do in school will help contribute to the band's success in the long run. Most rewarding part? Getting so close to these guys and learning a lot about them and myself as a musician and team player. We've just gotten so good at playing with one another and we work extremely well together. It's very satisfying looking back at how far we've come since the beginning."
Q: You guys performed at OH Fest this past year on Main Street. How was this experience for you and your band? Did you guys learn anything about yourself from a large, public performance like this?
"OH Fest was such a blast! That was one of the first times we played on an outdoor stage, and there's nothing like playing to that beautiful Oneonta view on a sunny day. The support was unreal and so many people that had never seen us play before approached us after the show, so we got to meet a lot of new people. Our favorite part was that the headliner, Kid Ink, showed up to our set and some of our friends snapped pictures of him looking very impressed. I'd say we got Kid Ink's approval, so it was a successful day. Not only that, but the very next day a local church put our name on their marquee. Nothing else- just 'Rumble Strips' for the whole town to see. So, there's that."
Q: What's the general feeling you get when you perform on stage? From the crowd to being with the guys on stage?
"I can't speak for everyone in the band, but for me, if I'm playing a really good show the feeling is just happiness beyond belief. I think it's really interesting how I can be up on stage extremely nervous and uncomfortable at times, but then other times, I pass over that entire threshold and reach a completely new level of happiness and comfort. I know that when I hit that point, the rest of the band feels it, and the audience feels it. We are all just connected in that same place of pure comfort and when it's over, nobody can really describe it."
Q: This is your first album release as Strip66. How was the experience creating this?
"This album was a wake up call for all of us that playing live is so different than playing the same songs in the studio. It can be so much fun, but it can also be very frustrating. We recorded a lot of the songs live and then later overdubbed the vocals and saxophone. So you could imagine that when you play these long songs live, not everything can possible be perfect. The process definitely tested our patience, but the magical moments and progress we made kept us going. In all, it took about a year from the very first studio session to the release date. We had Lana, our audio engineer, with us every step of the way."
Q: What was your favorite song off the album to work on?
"That's a tough one. I would say all of our songs each mean something so different to us. But if I had to choose, I would say "Crocodile" was the most fun to rehearse and record, and I think the guys would agree. The song was written so organically from the very beginning. Brian had some nice chord changes that he had already written. Then one day, him and Mo were jamming on them at his house. I listened to the original video he sent me of him playing the chords, came up with all the lyrics and a melody in just about fifteen minutes, and drove right down to meet them and write the song. It's not often that a song just spills out like that. Then Ben showed up and it just came together so quickly. In terms of recording, Crocodile left a lasting impression on all of us because of Ben's drum solo at the end. He absolutely NAILED it on the first take, and that's the solo that you hear on the record."
Q: What's next on the agenda? Upcoming projects, tours, etc.?
"Now that the album is out, we are onto the next! We're writing new music, performing as usual, and developing our brand and image. We were just selected by the SUNY Oneonta Music Industry Club to be their student RED Session band, meaning we will film a live studio session with them. So that will be very fun and it's a great opportunity to get a really professional music video done. We also have a tour booked for January in light of our new album, so we're in the process of preparing everything for that. It's a lot more work than we thought, but if it's anywhere as great as our short tour this past summer, we can't wait! We will announce the details of that soon!"
"Rumble" is out now for streaming on Soundcloud! Be sure to keep an eye out for tour updates and new projects emerging from Strip66 as the new year approaches!
Have you listened to the album yet? Any future plans to catch them play live? Let me know!