Live in the Clubs: Cuttlebone hungry for success

The members of Cuttlebone love their food. “When we get together, [we’ll] spend a half-hour, 45 minu

The members of Cuttlebone love their food.

Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Berto and guitarist Nemo, the band’s two principal members and main songwriters, are both cooks — Berto runs a pig-roasting business on the side, and the duo catered their producer Ted Hyland’s wedding in exchange for recording time. Their debut album, “Welcome to Joe’s,” is packaged in a faux diner menu, complete with dishes that were served at the album release party last month at Red Square in Albany. Songs such as “Oink,” “Making Room for Waffles” and “Greasejoint” all continue the food-related themes in the music.

“When we get together, [we’ll] spend a half-hour, 45 minutes playing something pretty intensely, and somebody will say, ‘Beer,’ or whatever, and everybody goes into the kitchen,” Berto said recently, while enjoying breakfast at (where else?) a Schenectady diner.


When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Moon & River Café, 115 S. Ferry St., Schenectady

How Much: Free

More Info: 382-1938,

“Maybe martinis will get made, maybe a bourbon will get poured; there’s always something else getting cooked. People come over for the whole weekend and work on music, and if I’m not behind the keyboards or playing guitar, I’m pretty much standing at the stove cooking something.”

Range of musical tastes

If there’s one thing the duo loves more than their food and drink, it’s their music, and their tastes run wide and deep. Like the options on a diner menu, the selections on “Welcome to Joe’s” provide a veritable smorgasbord of options, from the hard-rocking “Closer to the Water,” to the earnest, bluesy power balladry of “Sheeple,” to the dreamy funk rock of “The Dog.”

Now that the album is out and available on the group’s Web site,, the 2-year-old band is looking to hit the touring circuit hard. Berto and Nemo will play a stripped-down duo show at Moon & River Café Friday night, their third appearance at the venue. This performance will be a much different venture from the usual hard-rocking, full band shows, which feature drummer David “Gordo” Gordon and bassist Josh “Chubbo” Vickers.

“We’ve got totally different arrangements of the songs,” Berto said. “And a lot of them — like ‘Closer on the Water’ is a real rocker; it’s balls out, real heavy on the album and live with the band, but when [Nemo and I] do it, it almost becomes a radio hit sleeper.”

Cuttlebone’s selection of covers is just as varied as the originals, with songs such as Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman,” Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” and Prince’s “Kiss” all finding their way into the shows.

This wide range makes sense given the band members’ résumés — prior to Cuttlebone, Berto played with local classic rock cover band Love Dog for 10 years. Nemo joined up with the group during the last few months of its run, having just moved to the area to work for Guitar Center.

“And then we realized we had more in common musically than with what was going on with the other stuff,” Berto said. “So we decided, why don’t we experiment with getting our own band together?”

The duo went through numerous rhythm sections before settling on the current lineup. “Welcome to Joe’s” features performances from former members Erin Bradt, Andy Webb and Arnie Johnson.

Making things work

“Eventually, it just settled on Nemo and I as the songwriters and leaders, and we decided it wasn’t going to happen unless we got into the studio and made a product,” Berto said.

From the beginning, the two wanted to make a professional recording, but as with most local bands, money was a factor. Ted Hyland, of Hyland Recording, was able to set up an arrangement with the band that didn’t end up breaking the bank — all in all, according to the duo, they saved more than $20,000.

“We entered into a work-for-work agreement kind of thing, where every hour that we spent in the studio with him, we would then give him an hour of labor for improvements around the house, improvements around his mother’s house, improvements around the studio,” Nemo said. “And we ultimately wound up catering his wedding in addition to that.”

“In fact, we still — I’m building an entertainment center for Ted for his house, a built-in cabinet,” Berto added. “Right now we’ve still got about 50 hours on the books to pay for.”

The album mixes influences ranging from The Beatles and The Beach Boys to Motley Crue, Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers and The Outlaws. Songs feature homages throughout — a spoken-word bit surfaces on one song that is verbatim the dialog spoken in Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls,” while “Making Room for Waffles” closes with a riff that is eerily similar to The Allman Brothers’ “Jessica.”

Just having fun?

“Part of it’s because we’re just having fun with it,” Berto said. “Part of it’s also because we almost hope that somebody is gonna call Dickey Betts and say, ‘You know, this [crappy] little band from New York ripped off your melody from ‘Jessica’ and stuck it on their album; did you get any royalties from that?’ I mean, what could be better for publicity for Cuttlebone?”

“Right,” Nemo joined in. “A lawsuit from Dickey Betts. Or a class-action lawsuit from Dickey Betts and Mötley Crüe, and all the other groups, John Sebastian . . .”

“Because at that point, you’re selling enough albums,” Berto added. “You gotta pay a couple mil out in damages, you’re already on the cover of Rolling Stone, so who cares?”

“Absolutely. Or at least in the New York Times business section.”

“Tell you what — we’ll come over and we’ll do a pig roast, make some martinis.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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