When Jesse Calhoun and Charles Pope first brought their politically and socially charged rock band, now known as The Ameros, to the Capital Region in 2008, their timing couldn’t have been better.
The two Ohio natives, childhood friends who began playing music together in 2005 under the name Cultural Relativity while at Wittenberg University in Springfield, arrived on the Albany scene just before the U.S. economy slipped into recession.
Over the past three years, the band has steadily built a fan base sympathetic to their ideals — namely, the need to move away from a top-down controlled economic system — as around them, movements such as The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street began cropping up as the economy floundered.
“It’s like, we were right ahead of that, and then it all definitely went right down,” Calhoun said recently from a coffee shop in Albany.
opening for Rustic Overtones
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Jillians, 59 N. Pearl St., Albany
How Much: $18 (doors); $13 (advance)
More Info: 432-1997, www.jilliansofalbany.com
“And even the name, it has meaning because — even though the Amero probably isn’t something that will actually happen, there was that Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting where they all kind of secretly discussed [it], and then Vicente Fox went on TV talking about the new currency and how the Trans-Texas Corridor connects all the infrastructure from the United States, Canada, Mexico,” he continued.
“And you see our dollar devaluing and it just kind of sets this trend, like, oh, we’re becoming a more global world, but what does that necessarily mean? Is it gonna be global in more top-down control, that the IMF comes in and helps us, or is it gonna be the people rise up and start their own local solutions to things?”
To that end, the band — also featuring bassist Sean Muniz and Kiki Vassilakis — takes a local approach to topical material, whether they’re taking on flu vaccination mandates in New York state with “H1N1” or more general anthems such as “Name Your Price for Freedom.” And in the future, the band is hoping to work with some of the local Occupy groups as well.
“I think the Tea Party and the Occupy movement, they both have a lot in common, even though they don’t want to admit it,” Calhoun said. “But I support anything that’s a solution on a local level, basically. When people are solving their own problems, and not expecting top-down, someone to help them, they can make it work for themselves in their communities.”
Even with the local focus, the band is looking to extend its own reach throughout the Northeast and beyond. With a 15-track debut album, “Backs Against the Wall,” due out next month, they’re already booking a Northeast tour for the winter. The CD release show will be on Nov. 19 at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Troy, but next up the band will play one of its most prominent shows yet, opening for Maine’s Rustic Overtones at Jillian’s on Friday night.
“It’s gonna be one of the bigger bands that we’ve opened for directly,” Calhoun said. “We’ve been in a bunch of festivals where there’s been big bands on, kind of a little — a lot — after us, but opening directly in front of these guys is going to be great.”
Today, the band is a fixture in the Capital Region — Calhoun was a regular at The Best Damn Open Mic Night Ever! at The Lark Tavern, and still is at the open mic’s new location at McGeary’s. Calhoun and Pope ended up in the region when Muniz set up a benefit show with Cultural Relativity on the bill.
“We really liked it and hung out with all of them, and just really liked everybody up here,” Calhoun said. “So we decided, let’s get out of Springfield, Ohio, which had nothing but cover bands and really hard bars to get into, even for us and our original music. So we decided to move, and now we’re kind of within striking distance of a lot of major cities.”
Muniz and Vassilakis, who together also form the rhythm section for singer-songwriter Taina Asili’s group La Banda Rebelde, quickly came on board. The name was then changed to The Ameros.
For the past two years, the band has been working on its album, the follow-up to a five-song demo, “The Control EP.” Many of those songs have been rerecorded for the album, which was produced by Sten Isachsen at his Bender Studios in Delmar.
Range of influence
The songs, primarily written by Calhoun and Muniz, showcase influences ranging from the aforementioned classic rock — artists like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin — to metal acts like Dream Theater, to hip-hop, to reggae. All these influences can be felt throughout the album, sometimes in the same song — the epic-length title track features a winding metallic riff with a midsection rap.
“I feel like with each song, we really want the style to reflect the feeling of the words,” Calhoun said. “So if it’s something where we’ve got to say a whole bunch of words or say so much information — because we’re really trying to get a lot of information out a lot of the time — then it’s gotta be hip-hop. But if we’re trying to just have a positive vibe, like, keep moving, where we’re just trying to get through something, then it’s reggae.”