On first listen, Stockade Kids’ debut album “Wax Wings” could easily be considered a hip-hop album.
After all, the group is fronted by a rapper, Capital Region native Scottie Monaco (born Jeffrey Taylor Jr.). When he first joined forces with six-year local music veterans Filming Ohio about a year ago, the members of that band readily embraced the hip-hop elements, melding them with their established mix of rock, pop and jazz, and adopting their new name late last year.
But even though the rap elements are up front in most of the songs on “Wax Wings,” the other styles found on the album make the band hesitant to label it at all.
Stockade Kids album release
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2
WHERE: The Van Dyck, 237 Union St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: $10 (advance, includes copy of album); $5 (doors, not including album)
MORE INFO: 348-7999, www.vandycklounge.com
“When we were writing this album, I don’t know that any of us necessarily approached it as a hip-hop album, even though we have a rapper in the group,” guitarist and vocalist Justin Friello said recently during a phone interview with Monaco and saxophonist Josh Mlodzianowski.
Finding a genre
“We’ve been struggling with what genre it actually is. Josh prefers to call it urban contemporary, because that is the Grammy category we would like to win. When you listen to this record, it’s very clear that some songs are more hip-hop influenced, but then there’s a track called ‘Him’ that’s in 7/8 time and is not hip-hop at all, but Scottie raps all over that and it’s incredible.”
Whatever the band calls its music, it’s clear that the sound has resonated with both Filming Ohio and Monaco’s fan bases, as well as brand- new followers.
“We had a show last weekend at Katie O’Byrne’s, and a guy who came out from Boston, he came out and said it was really amazing — ‘It was worth the trip to come see you guys,’” Friello said. “For me, that’s been really exciting. We were kind of stagnant in the fan base — I can’t speak for Jeff’s audience, but it’s really exciting to see new faces at these concerts.”
“Wax Wings” will officially drop at a CD release show Friday night upstairs at the Van Dyck. The album has been a unique experience for all members of the band, from the writing process, often accomplished online with members sending ideas back and forth through Dropbox, to the recording, mostly done in a makeshift studio in a house during a week-long marathon session.
Monaco initially approached the members of Filming Ohio — Friello, Mlodzianowski, trombonist Aden Brooks, bassist Will Dobson and drummer Vinny Fazio — about backing him for some live shows last summer. Prior to this, Monaco had rapped over pre-recorded tracks played back over clubs’ public address systems, but was unhappy with the energy level of the performances.
“It wasn’t actually in my head to say, Filming Ohio is going to be my backing band,” he said. “It was actually a thing where I was always a fan of their music, and Filming Ohio — luckily I reached out with the question; I asked, would you like to do it? It was inspirational, because it’s hard to give a great feeling with a pre-recorded track at a show; it’s kind of boring when you do it without the band.”
It soon became apparent to all involved that the band was developing its own identity with Monaco as front man. Soon the group was writing new music as a unit, and Filming Ohio was put on hiatus as the focus switched over to Stockade Kids.
“I think a lot of what made Filming Ohio — what made it unique was that it was such a broad spectrum of what we covered, an the original music was pretty widespread too,” Mlodzianowski said. “So once we started performing with Scottie, the whole hip-hop element kind of snowballed, and we embraced it and started putting all the different genres together. It was really right for us.”
Writing the music
Writing for the album was complicated by the band members’ school schedules and Friello moving to New York City in November. Also, the process was different for Friello, who, as Filming Ohio’s frontman, had usually written the bulk of the songs.
“With this album, when we started writing it, I was in New York City, Jeff was in Schenectady, Josh was in Schenectady, so we actually relied pretty heavily on the Internet to record songs, verses, bits of music, and send it back and forth through Dropbox,” Friello said.
“The opening track, ‘Last Day of His Career’ — I had written one verse for it back in 2006, and I always really liked it, but I never did anything more with it. I played it for these guys when we were talking about what we wanted the concept to be, and we all thought this could be a really, really cool start for the album. So a song like, that written so many years ago, all of a sudden Jeff wrote a verse for it in 2013, and Josh wrote a saxophone solo.”
The album loosely follows the story of a struggling musician named Him whose personal and professional life quickly spirals out of control, culminating with him burning down his workplace. “I don’t want to say it’s autobiography; more like it’s giving out emotions for dreams that you have,” Monaco said.
“We never want to be put in a position where we’re doing what we have to do, instead of doing what we want to do.”