Written by: Frank Iacono
Tom’s Attic is the brainchild of drummer, Greg DiStefano. After spending many years in another cover band called The HoneyBadgers, Greg felt inspired to form a quintet featuring brand new musicians. In an effort to find the best local experienced players, he formed Tom’s Attic completely and totally through the use of Internet sites such as Craigslist and Bandmix. For some people, this maybe an unusual way to construct a band, but for them, it worked!
With approximately 40 songs in their repertoire, Tom’s Attic plays classic tunes from legendary rock bands such as The Beatles, The Ramones, Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, and Journey. Additionally, Tom’s Attic branches out beyond classic rock, covering newer songs from Bruno Mars, Neon Trees, Young the Giant, and Paramore. Content on not being just another bar band, make sure to check out one of Tom’s Attic live shows at a local venue near you.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chip Bell, Mike Clineff, Ben Perkins, Chelsea Reynolds, and Greg DiStefano from Tom’s Attic and asking them a few questions about their musical influences, their career as a cover band, their set list, and their past and upcoming performances.
The Creative Spotlight: How did you come up with the band name Tom’s Attic?
Tom’s Attic: It actually came fairly naturally. I think it was our bass player, Chip, who originally came up with the name. In a nutshell, our soundman’s name is Tom. We have our rehearsals in his loft/attic, hence the name. We had made up a list of band names to vote on. Tom’s Attic got thrown into the mix and, at first it didn’t seem to have much momentum. But it was pretty clear after the first round of voting, that there was no need for a second round of voting. And so Tom’s Attic was born.
TCS: Please introduce us to the Tom’s Attic band lineup?
TA: Let’s start with our newest member, first. We have Chelsea Reynolds on lead vocals. This is Chelsea’s first full band experience. She is ready to show off her incredible vocal talent. On guitar is Ben Perkins. Originally from North Carolina, Ben was formerly in a funk rock band called The LRAs. Like George Harrison, he is the quiet one of the group. Also on guitar and backing vocals is Michael Clineff. Mike is a local singer/songwriter who has been in other cover bands, but had most recently been writing, recording and performing his own tunes. On bass and backing vocals, we have Chip Bell. Also local to the West Grove, PA area, Chip is a former member of Dave Matthews tribute band, The Grey Street Band. Finally, we have Greg DiStefano on drums and backing vocals. Greg most recently played for local cover band, The HoneyBadgers. He also fills in on drums occasionally for Philly cover band, Bangarang.
TCS: How long has this current lineup of Tom’s Attic been playing together and how did you all get started?
TA: The band came together in January of 2014. Greg put an ad on Craigslist for musicians interested in a project like this. After the first audition, Mike and Ben were on board. Chip came along a week later. Then after some additional searching through another website called Bandmix, we found Chelsea, who rounded out our lineup. It’s kind of interesting that you can throw together a group of total strangers that you found on the Internet, but for us, we really seem to gel nicely.
TCS: As a cover band, how would you describe Tom’s Attic musical genre?
TA: On a basic level, we probably cover 80% modern rock from 1990 to today. The other 20% is pre-1990s, some classic, some 80s, some funk. We try to pick tunes that our audience will be able to sing along and dance to. Also, we rarely play something that the entire band doesn’t like. I say “rarely” because there are a couple of exceptions. Sometimes you have to take one for the team…
TCS: At what age did you guys individually realize that you wanted to be musicians?
TA: Greg: I’ve been playing drums since I was 5 years old. My dad was a professional jazz drummer on the Philly music scene who started in the late 50′s and played until he passed in 1996. It must be in the blood, because I have a passion for music, both playing and listening to it. I had always played drums in my home, but hadn’t played in a band since high school. When I was 41 I decided that since my kids were nearly grown that I would take the plunge and not let any more time go by or continue to miss out on what I had always wanted to do, which was play in a band.
Chip: I have been playing bass since I was 15, I was coerced by my friends who all played guitar. It was the best peer pressure a 15 year old could have for sure.
Mike: I was a big Led Zeppelin fan growing up in the late 70’s early 80’s and was inspired by musicians like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Angus Young and Jerry Garcia among others. I bought my first guitar and amp for $35 at a small music store down the street when I was 12, (saved my allowance for 2 months). Then I was hooked. I played in a handful of garage bands in my teens, cutting my teeth at backyard gatherings, and “my parents are away” parties. I’ve had a love for songwriting all my life, telling stories about experiences and life. Recently I took about 2 years off from bands to focus on me as an artist and I wrote some of my best songs. I realized how much I missed playing with a band and when the opportunity popped up, I never looked back.</p.
Ben: Sophomore year of high school. I hung around with a lot of really talented musicians when I was a teenager. I decided to pick up a guitar one day and take advantage of my situation. Unlike Greg, music did not run in my family. I’m fairly certain I am the only one in my extended family that can play any kind of musical instrument.
Chelsea: I started learning the piano when I was 8 and my love of making music has only grown since then. In school I learned to play several instruments for band, so I guess that makes me a band geek! I didn’t start singing until a few years ago when my dad made me. It was definitely something. Now I am trying to learn guitar. Maybe once I can get through a song without my fingers hurting, I can help out Mike and Ben on stage. Not that they need it!
TCS: As a band what famous musicians do each of you admire and how have they influenced you both individually and collectively
TA: Greg: For me personally I have a wide range of musical tastes from Rock to R&B to Americana to Pop and more. As far as drummers are concerned, I would have to say Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour) would be my two biggest drumming influences. Dave for the hard rock side and Will for the funk rock side. Overall though, good music is good music, no matter what the genre. So my ears are always open to new things.
Chip: My Influences are wide and varied as well. I would say I love James Jamerson first and foremost, and then it spreads out to Paul McCartney, Sting, and Stanley Clarke.
Mike: I was influenced early on by mostly classic rock guitarists, but like a fine wine, my tastes got fuller. I started listening to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, and Willie Dixon among others, and “felt” the songs being played. This was a huge influence on my songwriting. There are many artists of today like Ben Harper, Marc Cohn, and Kings of Leon that continue to influence me.
Ben: Jimi Hendrix for sure. He was all I listened to when I first started playing guitar. I think it is impossible not to hear his influence in my playing.
Chelsea: I grew up with my dad loving Gwen Stefani, so I would have to say Gwen while she was with No Doubt. She was incredible on stage, beautiful, and has a great, unique voice. She is so fearless. It’s very inspiring. What person can run around jumping and do push ups all while singing perfectly? Gwen Stefani.
TCS: Individually what were your first concert experiences? Who was it that you saw and do you remember how you felt once the show was over?
TA: Greg: My first 2 concert experiences were within a few weeks of each other in 1986. I was 17 and I felt like I was so late to the scene. All my friends had already been to concerts. I saw R.E.M. and then 3 weeks later, Peter Gabriel. After those 2 shows I was blown away by the whole live music experience. For me, it takes you to another place where you forget about everything else that’s going on in your life. It’s actually a very emotional thing. I really can get lost in the music sometimes.
Chip: My first show was Boston in 1976. It was the tour for their first album and it was amazing! Me and my buddy (the one who convinced me to learn bass) got thrown out for reasons that I can’t even remember. It was amazing though.
Mike: My first show was in 1983 seeing AC/DC with Aerosmith opening up for them, (yes this was around the Run DMC walk this way time frame), and all I remember seeing Angus Young blow my mind with that Gibson SG. Other memorable concerts were seeing Crosby, Stills and Nash at the Tower Theater in 1986. The stage was dark and all you heard was their voices for the first 2 minutes on Guinevere, no instrument. I’ve also seen many Grateful Dead shows, but for some reason, (although I know they were great), I don’t recall most of them. I recently took my son to his first concert, Cage the Elephant, (who opened for Muse). Both bands were great, but like Angus blew my mind when I was 13, Muse also did at 44.
Ben: I honestly do not remember what my first concert was. When I was younger (early teens), my friends and I would always go watch the older blues musicians play at local bars. I really enjoyed it because their love of music was evident in their playing.</p.
Chelsea: Throughout my childhood I saw bands like Boyz II Men, Billy Ray Cyrus, and NSYNC. Since then I have seen less embarrassing shows and I can say that The Killers at FireFly was the first to shock me. I didn’t expect them to be amazing and though I was fighting bronchitis, Brandon Flowers made me stay. I felt alive and just wanted to do what he was doing. He was charismatic and the band was really on it. The pyrotechnics helped too.
TCS: Why do you think cover bands have become so prominent in the past ten years or so?
TA: I think it’s mainly because people want to go out and have fun and listen to songs they know and can sing to. They want to forget about the crappy week they had at work or that fight they had with their boy/girlfriend. It’s an escape, and it’s much less expensive than seeing a famous band. I think older local cover bands like Mr. Green Genes and Love Seed Mama Jump really kicked open the door for bands like us. They were so good at what they did, and they were able to make a living at it. Cover bands still can get a bad rap sometimes, but we’re just out there to have fun and do what we love, just like original acts. We’re not looking to get famous. We just love playing music.
TCS: How would you describe the local music scene in the tri-state area? And, how has it helped you develop as artists both individually and collectively?
TA: Greg: The local music scene around here is amazing. Between Philly and Wilmington there are so many great bands to be seen/heard. There’s probably more talent in this region than in a lot of other cities in the country. And some of them are getting exposure thanks to local DJs like Jaxon from WMMR. He features a local artist every month, plus he has put out many compilation CDs with local artists on them. Also, Mark Rogers hosts WSTW’s Hometown Heroes show. It’s yet another great place to hear some of the local talent. It’s an amazing thing, because as most of us can agree, what passes for good music on pop radio and MTV isn’t always so good. I always try to give 100% at a show because although we’re not an original band, we are still representing the local scene.
Chip: To me the scene is fantastic, if you are a singer songwriter there are venues to play, if you play country there are venues to play and if you do covers there are venues to play and crowds that come and hear the music. I absolutely love that. It’s a very exciting time to be a musician.
Mike: I love watching people enjoy music, whether it’s original or cover. I think now more than ever you can go out and see a great performance at your local watering hole. I know when I am on the stage and the band is thumping out a tune with people up and moving, it inspires me. There’s nothing like a band of brother and sisterhood.
Ben: The music scene is pretty great in Philadelphia. I enjoy the indie rock scene and most bands I would like to see typically come through the Philadelphia area at least once a year.
Chelsea: Living in Delaware has given me a great chance to see numerous bands. Both the original and cover scene can get diluted in such a populated area. I believe having something that sets you apart, as with anything, will help you as an artist. As far as touring artists, Ben and I are in the same boat. Franz Ferdinand is one of my favorite bands and I wouldn’t be able to see them if I didn’t live near a major city.
TCS: How do you plan to market Tom’s Attic appearances, music, videos, and photos?
TA: Our main marketing is primarily done through Facebook. But we also have a ReverbNation page for more information and for videos that we hope to capture from some of our upcoming live shows. If you just want the music and nothing but the music, we have a SoundCloud page as well. For now though, we are counting on word of mouth through our Facebook friends and those who have “liked” our band page, as well as blogs like this to get the message out. We are hoping to play out at a lot of local venues, because our friends are spread out across Delaware and Southeastern PA. We want to be able to play where everyone has a chance to see us.
TCS: During gigs what cover songs will Tom’s Attic be performing? And, what song(s) would someone be surprised that you’ve include in your set?
TA: I don’t want to give away the store, but a small sampling of what to expect at our first show would include newer songs, like “Locked Out of Heaven”, “Everybody Talks” and “My Body”. We’ll also go back a few decades and cover Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll” and Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker”. It’s going to be a great mix of songs everyone knows and loves. As for surprises? Well, we may just be doing a Tom’s Attic twist on “Royals” by Lorde. You’ll have to come to our show to find out.
- Saturday, June 7 at 8:00pm at Joe’s All American Pub in Phoenixville, PA
- Saturday, June 26 at 8:00pm at Joe’s All American Pub in Phoenixville, PA
- Monday, July 28 at 8:00pm at the Goshen Country Fair in West Chester, PA
- Saturday, August 30 at 7:30pm at the Bullseye Saloon in Wilmington, DE
TCS: Tell us about the Tom’s Attic debut performance at Joe’s All American Pub in Kimberton, PA on Saturday, June 7th at 8:30pm? How did you land the gig and what is the anticipated crowd?
TA: Joe’s is a great place. Greg played there a couple times with his old band The HoneyBadgers. So after they broke up and we started this project, Greg contacted Joe and asked him if he would give us a shot, without even hearing a note of what we sound like. The rest is history. There aren’t many venue owners that will do that. So we are hoping to bring a big crowd to make our first show special all around. The word is out there, and I think the anticipation among our circle of friends is pretty high. Besides that, the regular crowd at Joe’s is pretty good as well. It’s a nice mix of age groups.
TCS: When music fans go out for the night with their friends they have a burning desire to be entertained so how do you think your band lives up to their expectations and why?
TA: Since we are a new band, that remains to be seen. But I have full confidence that we will bring an energy to our live show that will get the audience pumped up and leave them wanting more. We have a great musical and personal chemistry that is hard to come by. I think that will show on stage and hopefully will keep the fans coming back again.
TCS: As a collective group, what would you say are the biggest obstacles for cover bands? And, how does Tom’s Attic combat those obstacles?
TA: I think a lot of people don’t take cover bands seriously. People think we are hacks or it’s not as difficult to cover other people’s songs. Nothing could be further from the truth. As much hard work and preparation goes into learning these songs as an original artist puts into playing their songs. We want people to realize that. Another huge obstacle is getting bars/club owners to actually book you. These guys are really hard to get a hold of. Sometimes they don’t get back to you for weeks at a time. They are busy people and they have a business to run, so we totally get why it’s the way it is. It’s just a part of the business. We try to be politely persistent by keeping in contact with them every 1-2 weeks if we don’t hear back. It’s the only way to make it work.
TCS: As a band, what is your preparation strategy as far as getting ready on gig night?
TA: I think that may be different for everyone…
Greg: When I first started playing out with other bands I was nervous as hell. It took a few pre-show drinks to get me going. 3 years later, I can take that drink or leave it. But if it’s a free drink, you can bet I’ll always take it!
Chip: I love to do shows! I can’t wait to get out there and play! I warm up, take a deep breath and jump right in!
Mike: It depends on the room, but there’s nothing like hanging with friends, enjoying a cocktail and letting the excitement build. Confidence is everything.
Ben: Simply getting into the right mindset. I play music to have fun. If I’m not having fun then something is wrong. Of course a couple of drinks doesn’t hurt either.
Chelsea: Water and channeling my inner Gwen Stefani.
TCS: How much time do you devote to practicing? Describe what your rehearsals are generally like? And, do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
TA: On average we practice once a week. We will be practicing a little more in the last couple weeks leading up to our first gig. We usually have a set night, the same night every week. Practice is usually 2-3 hours. We agree on a certain list of songs the prior week that we come prepared to practice. Some are a breeze…some take a lot more work. The rehearsals themselves are pretty straightforward. Lots of playing, but a little time for some laughs as well. It’s very relaxed with this group. No tension, no drama.
TCS: Is there a particular venue that Tom’s Attic would like to play?
TA: We want to play any place that will have us…and pay us a decent rate. For now it’s bars and restaurants, but I could see us playing at one of the casinos once in awhile. Unfortunately, you have to have an agent to get hooked up with a place like that, which is a shame, because they can really pay well, and you usually have a guaranteed audience.
TCS: Individually if you could trade places with a famous musician for a week, living or dead, with whom would it be and why?
Greg: I would probably have to say Ringo Starr in the mid 60’s. I would love to experience all he experienced with the rest of the Beatles. Helping create all those amazing songs that have lasted so long. Not that I’m a huge fan of his playing. It would be more for the impact of seeing how Lennon & McCartney were in their most creative period.
Chip: That’s really tough for me, but I think it would be Jaco Pastorius in the late 70’s. He was a jazz bass player for the band Weather Report and later Joni Mitchell. He was a genius. I would love to have that kind of command of my instrument.
Mike: No doubt in my mind I would be Jimmy Page with the double neck guitar. No gimmicks, just straightforward in your face Rock n’ Roll.
Ben: Probably Jimmy Page during Led Zeppelin’s early 70s tours. They really pioneered the way bands toured and played live in that era.
Chelsea: Elvis Presley! Not only was he the icon of rock and roll with his music and moves, but his music helped cross the lines during the Civil Rights Movement.
TCS: What skills/personal attributes would you say are most important to being successful in this business?
TA: First and foremost, practice, practice, and more practice. You can book as many gigs as you want, but if you get up there and sound sloppy, people aren’t going to come see you again. We‘ve been practicing almost every week since January. We want to come out strong at our first show.
Second, be persistent. We have found that the majority of these club owners will take forever to get back to you about booking a gig. It’s usually nothing personal. They are just busy and usually have 20 other bands trying to do the same thing you’re doing. And if they are running a restaurant on top of that, it makes it that much harder to get their attention. But if you stay on top of things and send an email or give them a call once every couple of weeks if you haven’t heard back from them, you won’t be forgotten. Just make sure you are polite about reminding them why you are contacting them. Don’t try to be forceful about getting yourself booked, because that’s a surefire way to lose your chance. Remember, you need them as much or more than they need you. You’ve got competition out there and there are only a handful of spots to be filled. Be persistent, but be nice, and usually it will work to your advantage.
Finally, connect with your audience. Use social media to your advantage. Most of it is free and you can reach a lot of people. Take the time to talk to people after a gig. You’ll find that it can only help you in the long run. Word of mouth is the greatest form of advertising. Even if you only make one or two new fans at a gig, it all adds up in the end. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice little following. And nothing makes a band happier than seeing those familiar, smiling faces coming back and having a great time show after show.
TCS: What’s does the short-term and long-term future hold for Tom’s Attic?
TA: Long term, we’re not going to stop at a short list of tunes and play the same stuff at every show. We’re planning on learning a lot more songs in the future so no 2 shows will be the same. It’s always more fun when you have a lot of material you can pull from. We’re also working on some new technical aspects as well. We’re hoping to be able to eventually record every show straight from our soundboard. That gives us more ammunition to promote ourselves in the future.
For the short term we are going to be working our asses off to get ready for this debut show at Joe’s. That means mastering as many songs as we can in the next few weeks. We’re pretty serious about our musicianship, but we are also having a fun time together. When you get right down to it, that’s what it’s all about: the mutual love of the music.
Remember one important thing: Tom’s Attic is not just a rehearsal space…It’s a band…
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.