Echolyn echoes spirit of classic '70's rock

Appeared in "The Times Herald", written by Gary Puleo
August 1992

Back when Peter Gabriel was having his best sunflower suit drycleaned for the next Genesis theatrical outing, the guys in Echolyn were barely old enough to spell a-r-t r-o-c-k. But that hasn't stopped them from appropiating the spirit and classical sensibility of early-70's kingpins like Yes and the aforesaid Genesis for their own low-90's retooling of same.

Guitarist Brett Kull, who shares lead-singer space with Norristown resident Raymond Weston, agrees that Echolyn pretty much has the genre all to themselves - at least within the eastern U.S. patch of the map.

"We've played as far north as Boston and as far sound as Virginia, and I haven't really heard anyone else like us," he admitted by phone from the band's West Point studio/office earlier this week. "But there does seem to be this giant progressive music underground that's never stopped going on since its heyday in the 70's. The strong point of that music was that barriers were broken down left and right. As a band, we don't really consider ourselves progressive. We're all influenced by different stuff.

"We like anything that's honest, beacuse it's the writing that's important. People in a progressive thing try to get virtuosic, and those in an alternative thing don't really have the chops to do that so they get artsy and honest. But none of us are getting into putting music into categories. I like to be openminded - I like R.E.M. and U2 and even Jane's Addiction, which probably suprises you."

Echolyn - which also includes bassist Tom Hyatt, keyboardist Christopher Buzby and drummer Paul Ramsey - will play the Theater of Living Arts on Thursday, a venue seemingly more suited to their listening-man's call-to-arms than some of the area club stages they've been frequenting.

"We had been getting bad feedback from some places," Kull, who lives in Montgomeryville, noted. "Even though 300 people showed up to hear us, it was like 'Your people didn't drink a lot of beer.' That's the thinking of many club managers. We definitely don't draw a crowd who just want to sit there and hammer down beers all night. That's why the TLA gig is nice, because people just come to hear a concert and there's no connection with alcohol at all."

The eight song-suites on the group's eponymous, self-produced debut, released last October, downshift brilliantly from a nuzzling-up to knavish pre-pubescent naivete to sweeping, Kansas-esque sagas and assorted man-against-time tone poems.

But there's no use denying it: any band that scribes a tribute to The Velveteen Rabbit has some explaining to do.

"That purity and innocence that we have when we're young seems to get squashed, but I like to think I still have some of it inside of me. I think it's important for everyone to be in touch with that child inside of them," Kull said. "That's bsically what the song is all about. 'Velveteen Rabbit' was a book I loved when I was little. Our next album, Suffocating The Bloom, which we're working on now, will delve into that more fully."

Even Roger Waters, erstwhile Pink Floyd captain, might not approval at those clever snippets of stolen repartee that intro the album.

"We had read Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhed' and had really been impressed by her philosophies and wanted to capture something of that in song. We took three of the main characters and fashioned the section around our impressions of them. With 'Dominique' we used violins and cellos to create the atmosphere. And those voices are actually taken from the movie, with Gary Cooper. We called the Ayn Rand Society to see if we could do all this, and they just asked us to send a tape, which they ended up liking."

Echolyn formed in the winter of '89, "when we did our first show at the Ambler Cabaret," recalled Kull.

"Paul, Ray and I were in a band doing cover versions of tunes and decided we didn't want to do that anymore. I bought some recording equipment and we hooked up with Chris and were working out our originals within a few months. Now that we've been playing for more than two years I finally feel that we have a pretty strong repetoire of our own material."

Inarguably. After coaxing Echolyn's independently-produced CD into a rotary demeanor just once, the only remaining question is 'Do these guys know how to spell m-a-j-o-r l-a-b-e-l?'

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