Music for people who listen

Appeared in "Daily Local News", written by John Chambless
September 1992

Sometimes it's a thankless job to play thinking man's music.

"We played a show at the 23 East Cabaret and pretty much packed the place," said guitarist Brett Kull of Echolyn in a phone interview last week.

"At the end of the night, instead of the (owners) saying 'Thanks a lot,' they saud, 'Gee, your corwd doesn't drink a lot of beer. We're kind of hurting on the beer sales.' "Well," Kull said with a sigh, "maybe they came out and just wanted to enjoy some music, you know?"

Since forming almost three years ago in West Point, Pa., Echolyn has steadfastly maintained its right to be intelligent and literate. In the beer-and-boogie bar scene, that's a rough road to travel.

The band's 1991 CD sold very well - even overseas, where their brand of long intricate songs appeals to fans of early Genesis, ELP and Marillion.

Now in the studio to produce their second CD, Echolyn is putting together a media push that will hopefully lock up a major label contract and get them the exposure they need.

But the members - all in their 20's - still have to pay the bills.

"We're well prepared," Kull said of the band's probable short-term poverty. "We do everything pretty much self-sufficiently. We're in debt, but we keep our heads above water for the most part. But we really enjoy what we're doing, and we feel that we have something to say. That's the most imporant part."

Echolyn's songs are ambitious and uncompromising, and the lyrics - most written by Kull and lead vocalist Ray Weston - plunge bravely into subjects as "The Fountainhead" and "The Velveteen Rabbit" without concessions to airplay or trends.

"We've been thinking of going over (to Europe)," Kull said. "We have quite a few distributors over there, and the CD has sold extremely well, particulary in places like France and the Netherlands.

"It's expensive to go there," he said, "but they could hook us up with shows in Denmark, Holland, northern Germany, France and England. We might do it. It's just a matter of budgeting some money."

After paying dues on the bar circuit - sometimes playing 15 shows a month - Kull said Echolyn is happy to pick their performances carefully.

The band's onstage videos and Weston's costume changes can be cramped by the broom-closet stages in some clubs. But close quarters don't stop the show.

"We plan the important shows, but in between them, we play a lot of smaller places where we just plug in and play," Kull said.

Kull defends the band's un-hip theatricality.

"One of the things about progressive bands is that people think they're kind of pompous - that they have all the lights and effects in order to play. Well, I like to just go out and play. It's a great feeling, and it's still a great show.

With a CD in the works and a showcase performance at the Theater of Living Arts behind them, Echolyn may just be reay to go full time, Kull says.

"We're on the brink of quitting our jobs," he said. "We're really busy, so it's getting to the point of conflicting."

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