Appeared in "The Montgomeryville Spirit", written by Alex Frazier
Every teenager dreams of being a rock star. Perform before thousands of adoring fans. Cut an album. Tour the world.
But let's face it. What are the chances of ever doing that? Like winning $50 million in the Pennsylvania lottery.
For Echolyn, the fantasy has become reality.
The West Point based group recently signed a recording contract with Sony Music Entertainment, the largest recording company in the world, to write and record seven albums on the Epic label.
Which is pretty amazing when you think that two years ago the group was out on the street selling bagels and cream cheese in North Wales to raise $400.
The five members of the group have all grown up locally. Chris Buzby (keyboards) graduated from Germantown Academy ('88), Brett Kull (guitar) and Paul Ramsey (drums) from North Penn ('84), Raymond Weston (lead singer) from Archbishop Kennedy ('80) and Thomas Hyatt from Cheltenham ('86).
"I do love what I'm doing now," said Buzby, who acted as interim head of the music department at Germantown Academy last year, "getting up and sitting at the piano every day and saying that's my job. That's an incredible accomplishment for being 23 years old. This was a goal I set for myself when I was 16, that I wanted to be signed in a rock group, and here I am seven years later and I did it."
When the members of the group first assembled three-and-a-half years ago, they had to decide whether they wanted to do all original work or covers of other groups. They gravitated to the original.
That's why it's hard to label Echolyn's music. Preferring to remain electric, they sometimes tend toward fusion, sometimes to rock, sometimes to acoustic, and sometimes even to classical.
"The music is not going to be a fast sell," said Buzby. "It's not rap, it's not Top 40. In a way it's timeless. The more you go back to listen to it the more you're going to get out of it. With our music we purposely try to write enough into it that by the tenth listening you're just getting into it. A diversified, open worldwide sound is what we're trying to go for. The bottom line is honest."
Though Buzby and Kull do most of the initial song writing, all the members contribute, and none of their music is credited to one individual. "It's very democratic," said Kull.
The groups' studio, a small, two-story bard in West Point, is about as unpretenious as the musicians. The windowless first floor is bulging with instruments. The walls are lined with eggshell sound-proofing and a narrow set of stairs at the back leads to the upstairs office, where the group meets on a couple of old sofas and overstuffed chairs to discuss business.
The center of attraction, besides manager Greg Kull's anatomical drawings that decorate the walls, is a state-of-the-art computer system which, among other things Kull uses to write and print Daedalus, a newspaper the group sends out free to 750 fans to keep them abreast of Echolyn's activities.
That's another thing about this group. They take an interest in their followers. Brett KUll is the self-appointed Director of Human Relations. He takes it upon himself to answer fan mail. It's something he enjoyes.
Letters from all over the country and world come into the West Point studio. They tell of a depressed woman that wrote from a medical center saying that their music made her feel better. Or a guy from Michigan who wrote to tell them that a song on one of their CDs helped him deal with his father's suicide. "One guy in Peru writes us a letter and it makes our day," said Kull.
Except fro the computer and their instruments that's about as "fancy" as this group gets. They have no aspirations to be a glitzy, faddy, get-in-your-money-and-get-out group. They're around for the long haul.
As Buzby said, "We really believe in what we're doing. This isn't just a get-rich-quick thing."
Three-and-a-half years ago they started playing the cabarets and small clubs in the Philadelphia area. And they wrote and recorded their first independent CD in Kull's studio. It was originally just for friends and locals, but once it got into the hands of independent distributors, the group soon attracted a worldwide audience.
By 1992 they felt they were maxed out in Philadelphia, so they started taking their show upon the road, from Boston to Virginia.
Last November they prodced their second independent CD which also sold out. To date they've sold about 5,000 CDs, all by word of mouth.
It was about then they started to ask themselves, what next?
They decidedc to hire a local promoter, William "Biff" Kennedy, to see if they could attract any major contracts. It was Kennedy who pitched them to Sony. In July, just when the group was again at its wit's end, the vice president of Sony called and six days later appeared at their studio with another exec fom Epic Records. All the way from California.
"They came into the studio," said an incredulous Kull. "This wasn't standard operating procedure."
But then nothing about this band seems to be standard operating procedure.
Though nothing in the music industry is ever guartanteed, it appears that Echolyn is on the cusp of international stardom. And the group is poised to make the most of it. On their own terms.Back to Article Listing