Music to its ears

Appeared in "The North Penn Reporter", written by Scott Kraus
September 1993

The guys in Echolyn practice their eclectic brand of ethereal, jazzy rock in a small blue barn on West Point Pike where egg crates stapled to the wall serve as acoustic insulation. But that quaint picture will soon be a thing of the past.

In August, after quietly building a devoted regional audience for its heady musical brew, the band inked a seven-album national record contract with Sony Music's Epic Records.

"For the last two years we were all working two jobs," said keyboardist Chris Buzby. "That's because for the past two years, every dollar we made as a band went back into the band."

The record contract and advance that came with it have allowed all five band members to quit their second jobs, meaning more time to work on recording. They are happy to say they are now truly professional musicians.

"Now we've been able to work full-time on the music," said Buzby. "Work is getting done."

Echolyn plans a fall 1994 release for the label that has brought along the likes of Pearl Jam, Living Colour and the Spin Doctors into the national spotlight.

Strongly independent, band members say they are determined to retain their musical and creative voice in a business with a reputation for making talented musical groups sell out to sell albums.

Losing control is not something band memebers relish.

"That definitely is a fear because there are now a lot more people coming into the process," said Brett Kull, guitar and lead vocals. "But I think we are actually pulling together a lot. We are not going to do anythign we don't want to do. What's the worst thing that can happen? We'll get dropped, and then start all over again."

"We look at Sony as a tool we can use to get more exposure," said Greg Kull, Brett's brother, who manages the band.

Sony, no doubt, looks at Echolyn as a tool to help them make money.

But before being discovered, Echolyn wa sa self-contained unit. The band promoted itself, handled all its own merchandising, printed its own fan newsletter, designed its own cover art and produced its own recordings under the name Bridge Management.

They traveled to Canada this week, equipment packed into the old truck they've been taking to concerts since they started traveling, for two dates in Montreal and Quebec City. They joked around a little about preparing introductions in French for some of their songs.

"I guess we should get something together," said Brett Kull.

The band is well traveled, having played shows in Michigan where they sold 250 albums and Baltimore as well as its most recent foray into Canada. And dedicated fans have come a far as Atlanta to see the band play.

"A lot of people think there's a void out there," said Buzby, trying to deflect the interviewer's attempt to categorize the band.

"Our influences are everything from classical to jazz, from heavy metal to grunge. Anything that's real."

As one might imagine, the sound is unique. It has been compared to Yes or Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but it's really neither. If the guys in Echolyn are looking for a niche, they'll have to create it.

Fans of local cover bands like Slippery and the Skirt Chasers, who want to drink and party to club standards, won't like Echolyn.

They don't play covers, only original music.

"That's a big risk to take," Brett Kull says. Many music fans go into shows, expecting to recognize something. If it's their first time seeing Echolyn, they have to have an open mind.

"It's been said before that people at our shows are a little more...thoughtful about music," Brett Kull said. "But I think it's accessible to everybody."

Kull said the band hopes it makes music that makes people sit up and take notice, makes them think, inspires them or just makes some kind of impact. A box full of letters from fans proves they must be doing something right.

Locally, apart from a couple of acoustic shows at the Sumney West Tavern, the band plays most often at the Cabarets in Ambler, Admore and University City.

Its three compact disc releases, the self titled Echolyn in October 1991, Suffocating The Bloom in November 1992 and an acoustic EP, ...And Every Blossom in June 1993, have done well for independent releases, selling 5,000 units in two years.

Other, less talkative members of the band are Ray Weston (lead vocals), Paul Ramsey (drums, percussion) and Tom Hyatt (bass, MIDI pedals).

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