A band happy beyond the musical mainstream

Appeared in "Intelligencer Journal", written by Jon Ferguson
January 1995

No one can accuse the members of Echolyn, a Philadelphia-area rock band, of aping current musicial fashion in a bid for acceptance.

Echolyn's music is so far from what's currently popular that the band is pretty much out there on its own. A quick listen to the radio and a cursory glance at MTV is enough to discourage most folks from forming an art-rock band.

Nobody in mainstream rock is calling for a return of the progressive rock movement of the 1970s that produced arty bands like Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Kansas, early King Crimson and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis.

And neeither are the five members of Echolyn, who brittle at the suggestion that their music is more a glance back than a look forward. They don't worship at the altar of the Mellotron.

"We always want to come across as something new," said Chris Buzby, the keyboard player for the quintet based in West Point, Pa. "We don't look at ourselves as anything retro, which we seem to get kind of slashed a lot. For us, we're still totally 90's. We're just kind of incorporating a lot of the classical, jazz and rock-fusion elements that happened 20 years ago, and we're trying to keep it 90s. Lyrically, we want to be very uplifting, positive, honest."

Echolyn - whose other members are Tom Hyatt, bass; Brett Kull, guitars and vocals; Paul Ramsey, drums; and Ray Weston, vocals - will make its first apperance in Lancaster Sunday for an all-ages show at te Chameleon Club. As is usually the case, the band has absolutely nothing in common with the other two bands on the bill; Burning Bus and the Frogs are both dance bands, Echolyn is anything but.

It's impossible to hum an Echolyn tune as the band's music is a complex affair of changing meters, shifting rhythms and odd tempos. And they don't write love songs as the band's lyrics, which sometimes edge into pomposity, attempt to address great subjects.

There's no question that the band members ar terrific players as the songs, which places premium on musicianship and borrow liberally from jazz and classical music, are extremely demanding. The players have to be paying attentoin to perform this kind of music. The same goes for the audience if the music is to be appreciated.

The band, which has been together since 1989, has found a recepting record company as Epic Records signed Echolyn to a long-term contract in 1993. The band's debut, titled As The World, is scheduled to be released on March 7. The record was originally going to be released last fall, but was delayed.

"We're chomping at the bit here," Buzby said. "We got the artwork (for the album) today and it's starting to feel real again. We almost have to keep reminding ourselves, 'Oh, that's right, we finished an album.' At this point, come March, it's almost going to be eight months old."

Echolyn has independently released three albums, which have sold about 6,000 copies worldwide, according to Buzby. Although they have demonstrated an ability to develop a grassroots audience the band members said the folks at Epic are at something of a loss concerning how to market and promote the band.

"Right beore Christmas, we played twice up in New York and it was the first time the record company reps were able to come out and see the band live," Weston said. "We totally suprised them with the way we could play the music live but they still walked away saying 'We don't know what the hell to do with these guys'"

The members of Echolyn are eager for the challenge. They're sure they can create a market for their music if they can play it for people with open ears. The fact that there's nobody else out there playing this kind of music doesn't bother them one bit.

"We feel like we're pretty all alone," Buzby said, "But, honestly, it's a good feeling. I'd rather be the first and, hopefully, the one the people remember as being the first if we make it to the top.

"We don't want to be bandwagon band. We don't wan tto be a follower. If this doesn't work, I guess we'll be a footnote."

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