By Anthony J. Machcinski
In the middle of what was the pop revolution of the late 1990s, Russell Murray created a band that went against that trend. While no bands at the time were playing progressive rock, Murray had his vision of one that would be able to cover progressive rock groups such as Rush. It was then that Visions was born.
“We’ve stayed true to it,” said Murray, who plays drums for Visions.
Since the band’s formation in 1999, Visions has played all across the area, making stops at B.B. King’s in New York, Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, and Hartley’s in North Arlington. At all these venues, the band’s message has remained the same.
“I know I’m not going to get rich off of it,” explained Murray. “But I do it for the love of it.”
The band, which also includes lead singer John Pine, guitarist Bruce Sokolovick, bass player Chris Onjian and keyboard player Damon Fibraio, has crowd satisfaction, not making money, as its main goal.
“Most people don’t believe bands when they say this, but it’s true, you do feed off the vibe and energy of the crowd,” Murray said. “It’s so true. You make them happy and they give it back to you and it gives you shivers right up your spine.”
One of the obvious differences between a normal band and a cover band is the use of original material. This difference is one that Murray knows all too well, as he is in both the cover band Visions as well as an original band called Lipstick Magazine.
“It’s impossible to take your original stuff to a place like Hartley’s because they don’t know your material,” Murray explained, when asked about the difference in performing with the two bands.
To Murray, it’s not a matter of which band he’s playing with as much as the playing in general that counts.
“When you play your own material, it’s music from the heart,” Murray said. “Playing live and covering bands and being able to copy those gives a great bit of satisfaction. People realize how difficult the material is. Both have their own ways of satisfaction. I don’t know if I could decide between either.”
This idea carries into the other members of Visions, who also play for other bands.
“Decent musicians are in demand and it’s hard to find good ones who are in only one band,” Murray explained. “This band has had multiple lineup changes between moving and being involved in too many projects. Damon and I are the only original members left, and even he left at a point.”
When talking about the challenges these turnovers pose, Murray acknowledges how much that the band has had to overcome.
“It’s hard to keep your continuity going,” Murray said. “There’s been lapses of time when we haven’t played a show so new members could learn the material.”
Coming back to Hartley’s on Oct. 29 was a homecoming for Murray, who works for the Kearny Water Department and lives in the area.
“All the people that I know in the area, most can walk (to Hartley’s) and we always draw well there,” Murray explained. “When I play Hartley’s, I know 90% of the people in the audience. The intimacy level is much better at places like that.”
Next, Visions will play Crossroads in Garwood and The Rock Bar in Clifton. The band will return to Hartley’s on New Year’s Eve.