By Anthony J. Machcinski
With alternative and indie rock roots, Kearny’s own Cicada Radio took Donegal Saloon by storm this weekend.
Composed of brothers Pat and Mike Keefe on guitar, Josh Bartsch on drums and Chris D’Ambrosio on bass, Cicada Radio is one of the area’s up and coming bands.
The band got together in 2009 when the brothers were students at Kean University.
“We had a garage at our house and we just started playing in there,” Mike Keefe said. “We were a trio at first, then (our old drummer) stepped in and we became a foursome.”
After a year of playing together, the band got its big break when Kearny recording label Killing Horse Records picked up its four-track LP “Imposter.”
“It helped us out a lot,” said Keefe of signing with Killing Horse. “We started to get a lot more shows and finding friends in the scene. ‘Imposter’ was where it started.”
In December 2012, the band released its first full-length album “No Fate But What We Make,” an eight-track compilation with quality from the opening track to the final song.
Shortly after the release of “No Fate But What We Make,” Cicada Radio’s drummer left the band and was replaced by Bartsch, which forced the band to rebuild its chemistry.
“Right now, we’re playing a few shows here and there to get chemistry with Josh,” Keefe said.
While the new chemistry will take time to jell, Keefe feels that Bartsch has already helped out the band.
“(Bartsch) plays every instrument,” Keefe said. “We all have the perspective to contribute and provide what you think will sound the best.”
Keefe said that all members in the band can play multiple instruments, and that helps provide inspiration.
“It gives you better perspective as a songwriter,” Keefe said. “You know what you want to go for.”
Keefe also credits the band’s early success to a selfless attitude held by all of the band’s members.
“We all think, ‘What could I add to make the song better,’” Keefe said. “You have to know what you would want to hear in a song and just play it.”
Despite changing drummers shortly after the release of “No Fate But What We Make,” the band’s chemistry and selfless attitude shine through their performance.
Right from the first few moments of the lead track “Insecticide,” Bartsch’s drumming along with Keefe’s guitar sets the tone. Sounding similar to fellow Jersey-rockers Thursday, Pat Keefe’s echoing voice combines with the guitar play almost seamlessly.
True to Keefe’s word, no one instrument stands out above the others. While the guitar sounds are complex, and the drum beats difficult, there are no solos, and the band members complement one another – a trait not many bands today can claim.
Since Bartsch came into the band, Cicada Radio has been out on the road, trying to play as many shows as possible to work on their chemistry and get their name out in the music scene.
“We used to play Maxwell’s (in Hoboken) a lot before it closed and a few places in Jersey City,” Keefe said. “We play all over. A lot of places around Hudson County.”
For Keefe, the best place to play has been the Court Tavern in New Brunswick.
“I feel like it’s been a good music scene for New Jersey,” Keefe explained. “To have a venue that treats its bands well and has lots of people that show up for the shows.”
Keefe said that while there are certain great places to play, the audience is what really matters.
“It’s more about the show (then the venue),” Keefe said. “You could play (your music at any bar) and it’ll be great as long as the people are great.” Looking ahead, Keefe said the band is hoping to escape the cold weather and continue to play more shows.
“We just want to try and get out there more,” Keefe said. “A lot of people feel cooped up with this winter and people are anxious to get out there and play more shows.”
For more information on Cicada Radio, visit cicada-radio. bandcamp.com or visit the band’s Facebook page. Their CDs, including “No Fate But What We Make,” can be found on their website.