It has been a long road for the six members of Stargazy, a recently formed psych-rock, new-wave Greenpoint band.
Formerly known as Fishdoctor, the group reinvented its sound and has been recording since early 2011.
Today they are working on their second EP, “The Fashion,” and preparing for yet another surge of shows across the city.
I met up with Mike Panico (guitar and keyboards), Mike Romano (guitar and vocals), Jared Lindbloom (keyboards and vocals), and percussionist Rocco Romanelli at Agne Noire Café at 247 Varet St. in Bushwick to discuss what it's been like playing to a growing fanbase in NYC.
How did you guys form your band?
Romano: We’re all musicians and we’re all friends, so this was just a natural progression. We’ve all lived together many times, so this was just a matter of us all being together, in the same room and playing music and writing songs. We just realized that we could make this happen as a collective.
Panico: We were all in a band together in college and me, Mike and Jared all played acoustic stuff in the city. So we had a bunch of random projects that never really lasted too long, but then we just started playing together in the city.
What can you guys bring to the table with all of these different instruments?
Romano: At one time it was all about just getting our music out there, but now I think we are really trying to get our songwriting craft down and really make something of our resources and what we can really do. We’ve learned a lot in the last year about songwriting in general and what we want to sound like. We’re constantly trying to come closer to the music we enjoy listening to. At one time it was just about getting out all this music that was bubbling up inside of us – and that’s kind of what it sounded like – and then we realized that it wasn’t what we would ever listen to.
Panico: It’s not like we were writing music and trying to replicate it, but it’s more like writing music that we really like and matching our musical tastes.
How do you guys write your songs?
Romano: It’s kind of a collaborative spark. It’s like sparking of the minds. Someone will bring a chord progression in or something and the vocals will just naturally come spilling out. We will sometimes meet, jam, separate, go off and build and come back with almost a finished project. And then sometimes it just happens really quick and only happened in like four seconds.
Panico: Our favorite songs are the ones that we write really fast.
Lindbloom: If we’re smart enough, in that moment, to put the iPhone down and capture that little fragment of a minute or two or an awesome jam, we can find out what we want to keep and build upon that jam. It has been nice with the quickness with which we’ve been writing. Because we’ve been funneling our tastes into what we want to sound like, the songs are coming out better than we’ve expected. Our best songs are the ones we’ve been writing most recently, but I think that’s how it should be.
Romanelli: The old way of doing things was one person would write a song - a lot of times it was Romano - and he would bring it in and we would write our parts and create around that. Lately it has been more collaborative. The writing has been happening more in the rehearsal space and that has been creating more of a cohesive sound and it stays with the concept of the group.
Lindbloom: The energy feels a lot better that way, with everyone putting their parts in there on the spot.
Romano: We always joke that when we first write that song, and it’s recorded on the iPhone’s voice memo, it’s almost like that’s the best recording of that song in our mind - demo-itis.
Is it difficult to play a show in NYC?
Lindbloom: We’ve gotten much better at it. Since our first show in May 2011, as this incarnation, I just remember asking how we would get our stuff across the bridge to Manhattan for instance. We played a show at Piano’s last night in Manhattan, and we’ve played there many times over the last few years, and Piano’s is notorious for being a place where there is no place for your equipment, especially for six dudes. Afterwards there’s usually some big DJ dance party and you have to muscle your way out of there.
Since we’ve been writing music, we we feel really good about, our live experience has just compounded tenfold on that, too. We love playing live. We would love to do it every night of the week, but we just wouldn’t be able to get enough people out for that.
Romano: We also realize that the music scene is saturated, but it’d just be so exciting to be a part of all this culture in the city with all these bands. There is so much talent here, but then there are also a lot of crappy bands here too – there has to be, that’s just a matter of probability. We like to rise to the occasion when there are a lot of talented acts. That’s why I like the online scene. It’s just a better scene for us. We can reach so many more people with one recording just uploading up to a site versus playing to 50 people at a show.
How do you guys use the web to your advantage?
Romanelli: You have to prove yourself and develop a social following. You have to have a ton of different things working in your favor – the right amount of buzz, the right amount of followers and the right amount of plays on YouTube or Spotify – just to get someone to look at you. You have to really just become your own business.
Romano: The first thing we can do is just make sure we’re giving out quality. We love quality music and that’s why we do this.
What bands are you guys listening to right now?
Romano: I have to rent cars all the time for work and they always come equipped with XM Radio’s and I’m always on the Bruce Springsteen channel and the Billy Joel channel. It’s a really silly northeast thing to say, but it’s just nice.
Panico: War on Drugs is a lot like Springsteen too, and they’re really cool. Temples is always on the playlist a lot. Snowmine is another local Brooklyn band that we listen to a lot.
Lindbloom: James Vincent McMorrow. I don’t know if you guys know him at all, but I’ve been listening to that a lot. The latest St. Vincent album is really good too.
Do you guys play shows together with your friends or do you need that?
Romano: Yeah, it’s great to have a little community of people who are going through the same thing. It’s also good to have some friendly competition, too. Our favorite partner-in-crime band is Folding Legs. They’re just a really great artsy, strong songwriting pop band and they’re just a powerhouse on stage.
Panico: Yeah, we share a rehearsal space with them, and we are actually playing our album release show with them. We probably played like 20 shows with them too.
Romanelli: You asked the question about booking a show in New York and if it was difficult or not, and a lot of times it turns out that it’s not difficult to book a show, but it is difficult to book a show with a good bill that fits the genre of music that you’re playing. That’s what we’ve gotten stuck with a lot of times. A lot of times we will walk into a place and they’re playing blues music or bluegrass, or some rap-rock stuff.
Romano: Yeah, like a singer-songwriter will be up there playing a song with his guitar and we have to follow that, and that’s the number one problem with New York venues. The people booking do not give a damn about what you sound like versus filling the bill. Some do and those are the best.
Rocco: That’s why it is just so important to have a community of musicians and you can create your own bills and call upon the bands that you know you like and you know that you mesh well together.
How did you come up with the name Stargazy?
Romano: Stargazy is the name of a song that we made as the band Fishdoctor, but it really traces back to our manager Derek Gumin – he was a real funny Jiminy Cricket guy and he would smoke pipes and stuff and always sit cross-legged. It would always look like he was sitting by a fire, and when he was really drunk he would say he was feeling really “stargazy.” And he would say a lot of funny things like that. He’s a really important part of our story because he was just a big supporter of our music.
Check out Stargazy on Wednesday, April 30 at 8 p.m. at Baby’s All Right (146 Broadway in Williamsburg) and their album release show with Folding Legs on May 16 at Rough Trade NYC (64 N. 9th St. in Williamsburg).