MORE WRITING & MORE MUSIC WITH MAD PAINTER
Mad Painter is a new band in the Boston area, deeply rooted in the melodic rock tradition of the 1970s. They play mostly original music, ranging from Woodstock-era psychedelic rock to glam tinged rock'n'roll a-la Mott the Hoople and the Faces and to epic heavy anthems in the vein of Uriah Heep. It consists of four individuals with widely ranging backgrounds. At the center of Mad Painter is Alex Gitlin, the songwriter and creator of the concept. He is backed capably by Julie Gee on vocals, drummer Al Hendry (Bubba Loaf, Tokyo Tramps), as well as bassist Kenne Highland, a true veteran of the Boston rock scene (ex-Gizmos, Hopelessly Obscure, Johnny & The Jumper Cables, Africa Corps.) and the newest addition is guitarist Al Naha (Thighscrapers), who plays with Kenne in Kenne Highland Airforce. They've played, in different line-ups and guises, many venues around the Boston area, such as the MIT, Out of the Blue Gallery, McGann's, Hennessy's, Club Bohemia, The Jungle Community Music Club and C Note in Hull, as well as the Winter Tanglefest in the Poconos. It's always a good time when you come to their shows, and you know what to expect - nostalgic 70s rock vibes and stage gear to match, great musicianship and songs that will make you get up and bop around, singing and clapping along. A party.
Please describe to our audience how you came about on the music scene and what is the biggest difference between your first piece of music to your latest!
Mad Painter first came on the scene in late 2016, with the embryonic lineup debuting at MIT in October. We did a two-hour show, minus the half-hour break, and got a rousing response, but I just knew the chemistry wasn't there and things had to change. We were very "loose" and experimental at the time. The next two gigs were better, Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge (which we had to do as a trio, sans guitar) and the Winter Tanglefest in the Poconos in Feb. 2017. And that show was a vindication to all the nay-sayers – we packed a powerful punch and blew them all away!!
The band continued to go from strength to strength, recording our first album (now you can hear it in its entirety on YouTube). The production budget was very "shoestring". The producer and I aren't in touch anymore. He just did what he wanted, resulting in this charming and basic-sounding lo-fi long player, which our current bass player Kenne (or one of his friends maybe) christened "garage prog".
Kenne and I met at the Out of the Blue Gallery, and he immediately compared our trio to Aphrodite's Child, a late 60s Greek threesome consisting of Vocals/Bass, Organ and Drums, which is almost unknown here but scored a plethora of hits in France. He said, "you're like Boston's answer to Aphrodite's Child"! Next thing I knew, he was on bass! And the "corporate takeover" started to happen, as he brought his friends, the two Alans, along for the ride – Hendry on drums and Naha on guitar. As well as Gee Julie on backing vocals.
Our sound has changed tremendously, dare I say matured! This new lineup is the best thing that's ever happened to Mad Painter. We spent most of 2019 gigging in the Boston area, 2021 – recording the new album, Splashed, and 2022 – mixing it and playing live once again. "Splashed", our sophomore LP, due out in Jan 2023, and the two singles lifted from it, "Illusion" and " Rock'n'Roll Samurai", are getting some publicity even ahead of their respective scheduled release dates! The sound's now a lot more refined and sophisticated, both live and on record, than when we first started. The album ranges from heavy melodic rock to pop, balladry, blues and everything in between. But it's still retro in approach. 1970s (and late 60s) rock for us is a benchmark, a springboard, a starting point.
What are you doing to push a positive message as the year comes to an end and there is a new beginning coming up with this new year?
We're expecting great things to happen in 2023 for us. Hopefully our album will do well. I think we'll be playing some festivals and high profile engagements. That's the plan anyway. Let's make 2023 a Mad Painter year, we're here to show the world how to PAINT MADLY.
Are there any rituals you have developed over the years that are helpful for any upcoming changes happening?
We've just learned over the years that you have to be prepared for everything. Bad sound on stage, when you can hardly hear your vocals or instruments. Equipment quitting on you. All sorts of unpredictable things happening to your bandmates enroute to a gig. You have to have a backup plan and try to think through as many eventualities as possible. Make sure you have a full tank of gas. A spare keyboard. Spare cables of all kinds. Mics and stands. Bring the surplus, you never know what you might need on stage. And if someone's late and you have to start the show by yourself, uncomfortable as that sounds – improvise and entertain the audience! Also, always think of an element of surprise, something they have not seen or heard yet. A song in a different style, a new joke, or a stage prop.
Could you talk about a success that happened this year that you would attribute to all your hard work?
Yes, absolutely. Our first single, "Illusion", is getting rave reviews in all kinds of online publications and included in various and sundry Spotify and SoundCloud playlists. We have the same plan for the second single, " Rock'n'Roll Samurai". And also 2022 has been a journey of education – on how to mix and produce. Working with our producer, Tom Hamilton, we'd just keep on remixing over and over until we've reached the point of "perfect". For some songs it was a long and arduous process. For others – an easy one, like the second or the third mix would be the winner, and we'd move right on. The songs also range from straight-ahead rockers, just keys, guitar, vocals and rhythm section – to very complex and lushly orchestrated pieces, the latter obviously demanding a lot more work. Finally, the two promotional videos we have out on YouTube, "Illusion" and " Rock'n'Roll Samurai", I think those have come out especially well!
Could you talk about an obstacle that you persevered through?
The biggest obstacle was of course the lockdown. We didn't do anything between our last gig on March 8, 2020, just before the whole world shut down, and the fall of that year, when we got back together, albeit in the new lineup, for a quiet and cautious rehearsal, unsure where this would lead. Our live gig after that was in the middle of July 2021 in Somerville, at the Union Tavern, and it was a full house. We could see the excitement in the eyes of our audience, they were starved for live music, it was palpable! And in the earlier months, when it wasn't recommended to gather in a company of more than 3-4 in the same room, we spent the valuable time laying down the tracks for "Splashed". Some songs are fresh, others were written as far back as 1997, but I'm glad I was able to revive them and finally commit them to a professional studio recording. This probably explains the diversity of styles on the album.
How do you think these experiences have helped you shape your career and approach your music?
It's a learning journey throughout. How to shape your sound with the musicians at hand. How to work with the sound engineer when you are after a particular sound and style of production. How to find the right gigs and, finally, how to please your audience. We almost never do covers, and when you're playing your own originals, you have to have faith in them. They have to be energetic and catchy enough, so they set the crowd alight. And, pleased to say, we think we've aced all of the above!
How do you continue to develop your community of fans over the years?
It starts with a small following, consisting of friends and relations, then your followers on social media, then word of mouth gets around locally, and they start bringing their friends. Local radio exposure helps a lot, so we're eternally grateful to Brian Young and Joel Simches at WMFO in Medford, MA. They're both Painter fans and have had us over for a live-in-the-studio set three times in as many years. Now we're working hard on getting the word out nationally and internationally. Social media, YouTube, online radio airplay, it all adds up and helps.
Thank you for sharing all your music with us! Can you give us any exclusive on more music coming up?
"Rock'n'Roll Samurai" is our next single, out on 1/19/23 on all streaming platforms. And we're still shooting for January 2023 as the release date for "Splashed", our second album. The artwork and the booklet design are ready. We'll be selling CDs at our shows and on our website. Hoping to do some writing and recording in the months ahead also.
Socials for everything happening NEXT!