American Beauties is an all original independent folk rock and folk pop band from the thriving indie music scene in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. The band came together in 2011 and is reminiscent of the West Coast folk-rock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s which mixes both contemporary and roots influences.
"Too Worn to Mend" is the band's first debut full length album, released in October 2012. The album was mixed and recorded at Ice Station Zebra in Medford, Massachusetts by Grammy award winning engineer Ducky Carlisle and co-produced by Carlisle and Michael Gray. The album references the band’s many musical influences, which can be heard in the thoughtful lyrics, layered harmony vocals, and tasteful pop arrangements reminiscent of CSNY, The Byrds, The Band, and more contemporary artists such as Wilco and The Jayhawks.
The record was added and received radio airplay on over 160 college and independent radio stations in the US, Canada, and the UK and charted in the CMJ Top 30 on ten stations. It has also received regular airplay on internet radio around the globe. In 2013, the band signed sync and licensing agreements with 15 cable TV shows for the use of Too Worn To Mend in their net-work programming (MTV, E Channel, and NASCAR).
The live band is made up of five long-time friends and local musicians who perform compelling regional club and festival shows as American Beauties. Michael Gray, guitar, vocals and harmonica, is a singer songwriter from Syracuse, New York who began writing songs at the age of 15.
In 2003, Gray joined the Americana band "Dig In The Dirt" with Juliet Simmons, Jonas Kahn, Justin Kolack, and Jeff Allison who played clubs around Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville between 2004 and 2008. After DITD disbanded, Michael joined the progressive rock band "Sarcasmatics" with local guitarist and songwriter Chris Faris. These projects would introduced Michael to the many musicians and artists that would ultimately influence the music of American Beauties; his first solo band project showcasing his original song compositions.
On guitar is Jonas Kahn who has been a fixture on the local music scene for many years, performing with a number of popular bands. Kahn is a versatile guitarist who fits his style to rock, country, folk, reggae, and other genres with ease and brings his inventive musicianship to American Beauties where his guitar work has come to define the band's throwback sound.
Drummer, Jeff Allison has played percussion and drum for some of the most notable local songwriters and musicians in the Boston area. In addition to performing, Allison is an excellent producer and recording engineer who has toured as a keyboard tech and programmer for Peter Gabriel. He is the heart of American Beauties, bringing his innovative drumming style and harmony vocals into the mix for the AB's live shows.
Bass player Justin Kolack is a veteran of the New England festival scene. Kolack is a dynamic bass player with a solid groove and keen ear. He's also a master improviser who brings this approach to American Beauties' original songs, keeping the live shows fresh and loose.
Singer songwriter Amber Casares is the lead vocalist for American Beauties. She displays a vocal intuition that rivals many of the great female artists of our time and in turn completes the band's sound with her vintage touch.
Examiner sat down with Gray, guitarist and vocalist for American Beauties.
Examiner: Tell us about your band? How did you guys come together?
Gray: "American Beauties is an original indie folk-rock band out of Somerville, MA. Our sound is similar to some of the west coast folk-rock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s and could be described as having some Americana influences, but we deviate from that quite a bit with our original material. Some of our influences include The Byrds, CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, The Band, and more contemporary artists such as Wilco and The Jayhawks.
The band was formed by myself and three other local musicians who played together in a previous band from which we all were fired. The current live band includes Jonas Kahn on guitar, Justin Kolack on bass, Jeff Allison on drums/percussion, and the wonderful Amber Casares on background and some lead vocals. I play guitar and harmonica, sing, and write the bands songs. We’ve been together now for about 3 years and have played regularly around Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston as well as some regional indie music festivals around the northeast.
We are currently on a little road trip around New England that recently landed us in Burlington, Vermont and will take us to shows in New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and a couple local dates in Somerville this spring."
Examiner: Do you have any recordings?
Gray: "We’ve been touring behind our debut record “Too Worn To Mend,” which was released in October 2012. We recorded the album with Ducky Carlisle at his Ice Station Zebra recording studio in Medford, Massachusetts. The record was conceived over about a three year period between 2009 and 2012, before the live band started playing and was one of the reasons for getting the American Beauties off the ground. Ducky and I co-produced the album and spent a lot of time together in studio working things out over many fine bottles of scotch. We were really happy how it evolved and eventually turned out. Ducky is a Grammy winning recording engineer (Buddy Guy - Living Proof) and I was fortunate to work with him. I learned a lot about recording, songwriting, and production during the process and look forward to getting back in the studio once we complete this series of shows."
Examiner: A wow moment in your career thus far?
Gray: "I’d have to say that I was most surprised at the reception that the record received after its release. We did a college and independent radio campaign that included sending the record to over 300 radio stations across the US and Canada. It was picked-up by over 160 stations and received significant airplay on several of them. We charted in the CMJ top 30 on 10 stations and reached No. 1 at WVIA (an NPR affiliated station) in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for a few weeks. We still get airplay on many of the stations, but it’s difficult to track exactly how many are still playing the record. We also continue to have success with placements on internet radio and have a steady stream of plays on some pretty cool stations that are global in reach. The idea that our record has been played across the US, in Canada, the UK, Denmark, and elsewhere is quite amazing, considering we are completely independent and unsponsored. It does take a bit of work by the band and our promotions people at Lady Lake Music to get these placements."
Examiner: Have you worked with or opened for any famous people/bands?
Gray: "We opened the Wachusett Valley Music Festival in September 2013, which had many great local and regional folk artists. Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls was the headliner for the festival. Jean Syria and Denise Hurly sponsor this festival every year and they typically put together a great show with really cool acts. They hold the festival in Lancaster, Massachusetts on the grounds of this beautiful church and it’s reminiscent of the outdoor folk music festivals of years ago. We were really surprised to be asked to play and it was another milestone for the band. We’ve also opened for a nationally touring band named Goldenboy whose lead singer played with Elliot Smith and have shared the stage with several local bands that should be touring nationally like The Bob Kendall Band, Emily Grogan, and others. There’s so much good music in the Boston area that needs to be heard on a broader scale."
Examiner: Upcoming gigs?
Gray: "We have another six shows on the books as part of our spring tour. Our next show is at Sally O’Brien’s on Friday April 4th with a great band called Mount Peru. We were also selected to play the MOVE Music Festival in Albany, New York over the weekend of April 25 through 27. The festival is in its third year and is one of the largest indie festivals in the northeast. This was a great surprise since we were selected as one of 100 bands that will play the festival out of over 3000 bands that submitted. Another great accomplishment for us. Then we’ll play a show down at the Sandywoods Center for the Arts in Tiverton, Rhode Island with The Bob Kendall band on May 17th and round out the tour with some local dates including: The Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham (May 1st); Bull McCabe’s in Somerville (June 7th); ending with an outdoor show on Massapoag Lake in my hometown of Sharon on July 30. After that we’ll be scaling back the live performances to try and get a little recording done."
For more info check out the bands website at: http://www.americanbeautiesmusic.com