On Mar 3, 2014, at the Whisky A Go-Go, Draw the Line took stage to be the next in a series of tributes on AXS.TVs The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands hosted by Katie Daryl. Before the show we got a chance to sit down and chat with Neill Byrnes (Steven Tyler), Jim Dennis (Brad Whitford) and Gino Caira (Joe Perry) about the evolution of their 23-year long journey paying tribute to Aerosmith.
Q: Welcome. First off, how long has the band been together?
NEILL BRYNES: The band was established in 1991. I’ve been in the band that long; since the incarnation of it. The band’s been going for 23 plus years.
Q: You have an interesting story about winning a Steven Tyler look-alike contest? Tell me about that.
NB: Well that’s how I kinda got into all of this. When I was growing up in high school the kids used to tease me how much I looked like Steven Tyler. I just kinda blew it off. I don’t look like that guy. And then they had a contest to win free tickets to go to a show that Aerosmith was playing at the local amphitheater, Great Woods, and my friends had to drag me kicking and screaming because I wanted nothing to do with it. And I’m like all right. And they put me in this outfit and I felt like a fool, you know. I go down there and I lip sync to the song and I end up winning the contest. I got the tickets and the backstage passes and we went to see the show and, you know, that was the first time that I got to meet Steven Tyler.
Q: Wow. What did he say to you?
NB: Well, you know, it’s funny, it was just after the time it came out publicly that Liv Tyler was his daughter. You know that whole thing with Todd Rundgren and Steven Tyler was the father? So, here I come walking though the door, you know what I mean, and everyone’s jaw dropped like oh my God.
JIM DENNIS: Everyone’s like, you know, not another one.
JD: Here’s another kid coming out of the woodwork, right?
NB: Then Tom Hamilton, a famous line from that first time that I met him, he was like, “Steven, he looks more like you than you do”.
JD: That’s funny because I don’t see it, right? I’ve known the guy for years. I don’t see it. I don’t see the resemblance.
GINO CAIRA: You see it when you first meet him.
NB: He’s just pulling your leg.
Q: And Steven Tyler hadn’t seen you perform yet?
NB: He hadn’t seen us perform yet. That contest was before the band started.
JD: It was sort of the impetus--
NB: Yeah, I would say, to get something together. I always played music as a kid growing up and through school and all that. When I met him [Steven Tyler] I was studying voice. At that point in time I was going to make a go at it to be a vocalist. And then this opportunity came up to join this band that was a semi-Aerosmith tribute band, bluesy-rock ‘n roll kind of thing, and their singer was leaving and they heard about this guy that looked a lot like Tyler. So I went down and auditioned for this band and they hired me.
JD: There were no serious Aerosmith tribute bands anywhere, as far we knew. Most especially in Boston. There was nothing. So, I mean, we had gone out and seen really good tribute bands in the 80s from like Zeppelin and Doors and there was a lot of good tribute bands but there was no Aerosmith. So there was a void there and it needed to be filled.
NB: And there was a stigma with tribute bands back then too. It’s changed a lot today. But back then, you know, are you going to be in a tribute band, it’s not really a band you know. You gotta do original stuff and that whole stigma of that. But we went with it anyway because we figured we’d use the band. We’d do the Aerosmith show and we’d use it as a stepping stone to do our original material. But when we did it, it kind of took on a life of its own. People were so passionate about this music that it was just extraordinary that we would end up touring the country playing Aerosmith to huge crowds. And we were just like, this is unbelievable.
JD: You go to a little bar in the middle of nowhere in Ohio and hundreds of people would show up to see the band. It would just be like wow, there’s a real market for this. When you go outside the big cities people just care about the music. They don’t care that you’re a tribute band. There’s no stigma attached to it. And it was like they just loved the music and they appreciated what the band was doing. And we just fed off that and just built on it. And now we have markets where we draw huge amounts of people in parts of the country.
NB: People had a pre-conception of what a tribute band was. It’s a bunch of guys that got together in their basement, beer drinking guys, who just came on to play some songs together of the bands that they like. But when they would come to see us we would put on this whole show like a Beatlemania and we would play the songs exactly the way that they were recorded and people were blown away.
JD: You ask yourself. Do you wanna play original music in front your girlfriends and your friends and your brother? Or do you wanna play in front of a packed house? Because you’ll draw a lot more people who are big fans of the particular band that you’re paying tribute to as opposed to doing your own music.
NB: And it took a while to really establish ourselves. We got to a level of quality musicianship and showmanship and the band has never gone down. Always gone up. You’re very lucky to have a career in the music industry. There’s thousands of people doing it and to be able to perform in front of thousands of people and make some money, that’s a good place to be.
Q: Did you know about the WGTB before?
JD: I had heard of it. I’d seen ads for it on television.
NB: Somebody had turned me on to it. You guys need to be on this show. This is right up your alley. And the connection was made and it happened.
Q: How did you feel when you were asked to do WGTB?
NB: Oh, very excited. Just to have the national exposure like that and be recognized for something like that. It’s a true honor. And to be recognized as the best of what you do, I mean, you can’t ask for a better accolade than that.
JD: Especially after all the years that we’ve been doing it. It’s time to get some recognition, national recognition. It’s very rewarding to know that. It’s a good feeling.
NB: No matter what you do you’re always striving to become the best one that you possibly can be, right? And to be recognized as that person, at the top of the chain, it’s just an extraordinary feeling. It’s a very validating feeling that people are just as passionate about what you do as the original artists. And that’s an amazing kind of feeling.
Q: Steve Tyler has endorsed you guys as the best. Is that true?
NB: Yeah, he went publicly on the air. So he was doing an interview and he went on the air saying that we were the best out there. He gave us that. And then we contacted the management and asked them if we could use that for publicity purposes and they were like absolutely. They’ve been very supportive to us over the years. Joey Kramer came to a gig and he got up and played. The gentleman that’s with us tonight, Ray Tobano, he started the band with Steve Tyler. He’s very supportive of what we do and he comes to all our shows. Steven came to the show one night and hung out and saw the band and came backstage and took pictures. Because we live very close to one another in Massachusetts on the South Shore, he just happened to swing in, you know.
JD: A wonderful sound-mixer, who does front of house sound for Aerosmith works with us.
NB: They stole him from us. (laugh)
JD: We feel very fortunate to be able to have him as the sixth member of the band, when he’s not on the road with the real Aerosmith. That’s just another huge benefit having a connection with the band, having their endorsement. People that work with them, work with us.
NB: Brad Whitford’s come and seen the band as well.
JD: He saw us at the NASCAR event gig.
NB: We opened up the Louden 400 in New Hampshire. Brad’s part owner of a car and he came down and hung out.
JD: He gave us a big thumbs up.
NB: Aerosmith in the Boston area, it’s like Bostonian’s lay ownership to Aerosmith, like it’s their band. You know how Bostonians are about their sports teams? It’s really different than anywhere else in the country. And, the Aerosmith fans? They are just the same. It’s our band. We support them wherever they go. They’ve kind of got behind us as well with that too. We feel honored to be included in that and be part of the whole Boston fans. It’s a cool thing.
Q: Your tour schedule, it’s non-stop?
NB: You know, it’s probably like everybody else’s. In the winter it slows down but then once the spring hits it’s balls to the wall. We just go, you know. We get to travel. Those experiences are priceless. Places that you would never ever go in a million years, not any reason to go to like some place in Idaho. Those people don’t get top talent out there. They don’t get A-list bands. There’s no place to put them. They live 500 miles from the nearest city. You go to these places and thousands of people show up. And it’s crazy. It’s an amazing feeling.
Q: Your final words before going out on that stage tonight and performing LIVE on national TV.
NB: We’re just very grateful to be here tonight, on this show, and you know, being broadcast nationally. It’s been an amazing ride, you know, we’re lucky the car’s still moving.
Thanks to Neill, Jim and Gino for spending time with us and letting us in on some great stories about Draw the Line’s journey. We wish the band well and know they will continue to flourish, especially after their exhilarating performance on WGTB. The audience was amazed by the showmanship and their attention to detail. As always, after the show, fans got a chance to get pictures with the boys in front of the Whisky by the step and repeat, but it was after the fans left that something remarkable happened. Steven Tyler himself showed up at the Rainbow Bar and Grill to congratulate and hang out with his fellow Bostonians. Must be that Boston fan thing Neill was telling us about.
Check out Draw the Line on Facebook to see where they're headed next.
For more pictures of the band go to: Renee Silverman Smug Mug