I worked with the Musicians Guild to put the benefit concert together for Chris Conner after he was diagnosed with cancer. The event was to have many of Chris’s personal musician friends perform along with a few other local Columbia bands who had volunteered their time and talent to be there. One such band was the very uniquely talented and short lived Petrillo Relents. We arrived early to prepare the hall for the show that evening and Petrillo took the stage to get a sound check for the sound engineer, they performed “Temptation Told Me” and I was absolutely blown away! listening to the band deliver and taking in the visuals they presented clothed in matching polyester suit pieces with a hint of post depression accessories I could not help but think this was so cool. After they left the stage I walked over to the lead singer Andrew Alvey and introduced myself telling him just how impressed I was with their sound where upon he quickly produced a copy of their newly released CD “Strange Passengers” and handed it over to me. I thanked him for this and we said our goodbyes as we both had much to do before the show that night. I did not know it then but much like Chris, Petrillo Relents would not be with us very long. I managed to track down most of the band and get their permission to put this showcase together which I am so grateful for – such a wonderful collection of talented musicians brought together to create the music which belongs only to them and Petrillo Relents. Though he resides in North Carolina now Andrew Alvey was kind enough to answer a set of questions I compiled for him on the band and it’s short history which I have posted below –
JA: How was Petrillo Relents formed?
The band was formed through luck and chance. Me, Jeff Johansson (keys) and Dave Michelson (lead guitar) met through the open-mic at the Village Idiot. We became friends then eventually met Bill Stevens (bass) and Andrew Hoose (drums) just through hanging out and word of mouth.
JA: When was Petrillo Relents formed?
We played our first show at Mac's on Main November 11, 2004. We had been practicing as a band for about six months before that and had all been friends for about a year or so. By the time we played our first show we were excited about the sound and the feel we were getting and it felt very natural. It didn't hurt that everyone in the band was already comfortable on stage. I was the least experienced in live performance. The open-mics at the Village Idiot were my first real live performances. Before that I'd gotten on stage a few times really drunk and made a fool of myself. The very first time I got on stage was at New Brookland Tavern where I was so drunk I stopped playing in the middle of a song, laid down on stage and passed out.
JA: Can you explain the band name and how it came about?
We were a Columbia band through and through. Petrillo Relents is the head-line of a newspaper sealed forever under varnish in the 5 points legendary Yesterday's restaurant. As far as I know you can still find it there. The article was the story of how the first orchestral performance came to be on television. James Petrillo was the union leader for the American Musician's Association. He was basically against all uses of music other than live performance in front of a live crowd. He didn't see how the musicians could be fairly compensated when music could endure on record and be sold and re-sold. But he and NBC finally came to an agreement. It was a big deal at the time and celebrated with the headline "Petrillo Relents!"
JA: How did the aesthetic appearance of the band come about?
As for the look...I guess I was already wearing thrift store suits and had been "dressing up" to play on stage and play at real life. I think it is important for a band to be visually coherent. I think it's useful to draw a "line" between the audience and performer. It can help people get into the songs, accept the art that's been created as having a purpose. And I thought it would look kinda’ silly with half the band dressed up so I asked the fellows to wear suits and they agreed. Plus it really is fun to get drunk as hell and play rock n' roll in a suit.
JA: What was the song writing process for the band as a whole?
As for song-writing...I would usually come to the band with a completed song and we would jam until everyone individually liked what they were playing. We were a very organic group. It was the personalities that drove the music. We had faith and love in each other. It came through the music.
JA: Who managed the band?
We had no management but looking back we should have sought some out. The music was natural and easy. A game plan for a "business" doesn't work that way.
JA: How was the CD financed?
We had family help finance the recording of the album, for example my father, William Alvey contributed even going so far as to purchase instruments to help out. We also got a grant from the SC Arts Council and even a little help from the studio itself. We had no industry backing.
JA: How was the CD packaged for release?
We had a friend come up with the album artwork and sent everything to a reproduction company. Each of us pitching in some cash to get it made.
JA: How did you go about distributing the release?
We had no real distribution. We hand delivered CD's to local record stores and sold them at shows. We really didn't have our shit together at all.
JA: Were there any artists or bands local to Columbia and area that were a source of inspiration?
As for local bands I gotta’ say Josh Roberts still blows my mind. Chris Conner and his brother were playing good tunes and playing them well. We watched The Movement blow-up and they deserved it. They put on a great show. And the irrepressible Danielle Howle. Always a great show!
These questions were for Andrew Alvey:
JA: When and why did you start playing?
I started playing music at about twenty. I was living with a friend in Montana and he could already pick pretty well. I had always written some poetry and stream of conscience type stuff. He showed me a few chords and I started playing his guitar while he was at work. It never was that hard for me to sing and play at the same time. And through hours and hours alone in a room I started to figure out how I wanted to sound and what I wanted to say. It's been an editing job ever since.
JA: Describe your first instrument
My first guitar was an acoustic black Jackson/Charvelle that my girlfriend bought for me. We traded. I bought her a baby blue Fender Strat.
JA: How do you go about writing and composing?
As for practicing and writing it's still a full time obsession. I always felt that inspiration was waiting and once you missed an idea it might be gone forever so I've been real protective of my life and keeping it free for the pursuit of art.
JA: Is your family musical?
My family wasn't particularly musical. A few hobbiest here and there. My Uncle John is a visual artist and has made a life for himself without compromise. I find that very inspiring.. I believed in art and love and found it hard to believe in much else. I figured if I dedicated myself to music everything would work out. "You cannot fail as an artist, it is a success merely to be one"
JA: What are your best musical memories either solo or playing in a band?
My favorite memories....Being on stage with great friends and feeling so proud to be there with them knowing they are killing it, being overwhelmed with the physical force of the sound, transcending all the bullshit of everything by being completely hypnotized in deep meditation and prayer of the music. The best shows were out-of-body experiences.
JA: Who are your favorite musicians (signed or unsigned)?
I appreciate anyone with creativity and ideas. So all the greats from Bob Dylan to L. Cohen to The Staple Sisters, The Band, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Beatles. Skip James would be my favorite single artist. He played somewhere below the blues in a drunken hallucination of early America.
JA: Groups (signed or unsigned)?
These days I check any and everything that catches my eye in the library. I enjoy exploring all music and the library is a great place to do that. So I might check out some jazz I've always heard about but never listened too, a rock and roll classic like Steely Dan, some classical and maybe some world music and folk that I have no idea about at all. I love the library!
JA: Growing up were you influenced by any recordings?
Growing up, I mostly listened to the radio. The first song I remember really wanting to hear as much as possible was "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics. I'm still drawn to darker music I guess but that song was the first preference I had for a song. And it's still dark and true today. For me the country blues of Lightnin' Hopkins, early Muddy Water, of course Skip James, Robert Johnson are very inspiring. It proves an artist with an instrument and a unique point of view about singing and playing is more important than all the slick gloss and marketing. Those guys will be re-discovered forever. Most millionaire musicians will be forgotten because ultimately they have no real personality or artistic purpose.
JA: What are your thoughts on the state of music and the music industry today?
As for modern music and the music industry what can you say. It's hard to think of another art form that has an industry( the painting industry?, the poetry industry? the photography industry?) so there's something unusual about music I guess. It cuts through, you like it or dislike it mostly on a sub-conscience level. You judge it before you've even realized it. There is real power in music. That power is shared to an incredible degree during live performances. I have to believe that sharing music live is what it's always been about. The "industry" of music was made-up out of thin air by non-musicians trying to harness some of that power and magic.
JA: Do you attend jam sessions and what makes a good session?
As a musician, playing music live in whatever capacity gives me immediate purpose and value without any middlemen. This purpose and value transfer to all parts of my life instantly. Once again "You cannot fail as an artist, it is a success merely to be one". I play open-mics still on occasion. It's a great way to take the true pulse of an area. It's a great way to meet other musicians to jam with. A good session takes people with different perspectives. It's always fun to get a buzz and switch up instruments creating a true improvisation. But really sometimes the magic is there and sometimes it isn't. Only God knows why.
JA: How do you balance your music with family or other personal obligations?
There isn't much of a balancing act between work and play. I've never been married, have no kids, and have no debt. It is getting harder and harder to get by though. For the last few years I've been trying to find a place where I can actually make a living through music. No pie in the sky dream here though, just need a place with enough venues to support playing three to four times a week without having to travel a few hundred miles to do it. Money gigs in bars can be fun and it's the only way I can think of to have an interesting life and make some money. With all the changes in the music industry that has never changed.
JA: What advice would you give beginning musicians or songwriters?
If you really want to make a living at music, you work your ass off hustling up shows. Period. James Brown had to do it. Johnny Cash, The Beatles and Stones even Bon Jovi. Without a doubt, you've got to start somewhere. "That's an old saying. You know how a saying gets old? Cause it's true." -Dr.John