Written by Lucas P. Jones
The Ian Bamberger Trio is comprised of three men from New Jersey, and their music resonates will people of all ages and musical tastes. While the band is rock music at its core, the Trio manages to incorporate funk, jazz, blues, and rock, and in doing so, they carry the torch of all the Asbury rock bands that came before. Coming off of recent shows in New York, Asbury park, and New Brunswick, the band is getting ready to release a music video for “Love Roulette,” a song off of their upcoming full length album Satisfied. Ian and I were roommates at Rutgers, so when this interview came down the pipes, I jumped at the chance to catch up with a good friend, and a fantastic and talented group of musicians.
How did each of you get your start in music?
Ian Bamberger: I been playing guitar since I was 12. My father was a prominent musician, and I learned the ropes from him and a few others. I’ve been in other bands, so I’ve been doing the band thing for a while as well. Ian Bamberger Trio is my newest project, and we’ve already released two EPs. I’m also studying at NYU for music business.
Bill Grillo: My dad played drums and gave me my first kit, which used to be his kit. Once I started taking lessons from professional instructors, I became immediately hooked. After that I went to U Arts in Philly for jazz performance, which led to me becoming a music teacher in Monmouth County, and now I’m just playing music whenever I can.
Which musicians or bands have influenced your style of play the most?
IB: I take this from two perspectives, songwriter and guitar. As far as songwriting goes, Bob Dylan is king of lyricists. The way he paints a picture with words is absurd. Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce. They have such simple ways to describe things that we can all relate to. Youth, love, the struggles of growing up, it becomes poetry. On guitar, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman and his use of harmonies. John Frusicante, John Mayer and his work with the John Mayer Trio, Jack White. White’s album, De Stijl, it’s amazing what you can do with such minimalism. BG: The minimalism is great. Its one of the hardest things to learn for me, especially coming from a jazz background.
IB: Some of the greatest drummers are rock drummers. Its about more than technicality, its emotion.
BG: From a drumming perspective, my influences are rooted in the landmark jazz artists, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams. Drumming is much more than a supportive roll, it can be at the forefront of a band. The stuff that really gets me going is music like Evil Empire by Rage Against the Machine. When you’re young and listen to music that angry, with that kind of message, who wouldn’t be drawn to that? From a production standpoint, Trent Reznor. He continually reinvents himself, always coming up with something new. Even if I don’t like one of his albums, I admire his bravery in trying something new and trying to do something different regardless of who cares. I don’t know, it’s tough to say. Carter Beauford from DMB influences what I do. He’s so ambidextrous skilled and creative. I love jazz drummers who can so much with so little, but then Carter has a huge kit and uses every bit of it. And guys like Elvin, you know, he saw sounds as colors. He talked about seeing certain drums parts as reds, certain ones as yellows. I never understood it when I was younger, but now I see there could be so much depth to the instrument.
How did the band come together?
IB: Early in 2014, I went Lakehouse Studios in Asbury Park and put together a five song EP. I had written the songs in my basement, so when I went to record I picked up a drummer and bass player; they learned all the music on the spot. I wanted to go back to the roots of power trio rock, and from there on we’ve just been trying to keep this train rolling
BG: John [Leidersdorff], the owner of Lakehouse Studios, hooked me up with Ian. I was teaching lessons in the Academy for a few months, and I saw John in the stairwell, and he said, “Dude, I’m gonna give this guy your number.” He described Ian to me, and a few days later I got the call. Ian seemed super excited and motivated and I connected with that.
IB: Oh dude, you’re gonna make me cry…definitely don’t put that in (Laughs)
Oh, that’s going in for sure….How would describe your sound?
IB: We try to transcend a lot of genres. We bring jazz, blues, and the Jersey sound together with a modern twist.
BG: I would say the intersection of groove rock and blues.
BG: Yes the funk is there. But I think another part is being relentless. Some people talk about dynamics as being key, but lately it’s just been all about being as hyped and relentless as possible. It’s a competition to see who can sweat the most on stage. And you (Ian) win every time.
Do you have any interesting show stories?
BG: So the last show we played at Left field, they told us the kit would be back lined. So we get in there, and we find out the bass pedal on the drum kit is broken, the spring that makes the pedal come back is busted. Almost any other piece on the kit would be fine, except for that. So I tried to fix it with a bunch of stuff, none of it worked. Because I knew if I couldn’t fix, I would have to run back to my car, a mile each way, in under 20 minutes, then play a 45-minute show. So I end up running back, grabbing it in time, and being so exhausted that I didn’t talk to anyone before we started.
IB: One of the craziest shows was Delancy Club for our EP release show. Bill and I had jammed for a while with the loop pedal. We said, our bassist was late; he was stuck in the riots after the Michael Brown incident. So we decided to play the show as a two-piece with the loop pedal, but at the last minute, Adam Gerver, our bassist shows up with like 20 people, all for the show. And we killed it.
BG: You should have seen Ian. On adrenaline and annoyed, he was freaking out. I said to him, “This isn’t going to happen to us, don’t worry.” You can sometimes feel when stuff is going to go wrong, and I didn’t feel that.
IB: It was also weird to play a show while that was all happening. This rock band from jersey playing a show in the middle of riots, that’s kind of why rock music, at least the type that influences us, even started. The issues out there are some of the things we write about, and not a lot of bands are writing about it.
BG: You know, if bands like RATM were around, these are the things they would be writing about. We need more bands to be out there writing music about hard stuff, stuff that makes people uncomfortable, because its important, to us and to everyone.
So you’re about to release a full-length album. Can you talk about what’s on it? Any new directions for your sound?
IB: Yep! Ten songs, three of which are coming from previous works, redone for the new album. One cover, which is a secret. We took a song and put our own spin on it
BG: Everyone is putting out EPs, it’s the smart thing financially, and all that. but I don’t know man, we just wanted to make a whole record. Forget about what we should do, lets do what we want. We’ve got stuff to say, lets say it all at once. Bring back double albums, concept albums. Just get your art out there.
IB: The sound is not really different, but it’s more mature. We’ve played together enough to know what we want. We want a live sound, but we want it to be something that’s high quality. We keep it natural, at most we’ve got a few vocal layers. We try to carve our own sound out of the jersey rock and power trio genres.
BG: If you go back and listen to “Those Girls,” which I wasn’t a part of, from a drumming perspective, I think I wanted to step into Ian’s sound, and be a natural fit. But once I realized this musical relationship was going to continue, I wanted to put my own stamp on things, and carve out my part in this band. Certain songs were recorded in different places, and each place lends a unique quality, each song fits a certain atmosphere.
IB: I just want to mention about our bassist, Adam Gerver. He’s amazing. He stays right in the pocket. Never overplays, always on time. Absolutely amazing.
BG: He’s a savant, really. He’s just one of those guys that can do it all, and he never gives himself enough credit for what he can do and what he contributes. He’s honest; not trying to step on toes, but always speaks his musical truth.
What makes the Asbury scene unique compared to other places you play?
IB: The Asbury scene is full of very talented musicians of all genres. There’s an atmosphere of competitiveness, but it pushes the whole group to want to make new music. You have all these clubs, Stone Pony, The Asbury Lanes, Wonder Bar, and the Convention Hall. It’s really vibrant and it’s really intense.
BG: My music scene was Philly, because that’s where I grew up. It has all types of stuff, funk, soul, jazz, rock. Then I came here and I wasn’t connected, but as I explored I became more and more connected to it. We are all about the same thing, trying to rediscover the scene and the energy that made people like Springsteen famous and exciting. You know how powerful it is when people Like Bruce Springsteen still comes to the Wonder Bar to have a beer and check out live local music, that has to speak for how interesting the scene continues to be.
You’ve got a music video coming out soon, for the song “Love Roulette.” What can we look forward to from that?
BG: It’s just fun. It’s the most fun we’ve had making a video. We filmed it at The Saint in Asbury
IB: It’s just us trying to build our image, I think. Lots of cool visuals. After the music video, we are going to have a CD release show in Asbury, and a Northeast tour set for later this year. Looking forward to big things
What’s one thing people should know about IBT?
IB: We have a lot of juice, a lot of fire. We want to make a statement, we want to make waves. We have our voice and we want others to hear it. I feel like we have a lot to offer. Our music thrives in a live setting, because of that energy.
BG: If you were to come see us live, I feel like you are going to watch. Not because we sick, or because the songs are genre breaking, but just because the songs are fun. We have fun on stage, and it shows. We want people to have as much fun as we do.
The Ian Bamberger Trio performs tonight with Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son, and Morningside Lane at Happy Mondays at The Wonder Bar.