Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

By David Boyle

As a lifetime admirer of music and musicians, I’ve been an avid supporter of a broad range of styles and forms. Music—the arts as a whole—has stimulated my interest and imagination ever since the 1970s and ’80s, an era of my life when I was exposed to a wide variety of the arts, and, over time, developed my own selective musical ear, my own extremely discriminating tastes. For me, being a music enthusiast has come with a number of privileges, the most unforgettable of which is being invited to visit a band in the studio and permitted a front-row seat at a rehearsal: a view of the artists’ inner workings, their interaction, and the characteristics which make them distinctive.

For Pat Llewellyn and The Parade, "home” consists of a sizable, neon-lit studio in New Jersey, an exclusive domain where the magical process of creation bonds those who cross the threshold—those who have music in their heart, in their blood, in their soul. Entering the room and approaching the stage and elegant instruments, I was greeted by each musician, given a warm, generous hug, and thanked profusely for being on hand.

To the left was a portion of Llewellyn’s gear: An effects-board with pedals; a Fender Jaguar guitar Classic Player Special HH. Nearby, I spotted, tucked in a corner, a Vox AC 15amplifier—reliable equipment for a surefire musician. Llewellyn himself, fans should know, has thrived as a solo artist, having made music most of his life, having published a number of songs since his early days. A multi-instrumentalist, he plays—besides guitar—the mandolin, the banjo, and the trumpet. Pat Llewellyn and The Parade is his first collaboration with Dan Rodriguez, Mike Bell, and the Pultz brothers, Nick and Steve—a collective bound for stardom. I, for one, can’t wait to witness their ascension to the top of the charts.

As many music aficionados would agree, they are well on their way. Time, patience, resilience, their evolving sound, will put the Parade at the forefront of the scene. According to bassist Mike Bell, “Playing rock music, being in this band, is like having eternal youth.” That, to me, sounds like the inspiring maxim of a prosperous, fulfilled musician. “It never gets old,” he continues. “We started from scratch. And we had instant chemistry when we got together. No growing pains,” he adds matter-of-factly. Having been present in recent weeks at some of the Parade’s jam sessions, I knew Bell was speaking earnestly. Their chemistry makes them even more stimulating to watch, leaving me to wonder how many other bands share such a durable rapport. Very few, I surmise. Their musicianship, their level of performance, their creativity—attributes to marvel at.

I surveyed all the equipment as we exchanged salutations. As for general impressions, I found the men bright, lively, and disarming, both individually and as a band. Rock aficionados often discuss the personalities of rocks stars, wondering how on every level they conduct themselves off stage, separated from sparkling and shifting lights, screaming fans, and altogether frenzied environs, in addition, of course, to the goings-on backstage, the meet-and-greets, the signings, etc. Well, curious minds, as I discovered in Paradeville, these particular rock stars—mild-mannered, even-tempered, and introspective—have alternate personalities. I mean “alternate” subjectively, of course. They are endearing without coming off as overly eccentric, arrogant, or pretentious, a rarity in the rock & roll universe. In fact, as I got comfortable on the large couch just inside the entrance door, trying to sort through my scattered thoughts while scribbling notes on my pad, I observed the band sharing notes of their own: verbal notes, that is, pertaining to the song they were about to launch into.

Each player had something to contribute. Each spoke in language probably only musicians could comprehend: discussing speed, tempo, key, and other musical components. For now I viewed the band as ordinary men (which they are, by the way, ordinary men with stupendous talent) talking in code, as if preparing for a clandestine mission of some sort, although from my perspective, the atmosphere, laid-back and informal, was conducive to further observation and reflection.

And I took advantage: At my sides, two massive amplifiers on stands stood guard. Guitar cases leaned against the walls, their lustrous surfaces sticker-covered. On the left side of the stage, mounted on a microphone stand, was a plastic skull, “grandma,” watching over the band. No story behind the skull. It just looks cool, the men say. Pultz’s drum-kit, made by Dark Horse Percussion (his sponsor), glistened in my peripheral vision. Steve Pultz’s guitars and PA were equally eye-catching, as were Rodriguez’s and Bell’s set-ups. Nick and Steve Pultz, moreover, have enjoyed notable success in past years as members of Royden, a rock band that once toured the festival circuit accompanying other prominent acts. Also noteworthy is Bell’s current role in the much-talked-about metal band Comb the Desert, as well as Rodriquez’s musical background: he started his journey on drums and then progressed to guitar by the sixth grade. A born axe-man he is, though, through and through, having been influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Johnson, and John Mayer, to cite a few masters. Rodriguez reflects: “I remember hearing Llewellyn’s ‘Peaceful Man,’ and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get something going with these guys. They’re fantastic.” Rodriguez grew up across the street from band-mate Nick Pultz. “I’m fortunate that our paths have crossed again,” he says, “Nick, and this group, are tops.”

Guitarist-vocalist Steve Pultz came into the studio having written a song a few days earlier. “I was sitting around at home,” he says, “just casually playing my guitar, and my wife liked what I was doing. So I kept playing, and out came this,” he continues, strumming the cords. The Parade members were tweaking that song, doing whatever possible to make it a fuller, more dynamic piece. Some adjustments came off easily while others seemed very complex, requiring extensive thought, analysis, fine-tuning and restructuring. The men were lost in the tides of serene creativity, dutifully composing material for their stunning new album, Do You Believe?, which is coming soon. The scene was oddly tranquil and reflective. Stillness pressed within the walls, the sensation of being in a train station just before a locomotive charges through, or moments before a forbidding storm gathers and bears down. I myself could for the interim think meditatively, and I kept my pen moving.

Soon a song would imbue the room, and its beat, I was certain, would dominate all present. The band continued deliberating, and my gaze floated about the studio—left and right, up and down—taking note again of the equipment, the lighting, and absorbing the overall pungency of the atmosphere, one of fun and of unequivocal creative freedom. The band, sorting out the intricacies of the tune, were respectful of each other as critiques bounced back and forth between them. Nobody seemed insulted or offended by the unreserved evaluations. This studio, a place of genuine support, encouragement, and unmitigated openness, its inhabitants, from my vantage point, egoless and humble, had a singular vibe. Steve Pultz turned to me and said, “You never know where ideas are going to come from, man. One of the joys of being a musician—spontaneity.” His band-fellows, smiles forming, nodded in agreement. I thought: This band’s slogan should be Fear not the invisible boundaries. My genuine appreciation of all I was being allowed to experience had climbed yet another notch.

Suddenly, as if a bomb had detonated, Llewellyn and company exploded into a catchy, epic-sounding, made-for-radio song, “We Will Be Free,” from their forthcoming album. The sound, gushing from the amplifiers enclosing me, felt like a burst of nitroglycerine, though this drugless fix, paradoxically, completely refreshed my mind, my train of thought, and my focus. The day’s troubles and tensions had dissolved. For the duration of the song I was awe-stricken, rendered wordless, so much so that I couldn’t swallow, my mouth had become cotton-dry. How intoxicating the sound of real music, of real talent, of real, tangible ambition, the spectacle unfolding before me in a feverish blur. Each member had slipped into another mental and emotional zone, taking on his own stage persona, even though playing to an audience of only one—me. Privileged to be on hand? Indeed I was.

The men, in a matter of moments after they had struck the first chords, became supercharged characters, having what I interpreted, more or less, as an out-of-body experience. This singular mindset, this total immersion into craft, sparked within me a lasting impression, buoying my fascination. It is my opinion that all musicians, regardless of discipline, live for these surreal moments of transformation and of connection with themselves and their audience. And I experienced the rush with them, though I had no instrument in hand, nor the ability to play one. The sensations surging through me were alluring. Although I had been nothing more than a mere spectator, I felt otherwise, like I was a member of the Parade, on a float—their stage. Then they played “Utopia,” a forceful track, as well as a series of other adeptly wrought tunes, and multiple takes of each, jamming toward more cohesive versions. From the couch, the view, the sound, was truly transfixing. This ambitious Jersey band has a vision: not limiting themselves to a single outlook.

During a short break, the band sat on the edge of the stage, and we chatted. I asked them about expectations, about what the masses demand of them in a live setting. Though extremely impressed by the exhibition I had just seen, I was still curious as to how my question might be answered. Drummer Nick Pultz was quick with a rejoinder, expressing confidently, “We are entertainers. We know how to put on a show. We give off a lot of energy. The fans deserve our best.” An honest, direct response. No frills. As it should be.

The Parade has been exploring every fulfilling musical direction within the sphere of rock & roll, remaining, as ever, limitless, prospering within the groove that feels truest at the moment. Rest assured, devout listeners, Llewellyn himself has never been hampered by a dearth of material. There’s so much more to come, numerous songs to write, and a long string of shows to play. “I’m always writing,” he says. “I can’t not write. I’ve got too much on my mind.” And their devoted fans—I myself one of countless—haven’t stopped yearning for an inkling of what might happen next, from the creative minds of five virtuosos, who have assembled for a purpose. What is that purpose? Well, New Jersey, the Parade—a musical revelation—is about to surface. Entitled Do You Believe?, Pat Llewellyn and The Parade’s upcoming album will give Jersey a reason to feel triumphant, a reason to rock hard and tirelessly. The rock & roll universe is lucky to have them. Come fall 2016, buy the album, attend a show, be part of the Parade, and spread the vibe.


Upcoming show:
Friday June 3, 2016 - Stanhope House, 45 Main St, Stanhope, NJ
Pat Llewellyn and The Parade, The Mosers, Day At The Fair, Hidden In Plain View
(Pat Llewellyn & The Parade perform at 7:30 pm)

 is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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Music Fanzine - Jersey Beat