All Access Magazine Articles

July 24, 2008

ARRA “Rules the fest circuit in Chicago”

Interview

By Jim Obos

ARRAAAM (Jim Obos): Welcome, and thanks for taking the time to talk to All Access Magazine after the show tonight.

Kevin Conner (KC): No, thank you- this should be fun.

Band: This will be good

AAM: You guys just got done with the set at Westchester Fest, how do you feel?

KC: Feel great, feel awesome, and it was a great show!

Blaze: Just getting warmed up

Kevin Kreis (KK): 8000 people… well maybe in our my mind

AAM: Is Westchester Fest your home show? Do you feel like you are at home?

KC: Yes, this has been a festival we have played at least ten or twelve times over the seventeen years we have been together. It has always been the premier festival that we play every year. We seem to be a staple and do real well here, and we love playing here. The only thing is we only play for 90 minutes, and we are used to playing for a couple of hours. But it is a festival, and after 90 minutes you’re just getting moving and your time is over.

AAM: You are ARRA… who exactly is ARRA?

Kevin Conner: ARRA is the band dodging the June bugs right now. As far as Band Members go; ARRA is Tyler Holcomb/ lead vocals, Kevin Kreis/keyboards, Jim Zahrobsky “Blaze”/rhythm guitar-lead guitar and vocals, Steve Latka/bass-vocals, Kevin Conner/ lead guitar and tonight sitting in for Rob Wiseman our regular percussion, is Tony Nopalitano

Jim Zahrobsky (JZ): Rob Wiseman is our regular drummer but has an injury right now.

KC: Dean Faciano is our lighting director, Dave Keating and Josh Osborne (no relation) and Mike Skidmore – these guys keep us on stage looking and sounding like we do – thanks guys

JZ: Dean you are the “Lighting Dude”

ARRAAAM: ARRA, you guys have been together and playing for how long?

KC: I think sixteen, no seventeen years now

AAM: Is this your original line-up

KC: Tyler joined the group about two years ago, January 1st so 19 months now, since we have had “Super Ty” as we like to call him.

AAM: Seventeen years, what do you attribute your longevity too?

KC: I think we have a band full of people that are level headed, get along, and know what it takes to keep a band moving forward.

TH: I think so too, I mean I used to sneak into clubs when I was in high school to see these guys…

JZ: Here goes the “I’m younger than you guys thing”

TH: Truthfully, because we do the same thing and have been for 17 years. We play 80’s rock like Journey, Kansas, and all the timeless hits that everyone wants to hear. I’m talking about how ARRA got in, way before the curve of being “cool” to play these types of songs and we have been for 17 years now. Now, it’s kind of hip, kind of cool to do the 80’s music – I mean I would sneak in with our fake id’s, my buddies and me, (mom close your eyes) we would sneak in to Toto’s the Thirsty Whale other places and heckle them from the back to sing songs like “Oh Sherrie” and they would belt it out, and to me they have been playing for so long now they have stayed true to all the phases of music. Wither it was grunge, alternative, whatever they have been doing the same thing for 17 years and now it’s just bigger than ever. 80’s and being cool to do the retro stuff the fans like. It amazes me and I have to pinch myself to think that I’m the one in front, ya know. Singing with these guys is something I always dreamed of doing.

AAM: Now Tyler you say doing the same thing and yet I have been shooting these guys for quite a long time off and on and I know that the song selection has changed up a little here and there. Who picks that song selection? Is it you, the fans or a committee of the band?

TH: I think for the most part we try and do songs that I feel comfortable singing or what fits our range. We’ve done some newer things now, thrown in some newer songs to kind of shake it up a little bit. But, we play a variety of venues not just festivals. We do clubs, private parties, so you have to have the variety, stuff that is dance friendly, radio friendly, current and while that’s why we mix it up a little bit. The core of what we play and what makes this band different and given the band its longevity is the monster ballads. Those monsters feel good tunes, with big harmonies, the big guitar solos, drums and keyboards that the fans can relate to and sing along with and that really make these songs great.

KC: 17 years ago the average 25year old fan was listening to the “A” side and the “B” side songs of the bands we play. Now they don’t, well there isn’t really an “A” or “B” side. But now they listen to the greatest hits albums. So, if we don’t play those songs you don’t get as good as a reaction, so we play the greatest hits and mix in the new stuff to blend in and get a more diverse sound and overall show that our fans really go for. Plus we add to our fan base and following by playing those new songs. Something maybe out of our genre of what we do but is popular and current.

KK: What sets ARRA apart is that we pick songs that feature our strengths, vocals, etc.

TH: The big trend of today is that some bands may enhance their sound with sequencers, but to Kevin’s point, we stay true to the doing what you hear on the CD live, we stay true to the sound that you hear. And pulling off three and four part harmonies live night after night is what we do.

JZ: Nothing is sequenced; it is us live on stage making it sound like you hear out of the radio or off the record. We learn the song the way the original bands wrote the songs and play the songs themselves.

TN: Yes, in the middle of Silent Lucidity I thought Blaze was sequenced and then I look over and there he is belting it out.

KC: We tune to true 4 40 tuning, and that allows us to nail the harmonies and nail the songs so the fans hear what they hear on the radio.

AMM: The fans appreciate that – here I am out in the crowd taking photos and I hear the comments about how awestruck the fans are to your sound when you are on stage, because you hit those harmonies that sound that they’re familiar with from listening to the radio... I think that is totally awesome nice job!

Band: thank you

KC: Let me ask Jim Obos a question, you being a good friend with our original singer, Ron Platt, who is now part of Shooting Star, What do you think of our new “Super Ty” out new lead vocals?

Jim Obos: after a little laughter… Nice Kevin, turning it around and putting me on a little spot here, I like it I like it…

You know it’s interesting because I am friends with Ron and familiar with his style and vocals. I will tell you that when I heard that you would be lead vocals for these guys and hearing the other bands that you play with Tyler, I thought to myself, come on, really? I thought can this guy really fit into what ARRA plays. Not that you couldn’t sing what they play, just that could you fit in. The first time I heard you sing was at John Barleycorn in Schaumburg, the other shows I was at you were with the other band.

KC: Greco was singing

Jim Obos: Right, and still I was thinking; I just don’t know how Tyler was going to fit in. But I have to say, you really fit in this band great. Your vocals fit, your stage presence fits, you fit in the band and you sound great!

Band: we all agree

KC: I think the fun that I have now with Tyler next to me on stage, I haven’t had this much fun in a long time

Jim Obos: You guys show that on stage, when you are up there you are like a team, a family up there and it portrayed to the crowd and fans…

TH: Yes, we are really starting to gel, it took nine months for us to really gel as a family, and I feel like we are all on the same page, vibing out there together and just having a great time. I was a fan of Ron’s – there is no bigger fan of Ron Platt than me, I would listen to him and say oh my gosh, I can’t believe what this guy can do live night after night after night, and to hear someone from outside have those kind words, and the band agree, who I was a fan of, ya know, feels really good.

TN: For me as a jobbing drummer someone who fills in for drummers, seeing many different things with different bands, to come in and play with a band on short notice they do it true to the album, Tyler does it true to the album so for me it’s just so easy to play with these guys because they are professionals and learn what is true to the sound and what the fans want to hear – that’s why these guys are so popular. They will draw for many more years because they know what works, and what the fans want from them, and I have only been subbing for two or 3 weeks now.

AAM: Tony you are here filling in as the drummer because Rob…

JZ: He had surgery done on his knee.

AAM: From drumming too hard?

Band: We wish there was a more romantic story like that but he fell.

TH: The guy did 3 shows with his quad muscle rolling up his leg.

JZ: Literally he did two shows. One for a DVD, then he went home and had the surgery, he is a true professional, bahahaha. (Inside joke going on)

AAM: You guys are great on stage does that carry off stage? Do you guys hang out or is your other life a priority?

JZ: Well some of these guys have family and it is tough. Setting priorities is key, so we get together for practice and maybe a dinner but really don’t get to hang out all that much with some of us having two jobs and family etc.

AAM: You have stage presence that is pretty cool, and it moves out to the fans, what do you get back from them? How Tyler gets up and plays guitar for a song, Kevin C you walk off stage and let them do their thing. You all play off each other like a family. What do you grab from the fans when you are on stage?

JZ: The more rowdy they are the better it is for us, we take everything from them, the energy, the enthusiasm. It’s a perpetual cycle.

TH: It’s a relationship, a love affair, the more you give out the more it comes back, but all the dynamics have to be there. The fans, a lighting guy that makes us look great, a crew that keeps us moving and a sound guy like Bob that makes our sound fly.

AAM: Bob, you mean from Tantra Sound?

TH: Yes, from Tantra sound. When everything is there it’s like magic, it is a lot of fun and it gives you goose bumps.

AAM: Does it give you chills when you are singing and you hold the mic out and the fans are singing back at you as strong as they are?

KC: Yes, even more so than you would believe.

KK: It’s a definite energy exchange that works an energy exchange between band and friends in the crowd the more they give the more we give.

AAM: Any favorite places to play? Venue?

JZ: Tonight it was Westchester Fest in Westchester, Illinois, this place rocked!

KC: Really all the places we play in and all of them are our favorites. We can’t pick just one because each is unique with different fans that show up, and they are all our favorites.

AAM: Indoor or outdoor?

Band: When it is like tonight the outdoor gigs are the best, this was awesome here. When it’s cold in Chicago, we like to move indoors, ha ha.

AAM: Dean, Light Dude. What venue does you like the best?

Dean: Places that have more moving equipment and lots of them so I don’t have a lot of set up time.

AAM: So places like Austin’s, Barleycorn, Durty Nellies, Bourbon Street, etc.

Dean / band: yes all those and more

AAM: Tell me what you think of this statement; ARRA rules the fest circuit in Chicago. How do you like to hear that? I have heard that from other bands too?

KC: That is quite a compliment to hear.

AAM: Did that get you to and I quote “the BEST CLASSIC ROCK BAND in the Suburban Nightlife’s best of the barb’s contest for the SECOND YEAR IN A ROW?

JZ: Fans, fans, fans, the fans are what got us here and to win that title. Thank You Fans

KC: Jumping back to other band calling us the kings of the fests. We do our best to try and help bands play more festivals, giving advice, recommendations, etc. there are certain thing you need to do to play fests, some bands have the name, same bands aren’t family friendly and you really need to be with language, song selection etc. Festivals are family orientated and we have helped as much as we can with the other bands that want to play festivals.

AAM: Tyler is it as easy as you make it sound with the schedule you have?

TH: No, it’s not easy. But what makes it real easy is singing in front of these guys. I could have no voice all day, and then get on stage with these guys with their energy. Knowing that when we get to that spot in the song that these guys are going to be right there with me with harmonies and riffs and rhythms that are killer. It makes you come alive and makes you want to hit every note. So again, no it’s not easy sometimes but these guys help make it easy.

AAM: Well, you sound like you make it easy when you are up there.

TH: thank you

AAM: What are you looking forward to over the next few months?

Band: More shows like Westchester Fest and the fans that come to see us play.

AAM: What is your next show, a little plug for the fans.

KC: Well we have two shows, July 25th at Sugar Grove Corn Boil, and the 26th is Streamwood Fest, another pretty big show for us.

AAM: Any message for your fans?

Band: We love you and thank you for coming out and enjoying what we do, we do it for you guys. It is great to see generations out there in the crowd, even kids, 20 year olds singing along and knowing the songs. This is like timeless music that we play.

AAM: Lots of families, or people that have seen you play over the years that now have kids of their own coming to see you… that’s gotta feel good

KC: Yes it does, and seeing Fathers and sons, Mothers and daughters hanging together signing is just fun to watch… and we really appreciate it.

TH: I wanted to say that I’ve never been part of a group or a band/family that had so much support. I mean from the fans. Thanks to the crew, and our lighting guys, sound guys and especially the guys that come out and haul our gear and help with the stage. I feel very lucky to be a part of it all, thanks guys.

KC: (and the band chimes in) Thank you Mr. Jim Obos and thanks to All Access Magazine.com – come check us out at www.arraweb.com and also on www.myspace.com/arrachicago

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