Punk and rock n' roll reviews from Lord Rutledge and friends
Friday, November 1, 2019
Nick Piunti - "All This Time"
Nick Piunti has been one power pop's shining stars in recent years. He has released four albums since 2013 - all of them absolutely brilliant. He's got another one in the works for 2020, which will be his first with his band The Complicated Men. Out now on Jem Records, new single "All This Time" is a little sneak preview of the forthcoming full-length. The Complicated Men are Jeff Hupp (bass), Ron Vensko (drums), Kevin Darnall (keyboards), and special guest Ryan Allen (guitar, harmony vocals).
Given that Piunti is so well-known for the substance and smarts of his lyrics, it's appropriate that he and the band have released a lyric video for "All This Time". There are few things more powerful than songs lamenting lost love, and I gotta say this one really cuts deep. "You got a lot of nerve to say I'm overserved," sings Piunti. "It's not the drink that did me in, can't find no comfort in my skin." If I said those lines sounded Westerberg-ian, well I certainly wouldn't be the first person to make the comparison! This is just a devastating postmortem on a relationship, building up to the powerful refrain "All I wanna do is wake up without you on my mind". Musically this one is right in Piunti's "power pop for grownups" wheelhouse. And with a terrific band backing him, he sounds in top form.
So give "All This Time" a listen (and a look!). The new album is slated for release early in the new year and will include ten songs. And if you need to get caught up on all the previous albums, now is a great time to do it!
John Borack's Power Pop Plus/Goldmine Magazine
November 3, 2018
Nick Piunti – Temporary High (JEM)
When you’ve got a good thing going you stick with it, and that’s exactly what Nick Piunti does on his latest, Temporary High. The songs are uniformly excellent—perhaps his best batch yet—and Piunti’s vocals capture just the proper amounts of grit and sweetness. The title track is one of those “play it over and over” type of tunes; “If This is Right” has an underlying sadness that ultimately renders it irresistible; and the lyrically snide “Keep Me Guessing” is buoyed by some fine guitar work by Piunti. Temporary High is a permanent power poppin’ highlight of 2018, to be sure. Grade: A
Nick Piunti has been one of the cornerstones of the power-pop revival for several years now; the Michigan native has now delivered his latest collection, Temporary High, with an even cleaner sound; a tightness in the songs and an array of textures that make this album even more appealing than his last, 2016’s Trust Your Instincts. This album is threaded together with a thoughtfulness that says he’s moving into even broader territories than previously.
The opening track, which is also the title cut, drives along with a melodic motor that instantly catches your ear and makes you move while turning it up; “You’re Perfect And I’m Not” is a prime example of the quality of Mr. Piunti’s writing; the structure and melody are well-balanced; the harmonies are on point and this screams of “hit single”, if we were still in the era of 45’s and radio. “You Invented Hell” is the perfect counterpoint to “You’re Perfect…” – opening with slashing minor chords and delivered with the just-right amount of bile in the vocals, it’s another instant classic – and the use of Hammond B3 organ is a brilliant touch – to these ears, between the chiming guitar notes, on-the-one solos and the keyboard, it’s a (conscious or otherwise) tribute to Tom Petty.
“If This Was Right” carries on in the same vein, with fully-fleshed out guitar layers (I keep hearing 12-string Rickenbackers), keyboards and restrained vocals that elevated the emotion of the song; “No Return” kicks off in “2nd single” fashion – explosive drums and riffs, going into a strident rhythm and utilizing the beauty of harmonies on the backing vocals to Beatlesque perfection (and you have to love a track that uses call-and-response). “Deep Freeze” changes the program just a little bit, with a heavier (but no less melodic) guitar frame and synth figures that weave in and out of the “pop-rock” design of the song; it may sound repetitive, but “memorable” and “catchy” are a recurring thing when listening to this album; “Keep Me Guessing” is the album’s standout – it makes me think of The dB’s, The Byrds and bits from Big Star’s In Space – a perfect, cascading riff that takes you in and out of the verses and a very Petty/McGuinn vocal performance.
Another ten-track gem from Nick Piunti, Temporary High is certainly one of those “must have”‘s for 2018. It’s a glorious pop moment.
Regular readers will know that we are great fans of Nick Piunti. He’s an artist who consistently delivers great power pop/pop rock tracks. So, with this new release, it’s probably just a case of finding out how good it is, rather than if we will like it.
Opener and title track “Temporary High” confirms that Nick remains on top form. Together with tracks like “No Return” and “Deep Freeze”, it just demonstrates how he has a knack of blending melodies with crunching guitars and sweet vocals. Songs like “You’re perfect And I’m Not” and “Blameless” are really just great pop songs. They manage to be catchy as hell without being overly saccharine.
Nick is what we would term a ‘proper songwriter’. But, by that, we don’t mean the usual morose singer/songwriter. We’re talking more along the lines of Elvis Costello or Butch Walker. There’s an air of quality to songs like “Contagious” and the Beatles esque “Keep Me Guessing”. There’s even the faint whiff of The Boss on “You Invented Hell”.
Leaving aside the irony that we were listening on headphones to “Headphones”, this song also sees a dip into social commentary. It shows that Nick isn’t content to just rest on his laurels. There’s a shift in the structure on this song which offers up a different style and sound to end the album.
So, as expected, Nick Piunti has released another great album. It again shows his ability to craft fine power pop songs that are a pleasure to listen to. Perfect listening material on a bright, sunny day (even though most of them will be cold in the UK for the next few months). If you love power pop/pop rock it’s another essential purchase and you should be doing all you can to share this release with your friends.
August 2, 2018
Nick Piunti “Temporary High”
Nick Piunti is back and better than ever. Like other power pop contemporary artists (David Mhyr, Rob Bonfiglio) he’s firing on all cylinders here. The opening title track is a great summer anthem with Nick’s distinct raspy vocal and layered guitar riffs. The strong melody lines of “You Invented Hell,” and”If This Was Right” were co-written by Ryan Allen and fit in perfectly.
Nick’s expressive lyrics and jangly guitars on “No Return” are like musical comfort food. The rough edges of some songs are polished just right, like “Blameless” and “Keep Me Guessing.” Nick is amazingly consistent throughout the album, with his all-star band Donny Brown, Andy Reed, Geoff Michael, Plink Giglio and Chris Richards. A joy to listen to from start to finish. Highly Recommended and yes, it’s on my crowded year-end top ten list!
The Morning Sun
July 20, 2018 By Gary Graff
• Album of the Week: Detroit power pop specialist Nick Piunti is in fine form on his latest release, “Temporary High” (JEM), joined by kindred spirit Chris Richards and members of the Verve Pipe on this catch as all get-out 10-songs set.
Faster and Louder
Punk and rock n' roll reviews from Lord Rutledge and friends
Nick Piunti's name has become synonymous with the finest in melody-driven guitar pop. With that in mind, you know exactly what to expect from his latest effort. Out today, Temporary High is Piunti's fourth album in six years (and his second on Marty Scott's Jem Records). It's absolutely the kind of record we've come to expect from Piunti - grounded in gorgeous melodies and smart, thoughtful lyrics. Again Piunti has worked with Andy Reed & Donny Brown as his rhythm section and Geoff Michael as his co-producer. Another frequent collaborator, Ryan Allen, co-wrote two of the tracks. This album definitely applies the principle of not fixing what isn't broken, and I applaud that fully!
In typical Piunti fashion, Temporary High doesn't leave you waiting long for the "hit". The title track is in the lead-off position, and it's vintage Piunti power pop/alternative/dad rock goodness right down to the punchy guitars and stick-in-your head chorus. And I love the coupling of immensely pleasing melodies and serious, hard-to-swallow lyrics. We can probably all think of someone we know that resembles the lyric "Last in the line but first with your hands out", but Piunti shows a deft touch in building from tough love to genuine sympathy. Elsewhere, Piunti runs the gamut of crunchy, mid-tempo power pop ("You're Perfect and I'm Not"), ultra-mellow alt-rock/pop ("Deep Freeze"), upbeat jangly pop ("No Return"), and pure singer/songwriter fare ("If This Was Right", co-written with Allen). The common thread across the album's ten tracks are stellar hooks, silky smooth harmonies, and melodies you're bound to find yourself whistling all day. And while this album has its share of songs exploring the doomed/ill-fated side of romantic relationships, what strikes me is how many of these songs take the brighter view of love. You'd perhaps expect sarcasm from a song titled "You're Perfect and I'm Not"; instead the sentiment is genuinely sweet. Finally an anthem for all of us married men who never forget how lucky we are! And how great of a line is "You stood by this wreck of a train passing by"! Similarly, "No Return" and "Contagious" are tributes to enduring adult love, crafted with humor and eloquence.
It's always an immense pleasure to come across a new record from Nick Piunti. I am not adverse to the idea of Piunti trying new things (check out the drum machines and keyboards on "Headphones"). But ultimately, I know he's never straying too far from the tuneful pop craft he's mastered. He's just sogood at what he does, and the quality and consistency of his songwriting is the same with every new album. He continually writes songs about meaningful things and delivers them with indelible melodies. Four albums in six years certainly qualifies as a creative roll. I can only hope he stays on it for many more years and albums to come!
A place to discover the latest and greatest in power pop releases.
Friday, July 20, 2018
Nick Piunti-Temporary High. Over the past five years Nick Piunti has established himself as one of the scene's preeminent power poppers (his last three albums finished at 7, 6 and 2 in my year-end lists) so it's not an understatement to say this was one of the year's most anticipated releases. Which leaves a couple of questions: Does it disappoint? Hell no. Is it his best? That's like asking which of your children are your favorite. Suffice it to say there will be 9 releases fighting over the top 10 this year because Piunti's accustomed spot is spoken for. Endlessly catchy and endlessly rocking, Temporary High finds Piunti at his best from the opening title track through the Elvis Costello-like "You Invented Hell" through the poptastic "If This Was Right" to "Contagious", the closest thing here to a classic power ballad. The high here may be temporary, but it's one you can return to whenever you want.
Nick Piunti’s Trust Your Instincts was one of this blog’s favorite albums of 2016. Now, Nick is back with Temporary High, a new release featuring Chris Richards and more of the chiming guitars and pop hooks that we’ve come to expect from a Nick Piunti record.
If you’re looking for a single, there are plenty of songs to choose from. The Tom Petty-ish “You Invented Hell” is an immediate favorite. “If This Was Right” has a Big Star feel to it and is equally as engaging.
However, the big payoff is “No Return”. With a melody that sticks and a sing along chorus that’s sure to resonate with anyone who loves a good pop hook, songs like this are the reason why rock ‘n’ roll will never die.
It’s also worth mentioning that Donny Brown is back on drums and Andy Reed on bass and B3 organ. Geoff Michael is the producer.
Nick Piunti’s Temporary High is one of this year’s best so far. It’s available through several online channels including iTunes, Bandcamp and Amazon. You can get the physical product through Target. Get it any way you can.
We are living through a new golden age of power pop - and Nick Piunti is one of its shining stars. A rock n' roll lifer who began writing and recording music as a kid in the '70s, Piunti has brought a wealth of musical and life experience to his recent solo career. His albums 13 In My Head and Beyond The Static received glowing reviews and top ten commendations from nearly every prominent power pop blog you could think of. Now he has completely outdone himself with his superb new LP titled Trust Your Instincts.
Out on Marty Scott's JEM Records, Trust Your Instincts is exactly what we've come to expect from Nick Piunti: ten exquisitely-crafted pop songs with amazing lyrics and hooks to die for. Trust Your Instincts sounds a little like the pure pop album I've been waiting decades for Paul Westerberg to make. If that sounds like "dad rock" to you, Piunti will gladly wear that as a badge of honor. While I will always count on power pop bands to mythologize the infatuations, torrid romances, and inevitable heartbreaks of youth, I love that Nick Piunti is using the same musical form to speak to the significant experiences of adultlife. If "power pop for grown-ups" is a genre unto itself, we are very fortunate to witness one of its masters at work.
Trust Your Instincts istypical of a Nick Piunti album in that it's all about the songs. Melody, voice, and lyrics take center stage - with the supporting players (Donny Brown on drums, Andy Reed on bass and synth, Ryan Allen on guitar) beautifully serving the material.While by far the most personal and lyrically deep of Piunti's solo albums, Trust Your Instincts is no less immediately satisfying than its predecessors. It exhibits all of the hallmarks of great pop: gorgeous, instantly pleasing melodies; choruses that grab your attention and stick in your head for days; and harmonies that hit the proverbial sweet spot. "One Hit Wonder" is such a perfect specimen of the three minute pop hit that it seems unfathomable that it's not all over the radio. Equally impressive is "Fade Out", which comes on so mellow and low-key until that hook comes out of nowhere and just knocks you out. And the guitar riff propelling "This Ain't the Movies" is worth its weight in gold. Saying that an album "rewards repeated listens" is usually a polite way of observing that it contains no obvious hits. But Trust Your Instincts is a genuinely hit-laden release that only gets better as you peel off its layers and really dig into the songs. No doubt, almost anyone writing pop songs today would kill to be able come up with just one tune as good as "Blame In Vain" or "Dumb It Down".
Marty Scott - who signed Pezband and helped broker the distribution dealthat brought Cheap Trick at Budokan to an American audience - has a long history in the world of power pop. He left the music industry for several decades, but his interest in a new generation of artists compelled him to revive the JEM label three years ago. It's no surprise, then, that he went out and signed Nick Piunti. If you're looking to explore some of the great things that have been happening with power pop in recent years, the recordings of Nick Piunti are a fine place to start. Trust Your Instincts is out today and available for purchase from iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp
NICK PIUNTI: Trust Your Instincts (Jem) BY MIKE BARON
With Ryan Allen on guitars, Andy Reed on bass, and Donny Brown on drums, this is something of a Michigan super group, but its sound is all Nick. This is the third in a seemingly unstoppable run of brilliant power pop that began with 13 In My Head. Like Greg Pope, Piunti produces dynamic, kinetic, musically inventive rock that whisks along like a roller coaster. Trust is not as fast-paced as 13, but it’s fast enough, with the cumulative impact of Great Buildings. Piunti’s tenor soars over these songs like a seagull. “One Hit Wonder” channels the Hollies and the Zombies, while “Vaguely Familiar” resembles Great Buildings and “As Far As I Throw” will please Who fans. The man is a machine. A rock and roll machine.
News of a new Nick Piunti album brings a great sense of excitement towww.thesoulofaclown.com. We’ve loved all his stuff that we’ve heard. Indeed, his last album, “Beyond The Static” was truly brilliant. It was one of our favourite albums of the year and it was no surprise that it featured very highly in a load of end of year best of lists.
The song “Trust Your Instincts” opens the album, and it is clear that Nick certainly trusts his own instincts to deliver great, power pop flavoured hits, because that’s what he does throughout this latest release. Indeed, there’s an irony that “One Hit Wonder” has the kind of brilliant pop melody that really does deserve to be a huge hit. It’s as catchy as hell and totally terrific. There’s nothing fluky about it though, as songs like “Blame In Vain” are equally as catchy and appealing.
As shown by “Vaguely Familiar”, Nick’s earnt his dues in the music business, and so it should come as no surprise that he knows his way around a smart lick and big hook. He continues to use both these tools to great effect on “Dumb It Down”. You will also struggle to find a song more instantly addictive than “This Aint The Movies”.
Another thing we really like about Nick, is that he doesn’t make things too sugary, despite the sweet sounding songs. So, you get a song like “Fade Out” which nicely shifts between laid back verses and a rocking bridge and chorus. Then “Ready For Whatever” had more of a punk feel to it’s sound and “As Far As I Throw” is like a power pop band playing a garage rock song.
The quality of this album doesn’t dip for one moment and it’s all over too soon with the bitter/sweet sounding “Stay Where You Are”.
Some really huge bands and ‘pop stars’ struggle to have more than one or two songs that can be regarded as really good pop songs. Once again, Nick has delivered a whole album full of them. We sense that he is probably destined to be something of an underground secret, especially here in the UK. So, you should do your bit to try and change that by buying this album, then playing it to someone else, who will then inevitably go out and buy it themselves. We just need to hope that cycle then repeats itself a few million times!!
If it’s pure pop you crave, look no further than Nick Piunti’s Trust Your Instincts. Like all good power pop records, there’s the requisite chiming guitars and spot on harmonies. Add hooks a-plenty and a clear killer single and you’ve got it all. Trust Your Instincts should be a wake-up call to all those who insist that the best days of the genre have passed. People still make great power pop records and Nick Piunti is living proof.
Ryan Allen, who has his own outstanding release out, contributes backing vocals and guitar. One might say Allen’s punk pop persona is to Piunti’s power pop sensibilities as Dave Edmunds’ rockabilly leanings were to Nick Lowe’s pure pop. Time will tell, I suppose.
The killer single? “One Hit Wonder” is as radio friendly as they come. With a monster hook for a chorus, this track is guaranteed to have you bobbing your head and playing air guitar. Intelligently written, it makes one wonder if it’s better to have never had a hit single at all.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! (says the voice from the K-TEL commercials)
There’s a number of tracks here that are memorable for various reasons. “Vaguely Familiar” is a catchy mid-tempo track while “Ready For Whatever” is an up-tempo ass-kicker that’s catchy as all get-go. I love the Records-like guitars on this one.
The harmonies are great throughout the entire proceedings. “Stay Where You Are” is a jangly gem and the perfect way to end the disc.
Packaged in a 4-panel digi-pak, Trust Your Instincts is being released on the newly revived Jem Records label. If you don’t know the work of Nick Piunti, it’s time you get acquainted. You can pick up a copy from Kool Kat Musik or from Nick’s website.
Nick Piunti has reliably delivered another amazing album. “Trust Your Instincts” is everything exemplary about power pop, the title track layers fantastic guitar melody with a great message to “trust your gut.” The next track “One Hit Wonder” pokes fun at the rush of fleeting music success, with a nice key change in the final verse. Great harmonies and melodies are all over the songs, with Nick’s throaty vocals leading the charge, which I’ve previously compared to Bryan Adams. Back in the studio assisting is Ryan Allen (guitar,backing vocals) Andy Reed (bass, synth) and Donny Brown (drums, backing vocals).
Every song here is a gem, but some favorites stick out like “Dumb It Down” with its a magical chorus and “As Far As I Throw” has the catchiest riffs you’ll ever hear in modern rock music. You’ll also hear multiple influences, but unlike past albums its better integrated into Nick’s overall unique sound. Even without a slow ballad, this easily gets on my top ten album list for 2016. Was there any doubt?
Nick Piunti-Trust Your Instincts. One of 2016's more anticipated releases in the power pop community is finally out, as Nick Piunti stays on his new album every 18 months schedule with Trust Your Instincts. Piunti, whose last two releases finished #2 and #6 in my year-end lists, bids for the top 10 again with another insanely catchy collection of power pop tunes. There aren't really any ballads here, but the one difference between this one and the last two is that the tempos have slowed just the slightest. The opening title track is a typical Piunti barnburner, and "One Hit Wonder" rocks as well (someone let Piunti have a big hit so he can be the subject of this song), while "Blame in Vain" and "Dumb it Down" are wonderful midtempo tunes. Elsewhere, "Ready for Whatever" and "This Ain't the Movies" would have been spun by Casey Kasem in a Top 40 Countdown in 1978, and the Gin Blossoms-esque "Stay Where You Are" closes the album with some acoustic guitar prominent in the mix. As usual, Piunti is backed by fellow Michiganders Andy Reed and Ryan Allen (who has a new album of his own out in a few weeks) to fine effect. So trust your instincts on this one, and pick up a copy starting tomorrow.
NICK PIUNTI – TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS by John Borack, Goldmine Magazine
Nick Piunti’s third release – and his first on the recently-revived Jem Records imprint -finds him following in the sonic footsteps of his first two superb albums. That means more ultra-hooky, kinetic power pop, with Piunti backed by fellow Michiganites Ryan Allen, Andy Reed and Donny Brown, all of whom have released fine albums in their own right. Trust Your Instinctshas many pinnacles to pick from, including “Ready for Whatever” (which manages to rock, pop AND twang, ever so slightly), “As Far as I Throw” (some nice Who-like instrumental breaks on this one), the jangly perfection of “Stay Where You Are,” and a perfectly constructed, insanely catchy tale of rock band woe, “One Hit Wonder.” Like Piunti’s first two records, this one’s sure to end up on some top 10 lists at the end of the year. Grade: A
You want “immediate classic”? Well, that’s what you get with this new album from Detroit-area power-pop legend (the classification suits him to a “T”) Nick Piunti on his latest album, Trust Your Instincts. Take all the best elements of what your interpretation of power-pop is and he mixes it all into one very fine stew that ROCKS. You can hear the influences all in one place – Cheap Trick, Badfinger, The Buzzcocks, The Beatles, The Raspberries and so on. The sound/production is wide and crisp; the playing is with an endless amount of firepower and the harmonies are completely (not surprisingly) on-the-one.
Starting with the title track, this album goes from 0 to 100 m.p.h. in the blink of an eye; catchy, upbeat, POP with a capital “P” and the perfect (really, only) way to start the collection; “One Hit Wonder” has that Posies/Teenage Fanclub flavor (and a somewhat tongue in cheek message); “Dumb It Down” takes on a Dwight Twilley/Phil Seymour/Shoes vibe with the sweetest harmonies (they’re everywhere on this album) and “Fade Out” marches along with a taut beat, sparse, clean guitar lines on the verses and an explosive one-line chorus. “Ready For Whatever” sounds a bit “heavier” or more sinister but knows how and where to dial it back; “As Far As I Throw” reminds me of The Plimsouls with its deep, fat drum sound (and may be my favorite track from this release) and “Stay Where You Are” has chiming, perfect acoustic guitars in a very dB’s style and is the only way to close this 10 track offering.
You’re going to investigate Nick Piunti and find that he IS one of the long-standing shining lights in the power-pop world and you’re going to want to hear more. But if you’re intrigued now, order Trust Your Instincts because you can’t ask for a better place to start with someone as on top of his game as Nick Piunti is.
Trust Your Instincts will be released Friday, September 9th, 2016
Nick Piunti, pop music’s hot artist of the moment, is on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation tonight at 8 pm ET. No surprise really–he’s top of the pops here at Pure Pop Radio; tracks from his new album, Trust Your Instincts, are playing in hot rotation. And no surprise number two: Nick is blazing a hooky trail on the satellite airwaves at Sirius/XM’s channel 30, with tracks playing during Mike Marrone’s noontime show, In Spite of All the Danger.
Tonight, though, Nick talks with Alan Haber about his fantastic new album releasing in just two days (September 9). Alan plays three songs, including the big-time pop smash, “One Hit Wonder.” You’ll hear the stories behind Nick’s new songs, and you’ll travel along the path that led a 12-year-old Michigan boy with guitar in hand to his current release on the great Jem Records label.
There are albums that you look forward to and I'll admit that I've been looking forward to this a lot.
You know a Piunti album is gonna be Power Pop, his voice naturally suits the format. You also know you are gonna get plenty of guitar, because the lad can play. More of the same would be more than enough.
However, Trust Your Instincts, released on 9 September, has far more than that. The riffs are still there, the solos are better than ever, the sing along choruses are all present, there's just loads more.
It's not that it's a big departure from Beyond The Static or 13 In My Head, but there's an added lyrical depth and with that the songs seem more arranged and diverse. It's hard to explain because, it's the same, but different and all the better for it.
I'd love to play you Dumb It Down, because it's an absolute gem of a song, but Nick has only made the first two tracks available for your listening delight. So here's the opener and title track which is more straight ahead Power Pop, chock full of the hooks that are a Nick Piunti song.
Dumb It Down has everything, a real meandering hook, jingle jangle and pedal steel. It reminds me a lot of The Posies as do quite a few songs on the album. Blame In Vain could be Tom Petty, Vaguely Familiar could be Don Henley.
Ready For What reminds me of The Shazam at their best. The Riff on As Far As I Throw will slay you and the closer, Stay Where You Are has loads of Byrds Jangle and the singalong chorus that you'd want.
Here's the second track, One Hit Wonder, oh the chorus and that solo!
Nick's joined on the album by Ryan Allen, whose excellent album I reviewed earlier this week, Andy Reed, who is on a one mission to be involved in every great album released this year and Verve Pipe's Donny Brown.
10 Golden songs, even better than I had expected, this would be in my year's Top 20 because it's a Nick Piunti album. But it could very well be at the top of the tree. Absolutely wonderful!
Nick Piunti has hit a power pop purple patch. Trust Your Instincts – the new album from the Detroit singer-songwriter – is his third long-player in just under four years and it doesn’t disappoint.
It picks up where his last record, 2015’s Beyond The Static, left off and it’s also a worthy companion piece to his 2013 classic – 13 In My Head – a firm favourite here at Say It With Garage Flowers.
I spoke to Nick to find out the story behind the writing and recording of Trust Your Instincts – an album that was made with the help of a kitchen table, coffee, wine, an iPhone and a trusty Fano JM6 guitar…
With the title track, which opens the album, we’re immediately plunged back into classic Piunti power pop territory. What can you tell us about that song and why did you decide to name the album after it?
Nick Piunti: The title track was written for my oldest daughter, who is 20 and was going through a tough time with her boyfriend – now ex-boyfriend.
Most of the songs on this album – if not all of them – had the good fortune of the lyrics and the melodies coming at the same time. That’s not always the case. For me, if the lyrics come later, they sometimes never come at all. I always end up with several unfinished songs because the lyrical inspiration wasn’t there in the first place.
When recording the song, Geoff Michael (producer) and I encouraged Donny Brown (drummer) to summon his inner Keith Moon. It took a little bit of prodding, but it paid off. The acoustic guitars also seem Who-like to me.The song really came together for me when Ryan Allen added his double tracked guitars. Ryan played guitar on five songs from the album. He came up with some great parts, as he always does, and it really propelled this song.
I had several working titles for the album, but Ryan suggested calling it Trust Your Instincts. I initially didn’t want one of the song titles to also be the album title, for the reason of not wanting to bring too much attention to just one track, but the title definitely fits this album.
I pretty much do trust my instincts when making records and, as my wife would tell you (or is that I tell her?), I’m almost always right…
How did you approach this album from a writing and recording process? You used the same studio and core musicians as the last album, didn’t you?
NP: Yes – we used the same studio, Big Sky Recording in Ann Arbor, with Geoff Michael engineering and producing. Also Andy Reed recorded all of his bass parts at his studio, Reed Recording Company, and Donny Brown tracked his drums to Fade Out in his own studio.
We also did a few overdubs at both Andy’s and Donny’s. Ryan Allen recorded a few harmonies in his basement and David Feeny, who owns The Tempermill Studio, recorded the pedal steel parts on Dumb It Down at his great studio.
Rachael Davis, who sings the beautiful harmony vocal on Dumb It Down, recorded her part in Nashville. With today’s technology, it is so easy to just send tracks from one studio to another. It opens up some options and saves a lot of driving. But most of the sounds were recorded at Big Sky Recording in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
As far as writing the album, most of the songs either started, or finished, at my kitchen table. There’s something about that setting that works really well for me. In the morning, it’s me, with my acoustic guitar, coffee, and my iPhone to capture the ideas.
In the evening, I substitute the coffee with wine. My house is hardly ever empty, so somehow my family puts up with my process. They would probably rather have me in the basement, but I like the sunlight and the acoustics and I like them close by.
What were you listening to while you made the record? Did any of those influences filter through into the sound of Trust Your Instincts? What sound were you aiming for with this album?
NP: I listened to a lot of guitar pop. I do remember listening to Paul Westerberg’s albumEventually, Mac McCaughan’s Non Believers, Love Axe’s South Dakota, Ryan Allen’sdemos, Guided by Voices, Nada Surf, Weezer, Beach Slang and Nude Beach. You wouldn’t believe how many bands have Beach in their name!
I don’t ever try to make an album that is directly influenced by one band or sound. The song usually dictates the direction. I do remember telling Geoff, after the album was recorded, to make it sound like Nada Surf, but I changed my mind afterwards, so we settled on making it sound like a Nick Piunti record.
One Hit Wonder is one of my favourite songs on the album – it has a slight Beatles-esque feel. The intro is a bit Dear Prudence/ psych – and the melody is great – very infectious. I also love the killer guitar solo.What was the inspiration behind it?
NP: Yeah – One Hit Wonder seemed like the obvious ‘single’ to me. I originally wrote it with a simpler muted eighth note progression, but I thought it was too simple and obvious. So I came up with the riff played through a pedal that emulates a Mellotron. That adds to The Beatles sound for sure.
The lyrics are about a relationship that was more about lust than love, but I used the musical reference of a one hit wonder to sum up the affair: “We were a one hit wonder couldn’t follow it up”. That kind of says it all.
And thanks, the guitar solo is one of mine. I usually hear the solo in my head then try to find the notes on the guitar. I used a Fano JM6 for a lot of the guitar parts on this album. It seems each album I make has one starring guitar. The verse melody evolved a bit and my phrasing reminded me of something that Mike Viola would do. I never intentionally try to write like one of my influences, but if it comes out that way innocently, then I’m fine with that.
Dumb It Down is another highlight for me. It’s a gorgeous pop song. Where did it come from? It has a slight country feel in the latter part of the song, with some pedal steel…
NP:That song was a tough one to write, in the sense that it was very personal. The first line, “another day without fiction, I keep it to myself,” came to me after leaving a friend who was slowly succumbing to cancer.
His name was Merle, he was our band’s manager, when we were a bunch of snotty 12-year-olds, and he was really instrumental in my musical journey.
Though the song changes perspective, I felt like the verse was from Merle’s point of view and the chorus was mine, or any of his many friends that would miss him when he wouldn’t be around any longer. The second verse was about how our band Dwarf didn’t make it. Merle wanted to know that I was ok with all those years we put into the band. I assured him that it wasn’t a waste of time at all. And that I would do it all again…
I know you like pedal steel, so I threw that in for you. David Feeny happens to play great pedal steel. He sent several tracks played through the entire song and Geoff and I picked the parts we liked the best. David recorded a really nice solo, but Geoff thought I should try something as well. And Geoff suggested a female voice in the chorus. The song came out prettier than I expected it to be, which balances out some of the more rocking moments.
There’s a song on the album called This Ain’t The Movies. What’s your favourite movie and who would you like to play you in the Nick Piunti biopic?
NP: My favourite movie? The easy answer would be The Godfather, but these days most of my movies are of the animated variety that my youngest daughter wants to see.
Comedies are easier for me to watch over and over again: Me Myself and Irene, Caddy Shack, Blazing Saddles, Animal House.
Who would play me in a movie? My wife says George Clooney, but I’m not sure how George sings… If the movie was about a younger me, then there’s an actor named Logan Lerman who my wife says would be a good fit.
The final song on the album, Stay Where You Are, takes things down a notch – it has a more of an acoustic, mid-paced feel. What can you tell us about that song?
NP: Stay Where You Are is loosely based on a past relationship, where it’s obvious to one that the best days are behind them. It’s a simple chord progression, I have probably written this type of song many times before, but it really seems to connect with quite a few people.
It seemed to be the perfect closing song for the album. And I kept the album to ten songs, because I feel that’s enough. I would like for people to listen to the album in one sitting and 36 minutes seems like enough time to ask.
How’s the rest of the year shaping up for you? Knowing you, you’re probably working on your next album already… Can you give us any clues?
NP: The album has just been released on September 9 on Jem Records and I’ve been getting several songs played on The Loft Sirius XM radio, as well as countless smaller stations. WDET in Detroit has always been a great promoter of my music.
There are so many internet radio stations that play my music, from The Ice Cream Man Power Pop Show in Sweden, Jeff Shelton’s Power Pop Show in California, Alan Haber’sPure Pop, Jim Prell, Howard Byrne, Pop That Goes Crunch, Craig Leve, Dave the Boogieman… so many guys that pour their hearts into promoting power pop for those of us that have never outgrown it. I can’t thank them enough, or the reviewers out there that really make my day when they post their articles. So, getting the music out there is a priority.
Playing live is awesome. It’s hard to do a lot of that, but there’s nothing else like it. I’m always writing, so there are new songs in the works, but I’m not rushing back into the studio yet. Three albums in four years took a lot of work. I may take a bit of a breather before the next one. Of course, I’ve said that before…
Nick Piunti’s new album, Trust Your Instincts, is available now on Jem Records. Its predecessor, Beyond The Static, has just been reissued on limited edition coloured vinyl by Sugarbush Records.
The song is actually about a relationship that ran its course, but using the analogy of a “one hit wonder” band that couldn’t follow it up. The relationship couldn’t survive past the infatuation, love at first site stage. Actually a true story of sorts.
Sweet Sweet Music talked to Nick Piunti about his great GREAT new release, Trust Your Instincts.
You inspired Ryan Allen to write Gorgeous w/ Guitars. He says: “That song is basically about being true to yourself and continuing to keep making music no matter what. A little bit of it is about me, but it’s also sort of about my dad and my friend Nick Piunti. … In terms of Nick, he’s written three amazing records in his early 50s while most people his age do nothing creative.”. What do you think?
That’s pretty cool that Ryan said that. When I heard the demo of “Gorgeous With Guitars” I asked Ryan who that was about, as I know he almost always writes about what he knows. I was of course flattered to be part of the inspiration for that song.
Ryan is a young guy (by my standards) so I think he may see that my continued musical output is reassuring in that you don’t have to give up or quit just because you’re not a kid anymore.
I first met Ryan soon after I heard of his band “Friendly Foes”. I was knocked out by that album (Born Radical) and met him at one of his shows. We became good friends, wrote some songs together and he’s now an integral part of my last three albums. Plus he’s a really smart and funny dude. Super talented.
You get great reviews. One Hit Wonder is mentioned a lot as perfect Power Pop song. Did you knew you had something special while writing/recording it?
When writing songs, it’s usually instantly apparent when you’re on to something. I had that title to a different melody but it didn’t do enough for me to ever record it. I think I came up with the first line “burned out before it began, if it was destined to be then we stuck to the plan” which led into the title. The song is actually about a relationship that ran its course, but using the analogy of a “one hit wonder” band that couldn’t follow it up. The relationship couldn’t survive past the infatuation, love at first site stage. Actually a true story of sorts. I had the feeling that “One Hit Wonder” was the most typical power pop styled song on the album. Got to have at least one of those. At first I started the song with muted eighth notes on my guitar, but it was a bit too typical (Cars, Stacy’s Mom) so I came up with a riff played through a pedal that emulated a mellotron. Gave it a cool vibe. Ryan’s harmony vocal is great and Donny Brown (drums) came up with the key change for the last chorus. Perfectly cliché for the song.
My favorite is Vaguely Familiar. What is Guns ‘n’ Roses doing in a Nick Piunti song?
Vaguely Familiar is one of my favorites on the album as well. We recorded that one really fast. It sounded good right from the start.
The story pretty much follows my stab at moving to Los Angeles in the mid 80’s only to find that we were the wrong band for times. Guns and Roses, Poison, Hair Metal was being born while our band, The Take, was more like The Plimsouls or The Rave Ups, (L.A. bands that we really liked.) It was a good experience for a lot of different reasons.
Growing up with the same band, starting as 12 year olds, going to school, college together, and moving to L.A. to give it one last shot. The other three guys stayed and built lives for themselves in California, so it was meant to be.
Dumb It Down is ready to be picked up by some big star from Nashville, I think?
Exactly! When I was recording Dumb it Down Ryan thought it would be great for Lady Antebellum to record, to which I wasn’t sure was a compliment or not. What he meant was that it was probably a prettier song than usual for me.
Geoff Michael had the idea to have Rachael Davis sing the harmony, which definitely sweetened the song. So a slightly different vibe for me, but I thought it came out great and makes it stand out in a more alt-country fashion. so if you know some big star in Nashville send him or her my way. Have I got a song for them!
How are you going to promote Trust Your Instincts? What’s up for the next couple of months?
Trust Your Instincts is on Jem Records, so I have distribution, which helps getting the album out there, plus there are so many writers writing some really amazing reviews that hopefully will turn into word of mouth which will help as well.
Working on scheduling a couple local shows as well. I’ve been fortunate to have songs in film, tv, and song on a Mojo Magazine cover mount cd, and all those came to me as a surprise. Just the right person listening at the right time.
So, you never know. I do know that I’m really fortunate to still be inspired and at 56 I just released which many are saying is my best album ever. Couldn’t do that without the support of my amazing wife Kelli, and my three daughter are not embarrassed by their Dad still rocking. In fact my 17 year old daughter Megan, did the artwork for my album. She also has good ears for when I’m writing songs. She tells me which ones she likes.
Power Pop Blogspot
friday, october 21, 2016
The Year of Living Miserably
So I think that we can all agree that 2016 has been one of the suckiest years in the history of suckitude. I have personal reasons for saying that, obviously, but across the board the year has been pretty damn horrible on about a zillion levels.
Still, for me anyway, there has been one constant bright spot -- music. I have been lucky enough to be turned on this year to all sorts of great stuff -- largely in the genre that defines the mission statement of this here blog -- to the point where 2016 will be the first time I will find it easy to vote a Top Ten album list in the Village Voice Critics Poll in over a decade. I mean, for The Swedish Polarbears alone, and they're just the tip of the iceberg.
In any case, courtesy of my chum Marc Platt -- and may I just say, and for the record, that the fact I never got to see his band The Real Impossibles in a club back in the day is now the great regret of my adult life -- I've just discovered the incredibly great Nick Piunti.
Holy Cheap Trick, Beatles, Matthew Sweet, Willie Nile et al, Batman!
The above song is from a 2013 album; Nick's newest CD came out at the end of September (on Marty Scott's JEM Records imprint, which I hadn't realized still existed) and it's more of the same and possibly even more infectiously memorable.
You can find out the skinny on Nick -- who's been doing this kind of stuff for years, and why didn't I get the memo previously? -- over at his official website here. You can also order his albums, which I recommend you do posthaste.
Have I mentioned that this guy is so great I hate him?
To summarize: Nick Piunti makes it look so easy. His songwriting, his guitar playing, his singing (with a raspy voice) … flawless. You almost forget how fantastic Beyond The Static is. But these are all little masterpieces, stuffed with lines like “She’s in six bands none of them good”. It won’t get any better than this.
Best Track(s): It’s a Trap, Heart Stops Beating, Six Bands
Status: a modern classic
Nick Piunti — Beyond the Static (Two Brains TB002, 2015, CD)
You know when you wake up in the morning and there’s some great song playing in your head and you try and figure out where it came from, and then you realize it’s from some album you listened to three days before. Yeah, like that. This is one of those albums. And memorable songs like that begin with superb songwriting and crafty arrangements, laden with strong melodies and irresistible hooks, not to mention the great playing throughout by all. This is power pop of the highest order, informed by legends like The Who, The Beatles, Wings, Cheap Trick, Nick Lowe, Tom Petty, and Big Star, among others. That’s not to say that the eleven songs here sound like any of those guys, but their influence is certainly felt, as well as the whole jangly guitar driven sound of the British Invasion. Piunti’s a masterful guitarist who understands the importance of rhythm playing as the basis of a catchy tune, but he turns in many exceptional solos here, as well as singing; joining him on most of these tracks are drummer Donny Brown, and bassist Andy Reed. They all play some keyboards, and Ryan Allen contributes some additional guitar on two songs and vocals on four. Other players contribute guitar, vocals, keyboards and more to this song or that, and these are all fine players. This is Piunti’s third release, and the first couple tunes (“It’s a Trap,” “Heart Stops Beating”) sound like they could be out-takes from his previous 2013 album 13 in My Head (another great one to investigate), but things take a quantum leap forward on the third cut “Time Machine,” and it never lets up from that point forward, with too many many great songs to enumerate. There’s a lot here to like in every groove and lick; the three minute power pop style doesn’t get much better than this.
Nick Piunti has hit the sweet spot in his career where he can do no wrong. Like Greg Pope, or Stevie Wonder in the early seventies, Piunti effortlessly writes one up-tempo killer after another. In popular music it’s all about the dynamics. Piunti understands the importance of crunching, earth-consuming guitars (see: Redd Kross;Third Eye) and listening to this record is like watching Sugar Ray Leonard in his prime–one hit after another, beginning with “It’s a Trap” and roaring straight through to the end. Not a laggard in the bunch.
Power-pop embodies a youthful brio: a latch-lifting, door-kicking vitality that bulls its way into the late nights, heart on its sleeve, hungry for adventures, stepping on toes, falling hard, winning big and crystallizing a swirl of nostalgia and loyalty for places and friends...
Guitarist/singer Nick Piunti joined his first band (The Dwarfs,) when he was just 12-years-old and kept at it for another 13 years before it broke up. What better time, really, to cut one's teeth on an inherently angsty and energetic form of rock music than when you're right there in thick of the tumultuous and defiant throes of teenagerdom?
Piunti, who fronted another fine pop outfit called The Respectables through the mid-late 2000's, would finally make his mark as a solo singer/songwriter in 2013, releasing 13 In My Headunder his own name.
Through it all, he's honed his sensibility for riffy resplendence and major-key bursting janglers affecting all that propulsive elation I've eluded to, already, but on Beyond The Static, the vocals are sharpened with a sagely offering of caustic cautions to the now-younger indie-punks and aspiring pop-crooners against the "traps" of "just-because" mentalities guiding your decisions and dissuading anyone from getting caught up in the make-believe rivalries of scenes.
"In the present tense / hard to make much sense..." Piunti sings on the vigorous opener "It's A Trap."
On the slower-tempo "Head In The Clouds," Piunti belts a shuffling ballad against the senseless and the self-centered, a bittersweet swaying number knocking down the know-it-alls and the braggadocio that comes with rock n' roll. It's one of the more interesting pop songs I've heard in a while, in fact, lyrically reading it out almost makes it sound like a archetypal hip-hop track, deflating all the windbags with his hard-earned wisdom.
Throughout Beyond The Static, Piunti also emits a lot of heart with that heaving, high-ish voice that wheezes this charismatic bit of rust at the most emotive crescendos, while the guitars go from soft breezy strums to strutting jangles, surfy spills to more ferocious growls. A wide range for sure; go from "Head In The Clouds" to "Something's Wrong" and it sounds like two different groups...
Beyond The Static was produced by Geoff Michael and Piunti at Big Sky Recordings in Ann Arbor. Fellow Michigan-scene power-poppers like Chris Richards and Ryan Allen show up for back-up vocals while pedal-steel wizard Dave Feeney contributes some Americana-soul to a track. Richards, with Donny Brown (who also contributed to the album's tracks) will join Piunti live on stage this week with Todd Holmes on drums.
Just in time for the warming rays of springtime, Piunti's blend of throwback rock n' roll swagger, heartfelt indie ballads and cinematic power-pop kickers for the opening credits sequence of any of your forthcoming sunny days.
Nick Piunti released Beyond The Static online last month. See Piunti perform on April 2nd at PJs Lager House for The International Pop Overthrow Music Festival. INFO The four-day music festival also features Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, Chris Richards & The Subtractions, The Static Dial, Le Voyage, The Rose Cult and many more. Full line up here...
Posted by jeff milo
Faster and Louder, the words of Lord Rutledge
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Great new album from Nick Piunti!
So I went on record declaring that 2014 was the best year for power pop in decades. Is it possible that 2015 might turn out even better? If Nick Piunti's new album is any indication, the answer could very well be yes! Beyond The Static, out now on Two Brains Recording Co., features the former Respectables singer teaming with an all-star cast of Detroit power pop musicians (Ryan Allen, Donny Brown, Chris Richards & Andy Reed from The Legal Matters). Having garnered rave reviews for his 2013 album 13 In My Head, Piunti had the power pop community salivating over a follow-up. And Beyond The Static has no problem living up to such lofty expectations. It's a stunning achievement - the work of a true master of the three-minute pop song.
Again co-producing with Geoff Michael at Big Sky Recording, Piunti continues to craft timeless guitar pop that marries the radiant melodies of the '60s to the up-front guitars of the '90s and beyond. From a stylistic standpoint, he has pretty much stayed the course on Beyond The Static. And what a course it is! After several decades in music, Piunti has such a clear and precise idea of who he is. His songwriting, while very much in the classic style, bears his signature. Musically and lyrically, he's delivered an extraordinary collection of songs. "It's A Trap", with its gorgeous melody and instantly memorable hook, is the very definition of perfect pop. It's almost impossible to imagine a more flawless pop song - until "Heart Stops Beating" follows immediately with a chorus that will send you into state of bliss! And once you get to the crunching riffs and soaring harmonies of "Time Machine", there's just no doubting that the whole album is going to be fantastic. There are 11 songs in all, and I can't name one I don't like. Piunti - as he's been known to do - supplements the selection of textbook power pop gems with some successful forays into adult alternative rock. If you've written off "middle of the road" style power pop as an oxymoron, wonderful tracks like "Anything But Easy" and "Red Tail Lights" could very well cause you to reconsider. These songs don't just add variety - they also prove to be two of the strongest numbers on the album. Whether he's perking things up ("Seven Days A Week") or mellowing them out ("Quicksand"), Piunti can always be counted on for indelible melodies and genuinely profound lyrics.
Challenged with following a highly acclaimed album, Nick Piunti didn't overthink the task. He just focused on writing the best songs of his life and trusting an incredible group of musicians to help execute his vision. Beyond The Static manages to be both a consummate power pop album and the distinct work of a seasoned recording artist. If you somehow combined the best qualities of Matthew Sweet, Tom Petty, and Paul Westerberg into one songwriter, Nick Piunti would be the guy. Beyond The Static is a superb effort from a music lifer at the very top of his game. If you're a power pop fan and have yet to discover all the amazing sounds currently coming out of Detroit, stop reading right now and start listening!
Nick Piunti – “Beyond the Static” (Two Brains Recording Co.) The follow up to 2013’s wonderful 13 in My Head is another stellar collection of short ‘n’ sweet power poppin’ ditties, impeccably produced and forcefully played by Piunti and some fellow Michigan pop dudes, including Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Ryan Allen, among others. The best thing here is the leadoff cut, the crazy catchy “It’s a Trap,” which you’ll find yourself singing along to in short order. The rest is not quite up to that high standard – it’s hard to top near perfection, y’know – but it’s still pretty darned good, and the guitars sound quite splendid, too. Grade: A- - See more at: http://www.goldminemag.com/blogs/30-reviews-five-days-pt-3
The Soul of a Clown Nick Piunti “Beyond The Static”
Nick Piunti “Beyond The Static” We were a bit late stumbling upon Nick Piunti’s work but we absolutely loved his last release “13 In My Head”, which was a corking collection of power pop songs. That album left us eager to hear more from Nick and thankfully he hasn’t messed around and is now releasing his latest album, “Beyond The Static”. The only question now is whether he has been able to repeat his knack for delivering top pop rock tunes? Thankfully, right from the opening track “It’s A Trap”, we know that we are in for yet another treat. The first song is a crisp, punky rock song which is as catchy as hell. Things get even better with songs like “Heart Stops Beating” and “Time Machine” which are power pop perfection and like a Cheap Trick for the modern age. Things slow down a bit on “Head In The Clouds” which has a more sixties vibe, that is more like The Raspberries or maybe Jellyfish. There is also a more laid back feel to “Anything But Easy” which is an exquisite modern ballad that could easily be turned in to a huge hit. Whilst “Quicksand” is a song which will just carry you along like a beautiful beam of sunshine.
We also love it when Nick adds a bit of punk to his pop like on “Seven Days A Week” and “Fell For You”. On both of these, though, he can’t resist sweetening them with a big pop hook. Importantly, whilst Nick’s sound may have something of a retro pop feel, it is still very relevant today. This is demonstrated by “Something’s Wrong” which has a modern and more angular tone to it. Whilst final track, “Red Tail Lights”, has a melody which feels like it was crafted in the sixties but the message of the song is more relevant than ever in this crazy, fast paced world.
As already mentioned, it is easy to feel almost nostalgic when listening to this album. Although really that shouldn’t be the case as, more importantly, it is just an album full of brilliantly written pop songs which are actually timeless. It’s the sort of album where you hear one song, think it’s great and turn up the stereo. However, then the next one comes on and that’s even better so you turn it up again! You’ve therefore got to decide to either start with the volume very low and keep cranking it up, or (and our preferred option) put it on full blast and enjoy every song to the max right from the start!
At last years Power Popaholic Fest, Nick Piunti was promoting his debut “13 in my Head” and played alongside the brilliant Chris Richards & The Subtractions. He hinted to me then that a sophomore release was in the works, and I waited with anticipation. Nick has upped the ante with this release, as “Beyond The Static” delivers the goods. Nick also had the studio filled with notable musicians: Chris Richards, Andy Reed (Legal Matters), Donny Brown, and Ryan Allen.
The power chords of “It’s A Trap” ring out a cautionary tale about that little voice in your head trying to prevent disaster, “Just as soon as you’re certain, there’s a lie behind the curtain” he sings out. Vocally Nick still reminds me of Paul Westerberg, but now with a bit of Mike Viola. That dark mood sung with those catchy hooks is personified on “Heart Stops Beating.” And another signature gem “Time Machine” warns about hanging onto the past, “Been there done that too many times” he tells us. “Six Bands” is a memorable melody about rejection in the music business where “just because, doesn’t mean you should.” Each track shines, without a hint of filler. And at the album’s end, the love song “Quicksand” is another great composition that just won’t leave your head. Easily makes my top ten list for 2015. Don’t miss this one!
Nick Piunti-Beyond the Static. The premier hotbed for power pop lately has become the Detroit area, with the likes of Chris Richards, Andy Reed, Andy Klingensmith, The Romeo Flynns (and you can go back to bands like The Romantics and The Knack) and the two artists featured today. First up is Nick Piunti (formerly of The Respectables) who returns with the followup to his brilliant 2013 release 13 in My Head, which came in at #2 on my list that year. Beyond the Static is a more-than-worthy successor, as Piunti knocks out the hooks and melodies one after the other in the most classic of power pop styles. "It's a Trap" (Admiral Ackbar finally gets a theme song) and "Heart Stops Beating" draw you in from the start, while "Time Machine" and "Seven Days a Week" (the latter featuring vocals from Richards) are two of the more melodic rockers you'll hear all year. Elsewhere, "Head in the Clouds" incorporates a bouncy Beatle-y melody and "Quicksand" could have been a hit in the 80s. There isn't one "off" track here among the 11, and Piunti might just meet or exceed that #2 ranking this year when it comes to my 2015 list.
Nick Piunti’s Beyond the Static: A Series of Keenly Observed Glimpses Set to a Pop and Roll Beat
Nick Piunti | Beyond the Static | Two Brains Recording Co. | 2015 | A review by Alan Haber
It’s a whiff, or it’s a puff of smoke, or it’s just one of those things, but when the first song on Beyond the Static, Nick Piunti’s smashing followup to last year’s 13 in My Head starts playing, it’s like a there-it-is-now-and-there-it-goes-in-a-flash kind of moment; it’s really just a passing glance of a thing, the brief audio allusion to the beginning of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” It’s there for only five seconds or so, and it’s a sly reference that may or may not have been intended. Nevertheless, it’s there and it kicks off the proceedings in a pop-meets-rock-and-roll kind of way, and I like it.
The song is “It’s a Trap,” and yes, there is a trap involved in the proceedings–a trap that amounts to a cautionary tale about communication and deception and the ability to know both when you see or hear them. “It’s a rivalry based on make believe, if you take them at their word,” Nick sings. “Just as soon as you’re certain, there’s a lie behind the curtain. It’s the reason you’re still hurting.” It’s a cautionary tale dressed up in power pop clothes.
This is an album of cautionary tales; it’s an album of observations keenly observed, and it pops and it rolls in that order. “Time Machine” warns of the destructive nature of living in the past, of the disappointment that one can feel after peering backward. “I’m not much for memory lane,” the narrator sings. “The stories always sound the same. Never as cool as we thought we were, the pictures now seem so absurd.” It’s a helpful hint that values the here and now over the been there and done that, and it’s delivered as an upbeat tune with a really catchy chorus.
Beyond the Static is a series of glimpses that present situations and point to solutions, kind of a pop music version of It’s a Wonderful Life. The lyrics to the powerful “Fell for You” suggest a kind of promissory note at the end of a bad relationship, but it’s only a suggestion: “Yeah, you’ll get what you deserve. Someday, but not today. You’re the one that always gets away.” In the tuneful and melodic “Head in the Clouds,” a relationship walks a fine line between give and take and take and give. “While I burn at both ends you’re just fanning the flames with a bad case of amnesia,” one half of the pair sings. “Well, it’s so hard to believe you.”
Sometimes it’s the person who’s being deceived that can’t see the deception through a heavy cloud. The astounding mid-tempo ballad “Six Bands” tells the story of a person who can’t see the forest for the trees. The girl in question “tries to sing only if she could, but she’s drowning in the talent pool.” “She’s got six friends telling her lies…” The devil is clearly in the details, if only this girl could grasp them. The girl has “six friends counting both hands, broken glass filling up with the sands of time no longer on your side. Will you notice the end of the line?”
Produced with gusto by Piunti and Geoff Michael, and featuring the talents of Chris Richards and Andy Reed of the Legal Matters, Donny Brown, and Ryan Allen (from Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms), Beyond the Static is a grand work of pop art by a musician who is at the top of his powers. Clearly, Piunti has things on his mind; in these songs he expresses his observations brilliantly.
Heavy on guitars and matched at every step by enticing melodies and a beat you can dance to, Beyond the Static is pure pleasure for people who like to bop to the beat and think at the same time. Life’s lessons can be hard, but listening to these terrific songs is easy, and truly rewarding.
Detroit power pop supremo Nick Piunti tells me about the writing and recording of his new album Beyond The Static – the follow-up to his critically acclaimed record 13 In My Head.
It’s great to chat to you again, Nick. When we last spoke, back in 2013, you’d just released 13 In My Head – your second solo album. It was one of my favourite records of that year. And now you’re back with the follow-up – Beyond The Static. Did you feel any pressure when you were writing and recording the new album?
Nick Piunti: Thanks, Sean. I think there’s always the hope that the next album will be better than the previous one, but I wouldn’t call it pressure, just the desire to make a good album. And, of course, the hope is that the new album will be as well received as the last one, but, ultimately, we made an album that I like and am proud of.
13 In My Head really raised your profile in the UK, didn’t it? It picked up some great press…
NP: The attention and press that 13 In My Head received in the UK and Europe was amazing. And there are a lot of people to thank for that. Having a song on the Mojo magazine compilation CD Songs in the Key of Paul definitely raised my profile in the UK and beyond.
And for Markus Holler from Sugarbush Records to release the album on vinyl, that was a boost as well. Yourself, Robin Wills, Wayne Lundqvist Ford, the Madrid power pop community, Luis deOry, Power Pop Pedro and Rock and Roll Circus – all were instrumental in spreading the word.
Rest assured, fans of 13 In My Head will definitely love Beyond The Static – it’s more of the same; infectious power pop songs, with big guitars, harmonies and strong melodies, isn’t it? Like its predecessor, it’s very instant. The first three tracks don’t mess around – Things don’t really slow down until track four, Six Bands…
NP: I’ve been recording for so long and have pretty much stayed true to the music that initially inspired me. I think the trick is to not be too obvious with your influences, but to meld them into something of your own. If it’s not catchy it doesn’t usually end up on one of my albums.
I noticed a country influence on Six Bands – is that pedal steel on it? Musically, it reminds me of REM. Can you tell me more about that song? I love the opening lines: ‘’She’s in six bands – none of them good. Tries to sing, only if she could. But she’s drowning in a talent pool – chasing dreams can be so cruel.”
Is it aimed at anyone in particular? Is it a comment on the shallow and ruthless nature of the music industry?
NP: Thanks – yep, pedal steel courtesy of Dave Feeny, who owns a great studio called The Tempermill. He’s produced some of my favourite Detroit artists who also are my friends (Chris Richards, Ryan Allen, Friendly Foes, American Mars) and he plays pedal steel. I felt that he could add a cool vibe to the song, which he obviously did.
The song isn’t about anyone in particular. I was reading a local paper, The Metro Times, and there was an article with a story about a girl who was in four bands. So I exaggerated it a bit. But the song isn’t about her – it’s about the struggle that bands and artists have these days and how many are a bit delusional. When I was in my early twenties I moved to L.A. with my childhood band, so maybe some of the lyrics were autobiographical, but I only had one band and we were pretty good.
Where did the album title – Beyond The Static – come from?
NP: Well, I was struggling to find the right title for the album. The phrase “beyond the static” comes from the song Something’s Wrong. My daughter Megan picked up on that line, so there you go.
I love the song Time Machine – I had a sneak preview of it last year, as a teaser to the new album. If you had a time machine, where would you travel to?
NP: That’s a good question. It would have to be the future, wouldn’t it? If we travelled too far back in time, I think we would find that the good old days weren’t what we thought they would be. Except for maybe seeing The Beatles at The Cavern.
Your song Heart Stops Beating has some vintage synth sounds on it, doesn’t it? It has a bit of a New Wave feel to it. Did you wear a skinny tie while you were recording it?
NP: My skinny tie days are behind me, but, yeah, I think I was going for a Cars feel with the muted guitar – Rickenbacker – and the synth, which is actually doubled with guitars, as well. It also has a Weezer vibe, which makes sense since Ric Ocasek [from The Cars] produced a few of their albums.
Something’s Wrong is a rocker. It has a swagger to it, with heavy guitars and plenty of attitude…
NP: I almost left that one off the album, because I thought it didn’t quite fit with the rest of the songs, but I’m glad my rock side prevailed.
There’s some jangly, chiming guitar pop on the album, too – like Quicksand. Didn’t you record an alternative version of Time Machine, with a different guitar sound? Will that alternative take come out in the future?
NP: I love jangly guitars – there’s a bit of 12-string on the album, but mostly capos and the right kind of six strings – Matchless and Vox amps get the job done. We did record another version of Time Machine with a more jangly feel, and I was going to include it on the album, but I didn’t want one song to be featured more than once.
Can you tell me about the writing and the recording of the new album? How did you approach making Beyond The Static? What did you want to achieve with it?
NP: World domination – ha! The writing process stays the same. Some days you hammer away for a couple of hours and nothing comes of it, while on other occasions the minute I pick up my guitar a lyric, melody or a riff come together at the same time, and those are the songs that make it on the album. I wrote all the songs, but Geoff Michael [producer] spent some time deconstructing a couple of the songs, so he was credited as a co-writer on those.
Donny Brown re-arranged It’s A Trap – he turned the second part of the original chorus into the bridge, so he’s credited on that song as well. And the other co-writer is my 16-year-old daughter Megan. She didn’t actually sit down and write with me, but I stole her line, “I fell for you and I can’t get up” and turned it into a song [Fell For You]. I didn’t want her to be denied the writing credit like Ringo – he came up with the phrases “hard day’s night” and “eight days a week”. That’s what I think I read anyway.
Who was involved with the record this time around? Was it the same guys who worked with you on 13 In My Head?
NP: Once again, Geoff Michael produced the album – at Big Sky Recording in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He also added guitar and keyboards on two songs. Donny Brown – again – played drums on all but one song. He also recorded the drums for a couple of the tracks at his home studio, as well as adding some awesome background vocals and synth lines on Time Machine.
For this album, Andy Reed played bass on every track, which he recorded at his own studio, Reed Recording Company. Andy’s studio is a two and a half hour drive for me, so it’s easier to send the tracks to him. He lays down the perfect basslines and sends them back to Geoff – they’re always great.
Andy and I also tracked some guitars, keyboards and noises on Head in the Clouds, at his studio. Ryan Allen sang on four songs and added guitar on Something’s Wrong.
Chris Richards also sang on a couple songs as well. Steve Mullan played keys on a song and a young drummer named Billy Harrington appears on Anything But Easy.
One thing that I don’t do is to tell any of these amazing guys what to play. I like to see what they bring to my songs. Since they’re such great songwriters in their own right, they instinctively know what can make a good song better.
I didn’t actually rehearse with anyone individually before the recording. I would either send demos or tracks from the studio and they each came up with their own parts. Despite what some may say, I’m really not that much of a control freak. For this album I even decided not to be there for the mixing sessions. Geoff did the mixing, would send the tracks to me, and I would make a few minor suggestions and he would tweak away. So, ultimately, I had the last word, but relied on the talents of many.
Nick Piunti & Ryan Allen
Which albums and bands were you listening to when you were writing and recording the new album. Have you heard anything new that you’d recommend?
NP: I’m always looking for something new that inspires me. My friend Ryan Allen has just released a new solo album called Heart String Soul that I love. He sent me the original demos as he was writing them, so I was there for the inception.
Chris Richards, Andy Reed, and Keith Klingensmith recorded their debut album, The Legal Matters, which is a great pop album that found its way on to a lot of Best of 2014 lists. I even played guitar on a couple of songs.
There’s a Brooklyn band called Nude Beach that I really dig. Their new album is called 77 and, yeah, it sounds like it could have been recorded in 1977. The new Spoon album, New Pornographers, The Both, New Mendicants (a handsome chap named Sean Hannam introduced me to them!) and Jason Narducy’s band/solo project Split Single is right up my alley. It’s indie-rock and power pop influenced, as well
Will you be playing some gigs to promote your new album? Do you think that you’ll get to play in the UK? We’d love to have you over here…
NP: There will be a few shows – for sure. The UK and Europe would be awesome, but it would have to make financial sense. Making music and financially responsibility don’t usually mesh in the independent music world, unfortunately.
Good luck with the new album – it’s a great record. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
NP: I’m halfway done with songs for the next album and maybe I’ll collaborate with a friend or two on something new as well.
I’m fortunate to be able to keep making new music and really lucky to be hitting my stride when most sane people would have given up years ago.
I still have the passion and I have friends that inspire me, so why would I stop? Oh, and most importantly, I have the most incredible wife in the world. That is not to be underestimated.
Beyond The Static will be released on March 14 (Two Brains Recording Co.). There are plans for a vinyl version later this year.
Nick Piunti | Beyond the Static Nick Piunti’s smashing followup to last year’s 13 in My Head is another outstanding collection of melodic pop classics sporting great, catchy and hooky choruses and top-notch playing from, among others, Nick, the Legal Matters’ Andy Reed, and music pal Ryan Allen, from Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms. Melodic winners abound, from the oh-so-luscious “Heart Stops Beating” and the gorgeous “Quicksand,” which sports one of this album’s most delectable choruses, to the amazing “Six Bands,” about a gal who’s in “six bands, none of them good.” Hopefully, she realizes that she’s spinning wheels that won’t take her anywhere. Nick’s lead vocals are strong and assured and quite musical. One of the finest albums of this young year, and a surefire candidate for top honors in the best of 2015 sweepstakes. Outstanding stuff.
Nick Piunti – “13 In My Head” It’s probably fair to say that Nick Piunti is a bit of a veteran in the power pop world given he goes way back to 1975. That’s not to say his music is any less relevant today, thankfully the need for hummable melodies and classic pop songs remains. In this great new release he has created an album which has a power pop feel with a modern rock sound. In many ways it follows other great acts from The Replacements through Redd Kross and The Fountains of Wayne, which have created a magic line of modern pop rock. The album actually opens with the title track and it’s a brilliant opening number which is a great power pop song. It has that feeling of youth and just carefree fun that we all had at the age of 13. “On The Way Out” keeps it going with another really smooth and catchy song with some great Na Na Nas in it! If hearing this song doesn’t make you at least nod your head then you’d better check your pulse.
The sound slows down a bit on “Good Things Going” which is a bit more of a sixties power pop type song. “She’s A Good Time” has a similar feel and with the slightly slower beat giving it a more psychedelic edge like the band Jellyfish. “Farewell, Goodbye” takes this sound even further and could easily have been a track of that band’s classic ‘Bellybutton” album.
We are back to the pop rocking sound with “It All Comes Down” which brings to mind the impression of a later day Cheap Trick song. It has a great pop beat which if it was released by a boy band would be a huge number one hit. Again, “Sleeping On The Pavement” has Cheap Trick written all over it but this time has a more rocking sound and even an off kilter U.S. alternative rock feel. Any great pop rocking album should always have a hint of Elvis Costello about it and that’s certainly true of “Every Light On”. It has a great mix of different paces within the song with some great bridges before the choruses.
The pace slows down again with “Reasons” but Nick still can’t resist building up to a crunchy chorus. “Quicksand” is similar but with a more acoustic feel. It still has a warmth about it rather than just being stripped down. The album ends as it began with “Believe It” which is yet another rocking song with a great melody. This is just one of those albums you just hear and go wow. There are just so many great pop songs on it which all deserve to be huge. In this world of instant music and shuffle play, you will hear one of the songs come on at random and immediately check your player to see who the hell it is. Anyone who likes great pop rock or power pop tunes should check this album out. It has that great songs in the sunshine feel to it and will definitely leave you in a great mood.
Goldmine Magazine/Top 20 Releases of 2013
#7 Nick Piunti-13 in My Head
Power pop with a bit of a bite to the guitars is always welcome around these parts. When it includes gritty-yet-sweet vocals (imagine a less sandpapery Rod Stewart) and songs that you can sing along and play air guitar to (see “Got No Reason”), you know you’ve got a keeper. The title cut and “We’ll Be Together” are my faves today, but each of the 10 songs is good or better, no fuss, no muss.
- See more at: http://www.goldminemag.com/blogs/top-20-releases-2013
Pop Geek Heaven/Bloody Red Baron-August 2013 Review
13 In My Head burns like a Roman candle, brimming with songcraft, hooks, and bridges, This is mostly Piunti and percussionist Donny Brown with assistance from friends including Andy (American Underdog) Reed and producer Geoff Michael. Piunti has a uniquely American take on power pop with a melodic sensibility not unlike Greg Pope or Kurt Baker. It just keeps comin’ atcha and comin’ atcha until you have no choice but to bop ’til you drop. The tunes are sticky in the best possible way.
”Good Thing Going” is typical of Piunti’s work with its elegant chord changes, weeping guitar and hortatory power riffing. The hypnotic drone of “We’ll Be Together” recalls the Resonars. Tell me “Farewell, Goodbye” didn’t come off Spilt Milk? While not as lush as Spilt Milk, 13 beats with the same heart.
Nick Piunti’s new album 13 In My Head is an instant power pop classic. High on harmonies, hooks and killer choruses, and with nods to The Beatles, Cheap Trick, Redd Kross, The Replacements, vintage Rod Stewart and Fountains of Wayne, it’s guitar-heavy heaven. I spoke to Nick about the making of the album and why when a song just seems to fall out of the sky, you need to be there to catch it…
Congratulations on your latest album 13 In My Head, which is one of my favourite records of this year. I only stumbled across it recently, when I heard your song It All Comes Down on the Paul McCartney-inspired, power pop compilation CD, Songs In The Key of Paul, which came free with the November issue of Mojo magazine. It made me want to track you down and find out more. And here we are…
Nick Piunti: Thanks so much. The CD received the reception I was hoping for. I definitely was pleasantly surprised when Mojo contacted me.
You’re in great company on the Mojo CD – Squeeze, Robyn Hitchcock, Cotton Mather, Redd Kross… Not bad, eh?
NP: Yes, great company indeed. When we were making 13 In My Head, I wouldbring different CDsin for my producer Geoff Michael to listen to. Cotton Mather’s Kontiki and Redd Kross’s Researching the Blues were two I remembered. To be included on a compilation disc with both bands from albums that we listened to in the studio was pretty cool.
So, first things first, are you still 13 in your head?
NP: Well, I would say anyone my age that still has the nerve to write and record a rock record probably still has some of his teenage years left in him. I’m a lot nicer and mellower than I was at 13, though. The title actually came from a comment from one of my friends on Facebook. I posted something about working on a song with my buddy Ryan Allen, in his basement, and my friend commented, “What? Are you 13?” And my response was: “In my head”. Twenty minutes later, the song was born…
Can you tell me more about the background to the album?
NP: Well, The Respectables [Nick’s old band] called it a day and I went on a bit of a writing spree. A good friend of mine – Ryan Allen – and I got together at my place and I shared some songs with him, which led to some quick collaborations.
For a brief moment we toyed with the idea of having a band, rather than a recording project. We were going to be called Two Eugenes, but Ryan was rather busy with his other band and solo project and was soon to become a father for the first time. So I continued to map out the songs, but was successful in getting Ryan in the studio for half the songs on the record.
When were the songs, written, demoed and recorded?
NP: All of the songs were written between spring 2011 and early 2012, with the exception of the title track, which was written in early 2013. I actually demoed the songs on Garageband, using my iPad. The same tempos were used for the final recordings, but instead of my crude drum loops, Donny Brown (The Verve Pipe) came in to play drums. I sent him my demos – there were no rehearsals – and he just nailed it.
I think we did six songs on the first day (in May 2012), then recorded another six in July of 2012. The song 13 In My Head was recorded in early 2013. I felt like I needed one more rocker for the album. As songwriters, we always think the latest song is the best one…
What’s your songwriting process like?
NP: Songwriting is something I’ve been doing since I was 13, or younger. I write everything with my acoustic guitar, at my kitchen table. I find that when I pick my guitar up, the first thing that I stumble across usually leads to the next song. And when a riff and melody is accompanied with a lyrical idea at the same time, well, those are usually the best and easiest songs to write. When the song just seems to fall out of the sky, you need to be there to catch it. Sitting down trying to force a song doesn’t usually work for me. What I would get is something ordinary and uninspired.
Who are you main influences?
NP: Since I’ve been making music for so long, my influences change throughout the years. Of course, there’s some music that sticks with you forever, like The Beatles and The Stones, but I’ve also been knocked out by The Raspberries, Slade, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty – I used to sound way too much like him – Crowded House, The Plimsouls, The Replacements and Fountains of Wayne. The list goes on….
What are you into at the moment?
NP: I’m currently listening to the new Superchunk album, I Hate Music. Frank Turner’s new one is great, but I’ve got to watch out playing that one in front of my ten-year-old because of all the ‘f bombs’ he drops! I’m a big Mike Viola fan – he’s one of the best pop singer songwriters in my book. Redd Kross’s last record was great, but I would have liked to hear the vocals a touch louder in the mix.
Sometimes your singing voice sounds like Rod Stewart. Is that a compliment? I’m reminded of Paul Westerberg at times, too…
NP: I get the Rod Stewart comparison quite a bit. It’s a compliment if they’re thinking Maggie May, but not if they’re thinking Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? Paul Westerberg is one of my big influences for sure. I also get Bryan and Ryan Adams – no relation – as comparisons. I like the latter. I’ve also heard Mike Viola and Ian Lloyd (The Stories, Brother Louie). So any comparison means they’ve listened to my music, which is the idea.
Where did you record the new album?
NP: Almost all of the recording was done at Big Sky Recording in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with Geoff Michael. I did make a one-day excursion to Andy Reed’s studio in Bay City to do some harmonies with Donny Brown and Andy Reed in early 2013. I felt like a few of the songs could use some of their input. The vocal harmonies for Good Thing Going and Farewell, Goodbye were recorded there, as well as some keys and a couple of guitar overdubs.
What was your approach to this record? What did you set out to achieve?
NP: Well, my approach was to record the best recent songs that I had at the time. I knew there was a small community of power pop music lovers that would get what I was trying to achieve. I had some success in that market with The Respectables and since I was heading into a bit more of a pop direction with the new record, I figured it would be well received.
Also, with The Respectables we landed a couple of song placements – one in a network television drama and another in the film Jeff Who Lives at Home. So the thought of future song placements was also one of the reasons to make another record. Writing songs and recording them is what I do. I was happy with how easy it was writing the songs for this album. It doesn’t always come so easily. And I guess I felt like I wanted to prove that I could get better with age. Being in a band is great, but sometimes it’s better to grab the wheel and take charge. Of course, I was smart enough to have some great musicians bring the songs to life.
There are so many records released these days, because the technology is available and because it can be relatively cheap, but to get any attention and actually sell music is another thing. So, realistically, I’m not going to quit my day job – we have a restaurant, so it’s a night job as well. Spreading the word about my music without a publicist is a challenge, but I’ve been lucky in that regard. Selling CDs around the world is awesome. With all the free music out there, for someone to pay for it is quite a compliment.
The new album has a great sound – instant killer melodies and big, bold production that grabs you straight away. Can you tell me more about the band, the playing and your guitar sound, etc?
NP: Hey, thanks. Yeah. I like melodies, lyrics that don’t embarrass, and for things to sound good. It’s a fine line on production. I still want it to sound real – not too slick and with a touch of rawness – but lo-fi recordings with vocals buried in the mix are hard to listen to over and over for me.
Geoff Michael was responsible for the sound of the album. Having a drummer like Donny makes certain that the drums are going to sound good. I definitely wanted the drums a bit more up in the mix than on The Respectables records. I feel we were a bit too guitar-heavy on those releases.
I used my Rickenbacker 360 and Les Paul Junior for the majority of the record. Ryan also used those guitars for his parts as well. I used an old Matchless amp – it sounds like a Vox AC 30 on steroids.
Sleeping On The Pavement is a big, snarling rock tune, with lots of attitude. It’s one of the heavier tracks on the album…
NP:It’s the hardest rocking tune for sure. A real simple riff with a lot of overdrive double tracked. That song is kind of a knock to the whiners out there with their hands out, wondering when they’re going to get their due. Work for it, man. I sound like an old man now, don’t I? For a time I thought it was a bit too heavy for the album, but I’m glad I included it.
On The Way Out is pop perfection – one of my favourite songs on the album. I love the ‘bah-bah-bah backing vocals…
NP: I wanted to see how poppy I could get without being too over the top. The ‘bah bah bahs’ make everything more pop. The first line was about a friend who’s always on the cutting edge of what’s hip, but I changed the theme into a relationship thing. Hopefully everyone has a cool friend that can turn you on to new things, bands, etc. So, even though the song has a negative vibe, it started out as an observation about a friend.
You used to be in The Respectables. What can you tell us about those days? You split up in 2011…
NP: The Respectables began as a songwriting and demo project with Joey Gaydos and myself. Joey has been around the Detroit scene for years and played with Rob Tyner (MC5), Cub Koda (Brownsville Station) and had some success with his own bands. Joey played guitar on my solo album from 2002 and we became good friends. Some thought Joey and I were an unlikely match, as his previous bands were much heavier than mine, but his tastes are varied and with me he could bring out his pop chops. So we recorded a couple of CDs. The second one, Sibley Gardens, was the one that caught the ear of the power pop geeks.
Our drummer Donn Deniston helped bring that record closer to power pop territory. It was also the first time I worked with Geoff Michael at Big Sky. We did some overdubs there and he mixed it. The three of us would hash the songs out together and it was a fruitful, creative time. We recorded a three-song EP in 2010, but it was obvious that we creatively peaked with Sibley Gardens and that we were probably better suited as being a recording project than to try to make a buzz playing live. There wasn’t anywhere to go by bashing out in the small clubs. Been there, done that…
You started out by playing in Dwarf and The Take. Were they good times?
NP: Well, Dwarf was my first band. We started out as sixth graders at a talent show and ended up moving to California, as The Take. We were thinking we’d be the next Plimsouls, while the next big thing was actually Poison. We were disillusioned to say the least. We were the wrong band for the times. So, yeah, we starved in L.A, but we didn’t want to give up too early. After two years, I came back to Michigan. Michigan looked a lot better after two years in L.A, which is a great place if you’re rich, but not if you’re another struggling rock band. So, Dwarf was my youth and The Take was us becoming adults and getting a big dose of reality.
Dwarf started out playing Junior High school dances, with little girls screaming and love letters from fans – we were learning to play our instruments. It was a great time and I wouldn’t have missed it, but we were like so many other young bands that thought ‘no way would we not make it big one day’.
So what’s next for Nick Piunti? Are there any new songs on the horizon? Can we expect another solo album soon?
NP: Well I have a family – three girls and the most amazing, awesome, gorgeous, understanding and (did I mention gorgeous?) wife ever, who encourages me to keep doing what I love. So yeah, if the songs keep coming to me, I’ll keep making records. I have a few songs left over from the last album that will make a good start for the next. And I have a lot of unfinished tunes that are a bit softer – more pop, less rock – which may see the light of day. Winter is usually my creative time – it’s too cold in Michigan to play golf, so we’ll see what the winter brings…
Nick Piunti, 13 In My Head: Piunti’s debut evokes one of my other all-time favorites, The Replacements. He employs a more basic approach. Bass, guitars and drums propel succinct bursts of timeless powerpop that could have been recorded at any time since 1972. Piunti’s Paul Westerberg-meets-Faces-era-Rod-Stewart vocals, and pitch-perfect backing harmonies, should make this a car stereo favorite for years to come. Selecting a “best” song is difficult — there is not a misfire among the ten tracks — but the mid-tempo “On the Way Out” is a good place to start: www.popthatgoescrunch.com
Pop Geek Heaven/Bruce Brodeen
This song below (On the Way Out) from the new album, “13 In My Head” is gonna blow you away. It’s pretty much perfect and you pretty much need to hear it, savor it and live with it. It’s that good. I can’t think of a finer song I’ve heard in the last few months that typifies that classic ‘power pop’ sound than “On My Way Out”. -Bruce Brodeen, July 17, 2013 www.popgeekheaven.com
Absolute Power Pop/Two for Thursday, June 27, 2013
Nick Piunti-13 in My Head. If the name Nick Piunti isn't familiar to you then perhaps you know him from his time as frontman for Detroit's The Respectables, a band featured on these pages in years past. While I certainly enjoyed The Respectables, nothing prepared me for this solo turn by Piunti which I'm putting in pole position for top power pop album of 2013. 13 in My Head has everything you'd look for in a power pop album - crunchy guitars, great melodies and big hooks, and features assistance from the likes of Andy Reed and Ryan Allen. The title track opens things up nicely and really will make you feel 13 in your head again (especially if you were 13 during the 70s or 80s), followed by "On the Way Out" which is simply one of the catchier songs I've heard all year and reminiscent of Paul Westerberg in pure pop mode (a la "Dyslexic Heart"), complete with a "na-na-na-na" chorus. "Good Thing Going" keeps a good thing going, and "It All Comes Down" comes down squarely in Cheap Trick territory. The hits keep coming (if this were 1975) with "She's a Good Time" offering classic rock flourishes in service of another catchy tune, the bright rock of "Reasons" and the stacatto Beatlesque guitars of "Farewell Goodbye". Throughout, Piunti's slightly raspy, slightly snarling, vocals keep things from getting too saccharine (heck, there isn't even one outright ballad to be found here). 13 in My Head should be soundtrack for any power popper's summer this year. www.absolutepowerpop.com June 27, 2013
City Slang Weekly/Metro Times-Detroit's Free Alternative Weekly July 1, 2013
Nick Piunti has been making music for decades in bands like Dwarf and the Respectables, and if those groups were as good as Piunti the solo artist, based on the evidence on display with 13 in my Head, then I better get hip to them. This is a stunning power pop record, every song a melody-infused banquet. The title of the album is apt too; Piunti might not be a spring chicken any more, but the songs suggest that he’s lost none of his bounce, his enthusiasm. A magnificent album, all told. -Brett Callwood July 1, 2013
Ice Cream Man Power Pop and More - June 18, 2013
Once again, I am way behind with my mail, so many e-mails come through from great bands playing great music that I simply don't have time to get them all out there, so I am going to continue with my "round ups" in order to get them all out to you and what a blinding album to start with. Nick Piunti, who you may know as one of the Respectables (Detroit) or member of Chris Richards and the Subtractions, apparently, he is the cutest member of the band, but we are not able to confirm or deny this here at ICM headquarters, but, we do know that he has made a blinding power pop album with "13 In My Head" and that you should bag yourself a copy of this album with immediate effect! -http://.icecreamman1967.blogspot.com
Powerpopaholic- June 25 ,2013
Nick Piunti “13 in My Head” Nick Piunti earned my respect when I heard his old band The Respectables. Starting with the anthemic riffs of the title tracks its a collection full of multi-layered guitars, and it continues on “On The Way Out” where Nick reminds me of Paul Westerberg crossed with Bryan Adams. He slows slightly for the excellent “Good Thing Going,” with its great chord shifts and harmonies in the chorus. “It All Comes Down” is a heartfelt and simple rocker “as it all comes down to your friends,” reminding me of The Candy Butchers. “We’ll be Together” and “She’s a Good Time” amp things up again, and not a note of filler anywhere among the ten tracks. Even the heavier guitars on “Sleeping on The Pavement” remember to keep it melodic. No ballads here, but the tempo varies enough to keep things from getting routine. I hope Nick stays “13″ and gives us more of this excellent melodic rock. www.powerpopaholic.com June 25, 2013