County Grind hearts the Gallery, a super-swell buncha fellas originally from rural Western Massachusetts who decamped to West Palm Beach a few years back. Though they're nominally based here in South Florida, the longtime friends spend most of the year on the road, chugging through endless national tours. Recently, that even included one in which they played unpaid, depending on merch sales to get to the next town.
The grind might be paying off. The still-unsigned band recently recorded a new EP with producer Warren Huart, who most famously gave Augustana and the Fray their genreless, widely appealing, but still relatively raw rock sound. Huart helped the Gallery burnish its hearty brand of straight-ahead American rock 'n' roll that fans of Tom Petty will adore.
Another feather in the band's cap: Its recent inclusion in AOL and Rolling Stone's first contest to feature an unsigned band on the cover. Going head to head against 15 other acts, the band depended on listeners' ratings for a shot at the final prize: a slot onstage at Bonnaroo, a recording deal with Atlantic, and bragging rights to being the first-ever unsigned act on the cover of the legendary mag.
Your web site lists punk-derived acts like Thrice as influences. Was that a scene you were into when you were younger?
Ryan Cooney: Yeah, we went to Thrice shows a lot when we were younger, we were going to some of those shows, you know, harder bands. I guess we were drawn to Thrice in particular because of the way they handled the band and themselves. Even though their music was harder and not so necessarily our favorite style of music, we really respected that they focused a lot on the songwriting and kind of made it all about the music.
Not all of the chat made the cut, though, especially the part where we got sidetracked and started talking about Florida. Read the interview over at Spinner first, and below, check out some outtakes from the Q&A.
Most pressingly, the band celebrates its EP release this Friday at Respectable Street in West Palm. The show starts at 8 p.m., and support comes from Kadets and the Gold Coast. 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. 561-832-9999; respectablestreet.com.
So you credit your band as being from both Massachusetts and West Palm Beach. What's the story there?
Ryan Cooney, drummer: My brother and I and our friends who play in the band with us, we're all from western Massachusetts, and we all ended up relocating down to West Palm Beach pretty much for the band, so we could all start writing. Dave [Mozdzanowski] our bassist, bassist went down there for school. We all liked the area and thought it would be a nice place to be writing and you know, just getting out and playing some shows in all the cities nearby. So we ended up relocating there and spending a lot of time there in the last six years.
At what point did you all make it here together, and from when do you count the true beginning of the band?
Brendan Cooney, lead vocalist and guitarist: We consider a strong start date to be about 2007, which is when we were all finally together. Before that it was all online communication and emailing demos to each other and playing over Christmas break. One reason for that is because there is an age gap in the band or about two-and-a-half years between the oldest and youngest members. So me and Shea [Brennan, guitarist] were still in high school while Dave and Ryan were in West Palm. So then we made the move in about 2007 and got serious once we moved to Florida, which is why we call it our home as a band.
Dave, what school were you attending in West Palm, specifically, and what drew you to the area?
Dave: It was Palm Beach Atlantic University. I think I visited a friend junior year in high school and I really liked the area, the beach and stuff. I studied marketing.
Why do you think the area's been such a good place to launch your band, considering one of people's big complaints is that there are relatively few venues to play?
Brendan: It wasn't really like a set plan to move to Florida, like, this was where we're taking the band. It just kind of happened slowly. Like Dave moved down there, then Ryan transferred schools from Rhode Island, and me and Shea were graduating high school. And we were kind of like, "Well, if we want this band thing to happen, now would be the time to do it."
Ryan: Yeah, it wasn't necessarily what Florida had to offer in the beginning. But we have found though that having all the cities around there, we've gotten out to a bunch more markets than what seems accessible in Western Massachusetts, you know. Believe it or not there's way more venues in Florida than even Massachusetts or the New England area. It's really strange.