The End Men, a duo based out of Brooklyn, NY, embody a playful spirit somehow well fused with dirty, grungy, nasty blues rock. Matthew Hendershot and Livia Ranalli began this project as a trio and in the past year have settled into the pocket of a unique take on the drummer and guitarist duo craze sweeping independent music right now. Their style is almost vaudeville, the sound somehow reminiscent of small, smoky dive bars in Louisiana, complete with a dash of swing. Matt’s vocal is gritty and well seasoned and in perfect accompaniment with his aggressive and well timed chords and deceptively slack sounding runs. It’s a real graceful musical fall down a flight of stairs, laughing all the way. Liv is an incredibly talented drummer who appears well versed in many styles lending a shifting rhythmic quality to what might seem at first like a pretty limited working situation with only two instruments. Oh, that too…they’ll play just about anything. Washboards and household objects can be seen around Liv on stage on the regular. They’ll even rock from their living room sofa, as you can see in this clip from their award winning performance for Couch By Couch West. They grabbed Most Rockin’ Band!
When I spoke with Matt, one of the things he mentioned was how quickly this experience seemed to become as much or more about the people than the music. “We made some great friends last time around. Not only bands like Skeletons in the Piano and A Ton of Blues…but also local personalities.” The band has had some opportunities for shows from their relationship with the UMAF and that also proved a rewarding experience. “We were fortunate to be able to come back and do the Mardi Gras show and play with that great line up that Joe Sweet put together for that party and all the great crew that put it on, but we also connected with the Utica Photo Club, and amazing people like Christa Moen, Ramon Aiello, Adam Brockway, Gavin Law, Greg, Garrett (of Tram fame) and Janelle. More than just networking, we made friends! And that to us, is much more valuable.”
For working musicians, opening new markets and getting a foot in the door out of town is a challenging thing. The End Men have established some gig buddies and door propers they hooked up with wandering around our fine city. “We have done lots of show trading with Skeletons in the Piano in the capital region, and we went out Mass. way to do a show with A Ton of Blues. Those connections have also grown outward and connected us to other great people as well. We will be back in Albany in July, and all of that is via Skeletons. You know, they spent like a week on our floor here in BK as we toured around Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan rocking for a long weekend. Man, that was an interesting and hilariously fun time. Our best collaboration though was the invention of Extreme Rooftop Bottle Rock.”
I’ve got to know more about this Extreme Rooftop Bottle Rock. To be continued…
When asked what Matt would tell anyone curious about what the experience has been like, he told me, “I have been crazy evangelical about the Fest down here in NYC. I think we have like 3 or 4 friend-bands coming along this year, like Ghost & Goblin and I think The Disappointment. I always say the same things; one, think about it like a weekend vacation where you can hang out with musicians. Ok, that by itself is pretty awesome. Then you get to rock a few shows, even better. Most importantly I stress to everyone to get themselves involved in as much as they can. If you go and just want to sit in the hotel room and then play for 45 minutes, then it will be a bust. But if you get out, get involved, do the Greens thing, eat local, drink local, go see bands… I mean by the end of the weekend last year we couldn’t even walk a block, people wanted to stop and talk with us, take photos, talk about shows. We were giving strangers rides around… It’s just great.”
I love it when everybody gets it! All of this is part of what we strive for at this festival. I believe that Utica has the potential to churn out quality, involved fans and forge connections with people of like minds that can turn into lasting friendships and work relationships. Cooperation and not competition is the general vibration, in spite of each act having to essentially compete for a draw with a slew of other performers.
Let’s talk about merchandise. The End Men will have some goodies with them that you can purchase to help fuel your love for their songs and help to fuel the vehicle they trek up here in. Your contributions truly help each performer make ends meet and live their dream of creative self expression. From the Hendershot’s mouth: “We will have the EP with us for sure, and we may have one or two other little fun things by the time the Fest comes along. We are going to do a cassette single this summer I think. We are still working that idea out, it might be just digital and free, but who knows. Also we are doing a collaborative EP in July with Kane Grogan in Saratoga Springs. That will also probably be a free download thing, but it will be mostly for the fun of doing it on our end! We are working on the full lenght LP right now, but I don’t know if it will all be ready by UMAF. Maybe we will have teasers, hand burned to disk or something, we will figure it out. Might all be hodgepodge, but I think that stuff is more special than just a CD anyway, especially these days.”
You’ll want to check out some of the band’s content on the internet and you can do that by clicking any of the active links at the end of this piece. And, speaking of the end…