Members Anthony LaMarca
Years Active 2017
Latest Release Indianola Pizza Dough, released 4/23
Favorite Local Artists Sam Goodwill, Angela White, Del Sinchak
Current Album on Repeat Various mixtapes friends have been making/sharing during the pandemic. Also, lots of Glass Harp.
Currently Reading “Our Band Could Be Your Life” by Michael Azerrad
Favorite Venue to Perform Westside Bowl in Youngstown
The Best Kept Secret in the City It used to be Kuzman’s, but it has unfortunately closed and since been reopened under a different name. Kuzman’s was the long time place to see polka bands every weekend. Me and my friends started going in high school just to hear the bands, but the folks there insisted that we had to dance too. It was beautiful. It was where I really fell in love with the very deep ethnic music scene in Youngstown.
Local Artists We Should Know More About Angela White is probably one of the most exciting/interesting to me. She plays on my new album. She plays tamburitza music (Croatian folk music), but she’s young. She makes these tamburitza records the way that most people our age make rock/pop records; recording at home on her computer, overdubbing all the parts herself. It’s just very interesting to me that someone is doing what we all do but with ethnic music. There’s this deep history of ethnic music here, but not a ton of young people playing it, so I think she’s really important in that way.
Words of Wisdom I’ve tried to put those all in my songs. Give ‘em a listen. Be more like your dog.
Biggest Inspiration Peppermint Productions. Peppermint is a recording studio/label that was started in 1971 by Gary Rhamy. I’ve done all of my albums as The Building with Gary at Peppermint. So much of Youngstown’s music history took place in that room. So much of what my new album, Indianola Pizza Dough, is about is based at Peppermint. It features a few of the older musicians (Del Sinchak, Tony March, Ron Austalosh) and pays tribute to many others (Blue Ash, Iron Knowledge, Sweet Thunder, Poobah). My great-aunt and uncle used to have a pizza shop down the street from Peppermint and they would feed many of these musicians back in the day, so there was a connection to that place even before I was born. To me, the music that comes from Youngstown, and that studio specifically, is the most inspiring to me. It guides me to be the most authentic version of myself. I’m not pretending to be anything else. I’m an Italian-American kid who grew up hearing my grandpa play accordion…the most famous musicians from my town are polka musicians…Youngstown is a city that’s culture is largely shaped by its immigrants (as is always the case)…so I should do my best to try and be a part of that and try and bring some light to that.
What do you think is the biggest lesson we can all take away from this past year?
I wrote this in march of last year…
As a society, we spend so much time planning for the future, and place so much value on work and productivity. But what happens when that’s taken away? What do you do when your plans all of a sudden don’t work out? What do you actually have when every part of your “normal” life is gone? Sometimes it takes a sudden change to realize that we’ve been neglecting the most important things in our life; our time with each other, our health, our presence. If we recognize that neglect, we gain perspective, and can re-prioritize our lives.
Whether we choose to admit it or not, the process of loss is traumatic. It’s important to understand that when we begin a fight or begin to work through trauma, we need to also begin the process of healing that trauma, because the healing is going to take a long time. Sometimes starting that process is as simple as admitting that we aren’t OK. That we are scared and unsure. That we need to talk to each other about our fears. It doesn’t mean we’re weak or defeated. It means we’re human. It’s a simple acknowledgement that we are complex; that experiencing fear and being consumed by fear are two separate emotions. We can be afraid and still be in control. It’s when we think we have to act tough and act like nothing’s wrong is when we are out of control. That’s when our fears are in control. By simply acknowledging that healing is needed and starting the process of healing now, we’ll be more prepared to reconnect with the more social version of the world we’ve now been detached from.
I am very much still in the healing process (I would even say the early stages of the healing process) from when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma five years ago. I was immediately confronted with those questions. What now? Everything about my life from that moment was changed forever. Everything I had planned for the future had a big question mark next to it. Everything was, “maybe”. It felt unfair at first, but I started to see that the things in life that we assume are guaranteed are not. I felt like my future was taken away from me, when in reality my future was always a question mark. Everyone’s is.
Part of my treatment included a two week stay in the hospital for a bone marrow transplant. The first few months after the transplant I was basically in quarantine. I had to build my immune system back up from zero. I wore a mask in public places, or just avoided them altogether. Even when I did go out, I was a little on edge at first. Was I going to get sick? If I did get sick or have a fever I would have to go straight to the hospital.
One of the few things I could do comfortably was go to the park with my wife and my dog, which was also the thing I missed most when I was in the hospital those two weeks. Although it was temporarily taken away, I knew that at the end of my time in the hospital I could go to the park again. When I did, I had a profound appreciation for that simple daily act. The joy was magnified. When you lose things that are a part of your daily life, you receive the strange gift of finally, truly appreciating that thing you’ve lost. I’m not trying to say that the only way to truly appreciate something is through loss. But when something in your life is taken away you either realize how much you miss it or how much you never needed it.
Losing something, or having something taken away (especially without having a say in the matter) is hard, no matter how small or great that thing is. I’ve personally had a pretty big thing taken away; my overall physical health. I’m not saying I’m not healthy. I can do everything I have always done; run, play music, eat, drink, talk, hear… These are all big things that I am grateful for everyday. But underneath it all there is that reminder that I have an overall systemic problem that at some point will boil up to the surface again. And that at some point I may not be able to do all of the things I can do today.
It seems like we’ve gotten to this place in our country and in our society too. We have deep, underlying, systemic problems that we have been very good at denying. Our current situation has brought them right to the surface and we’re now having to face it in a real way. It feels doubly unfair now because as so much of our normal lives get taken away, we realize as well that most of us aren’t responsible for being put in this situation.
As much as we have to face this head on right now, I believe we also need to begin the process of healing right now because it’s going to be weird when this is over. It’s going to take a while to feel comfortable again, to trust that we’re safe again. We also need to begin healing so that we can realize early-on the gifts that can come from this struggle.
I hope this event will help us re-prioritize our lives, so that we’ll be better prepared to more deeply appreciate our lives and our world. I think it’s fair to assume that most people are really missing the simple act of being physically together with our friends and loved ones. I am. I know that this current situation will pass, and I’ll call my friends to come over for coffee. When that finally happens, it is going to feel so good. That simple act is going to be recognized with the full weight of its importance; maybe for the first time. As much as I am ready to get back to normal life, I also hope we take some of the quarantine life with us too. A world where we slow down from time to time. Where we don’t have anything to do but be with one another. No shopping, no work. A sabbath of sorts. Just go outside…walk the dog…
What would you consider your Best Local Show Experience?
I don’t remember the year, but it was the Saturday before Easter at Kuzmans. At some point all the lights came on and some one came through the door in an Easter bunny costume and handed all the women chocolate roses while the band played “Here Comes Peter Cottontail”. It was like a dream…like heaven.
Any local Artists you admire that you’ve never met?
There are some older folks who have died that I regret not getting in contact with while they were still here, or that I regret not talking to more when I did know them. On my new album there is some audio from an interview I did with Martha Krizancic, who ran a studio and label in Western PA called Marjon International with her husband Johnny. I wish I had spent more time with her.
Anyone you’d like to Collaborate with?
Anyone you’ve collaborated with recently?
I’ve been slowly working on some music with my friend (and The Building touring member) Nathan Phillips. Nathan is from Mansfield, OH although he currently lives in New York. He makes incredible music under the name Big Bend.
Experience working with a label?
I typically release all my music on Peppermint Records, which is basically self-releasing at this point, but the point is that this is something that I’m trying to grow. I released my last album, PETRA, with Concord, which was overall a good experience. I did everything I would have done if I would have released it myself (down to picking the pressing plant…which was Gotta Groove in Cleveland, obviously) but had a little support system behind it. It was cool that they wanted to put out my album, as I’m not exactly known as a radio friendly unit shifter.
What does Cleveland or Akron have to offer aspiring musicians?
I think any small city offers what you think you’re getting when you’re young and move to a big city. I moved to New York in 2005 when I was 18. It was great and I’d do it again probably, but I also wonder where I’d be if I had put that energy into Youngstown at the time. Smaller cities are cheaper and it’s a little easier to make some noise. Local radio stations are more accessible. I’m a big believer in the importance of regionalism in music, so I’ll always be more excited when someone is from someplace other than NY, LA, Nashville, etc…at least if they’re doing something that sounds like there.
What has your recording experience been like?
I mentioned recording at Peppermint with Gary Rhamy. Peppermint is a bit of a time capsule. It still looks like the 70s in there and it’s all the same gear. I realized when we were recording the first album, Reconciliation, that I hadn’t ever worked with an engineer Gary’s age (he’s in his 70’s). So many musicians love/want to get the sound of records from the 60’s and 70’s, and they’ll use the same gear that was used on those records. But rarely do you get to record with an engineer who came up making records during that time. Gary has a very simple approach to getting sounds in the studio; he tries to keep the signal path as simple and short as possible going into the recorder. It was the first time that everything sounded exactly as I wanted it to sound in the control room as it did in the live room. Clear, dynamic, open. I also work a lot with Adam Boose, who is a mastering engineer in Cleveland. He’s younger, but it’s a similar experience. He keeps things simple and as true to the source as possible.
What are the ingredients to a thriving music/art scene?
What’s the next move?
I plan on reissuing some of the records that were done at Peppermint over the years.