What do you get when you put a metalhead, a music director, and a paralegal into a supply closet? No, not Black Sabbath’s legal defense team — you get the Guilt Trips, a piano-powered trifecta rocking the second floor of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim synagogue weekly.
“We moved around a lot, but then decided to use my office,” says Toby Singer (piano player/lead vocals) of the band’s makeshift rehearsal space. Recently highlighted as one to watch in City Paper‘s fall arts preview, Singer is the music director and youth advisor for the synagogue.
Singer, with the help of bass player Richard Smith and drummer Alex Ziegler, managed to push aside computers and bookshelves and squeeze their gear into the cozy corners. But it’s not too snug to function. Claustrophobia must be a catalyst for creativity because they keep churning out original material.
“Toby’s songs just sound good the first time you hear them,” says Ziegler of Singer, the band’s main songwriter. The lyrics and melodies hint at Singer’s musical theater background, but ultimately could be described as two parts Ben Folds, one part garage band shaken to a pop crescendo. Essentially it’s the kind of go-to music you’d grab for a long road trip when you want to hit the highway and sing along.
“Our influences? Angular 2000, the Strokes, Dismemberment Plan,” says Singer.
“And Okkervil River more recently,” adds Ziegler.
Smith, the real heavy metal fan of the group, plays with local jazz outfit Harrod and Scorn, so jazz with a mix of classical and metal also comes into play.
“I’m more of a jam band student myself,” says Ziegler.
“And I’m an amalgamation of everything. It keeps evolving. I listen to a lot of Kanye West, Radiohead, and hip-hop,” says Singer. With that cornucopia of influences, the trio has managed to siphon out their own unique sound — a sound that might be heard by a wider audience soon.
As they say, location is everything, and perhaps their rehearsal site has led to some higher power intervention. Bubba Taylor of Fat Cat Productions has recently become the Guilt Trips’ agent.
“That’s how we got the Cumberland’s gig,” explains Singer. “He sent out our demo to all the local venues, and Cumberland’s was the first to respond.”
This coming Tuesday the Guilt Trips will headline the King Street bar. The set will include originals, including the songs “Bit by Bit” and “On Your Side,” with possibly a few surprise covers.
As far as the future, “We’re looking for total world domination,” says Singer. Total world domination, one supply closet at a time.