By Thom Jennings
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Most music groups have humble beginnings. Many formed in garages and basements and got their start playing in seedy dives and at high school dances. For every band that achieves superstardom, there are countless others that fade into oblivion.
This week we will examine two local area bands at different stages of their music careers, The Pillagers from Buffalo and No Sad Tomorrow from Medina. What these bands have in common is that they are doing it the hard way; performing mostly original music.
People in the area may already be familiar with The Pillagers because they opened for Tears for Fears in Lockport this summer. They have also opened for other national acts like the B-52’s, The Tubes, Bruce Hornsby and The Alarm.
Lead singer Gary Zoldos noted that The Pillagers are in their “second incarnation,” including Zoldos, Bob Rich and Bob Kupczyk on guitar, Mike Bisson on drums and bassist Marc Hunt. They have one album of original music out and plan to begin recording a second one early next year.
“Bob (Kupczyk) is my partner in this thing, since the CD came out we have had some people leave. It was all amicable but the newest incarnation is much better as far as the level of dedication and the musicianship.” Zoldos said.
Like most local bands, the members all hold down other jobs, but Zoldos noted that, “It may not be full-time, but this thing has got some legs.”
Their experience as part of the Lockport Canal Concert Series was a positive one. As Kupczyk remembered it, “It was cool interacting with the other bands but the best part of the experience in Lockport was the crowd. That crowd in Lockport was tremendous.”
The Pillagers play mostly original music, which makes the group attractive as an opener for national acts but is not without its financial drawbacks. “I think most cover bands sell their souls. What we do may not be as financially rewarding, but we are developing an audience and staying true to our artistic ideals,” Zoldos said.
In addition, opening for national acts with radio hits presents other challenges: “Rock music fans are a discerning bunch. When we open for national acts with original songs we had better be good.”
Zoldos takes it all in stride and is proud of what his band has been able to accomplish. “We are all rock music fans, and if we weren’t in this band we would be a fan of this band,” Zoldos said.
The band has a catchy and unique sound Zoldos describes as “if there were two trains, one with the sound of the Beatles and the Stones and it collided with a train filled with the sound of The Clash and the Sex Pistols, that would be where our sound is born.”
It is important to Zoldos that The Pillagers are a band that are “conscious with a conscience,” as well. The band performs many benefits, including taking part in Goo Goo Dolls’ bassist Robby Takac’s Music is Art Festival and Feed the City events, which help provide food for Western New York area food banks.
The members of No Sad Tomorrow (only a few weeks ago they were called Sandstone, named after Medina sandstone) describe themselves as a cross between punk rock and metal, Metallica meets Green Day. Donnie O’Keefe is the band’s leader, with Mark Parker on bass and Jake McAdoo on drums.
O’Keefe plans to pursue a full-time career in music but just in case that doesn’t pan out, he also attends Monroe Community College to study meteorology. McAdoo is also attending MCC. The band has performed at some open mic nights in the area and recently played a show at Extreme Wheels in Buffalo.
The band formed earlier this year and has faced the same problems that many new bands face — keeping members and building an audience playing original material. “People yell, ‘play Freebird’ (the iconic Lynyrd Skynyrd song) and we don’t ever plan to even practice that one,” O’Keefe said.
Nonetheless, O’Keefe noted that “the biggest challenge is to get people to stay dedicated.” The band already lost one of its guitarists.
In spite of the drawbacks and obvious challenges, the band has its eye on the future and when asked whether No Sad Tomorrow will try to embark on a national tour, O’Keefe said, “Eventually it will come to that. Within the next year or two we could pack up a van and tour the country.”
While O’Keefe and McAdoo are just out of high school, bass player Mark Parker is the elder statesman in the band and a longtime friend of Donnie’s father, Michael O’Keefe. Parker helps the band hone its style and has been an integral part of the recording process as the band records their original compositions.
Parker has been in the local music scene since the 1990s and has seen many bands come and go. When asked what he thought about his current band’s prospects he said, “they are dedicated and they play together a lot.”
The band practices twice a week for over three hours a session, something that was difficult over the summer when O’Keefe and McAdoo were employed at Darien Lake working twelve-hour shifts.
No one can predict what the future will bring for the Pillagers and No Sad Tomorrow but for now, both bands continue to pursue their dream of rock superstardom, taking different paths as players of original music looking for an audience.