Full Tilt thrives on the diversity of its style
The much maligned hard rock/heavy metal realm doesn’t often boast a band with consistent melodic hooks, and songs and vocals that are energetic and involving.
When you do encounter such an outfit, you usually call them “Aerosmith.” But the fledgling Full Tilt might have something to say about that. Hear their music on their MySpace page.
One clue to Full Tilt’s infectious melodies is the diverse pedigrees of its members: New Orleans-bred singer/songwriter Justin Molaison, New Hampshire-born bassist Adam Wiedmer, Miami-bred drummer Mark Molina and guitarists Mike Fretwell from Boise, Idaho, and Ben Olendzki from Barre, Mass. The quintet met at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“When we first came to Boston for college, Mike (Fretwell) and I were roommates,” Molaison said. “I had been doing a lot of my work as an acoustic singer/songwriter without any real edge. Believe it or not, I had never been around an electric guitar until I got to Berklee. Mike and I just started collaborating, writing and playing music.
“We met the other guys through house parties, jam sessions and so on.”
Hole to fill
A friend of Molaison’s from high school played bass on the band’s 2006 self-titled EP. But when the friend decided to head back to New Orleans to get married, the band had a hole to fill.
Fretwell and Olendzki, who were working at Daddy’s Junky Music in Boston at the time, knew just the guy, and Wiedmer was recruited.
All that diversity is reflected in the musical tastes of the band’s members. Wiedmer is a jazz fusion fan, heavily into Frank Zappa, while Fretwell is “a diehard blues fan,” who loves showing up at local jams.
Olendzki likes to veer between rock and metal guitar.
Molina played punk rock in high school, but then moved into reggae, R&B and hip-hop.
Molaison grew up in a house full of classic rock, but also delved into New Orleans’ vast menu of music.
“I think the nicest thing I got out of seeing all those Louisiana bands was the showmanship,” Molaison said. “Those bands, whatever style they are, can command an audience. I would be completely in awe of these Bourbon Street bands and the way they’d have such fun with their audiences.”
Of course, he hastened to mention that the Justin Molaison enjoying all those wild nights on Bourbon Street was a quiet, acoustic guitar kind of guy. It is doubtless a big step from that persona to the Mohawk-wearing lead singer of a boisterous rock band.
Things have changed
“I’m hoping we can get a New Orleans date (on an upcoming tour), because my friends from home won’t believe I’m doing what I’m doing,” Molaison said. “The little guy in the corner of the coffeehouse that they knew has really changed.”
As the band honed its style in clubs across New England (the group is particularly big in Fitchburg), the song writing also evolved.
Songs off the new CD like “Far From Gone,” “So Cold,” and “What If I” may have begun as Molaison acoustic outings, but soon grew.
“I still write with an acoustic guitar, and love to make demos of new material, just laying down the basic track. But then when I bring it to the rest of the band, with all their different backgrounds, it always changes and develops in all sorts of new ways,” he said.
That eclectic style has been great for the band but it also left Full Tilt in a sort of genre limbo during its formative years.
“Our style was hard to promote at first, so we had to be proactive,” Molaison said. “We went out to clubs and scouted lots of other bands, finding ones that we felt would fit with us, and then pitching clubs a whole night of our kind of rock."
Growing fan base
“We got lucky for some reason in and around Fitchburg, so we’ve been able to go out there, and to Gardner, every couple months,” Molaison said. “For some reason we have this huge fan base in the Route 2 corridor, and we play there more often than Boston.”
You can can buy “Push” at the www.fulltiltrocks.com Web site or from cdbaby, amazon.com, ITunes, Newbury Comics, or FYE stores.
Patriot Ledger contributor Jay N. Miller covers popular music in the Boston area. If you have information or ideas for Jay, send it to him by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Attn: Music Scene in the subject line.