Echolyn stays quietly in
By Naughty Mickie
Pennsylvania based progressive rockers
Echolyn have been around nearly two decades, yet unless you are
steeped in the genre you may have never heard of them. And
you're missing a lot. Their music is filled with the layers and
deep thoughts of prog, but has grooves that slide it into other
styles of rock and make it easily accessible for anyone who just
appreciates well-composed music.
The band consists of lead vocalist and
guitarist Brett Kull, lead vocalist and bassist Raymond Weston,
keyboardist Christopher Buzby, bassist Thomas Hyatt and drummer
and percussionist Paul Ramsey. Their most recent release is
2005's "The End is Beautiful" (Velveteen Records). Echolyn was
formed in 1989 out of another group, Narcissus.
"With Narcissus being a cover band, I got fed
up with it so I got out of that," Kull begins. "The weird thing
was that Paul, who is the drummer in Echolyn, and Ray, who is
the singer and also bass player, were also in Narcissus with me.
They wanted to keep going in the cover band area because the
money was good and you don't blame them, but I was fed up with
"We split up and I spent about a year just
trying to write tunes and formed an original band that was
called Echolyn with a couple of different people-- another
drummer and another bass player. What happened was those guys
fell apart, as far as the guys in the cover band, Narcissus, it
never took off and they weren't doing anything. And since we
were all good friends anyway, I got Paul in on drums because the
drummer that started Echolyn with me for a couple of months
ended up leaving. I got Raymond to sing because we had a pretty
good bass player, his name was Jesse Reyes. So Ray came in to
sing along with me and we got Chris that same month. We just
were like, 'Let's just play original stuff and try that.'
"And at the time period, you know how you
listen to music, you listen to certain styles when you're a kid,
five or six? When you're a teenager you listen to other things
and when you grow older things change. At that time period in my
life, being my late teens and early 20s, it was all about
progressive rock," Kull laughs. "Which at the time, in the late
'80s, it wasn't even really spoken about because at that point,
the hair bands were still in and the only cool bands that were
around at that time were Jane's Addiction and stuff like that.
So we started this progressive rock band because that was what
we were into at the time, at that age and just started playing.
That was in the fall of 1989."
I mention the blend of music that makes up
"At this point in our lives we've all
outgrown it, but at the same time we still like it and the fans
never seem like they outgrow that
kind of stuff, so you do it," Kull replies. "Too, at this point
in our lives, it's like the prog rock thing is secondary to
trying to write a good song. It's still there though, it's still
evident, no doubt."
"Prog rock fans are among the most hard-core
fans I know," I comment.
"That's interesting because I've spoken with
different people too, from metal bands to whatever, pop,
everybody seems pretty hard-core," Kull says.
"True perhaps, but prog rock fans think
nothing of traveling across the world to see a concert," I
"You've got a point there," agrees Kull. "I
think you're right about that. One of the reasons for that long
distance travel is it's not a genre that's got a huge fan base
so whenever one of these bands like ourselves play it's sort of
a rare occurrence. It's not like a cool metal band, like Down.
We're not actually out on the road touring around, so the fans
never have an opportunity for us to play in California on a
regular basis or L.A. or New Orleans. Given the amount of space
between our shows and a certain demographic, these people just
want to travel out and see it."
I ask why they haven't played in California
"In the first place, we split up in '95."
Kull clarifies, "The first show we played out there was in
Reseda and that was '94, we put out this album on Sony and it
fell through the cracks. It probably sold 5,000 copies in the
state, the label dropped us on that merit because in order for a
lable at that time period, especially one as big as Sony which
was the hugest at the time, you need to seel 60-70,000 copies
and we weren't anywhere near that. We got dropped and we formed
again five years later.
"Now it's like a hobby so we play whenever we
can. Obviously up and down the East Coast is a helluva lot
easier than driving out to California. We would love to get back
out there more often and we plan to do that once we get out this
new album, but it's just really hard. We're all so busy. My job
owning a studio and working with other musicians, it's a 24 hour
job, constantly working. Chris is a schoolteacher, so he's
"It's really hard to get out and do a serious
tour where we can get out and play in places as far away as
California. We were fortunate enough to get to Europe in 2005
for the first time and we had such a great time. California is
like Europe, so thank god we're getting out on the East Coast,"
I prod Kull to learn more about what makes
"I started playing guitar in sixth grade,"
Kull shares. "I've been into music all my life. I've been
listening to classical music, kid's stuff, whatever, ever since
I can remember. My first memories are of me sitting around a
record player listening to music, so I'm a huge music fan and
have been all my life. In high school I kinda knew, I like this
music thing and I want to pursue it. As soon as I got out of
high school I jumped right in, started playing in clubs and
formed a band.
"Music was a part-time thing all the way up
to 1993 when we got signed to Epic Records on Sony." Kull goes
on, "Sometimes I wouldn't have a job and the music was the only
thing that would subsidize me, then I'd have to go out and get a
construction job. There's always been something in conjunction
with music up until then."
Today Kull owns the full-production studio,
Area 602. What's in the name?
"602's just a weird number for me, it's one
of those ones I keep seeing. Do you have that at all?" Kull
"Yes, my number is 45, " I reply.
"This number keeps coming up, it's like what's Area 51? So I
called it Area 602. I keep seeing it, it's bizarre," laughs Kull.
"Free time is spent just relaxing and playing
guitar, reading," Kull says. "I do a lot of reading. Right now
I'm reading this cool book called 'The Lives of the Great
Composers.' I'm learning about everybody from Beethoven and
Mozart to Wagner to Sibelius, all kinds of cool people. The cool
thing about this book is it talks about the reality of the way
that these people were and all the other people around them at
the time period. It's grounding in a way. My biggest things are
probably biography, history and then Stephen King, end of
We return to Echolyn's creative process.
"Now we write it all together, it's great.
Being in a band it's like, 'Hey, let's utilize this thing that
we have.' Back in the day it was
mostly Chris and I, it was our keyboard player writing all this
stuff, but now, it's just awesome. We all sit in a room and we
work out a tune together," Kull explains.
"You jam," I remark.
"We don't jam, I'm definitely not a jam guy,"
Kull responds. "What will happen is that somebody will have an
idea and we'll start playing it, so I guess in a sense you're
jamming, but then you see what's up and someone will be like,
'Try this out,' that kind of thing and we go with that. It's
very communal and very sort of haphazardly organized, I know
that's a weird oxymoron, but it's cool how it works out.
"We've been playing together for so long that
we're all on the same wavelength and we really honestly enjoy
hanging out now. We've been through the wringer together, we've
gotten into all the fights in the mid-'90s when we were on Sony
and now we just hang out, we have some beers, we have music and
we play together, we talk, it's just awesome."
I wonder how Echolyn has managed to stay
together with the same lineup so long.
"We honestly like each other," Kull replies.
"I know it sound hokey, but the only lineup change we've had is
probably the bass player, Jesse, he left right when we were in
the middle of our first album, he just couldn't handle the
intensity and the seriousness that we had. At that time we were
very serious. As a band, in the early '90s, we would get
together six days a week, five days a week and then we would be
playing on the other days, so we'd be playing at least two days
a week and doing business on the other days. He just couldn't
handle that, which is fine, I respect that. That's what
happened. And being around each other that much, you get to know
each other. Once you get through all the arguments and any stuff
that happens with being around each other all the time, you find
out that you really like hanging out with each other, we've
lucked out that way. We've had a really good solid lineup for all
that time because of that, we just like being around each
So there's that secret, but how has Echolyn
managed to keep their fans despite a four-year hiatus?
"I firmly believe that it's quality
oriented," states Kull. "We really, really kill ourselves and
keep trying to better what we're doing. We don't like being in a
rut. Every album that we try to do is completely different in a
sense of how we approach it, how we record it, how we write it,
everything is always different. That keeps it fresh for us and
also keeps the listener, I think, in what we're doing because
it's never sort of standard operating procedure."
Echolyn has been working on finishing a new
album and plans to hit the road in spring and summer. They are
planning to return to Europe and the West and East Coasts. They
will probably also hit Chicago and selected cities in Michigan.
"It's so nice to still be doing this to the
extent that we are, meaning it's a glorified hobby and to still
see it growing, that's a
cool thing," Kull says. "Every one of our albums that we've put
out outsells the one we did previously. We can't say how cool
that is to be in a band and have that happen. Those things are
really important and for us to express and say thanks to people
for having that continue to grow."