While the word “underwhelmed” simply means, “fail to excite, stimulate, or impress” seems an unfitting name for this larger than life modern rock band from Brooklyn, New York. In fact, it’s an actual contradiction. This quintet gives the word a new found meaning as they fill venues on the East coast with packed houses, performing exceptionally great shows, and giving critics a run for their money. We can only hope to get a piece of Underwhelmed on a national tour.
With the combining artful sounds of electric guitars, acoustics, bass, and kick-ass drumming is done with absolute precision and balance. Each song from their latest LP, Reveal is filled with emotion, personal stories, and not a single track is less catchy than the previous one.
I met with Drummer, Chris Russo, Guitarist, Mike Armstrong, and Lead Singer, Chris Amplo and I got to ask the behind the scenes questions that fans want to know.
Normally a band name represents a state of mind. With a name “Underwhelmed”, how does the name fit your group? It's funny. I don’t know if I've ever answer this question the same way twice...lol...But, here’s how I’m feeling today about it...not taking each other for granted.....staying grounded and appreciating how lucky we are to THIS band.
While you have your uniqueness in music, who is your major influence when you write and create new music? There always seems to be a Pearl Jam thing going on for us. A part that sounds kinda like that part from their songs. I think what we really do is use their material to explain ideas we have about ours. They have such an incredible catalog. It's easy to almost call it a language.
What inspires you to write the lyrics for your songs?
The ups and downs of life......strength and hope....fear and courage.
You guys recently performed for the “A Friend in Need” fundraiser for Capt. Brain Gorman’s son in Staten Island. That must have been an emotional event for everyone involved. Was that a successful event? Did you personally know someone that attended the fundraiser? It was great...what was emotional for me was support people showed. They really stood together to help this man and his son....amazing.
For Chris Amplo: I had to point out this interesting fact about you. In a recent interview, you said that you grew up with the famous jingle writer, Steve Tudanger. He is famously known for the, “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't'” from the Almond Joy / Mounds commercials. Was it his stardom that influenced you into music? Not immediately. It really took time to sink in...what was really going on around me...how it was moving me....I'd sing ALL the time....but I was just something I did...and I kinda thought nothing of it.....I wasn’t even gonna be the singer in a band...I played drums for 9 years before this band....but I listened night after night.....I’d kinda sneak down to the basement stairs and sit and listen ..till I couldn’t keep my eyes open....looking back now...it was really amazing watching and listening to a professional writer work....building songs....creating hooks.
Chris Russo and Mike Russo are twins, but how did you and Mike Armstrong, Paul Boyle, all meet? I had auditioned for Chris and Mike after being fired from my first UNDERWHELMED....I made up the name.so I kept it......paul was a friend of mine and by chance we all met up in CBGB's to c a show....that was that.....Armstrong....well he was introduced to us by one of our old managers and great friend....Dave Pando...he knew we need a guitarist and Armstrong was perfect.
From that first audition with Chris and Mike Russo, you basically formed the band back in 1998, but you didn’t produce a CD until 2007. What happened during that nine year gap? A LOT of learning......to be honest we did do a CD in ....um I think 2000 with producer Scott Kempner....Sonically it’s an amazing record. We were just a young band...and for me....I hadn’t found my voice yet or really my songs.....don’t get me wrong...we're proud as shit to have done it.
What we really did was learn how to write.....we played like crazy.....and really worked on being a strong live band.....and over that we met a new team of people that, now, helped us with our new CD, REVEAL.
You have two full length CD’s available through CD Baby, Amazon.com, and iTunes. Do you have a new CD in production? When can fans expect the newest music from Underwhelmed? Don’t know yet. We're just kinda starting on new stuff...ideas, then songs, but as soon as we have something, we'll put it out there.
You guys are filling concerts with tons of people and you’re obviously a huge hit on the eastern sea board. When will the west coast get a taste of Underwhelmed? We'd love to get out west....its hard now....some of us have families , babies...but as opportunity comes our way...well take it one step at a time.
Do you guys prefer to stay independent? Would you consider the major record label life? Have you had a chance to sign with a major label? I'd think we'd like to try the major label deal, but it would have to be fair to both side...otherwise, indie is just fine.
Music pirating has infected the music industry and it’s no longer the money maker it used to be. CD music sales have almost dropped off completely and musicians are forced to go back to its roots and perform concerts like in the days of old. In this scenario, you are ahead of the game with live-concerts in your line-up. The only thing missing is the media coverage and nation wide public attention.
Do you plan on other public appearances to promote your music like XM and Sirius Radio appearances? It’s something we've been working on.....
These days, Youtube seems to be the media of choice for many Americans. Are you going to produce a music video for your fans? We did a quickie with our friend Brian Z from Zaba productions....it’s for Freak (Like Me). It’s a semi live video shot @ Arlene Grocery in NYC....He really did some cool stuff. We're looking to do another video soon....let you know ASAP.
Interviewed by Michael J
If you'd like to find out more information about Underwhelmed, go to their Myspace page. To listen to the 5-track preview, go to Underwhelmed presented by the Great Unknowns Podcast, Ep XXIII.