The idea that anything you put out into the universe remains forever tangible, defines the collective awareness and dedication behind Smithtown alternative band, Echo Hill.
Speaking with the band’s 21-year-old guitarist, Alex Laudani, it’s apparent just how well he and his bandmates understand that it takes more than a dream to achieve the tangible.
It’s an early Sunday evening when Laudani sits down to talk. It’s a busy time of year for everyone. Each member of the band is pursuing a college degree and semester finals are just around the corner. On top of his studies, Laudani continues to add material to the band’s website, Twitter and Facebook accounts. “We put a lot of time in this,” he said. “We try to get a lot of information out there to our fans.” And the effort is getting them noticed. Echo Hill was named a featured artist on an independent radio station based out of California, and they’re garnering enough attention to land gigs off Long Island. Just a few nights before, they performed a gig at the Lit Lounge in New York City. “We were actually scheduled to play in Webster Hall,” said Laudani, “but one of the promoters changed the venue so we played at the Lit Lounge.” The East Village venue is no stranger to big names, having the likes of Bauhaus, Dirty Vegas, White Stripes, and Rolling Stone magazine cross through their front door over the years. “It was a cool, underground place… We’re hoping to get another opportunity to play Webster Hall. But, that’s how the city goes. We’re just trying to get our foot in the door. You have to be grateful with any place that you get.”
Laudani is approaching his final year at SUNY Farmingdale, where he studies business. As if one needs to question his field of study, as every visible step the band makes appears orchestrated. A well manicured image made in the absence of any guidance from a manager or record label. “It’s all us,” he said. “We’re trying to go as far as we can by ourselves. Once someone approaches us that we like, we’ll come to a decision. But at this point we’ll try to do as much as we can independently.
[Independently, to an extent.]
“My family is very supportive. They love me, obviously. I grew up on classic rock – Led Zeppelin and all those classic rock bands. I was always listening to that as a child. It’s part of the reason why we have that sound and that influence in our music. I definitely hand it to my parents for that.”
Echo Hill was conceived in 2010, with Laudani and bassist Dylan Coates writing music jamming out in each other’s basements, but the present line-up has been together for less than a year. Each member attributes different influences, from the aforementioned pioneers of hard rock to contemporary mixed-media artists like Linkin Park, melding a collective sound that has drawn comparisons to Paramore. The band has taken upon itself to launch the resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll and identify closest to the alternative rock genre. They had received favorable feedback after the release of their first EP in 2012. However, the band parted ways from their original lead singer, leaving themselves without a front man.
Then came, Monique.
“One day she emailed us,” recalled Laudani, of current front woman, Monique Teichert.
Teichert has a contralto style of voice characteristic of jazz performer Diana Krall, only had Krall decided to go hard rock. She’s a siren on the mic, possessing a voice that’s both sultry and haunting. However, none of this was ever showcased outside of a few talent shows she won during junior high school.
“We really didn’t want to reach out to her [at first],” said Laudani. “Because it would completely change the sound and image of the band, something that I was very reluctant to do. I always feared becoming one of those female-fronted bands where everything is about the singer.”
Nonetheless, a persistent Teichert earned a tryout with the band. Laudani described what changed his mind.
“Something about her was special, I thought, so we decided to do a side part – an acoustic kind of thing,” he said. “So we brought her in, tried her out, and we liked her. As far as “that moment” it was one of our first shows at this venue called Revolution. The place was packed, and Monique shined; leading the crowd and all. That showed me right then and there that she was an innate performer and that she was born to do that. It was really cool.”
Teichert was officially made the band’s lead singer in early January. And, since then, have released their second EP, Namaste, and organized a food drive by means of a multi-band concert event in Smithtown this past summer. The event collected more than 900 pounds of food intended for those still impacted by the events of Hurricane Sandy.
Echo Hill’s image – enhanced or maintained with the addition of Terichert – is nevertheless well cultivated, partly due to the use of social media: A medium the band recognizes as a vital tool for success. “We understand the importance of social media, how important image is in these times,” said Laudani. The band’s Twitter feed is consistently peppered with links and updates. And, the 12 videos available on their YouTube account include professional productions of live shows from various venues, and jam sessions recorded from Rogue Studios in Hicksville, NY. One video in particular is a cover of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”
It’s a tall order to cover a legendary band, though most attempt it regardless of talent level. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and the late John Bonham are considered all-time greats within their own rights. But, Echo Hill’s tribute to the Brit rockers has less to do with mimicking a classic, as it is attempting to make something of their own. Teichert’s come-hither vocals replace Plant’s more aggressive approach, while Laudani’s guitar work seems to show less Page and more Mike McCready, utilizing distortion pedals akin to the Pearl Jam guitarist’s repertoire.
Drummer Keith Miller, who idolized Bonham, is a decorated artist, having received numerous accolades through New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) throughout his academic career. And, Coates brings on the talent of playing both guitar and bass, bypassing guitar so that he can fill out the band’s need for a bass player.
Everyone holds his and her own on this tribute, and it’s worth a viewing. Then, it’s recommended you listen to Namaste. The talent within this group shines through with versatility and originality.
“For some bands, image is even more important than music,” said Laudani, “and we don’t stand for that.”
Fans in upstate New York need to take notice of Echo Hill now. Laudani says the band is planning a tour of the local colleges that pepper the landscape. Albany, Binghamton, Oneonta, and Cortland were all named. “We’re still planning that,” he said. But, once these plans become tangible, you ought to go see them.