Will of Escaper Discusses His New Band and the Year Ahead (Brooklyn Bowl, 4/4/17)


In my opinion, there’s no better feeling than discovering that new band for the first time. It’s one of those simple pleasures in life that comes when you’re least expecting it, but can also be attained if you strap down and put a bit of elbow grease into the process. Sometimes it can be as serendipitous as a new band shuffling into your ears while listening to Discover Weekly on Spotify, or as methodical as digging through related videos on YouTube until you find a group that delivers the warm-and-fuzzies the way the Biscuits do. Whichever way you approach music discovery, a few things are objectively true: it feels great, it won’t break the bank, and the possibilities are endless. Now this is where Escaper fits in to the equation.

The team here at Sound Fix is based in Brooklyn, and we collectively attend around 10 shows in New York City each week. New York is the epicenter of the music world, so the best of the best will find its way to our neck of the woods one way or another. What I’m trying to say is we keep track of a whole lot of good music here year round, and one new band we’re all particularly excited about is Escaper.

Founded in early 2016 by Will Hanza (guitar), Jay Giacomazzo (bass), Andrew Nesbitt (drums), Johnny Butler (sax) and Adam Ahuja (keys), Escaper is one of New York City’s youngest and most ambitious new jam bands. The group has already performed at venues like the Rockwood Music Hall, DROM and the Brooklyn Bowl, and even helped host and perform in the 20th Anniversary of Phish’s Billy Breathes show at the Brooklyn Bowl with Aqueous, Jimkata, Teddy Midnight, Bad Faces, and Cousin Earth. What’s more is Escaper has also already signed with the reputable Ropeadope Records and Calabro Music Media, and has solidified May 12th as the release date of its debut album.

Escaper was meant to return to the Brooklyn Bowl a few weeks ago with Brooklyn’s Sprocket and North Carolina’s Jahman Brahman, but due to the confusing weather here in New York City the show was postponed to to April 4th, and Jahman Brahman has been replaced by Brooklyn’s Gowanus. (buy tickets here) In the meantime, take a second to get to know Escaper a bit better by reading this Q&A with Escaper’s lead guitarist, Will Hanza. In this interview we discuss everything from Will’s personal music background to the inception of the band, from Escaper’s 2017 outlook to its debut album. You can stay on top of everything Escaper by following their Facebook page, and make sure to check out their debut single “Castles” below.

Sound Fix: Hey Will, thanks for taking some time for this Q&A! To kick things off, fill us in on what the band’s been up to so far in 2017. 

Will Hanza: Hey Sam! First off, thank you for asking to do this interview, 2017 has been a pretty busy year so far. We just got off a run of shows in New York State and Virginia, capped off with a bill with the incomparable KINGS, our label buddies from Richmond. That band is fire and Richmond has a great scene. Some may know that some of their band members are from the group Butcher Brown. We had the pleasure of Kelli from the band sit in with us on a fun rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” We also booked another show at the Brooklyn Bowl (***recently postponed due to winter storm Stella and will now be on Tuesday April 4th***). We’re excited to return there after what was a really fun night late last year doing the 20th Anniversary of Phish’s Billy Breathes (with Aqueous, Jimkata, Teddy Midnight, Bad Faces and Cousin Earth. So many great homies and hosted by Brookladelphia). We’ve also been working on a lot of new material, and being on the road playing shows definitely has affected that in a great way.

SF: Escaper‘s a new band you founded with Jay, Andrew, Johnny and Adam in early 2016. Is there an interesting story behind the inception of the band? 

WH: There is a pretty good origin story, actually. Jay and I met a few years ago during the New York Band Draft (NYBD) which was an annual event for a few years that had about 60 various musicians who all went into draft pool (think fantasy sports style) and then were picked by captains to make ten franken-bands that then participated in a battle of bands. The band Jay and I were in actually won that year which is really it’s own story. Well, Jay and I decided to do an instrumental jam side thing and then sort of fell into another band, Kalen & the Sky Thieves. We had a lot of fun with that band which ended up on Ropeadope. When that band went on hiatus, the jam project we had been playing around with off and on ended up coming more to the forefront. I met Andrew at an acoustic show, of all places, watching him play a cajon and I thought he had great percussive feel. On a whim, I asked him “Hey, do you play a kit, too? (yes)… And do you like funk (uh, of course!)” I invited him to a jam session and we clicked right away (Jay and I were like, ‘oh damn! this is what we’re looking for!’, actually…). Andrew knew Adam separately and we invited him. I then found out Adam had his own music with Ropeadope (The Flowdown and his solo work). Small world! I’d known Johnny for a few years as well and always loved his perspective on music. He was an OG with Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds and he does some really interesting stuff with live loops & Ableton, as well as his own band “Epic Fail.” He came on board as well, and thus, Escaper was born. In this time, we’ve all become like brothers. It means so much to be able to play with such talented people who are also some of my best friends in the world.

SF: Tell me about your personal music background. When did you first start playing the guitar, and what other projects were you involved with before Escaper?

WH: Well, I first picked up the guitar around seven because my father, who was and is a professional guitar player in Connecticut, made sure I had one. At the time, I was really more interested in GI Joe’s and Transformers, so I didn’t really do much with it. Then, at around age 12, I picked it up again after seeing how a couple other kids were getting into it at school and it seemed so cool **laughs** Certainly changed my life forever. Became much more than “cool.” I can honestly say music is where I found my soul and an understanding of energy and spirit.

My previous projects include: Kalen & the Sky Thieves, as mentioned. I have been playing mandolin in the jamgrass band The Breakneck Boys (as seen at Catskill Chill the past couple years), as well as acoustic folk duo Owl & Wolf (we played Philadelphia Folk Fest last year). Before all that, I was guitarist for the funky band Cold Flavor Repair. I’ve also done solo stuff for years.

SF: What guitarist or band has been the biggest influence to you as a musician?

WH: I’d certainly have to say my dad. Growing up with a professional guitarist as a dad was both weird and awesome. While I didn’t have a lot of sit-down lessons with him, he had a profound influence on on my approach to music. I grew up with a lot of jazz music in the house. I also listened to a lot of Hendrix, Zep, and Pink Floyd growing up.

SF: Escaper put out its first single, “Castles” in December via Ropeaodope Records. When can we expect the entire debut album? 

WH: May 12th. We’ll be having a record release show that night at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC. (tickets)

SF: What sort of process does the band take when writing new music?

WH: The term ‘jam’ can be a loaded one, but the idea of having some concrete ideas but allowing the music to be open and flowing and take advantage of the moment is really important to us. Sometimes one of us has a riff idea and then we go from there. The important thing is to allow for interesting things to happen. Record everything and then go back from there and refine. Lots of times, one of us will chime in and say, “what if we go here from there” and the song matures that way. Some songs were written based off jams that happened spontaneously at shows. This is particularly exciting, as the songs were born out of the energy we were feeling with the crowd at the time. As far as recording the album, it was primarily recorded all live so as to capture the synergies that happen between us as we play off each other, rather than a layer-by-layer sort of situation.

SF: To somebody new to Escaper, how would you describe the band’s sound? 

WH: That’s always a tough one! We’ve been going with “Space Funk Psych Rock” which people seem to relate to. There are definitely some fusion elements in what we do. We put the band together as a way to “escape” all confinement – not to be tied down to a particular genre, but to create a sound and feel that if you happened upon us, say at a festival, you’d stick around for the heady danceable vibes **laughs**. We’ve had folks compare us to all sorts of bands, though to be honest, I’m just glad people are digging what we do.

SF: Last year Escaper signed with Ropeadope Records, and just recently you joined the artist roster at Calabro Music Media. The band’s clearly off to a meteoric start. What new goals do you have for Escaper in 2017?

WH: Getting our debut album out is obviously a huge step for us. We’re honored to be part of Ropeadope’s incredible roster of artists and we’re looking forward to working with Calabro. We’ll be on the road promoting the new album this Summer. We actually have a whole new album’s worth of songs we’ll be recording soon and the next album could come as soon as the Fall, along with a Fall tour.

SF: Looking ahead, what live show are you most looking forward to? 

WH: Besides our show at the Brooklyn Bowl? **laughs** “Late Night with Lespecial” at Knitting Factory on 3/25 is a must, especially with Neal ‘Fro’ Evans (Dopapod, Elephant Wrecking Ball) sitting in with them. Cabinet is playing Gramercy on April 28 and I love those guys.

SF: Finally, I like to end interviews with an open forum. Is there anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t cover here? 

WH: Sure! One thing I have come to adore with what I like to call the “jam fam” is how much support there is. Some would say the NYC music scene isn’t supportive, but those that you see over and over at shows would disagree. There are so many genuine, good people in this ‘fam’ and it is very open armed if you are a good person who just also loves music. People bonding through true love for music. Like the Catskill Chill motto – “All Love All the Time.” I’m not afraid to say that the we more share the love, the better off we all are. Thanks, again, for the questions!
13151693_1697099880554644_931618572894337336_n Will of Escaper Discusses His New Band and the Year Ahead (Brooklyn Bowl, 4/4/17)

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