June 25, 2009

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Screaming like a…
Banshee has old-school ambition
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

It’s fair to say that most bands on the local circuit share a similar life cycle. Their members meet in their youth, jam in their basements and at friends’ pool parties for those formative years after high school, and then attract a larger audience during regular sets at clubs and bars. They might record a few songs or even a full-length CD, before marriage, kids and work loom on the horizon and their expensive equipment collects dust in the basements where they once broke the sound barrier.

At least that was the case for the members of Banshee, whose members each played in now-defunct area bands in the ’70s and ’80s. But musical restlessness eventually took over, says guitarist Dave B, who was once a staple in several Lynn, Mass.,-based bands.

“I quit the whole music scene for about 10 years, and one day just put out an ad, saying I wanted someone to jam with,” he said. “I was kind of tired of just having all this gear and not doing anything. Billy answered the ad and the next thing you know, Sweede piled on, and we went and saw Joey, and we liked him so much that we invited him down to a practice, and he ended up being the final nugget in the group. It was just a magic thing.”

Hearing Dave B — he won’t give out his last name — talk about his involvement in Banshee is like hearing an aspiring musician rave about the opportunity to play alongside his rock idols. And Banshee has an impressive pedigree. There’s lead singer Joey P, who does double duty, performing with Banshee and local favorites The Rusty Cadillacs. Bassist Sweede used to play in bands like Mantis and Hex, opening for groups like Kiss and Ronnie Montrose, and drummer and vocalist Bell Wenzel made a name for himself in Oliver Sudden. Balancing a band with many varied backgrounds can be tough. Wenzel says that Banshee manages to make it work.

“We all have a good portion. Everybody has their own part,” he said. “We blend very well together…. We all get along well, too. We hang around together other than in the band, which is a good thing. It’s like a little family.”

In particular, said Dave B, bassist Sweede acts as the musical backbone of Banshee, filling the void left by the band’s lack of a rhythm guitarist. To boot, he’s also not a bad vocalist.

“A lot of people look over bass players usually, but he’s not a typical bass player,” he says. “He’s just a mechanic when it comes to his instrument.”

With Manchester boasting a fair number of cover bands, Banshee manages to stand out by lugging what they claim is the largest PA system of any area group. During the band’s two-year lifespan, its members have started to incorporate more live material into their live set, while also infusing the term “cover band” with new life.

“We really wanted to bring back more of the old concert experience, instead of just going out there [and] playing covers,” Dave B said. “Everyone in the band comes from more of an original band before this. We came together and wanted to do some more old-school stuff.”

Now that they’re all at the age when families and work have settled into the picture, the boys of Banshee aren’t looking to conquer American Idol anytime soon. But Dave B says that doesn’t mean that the band isn’t ambitious.

“With Banshee, we just want to destroy New Hampshire. I want to tear down the walls of every club there is. I want that name to get out there,” he says.

“We’re having a great time with it. And whatever happens happens.”

Banshee’s upcoming shows include a Friday, June 26, show at American Legion Post 23 in Milford (15 Cottage St. in Milford); a Saturday, July 18, show at Murphy’s Taproom, 494 Elm St. in Manchester; and a show on Friday, July 24, at Mad Bob’s Saloon, 342 Lincoln St. in Manchester. Banshee’s MySpace page — 20,000 hits and counting — is www.myspace.com/rockbanshee.