I desperately wanted to name this band “I Was Electric” and Matt talked me out of it. While I still like the notion, he was probably right that it would’ve been a lousy name.
Zero Beat was a band of three housemates—Matt Cummins, Philip D’Ambrosio, and myself—and journalist/drummer-extraordinaire Bruce Falconer. Matt was the creative force of the band, and I was the secret arranging weapon. Little did we realize the untapped potential we had in Bruce (who went on to make Poor but Sexy shine) and Philip, who made everything more musical.
This band was a collage of songwriting appreciation, so it was very hard to find common ground. Matt always liked more synthy and effect-like sounds (such as you’d find with more guitar-oriented songwriter projects like Wilco), whereas I was in the middle of working on The Nitrate Hymnal, so I was up to my eyeballs in strings and piano. There was plenty of creative tension that was generally politely handled, with my opinionated music snobbery balanced by Matt's never-ending ideas and enthusiasm for bringing songs to life – the man just endlessly writes songs, it is amazing. It was in this band that I learned the importance of knowing what you want, being able to articulate it, and being honest enough to walk away when you know the relationship isn’t going to work out (even if you still like each other).
Anyway, we did some shows, recorded an EP, and then I left the group. The remaining trio recorded eight songs, some of which we’d worked on together, before calling it quits. Still, the band had clear potential, as you can hear for yourself if you find a copy of Matt’s smart “So Little Time” or Philip’s soulful “Olivia”.
Interesting side-note: Bruce and I have often been told that we look related. There must be something to it because I was, in fact, once mistaken for him by his own mother. Though we shared an employer, we merely eyed each other warily in the halls until striking up a conversation at a company happy hour. Later, when I was looking to put a band together, I remembered the red-haired drummer I worked with who loved The Police and invited him over to “jam.” He would go on to become an integral part of the next decade plus of my musical life.