While it may sound like a quarterback’s cadence, the members of Blue 22 say their band name has absolutely nothing to do with football.
“I always liked the simplicity of ‘Maroon 5,’ you know?” says Dom Spinelli, who provides rhythm guitar and vocals. “It’s just a color and a number. I thought that was kind of cool.”
“I always thought it was lame,” interrupts Nick Spinelli, his identical twin brother, who plays lead guitar, and occasionally, adds vocals.
“So, it keeps going; no one can think of one we all agree on for like two weeks. Then one night, it was really late, but I woke up my brother because it hit me,” continues Dom. “What about ‘Blue 62,’ because the Beatles started in 1962?”
“He was getting on my nerves that night. So, it turned into this argument, we ended up kind of yelling at each other,” Nick recalls.“‘Seriously, this is the last time you’re gonna wake me up,’ I told him. ‘We’re not 62 years old, we’re 22, so if anything, it’d be ‘Blue 22!’ Now shut up, I’m going to bed.’”
“When he said that, I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s it,’” Dom concludes, with Nick admitting the idea grew on him after a good night’s sleep.
So, in the morning, the brothers passed it along to their bassist, Eli Burgard, for approval. More important to them, however, was Burgard’s wife’s opinion, whose status as an outside observer meant she really was the one to convince.
Happily, Burgard texted back: “She loves it, guys.”
The story of Blue 22’s naming origin is one of playful annoyance and lighthearted banter, which is perfect for describing the band itself. Further, chance encounters between Burgard and Dom in a barber shop, and drummer Will Hyman at a Rotary Club function, reflects the “lightning in a bottle” energy the four members feel they’ve accessed.
The group recently released its first album, “Where the Music Is Loud.” It serves as a love letter to a classic rock sound pioneered by bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and others. Songs still stand out with a unique Blue 22 flair for experimentation and, perhaps unintentionally, a hidden darker depth.
“It’s funny, I think everyone thought they were the biggest Beatles fan until they joined the band,” jokes Hyman.
“Compared to the average person in our age range, each of us can hold our own in Beatles trivia,” Burgard says, pointing at himself, as Nick and Dom nod. “And then I met Will and felt like, ‘Wow, I actually know absolutely nothing.’”
The group agrees that Hyman is the encyclopedia when it comes to facts about the Beatles, but also the Who, Queen and other classic rock bands. For example, before meeting up with the rest of the band for his first practice, Hyman prepared from a list of cover songs the group had performed previously.
Nick, who admits he was late to that practice, immediately threw a curveball by selecting a song not on the list. Undaunted, Hyman adjusted and actually knew the song in question, solidifying the other members’ confidence in accepting him into Blue 22.
The group acknowledges that it is a bit odd to see people as young as they are performing songs inspired by music from 50 or 60 years ago.
“You expect the older generation to like this type of music, but we have people across the age range that come to our shows,” Burgard says. “There’s a kind of timelessness to the Beatles, I think. That’s why people are still connecting with that music, because it speaks to a really pure moment.
“It’s like you want to take that moment and capture it so you can relive it,” the bassist continues, reflecting on his own songwriting process as well. “That’s the reason why I listen to music and want to share my own experiences.”
In fact, “Where the Music Is Loud” has songs written by each member of the band, reflecting their musical versatility. For instance, vocals get passed around between all members whose harmonies can be reminiscent of the Beach Boys. Members switch or add in instruments with Hyman contributing on banjo on the track “Together Forever,” and Dom playing harmonica on “So Far Away,” for example.
The tone and energy of the album is upbeat and celebratory. From raucous choruses in the leadoff track “C’mon C’mon” and “Hey Hey Girl” to the driving guitar of “Make My Night,” the entire collection pulses with verve and enthusiasm.
However, the group collectively agrees “Where the Music Is Loud” actually reflects a coming-of-age story. The joy and excitement at the prospect of growing up is quickly complicated by heartbreak and ultimately accepted in the closing tracks “Time For Everything” and “Goodbye.”
“They always say, ‘The first album is easy because you get to include all the songs you’ve been writing your entire life.’ And that was really true for us,” says Dom. “The process might have taken a long time, but that creativity was there.”
Blue 22 credits the album’s existence to Mike Muscarella, who guided the band through the recording process in his own home studio.
The group has immense appreciation for the guidance from established local musicians like Muscarella and Tommy Brunett and venues like Iron Smoke Distillery, Marge’s Lakeside Inn, and Buntsy’s Neighborhood Food and Drink. Their efforts reflect the supportive atmosphere of the Rochester music scene.
“We really owe it all to them,” Burgard says.
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].