Rolling with The Congress in the rock world
When people ask drummer Mark Levy what kind of music his band The Congress play, he says, "Rock ‘n’ roll."
"They’ll just stand there for a second because they want more description, and then ask ‘What type of rock ‘n’ roll?’" Levy said with a good-natured laugh during a phone interview from Vail, Colo. "I always say, ‘just rock ‘n’ roll, because what else can I call it? I don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into the southern rock slot or the something like that.
"I mean, have you seen all the subgenres of rock music?" he said. "Just go to iTunes and you will see hundreds. And I think that’s an interesting aspect and might be a little discouraging to anyone who plays rock ‘n’ roll, because they get caught up in describing, rather than playing."
However, once people see The Congress perform, they understand what rock ‘n’ roll is. Levy said.
"We just want to play music that makes us feel good and share that with others," he explained. "When I think of The Congress, I think of a show where people can see music happen right before your eyes, and that’s attractive to us."
The Congress, Levy, bassist and vocalist Jonathan Meadows and guitarist Scott Lane, will perform at Flanagan’s 438 Main St., tonight, Saturday, Dec. 29, at 9:30 p.m.
Levy joined The Congress in 2011 after a jam session.
"I was in another band and we played a show with The Congress," Levy remembered. "Call it what ever you want fate, destiny, it doesn’t matter but soon after that session, my band split up and The Congress’ drummer was leaving. So, a few days later, they asked me to come jam."
That’s when the three found they got along.
"Musically, things worked out right off the bat and we realized we liked each other," Levy said with another laugh. "So, it’s going on two years, and I’m so lucky to be playing with people of such high caliber in their musicality and their personalities."
Drums were always on Levy’s radar since he was a preteen.
"If you go way back, my brother had a band and they would rehearse in my house when I was nine or 10 years old," Levy said. "As for my personal influences it was all about Led Zeppelin early on and Sublime and The Band. The Rolling Stones came a little later to me."
Levy’s personal path led him to the New England Conservatory in Boston, where his first two years were dedicated to being a classical percussion major.
"The next two years at the school were spent playing world percussion and drum set," he said. "There was a lot of jazz and multi-cultural stuff going on there at that time."
Still, it was the rock ‘n’ roll influences that were always close to the surface for Levy.
"I like to push the role of the drummer from someone who is a time keeper to someone that gets people to shake their butts," he said. "Rock needs a back beat, a strong bassline and a shredding guitar and that’s all you need. At the very basic level, that’s what we have going on."
While these days, the term "Rock Band" is a marketing catchphrase for video games, The Congress take those words seriously in a very real context.
"There is a misconception that our type of music is dying, but I think it’s still very strong," he said. "We play music that is very current and there are bands out there that are doing the same things we are doing."
The fact that Meadows and Lane initially joined forces in Richmond, Va., fed that do-it-yourself work mentality.
"The rock is strong in Richmond, and so is roots music," Levy said. "I think that’s where we get our sound."
Levy acknowledged that there is an abundance of DJs in the music business, but that’s not something The Congress is interested in doing.
"When I think of those types of shows, I think of them as a gathering of people in a social arena, rather than a musical arena," he said. "We play our own music that is based on what has come before us in the 1950s, ’60s and down the line."
The Congress will play at Flanagan’s, 438 Main St., today, Saturday, Dec. 29, at 9:30 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.thecongressmusic.com.
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