uMan ERA interview and Article
by Patrice Wilding with The Scranton – Times Tribune 2/1/2016
From left, Phil Bickhart, Joe Longo and Thomas Koop Sr. make up the hard rock/rockabilly trio uMan ERA.
ARTICLE IN TODAY’S SCRANTON TIMES-TRIBUNE
uMan ERA develops following with unique melding of genres
Published: February 1, 2016
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES-TRIBUNE
Newfoundland-based band uMan ERA’s motto may be “Born to screw up,” but the hard rock/rockabilly trio is definitely doing something right.
Since the band made its debut in 2013, uMan ERA has put out two albums and developed a fan base drawn to their unique blend of musical tastes.
“I was raised on classic and punk rock and always loved blues rock, Southern rock and country music, so I try to bring those sounds together,” said Joe Longo, who plays lead and rhythm guitar and supplies lead vocals for the band.
“It’s extreme blues in a sense,” he explained of his music. “A fusion with rock and hard rock, approaching metal. But we do some softer stuff, too.”
Mr. Longo put the band together so that he could finally commit the songs he had been working on for almost a decade into live performance and also record them professionally.
Drummer and backup vocalist Tom Koop Sr.’s own extensive background as a veteran musician of multiple bands gave uMan ERA added dimension.
“I cut my teeth on Southern rock,” Mr. Koop said. “I’m from Long Island, where there was a cover band in every bar every weekend.
“I’ve played in everything from rockabilly to wedding bands to classic rock/Top 40 FM dance bands,” Mr. Koop said. “In a cover band, you’re playing something someone else played 30 years ago. It’s rewarding to me to play something nobody played before.”
The first album, “Bad Decisions,” came out in 2014, and featured Mr. Longo and Mr. Koop, as well as former member Slug Yankowy on bass. Recorded at SI Studios in Old Forge, the record included songs that explored a variety of themes and subject matter.
“I always find stories from life to write about,” Mr. Longo said. “I’ve written some biker songs, several songs about relationships, love gone wrong and mistakes you make. Some sad, some kinda funny.
“People do messed up things,” he added. “It’s kind of funny, but kinda makes you mad, so I write songs about it.”
The group’s second album, titled “One Blue Sky,” was released in 2015 and included contributing musicians John Zawicki, Craig McMurray and Chris Shrive. The title track, a “political statement” song that delves into racism, as well as the rockabilly tune “Johnny Thunder” and “The Gambler,” which tells a story of addiction, gave the sophomore effort some gravitas.
“‘One Blue Sky’ is a more melodic album, where ‘Bad Decisions’ was more hard-edged,” Mr. Longo explained.
Nod to age of man
The introspective songs reflect the band’s mission, which is spelled out in its name. A play on words thought up by Mr. Longo’s brother, Vince, uMan ERA refers to the age of man, as well as the concept of “human error.”
“We try to be humble about our music and what we’re doing,” Mr. Longo said.
Despite a strong preference for cover bands by most area venues, uMan ERA found a home at places like New Penny in Scranton.
“There are a lot of venues very receptive to original music and I have to give them credit,” Mr. Longo said. “It helps to do multi-band shows, so we bring in a crowd or following for each band. We’ve hosted and participated in many of those.”
They also believe in assisting neighbors in need whenever the music can serve a good cause. The group holds a Rock for Tots concert each year to benefit Toys for Tots in Wayne County, and frequently lends their voices to local benefits.
“It’s important for musicians, and anyone really, to give back to the community in a sense,” Mr. Longo said. “We like to help people in need, especially the kids’ efforts. We’re always jumping in on something like that.”
Aside from lending support to charitable efforts occasionally, guests at uMan ERA shows get to enjoy a high-energy performance that usually includes a couple influential covers, such as “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors or “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, plus previously unpublished uMan ERA songs. With new bassist Phil Bickhart rounding out the lineup, upcoming shows will offer something fresh for audiences.
“We try to do our best to get our music out there, but also have a good time and interact with the people there,” Mr. Longo said.
“We’re not copying someone else’s style,” Mr. Koop said. “I love what Joe puts into the music, and putting my stamp on it and adding to the band’s style is what it’s all about for me.
“We make people move and pay attention,” Mr. Koop added. “They’re not listening to the same old thing. It’s a new twist. Nobody else in this area or most areas I’ve played does that.”
Meet uMan ERA
Based out of: Newfoundland
Genre: Hard rock and rockabilly For fans of: Clutch, Masters of Reality, Stray Cats
Members: Joe Longo, rhythm and lead guitar, lead vocals; Tom Koop Sr., drums, vocals; Phil Bickhart, bass, vocals
Online: Visit www.umanera.com or follow the fan page on Facebook.
Up next: Saturday, Lyrics, 76 S. Main St., Carbondale; Saturday, Feb. 27, Renegades Saloon, Newfoundland