You can be sure of one thing when you listen to Pocono-based uMan ERA. They will rock you. That’s exactly what happens as you listen to the band’s latest effort, “One Blue Sky.”
The eight tracks that comprise “One Blue Sky” will surely stack up in a rock fan’s collection alongside some of the genre’s giants. It all starts with a “Detroit Rock City”-esque drum beat on album opener, “Johnny Thunder,” whose guitar work from frontman Joe Longo showcases the band’s combination of hard rock energy and blues emotion. “Apocalyptic Rock” is a particularly high-octane song fit for an action movie soundtrack, with blazing guitar riffs and vocals just maniacal enough to convince you that the world might be coming to an end.
Certainly, an interesting moment is the album’s title – and longest – track, which clocks in at a whopping eight minutes and 23 seconds. It progresses from early blues metal riffs that seem to bear the weight of the world, and heads into the territory of a searching, yet optimistic mid-tempo anthem, delivering the message that our world can, in fact, live and work together under “One Blue Sky.”
Certainly, there are many stellar moments on “One Blue Sky” that are a credit to the songwriting and arranging ability of Longo and company. This is an album meant to be turned up to 11, and its tracks surely will provide listeners with unforgettable moments during the band’s live set.
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
“In all honesty, UMan ERA was formed by just that; a series of human errors,” said lead vocalist/guitarist Joe Longo of the Newfoundland trio UMan ERA (pronounced ‘Human Error’). “My original music was performed by me and a friend under another band name. As members were added, internal conflict developed as to whether or not the band would stay as an originals band or steer more toward cover music.”
UMan ERA has just released a debut disc titled “Bad Decisions,” landing somewhere within a sub-genre the band likes to call blues-metal (“I’m not sure that’s a recognized genre,” Longo jokes, “I never see it listed.”) Inspired by diverse sounds like Clutch, The Doors, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and filled out by bassist Slug Yankowy and drummer Tom Koop Sr., the band is conceivably, firing on all cylinders right now with the current lineup.
“In late 2013, I asked Slug to play bass for the band when the position opened up; same deal for Tom Koop Sr. on drums, joining UMan ERA in early 2014,” Longo said.
“The present line up of us three is perfect as far as I’m concerned. I had tried it as a four-member band earlier in 2013 and that did not work out. Slug, Tom, and I are happy as hell as a three-piece band and don’t plan on changing that.”
According to Longo, the primary songwriter in UMan ERA, the “Bad Decisions” record was a long time coming, as far as the material was concerned. The album’s eight tracks were worked on in some form from as far back as 2007.
“Over that span of time some of the songs developed and were adapted to the new band sound,” Longo said. “Slug and Tom added their own parts on bass and drums. We also worked hard on us all singing together and developing vocal harmonies. I think it’s great that we all do our vocal parts in addition to the instrumentals. It makes the band so much more dynamic.”
With pre-production in the bag, the band chose Old Forge’s SI Studios to record the album; a process of which Longo admits was “plain and simple.”
“We decided, together, to record it live, as we would play the songs on stage – with very little added effects or over-dubbing,” he said. “’Bad Decisions’ is us, UMan ERA. But, something awesome happened since we did these recordings this past summer. Just the experience together of recording that music has made us a tighter band and our playing has advanced dramatically. While we are happy with the results of ’ Bad Decisions’ our second CD to be recorded this spring will reflect much that we have learned and our improvements as a band.”
Listening to the album, the band’s knack for a fuzzed-out boogie and rough groove is uncanny. Cuts like “3 Steps Back” are prime examples of the band’s ability to strike like lightning within the pocket.
“I’m glad that you single out ‘3 Steps Back,’” Longo said. “That song and ‘Everything Bad’ do have a boogie feel and we love that tempo. As a matter of fact, we are working on our first original rockabilly-metal tune that takes it a step further for CD number two. And yes, I’d say it is a trademark vibe, tempo and sound of UMan ERA. The sound results from our tunings on the guitar and bass and our equipment configuration. We like playing songs that are upbeat and have a swing or boogie feel.”
So, does band chemistry have anything to do with that locked-in tightness of their music?
“We are brothers,” Longo enthusiastically answers. “These guys have brought this music to life. Slug is a genius on bass and puts his heart and soul into what he plays with this band. He has added dynamics I never imagined and he makes it work for us as a three-piece band. I am playing both rhythm and lead guitar and when I’m cutting over to a lead, Slug keeps it going for rhythm as well a bass, so nothing is lost; nothing drops out.”
Longo is equally complimentary when it comes to his drummer, “the heartbeat of our music.”
“Tom is the most supportive person I have ever worked with in a band,” Longo said. “His enthusiasm has kept me going at times of discouragement or doubt. And, he is the best drummer I have ever worked with; stable, creative, and always reliable. I’m especially looking forward to some of the new material we are working on, as both Slug and Tom are now more involved in the creative process.”
UMan ERA is a band that does not take its attention to equipment lightly. Longo is a self-proclaimed ‘DIY’ enthusiast, who is known to experiment with things like speaker configuration in search of that perfect tone.
Longo said it’s been tough to get the UMan ERA name out there as a startup, “Especially if you’re coming into Scranton or Wilkes-Barre from the outer-lands of Wayne County,” he laughs. He said some bands and individuals that have been supportive thus far in getting the word out.
“I’d have to say the reception has been great for shows that we have done at places like the New Penny, the V Spot, the Otherside, the Factory Underground, Renegades Saloon, Lyrics, and more, to name a few,” he said. “We also owe a debt of gratitude to some of the bands who have invited us to open for them like Fireball, Militia, Skin and Bones, The Russello Project, and Governing Murphy.”
For Longo, the success of UMan ERA will rely on nothing short of doing what they do best – playing live. Longo notes the burgeoning receptiveness to original music in NEPA as key to future prosperity, and continued collaboration between bands, fans and support staff high in importance. This is a band that appears to be chomping at the bit.
“We just love to jam and to be out there ’ in the scene’ as a part of it all,” he said. “And, we like to have a good time doing it. We have some cool shows coming up this spring and we are going to be playing some in New Jersey maybe New York City and Philly too.”
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