Fresh from multiple appearances at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences and Festivals in Austin, Tex., the Montauk Project marks the unveiling this week of their album “Belly of the Beast” with a Saturday night performance at Pianos on New York’s Lower East Side.
The four-piece band — Mark Schiavoni on vocals and guitar, Jasper Conroy on drums and vocals, Chris Wood on bass, and Jack Marshall on lead guitar and vocals — has been building a following by performing across Long Island and in New York. With “Belly of the Beast,” 44 minutes of hard rock riffs, pounding drums, impassioned vocals, and feedback, they are aiming to further expand their audience and emerge in a music industry that is both rife with opportunity and saturated with would-be stars.
“Belly of the Beast,” recorded in the band’s Montauk studio with their engineer, Matthew King, reflects the band members’ common influences, among them 1990s hard rock bands including Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, as well as those artists’ musical forebears such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Dexterous and melodic electric guitars harmonize as riffs build to an explosive scream; Mr. Schiavoni’s voice bears a strong resemblance to that of Layne Staley, the late vocalist of Alice in Chains.
“Growing up, we definitely listened to our share of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and Radiohead. But we have further influences, not just rock ’n’ roll,” Mr. Conroy said, citing artists including the guitarist John Scofield, Miles Davis, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
“We are looking to branch out in any way, shape, or form that allows us to,” Mr. Conroy said, considering his band’s observations of a music industry upended by a decade-plus of file-sharing and an obsolete business model. Should the right opportunity present itself, he said, the band might sign with a record label. But “right now, we’re doing our thing, ourselves.”
“The industry is super-saturated right now, just from being at South by,” Mr. Conroy said, recalling the “thousands of bands, probably a half-million people, a lot of really good music, a lot of really bad music. There’s lot going on in the music world. Nowadays, it’s a lot easier to be a musician. With the technology we have, it’s a lot more accessible. Anyone with the ability and drive — and equipment — can pretty much be as professional as any studio that’s out there.”
Mr. Marshall, who studied jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, observed that in the modern music industry, live performances and merchandise are larger revenue streams than a band’s recordings. “That’s how we’ve been able to help ourselves, more than recording,” he said. “We make our money at the live show, especially out here in the summer.”
Unlike most young rock ’n’ roll bands, the Montauk Project played original music from the start. In the short term, such a path can make success that much more difficult; no one has heard the music before. “It’s a lot harder,” Mr. Conroy agreed, “especially the whole ‘identification’ thing. You can relate to a song because you’ve heard it so many times. To create that for your own music is definitely more difficult, but I feel like people are starting to grab on to our music. Some people know every word to every song on the entire album, and it hasn’t been released yet. That’s what we’re going for.”
“That’s going to dramatically increase once the album is out,” Mr. Marshall predicted last week. “Once people have a physical copy to listen to, they’re going to identify a lot more.”
The band’s compositions are largely a collaborative effort, Mr. Conroy said. “Someone will come in with an idea, or riff, or part of a song,” he said. “Usually, the rest of the band will quickly figure it out. Someone comes in with an idea, the rest of the band starts playing, and we say, ‘What if we did this, what if we did that?’ We don’t sit around for months trying to perfect a song — usually it clicks pretty quickly.”
The band was disciplined from the start, reinvesting in itself with performance money. The musicians acquired recording equipment and, more recently, the van in which they traveled to and from the South by Southwest festival. “We sold CDs at SXSW to pay our gas back,” Mr. Conroy said, “and it worked out pretty well. We definitely have some supporters that believe in us. It’s encouraging.” The band’s ultimate goal, he said, “is to make enough to be able to just play music.”
“Belly of the Beast” was released on Tuesday and is available at Crossroads Music and Innersleeve Records, both in Amagansett, and via download at the iTunes Music Store, CD Baby, and Amazon. The band’s performance at Pianos, 158 Ludlow Street in New York, happens on Saturday at 11 p.m.