Local Artist Spotlight: Frank Palangi
Frank Palangi is a home-grown Indie rock artist who serves up a feeding frenzy of edgy, deep, and gritty vocals while freshly fueling a bursting, positive, and passionate attitude. Based in Queensbury, he is influenced by some of the biggest names from the 1980s and 2000s alt rock scene. He fuses rock and roll with a post-grunge sound to sculpt his positive and clean musical motifs. With multiple singles, revamps of classic movie themes, and three EPs currently out on all streaming platforms (I Am Ready, Set Me Free, and the eponymous Frank Palangi) with a fourth on the way, he lives by his mantra, “I have no Plan B backing down on my dreams.”
Elissa Ebersold: Can you unpack what your motto means?
Frank Palangi: It stems back from 2008 when I quit my regular job… I was like, “I’m just gonna do music and I’m gonna give it a shot.” It kinda just stuck ever since. For me it’s kinda an outlet. I’m saying to myself, y’know, to not give up, to keep going. 2008 is when I quit my job to try [music]. I didn’t go full time until two years later.
EE: But you were playing music earlier.
FP: Yeah, I started making music at age 13.
EE: I feel like you told me once you got your start by watching the movie The Crow, right?
FP: Yeah, because it’s a movie about a dead rock star coming back to life. You know it was adventurous and stuff, it’s because he played guitar that I was like, “Well this a cool movie already but this dude”…I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what a guitar was.
EE: Interesting. You’d never had much involvement in music before that? So you’d never picked up a guitar or…
FP: Not really, no. My grandfather was a concert violinist so we had a piano around all the time and before that I would take soundtracks of movies and dub them into my action figure movies that I used to make. [Laughs]. So that was really my first introduction into music music.
EE: Did you ever see your grandfather perform?
FP: No, he was too old.
EE: Did he ever play for you at all?
FP: A little bit. He had arthritis and stuff after a while. By the time I was born he was in his early 70s, so he didn’t play much for maybe 20 years before that. It was more late teenager to late 40s.
EE: So who else has inspired you throughout your musical career?
FP: Metallica and Creed, because those are the first two CDs that ever got handed to me from a high school friend that burned them for me. Movies too. I’m inspired by horror and sci-fi movies that I see that have those styles of songs [and scores] in there. So I’d watch the movie and get inspired by what that stuff was. Like Resident Evil had that, uh, kind of…what do you call Rob Zombie? That style.
EE: I feel a lot of post-apocalyptic and horror stuff has a distinct grungy, metallic, gritty…that’s what I think of when I think of the Resident Evil sound. [The Charlie Clouser sound]. You like John Carpenter too, correct?
FP: Oh yeah.
EE: What challenges have you had to overcome as a musician?
FP: [I had] health issues, and hurdles in the music industry–it’s hard to explain. Mostly the hurdles would be getting any sort of radio play, getting on specialty shows for interviews, submitting to labels and submitting to booking agents, that kind of stuff. There’s a little bit of weird red tape. “Unsolicited” they call it. In order to get to submit it so it’s solicited, you need one of those guys. It doesn’t really make sense to me.
EE: What defeated obstacle are you most proud of to have overcome?
FP: Probably getting to open for national acts. I thought that was kind of off limits, but that was a big hurdle when I started doing that.
EE: As I previously mentioned in my intro, you have a positive message in your music. Why choose to go the positive route?
FP: Part of it was the way I was raised. The other part was that I loved all the 80s and 90s party bands that promoted the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but I just knew I wasn’t going to get into the drug thing. It was about the music. That’s probably where that came from. It was more about the music and not about the drugs and the lifestyle and that kind of stuff.
EE: How do you think life would be different if you went with the aforementioned more traditional hard rock motifs?
FP: I wouldn’t be here.
EE: Tell me about your creative process.
FP: So for myself, I always start with an idea on the acoustic or electric. Music first, then lyrics. Then I’ll do a demo where I’ll do all the instruments and write all the parts. Then do a rough mix to see how it’s feeling and the direction it’s going. It’s not just about “oh that was a great song and great lyrics.” You can have that with acoustic and vocal, but it’s how it all comes together. You can have the best lyrics in the world, the best guitar work, but if the music around it doesn’t gel or it stinks…It’s just not gonna happen […] It’s two parts. One part is making a song, and one part is the production side of it. How can we make this into a song? It really isn’t a full song until you go through the full production process.
EE: How does that change when you collaborate with different artists?
FP: For the artist that I produce or record, I kind of leave it up to them. I’ll throw my hat in the ring with suggestions and all that, but it’s more based on what they’re comfortable with. Then I roll with that. When I work with other people for my own stuff, you’re always kinda in the director’s chair, y’know. They take guidance from you. It’s weird that you can say something and they get it, and then boom! There’s an unspoken musical connection..it’s weird.
EE: How do you deal with a difference of opinion when collaborating?
FP: A lot of times because you’re hired to do their project, when you’re helping them out, they’re in the director’s chair. You can make suggestions, like I said throw your hat in the ring, but ultimately it’s up to them. Same thing with my stuff, if I’m like “I love your idea but it’s not working at all,” we gotta do something else.
EE: Who would be your ideal collaborator? I know you’ve worked with a lot of big names already? (Author’s note: Frank has worked with Day of Fire, Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson’s drummer Lester Estelle, and Saving Abel’s drummer Mike McManus, to name a few).
FP: It would be Metallica and/or Dave Grohl.
EE: I never took you for a Foo Fighters fan.
FP: I enjoy their music, but I am not a super fan. But Metallica I’m like [gestures wildly]. But I like Dave Grohl. I like his process. He’s a drummer. He’s a guitarist. He’s a singer.
EE: You’ve spent over ten years as a full-time musician. How have your perspectives and views on the music industry changed as you spent more time in it?
FP: It’s gone more downhill, to be honest. The windows of opportunity are being shut one by one, as an indie artist I mean. It’s harder. There’s more competition. There’s not as much opportunity. There’s not enough help. Even in the 70s, 80s, 90s, there were artists that would help each other and say, “Why don’t you jump on tour with me?” You didn’t necessarily need to be signed or have a manager. It was because [the band] liked them. Now you either legally can’t, or there’s something in the way where they just don’t do that anymore. But the fans and the audience are what matters and their support hasn’t really changed.
EE: Even with the explosion of social media of the past fifteen years, you find that it’s harder to get an audience than it was without all that?
FP: No, it makes more competition for us [to get label attention]…not the audience really, it has nothing to do with the audience. I think either way you reach an audience, just as much or if not more with social media behind you.
EE: But it’s oversaturated. There’s no shortage of talented musicians in the world. And everyone is sending their “unsolicited” demos and their YouTube videos and whatnot to producers to look at. And they’re less likely to get seen.
FP: Exactly. Just look at the TV shows. You used to hear the American Idol Top 10 on the radio. So many of them would have a record. Now none of them have one.
EE: With that said, what would you change about the industry with your experience?
FP: It would be the opportunity to not be so regulated or strict with the labels and the tour managers and the artists. It’s all very cut and dry. It’s not friendly. It’s all about the numbers and the money rather than the music. That’s the biggest thing you’d have to change in my opinion. If you find a band that sounds…[marketable]… it doesn’t matter if they have the numbers…It’s like the old saying, “If you build it they will come.
EE: What would you change about your own experiences? How do you think this may have changed your path?
FP: If I had gotten a few different people around me,as far as my live band. Maybe for them to understand the situations a little bit more. And here’s the other key, because I didn’t have a lot of money. That’s another kind of restriction. Maybe if I’d had more income, even if I had kept a job, it maybe would have gotten a little farther. That’s another shame about the music industry. Literally if you have money, you can do whatever you want, hire whoever you want, reach whoever you want. Again I would change how cut and dry everything is. That’s gotta change.
EE: How do you see the future of the industry? Do you think it’ll get worse?
FP: These guys I’m talking about…They’re 50 and above now. Now producers are younger, in their 20s and 30s. They could change everything. It’s up to them. A new generation.
EE: What performance has been your favorite?
FP: 3 Doors Down. At the Egg in 2014.
EE: What venue would you love to play?
FP: The Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. It’s huge. It’s in the music mecca. It’s in Nashville.
EE: A question I like to ask is if you could choose one lyric / set of lyrics that you’ve written as your favorite, which would it be? Tell us the story of this song.
FP: From “I Am Ready,” — it would be that first verse, “I have this feeling / It was born inside me / How can I grow without the passion leading the way?” That kinda sums up everything. Did you know I never say “I am ready?” in the song. I say “Am I ready?” but not “I am ready.
EE: The song is the question. The title is the answer. Jeopardy style.
FP: [Laughs] Yeah.
EE: I notice that you drop off and vocal “scoop” at the end of your phrases, much like Metallica does. What other tools of the trade or elements of music do you utilize to get your specific sound?
FP: Besides Metallica’s influence, this might sound weird but the different voices I used to do as a kid for movies or playing with action figures and stuff. I used to do all the different characters. And the voices and the sound effects. So I kinda, when I sing, for some parts I kinda use that to my advantage. So it goes in and out of vocal techniques. I don’t know what you call it but that’s what I do.
EE: What is your favorite piece of gear?
FP: The guitar amp. No wait, don’t quote me on that one!
EE: Too late. I’m writing it down. 🙂
FP: I’m not a fan of the combos. Two by twelve cabinet with a guitar head. Actually hold on, a four by twelve with a guitar head.
EE: What is a question you always wish an interviewer would ask, but never does?
FP: Believe it or not, they don’t ask what I use for gear, instruments…they always ask “how do you warm up vocally.” They never actually ask what the musician is using.
EE: I guess I sort of got part of that. Yay me!
FP: Yeah, yeah, sort of. [smirk]
EE: So obviously everything performance wise is up in the air with this virus steamrolling the world, so what can we expect from you going forward?
FP: New EP called Bring on the Fear will be out June 5th digitally worldwide on all platforms. You can pre-order that (on Amazon only) starting April 3rd. May 19th is the release of my “Gone Mad” music video on VEVO. And then April 3rd starts the pre-orders for the EP but the ringtone comes out for “Gone Mad” on iTunes that same day. I’m also licensing my songs for you to use in your projects (TV, movies, radio).
EE: How can the readers help you out moving forward?
EE: Those ad revenues really matter right now.
FP: Yeah, and leave comments and engage and interact with me. I love that.
Thanks so much for talking to me today, Frank. I wish you all the best through this whole global fiasco. May it end as quickly as it came and we can all get back to watching concerts!
Black Star & Line 6 Amp Heads
ESP / Ovation / Jackson Guitars
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