Tag Archives: cinema arts centre

New and Shiny – A Chat with A Penny’s Worth

photo 1By Moe Tompkins

I caught up with Mike LoCicero of up-and-comers, A Penny’s Worth. They’ll be performing at Cinema Arts Centre on the night of Wednesday, September 17th during the after-party for the new film, God Help The Girl. Here’s how our conversation went down…

MT: I know how I’d describe your music – If The Black Keys played strictly Folk/Americana and had John Mayer singing. I however, can be incredibly oblivious and short-sighted sometimes, so, in your own words, how would you describe it?

ML: I’d say that is a pretty fair description of what we play. I grew up with a lot of different influences from a lot of different styles and I try to incorporate as much as I can, but most of what I write tends to have a pretty strong folk vibe. I think that’s where I feel most comfortable as a songwriter.

MT: That being said, is The Black Keys comparison something that comes up a lot? Does it annoy you, or do you embrace it?

ML: This is actually the first time I’ve heard that comparison, but I will definitely embrace it! They’re a super cool band, who wouldn’t want to be compared to them?

MT: How did ‘A Penny’s Worth’ come to be?

ML: That’s a good question. I wish I had cool origin story for how we were formed, but it was kind of a long-term process. I used to play with Matt Rueger and Jason Rothenberg (Matt is the drummer, Jason plays bass) in high school. We’re all grew up around here and used to jam and make noise in Matt’s basement and occasionally play a couple covers at a school talent show. After we finished college I was in North Carolina writing and playing at open mics. Matt and I ended up recording a couple of songs down there under the name A Penny’s Worth.

MT: I see you guys are based in North Carolina now, are you touring? Did you start on Long Island and then relocate? If so, why?

ML: It’s actually the other way around. I’m originally from Long Island and went to school in North Carolina. I first started writing and recording my stuff there, but now we all live on Long Island.



MT: After re-reading question 1, I’ll be honest, I don’t know the difference between Folk and Americana. Am I just splitting hairs here, or is there a something that I should know?

ML: They’re pretty much the same. Americana is American Folk music. They’re both pretty broad terms.

MT: Other than Wednesday’s event, do you have any other gigs up here in our neck of the woods?

ML: Nothing yet.

MT: What’s your song-writing process like? What inspires your music and lyrics?

ML: I always start with music first. I find a chord progression or riff that I like and I try to find a melody that will match my vocal photo 2range to go with it. The process itself is actually pretty embarrassing. I’m usually just pacing around my room playing whatever guitar part I’ve come up with and making vocalizations to the tune of the melody. It sounds like complete gibberish, but it helps me find the sound I want for the song. Once I feel like I have a solid base of music and melody I start trying to replace the gibberish with lyrics.

My lyrics are pretty personal and they’re mostly inspired by life experience. Inspiration for the music is a little broader. It can come from anything that I think sounds good. I feel more confident as a musician than as a lyricist so I’m willing to venture farther out of my comfort zone for ideas and inspiration for the music.

MT: Do you prefer the smaller set-up, or have you thought about adding pieces to your band?

ML: This is something I think about a lot actually when writing. With a small group like ours you really have to think about how a recording can be replicated live. It all comes down to what it is we’re capable of with three people. There’s one song we recorded that has a banjo and a mandolin part that come in as the song progresses. It would be great to have those on stage, but, again, there are only three of us.

That being said, I do really like the small set-up. It’s the same guys I was playing with when I was 15 and that’s a lot of fun.

MT: Any advice for up-and-coming musicians?

ML: Well, seeing as I am still very new myself I don’t think there is much I can offer without a false sense of superiority. If I’m ever lucky enough to get interviewed again I’ll have a better answer for this. Doing something twice is the minimum amount of experience required to be patronizing.

You can see A Penny’s Worth live on Wednesday, September 17th in The Sky Room Cafe at Cinema Arts Center, for the after-party of God Help The Girl (as part of SPARKBOOM and CAC’s “Movies That Rock”s series). Film starts at 7PM / After Party starts at 9PM. $10 for CAC Members / $15 for non-members. Your movie stub gets you into the party, where courtesy beer/wine and snacks will be served. RSVP via Facebook and go LIKE APW on Facebook.


MImageoe Tompkins, a native of Islip, New York, holds a double degree in jazz studies and music education from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). Upon acceptance to the College-Conservatory of Music he began simultaneous study both with Ray Charles Orchestra alumnus Marc Fields, and Tim Anderson of the Dayton Philharmonic. For several years he worked as a highly-in-demand trombonist on the Cincinnati scene and beyond playing everything from salsa, to reggae, neo-brass band sharing the stage with the likes of Streetlight Manifesto, The Aggrolites, and Foxy Shazam, just to name a few. He currently resides in Islip, working with the Long Island Arts Alliance and finally pursuing his own musical vision with his original group Slang (facebook.com/slangthebandli). When not making music, Moe can typically be found enjoying horror movies, fusion jazz, or White Castle.

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Branching Out with Hotel of the Laughing Tree

hotel of laughing tree, hurricane of lions photography

Hurricane of Lions Photography

By Moe Tompkins

I caught up with Hotel of the Laughing Tree’s AJ Estrada to find out more about about the band. Here’s our conversation…

MT: How did you guys become ‘Hotel of the Laughing Tree?’ How did you meet? Is there a funny story behind it?

AE: No exceptionally funny story here. Brandon and myself had been playing together for years prior to starting Hotel. We started the band and played with the original lineup for three years before recruiting Fred and Dan Ardis (Drums & Bass). Shortly after they joined, we found our final missing piece, Jonathon Streker on keys. Our starting lineup, while best of friends, just could not work within each others schedules. It was pretty rough, and we recorded two albums before deciding to reform. When the Ardis clan joined, that was the single moment that the band actually felt right to me. It was a true “Aha!” moment. This is how we are supposed to sound. We all knew each other, and became friends via playing shows together around Long Island. Fred and Dan were in Tiger Riot, and both of our bands were actually signed to the same label for a while, but we just never tried making something together until 2011. To sum it up, we all met from playing shows together during our early 20s, but didn’t necessarily become “Hotel of the Laughing Tree’ until a few years down the line.

MT: In your own words, how would you describe your music? Who/what are your influences?

AE: To describe our music..well, on one hand it’s always changing from album to album, but  I think I just try to write interesting and catchy melodies that hit hard, feel good, and have solid instrumentation behind it. And I like to tell short stories, so that plays into it lyrically.

I’m also very conscious of making sure we aren’t repeating our own discography. Admittedly, I get bored  too easily, (and for the most part) I prefer having something fresh, something new to release, instead of rehashing from a stockpile of discarded demos and missing pieces. Some major influences of mine include Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine, Hayao Miyazaki, and Kurt Vonnegut.

MT: I always like to ask about the business. How long have you guys been together? Has it been hard? If so, what makes you hold on? Is music how you make your living or do you have day-jobs?

AE: The current lineup has been together for about three years now. The band as a whole, going on six. I would be lying to myself if I said it was easy. We’ve ran the gauntlet of the music industry, and I would like to say, came out rather unscathed on the other side. We experienced a short-lived, high level of success almost immediately in our music career (we took home an mtvU Woodie award in 2009), signed to a record label afterwards, and then everything came to a screeching halt. There’s an inside joke within the band about how after winning the MTV award,  we had a small window of opportunity and kind of closed it on ourselves. Or if not voluntarily, we saw it closing and nonchalantly looked the other way. Despite the ‘hard stuff’, I think we are pretty optimistic people. The music industry left us jaded, but that doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying to push ourselves further and grow as a band.

I can’t imagine myself NOT writing music. I think the business part is so far lost on me, where at this point, at the end of the day, I just want to be able to create, play, and record music with my friends. If people like it, we’ll play shows to whoever will have us. If not, that’s okay. Its all lots of fun, and I don’t think I could ever stop. The reality is that we don’t make nearly enough to sustain ourselves with the band. It’s always been a goal, but were all very much realists at this point in our lives. Everyone works full-time, and Hotel is very much a labor of love. So, for now, we’re okay with coughing up dust and delivering balloons to pay the bills.

hotel of the laughing tree maria newman photography

Maria Newman Photography

MT: What inspires you? What is your songwriting process like?

AE: Our influences and inspiration come from an amalgamation of our play time together and our own listening preferences. There is some overlap here and there, but It’s really a patchwork of styles and genres. Personally speaking, if this was a few years ago I would simply rattle off whatever top bands were on my iPod at the moment. But lately, I feel like I draw more inspiration from film, books, and visual art.

On songwriting

In the beginning, I would write and record a fully tracked and completed demo to show the band. We learned the parts, fine tuned it, and then recorded and released a slightly prettier version of it. And this was the process for the first three albums..so starting with Mammoth Skin Pt 2, I started to record very minimal acoustic demos. These are simply an acoustic guitar and my voice. While I still envision the full band arrangements in my head, I now prefer to present the bare bones demo to the band, and have us work and craft it together as a group.I love doing this because it gives the rest of the guys a much larger voice, and is a significantly greater collaborative effort. Its super cool knowing that we can all work together and turn the smallest idea into something to call our own and be proud of.

MT: Gotta ask…how did you come up with that band name?

AE: The name is simply a nod to the building where my grandparents met. I think its somewhere in Texas, near the Mexican border, but don’t quote me on that.

MT: Anything you wanna plug? Links to music videos? Big shows coming up?

AE: Our latest release, “Mammoth Skin Pt. 2”  is available here:

Hotel of the Laughing Tree on BandCamp

  We are currently working on new music, finished recording a few weeks ago and we’re currently in the mixing stage. Looking towards a Fall 2014 release.

    We have a show this Saturday (8/16) at the Brickhouse Brewery in Patchogue. Playing with friends The Republic of Wolves, and Clockwork Kids. Should be tons of fun, and we may be doing something very special at that show in honor of Shrek week. SO COME ON DOWN, show starts at 10pm.  Just be careful because parking is tricky around there!

    Here is our latest video, its the opening track to our latest release. Acoustic performance featuring various childrens toys. 

MT: What are your thoughts about your “journey” so far? Insights? Successes? Failures? Regrets?

AE: The journey is super entertaining. Even though we’ve been a band for a while now, I feel like we’re just getting started. We’ve had countless ups and downs.Failures? Maybe Touring. We have been up and down the east coast countless times, and touring in a van is a necessary, hilarious, and dangerous beast.. at least in Hotels experience. Broken vans, no money, and cancelled shows seems to be part of the lifestyle, and we’ve definitely seen our fair share of setbacks.  But we’ll keep trying. I like to think of tour life as a challenge we’ve yet to conquer.

If I learned anything, its that no one is going to make you happy besides yourself. It took me a great long time to realize that nobody was going to sing my songs the way I wanted. I had to do it myself. And also, the fact that we’ve had a brief glance at success and never acted on it, or took it seriously. While I don’t regret that, I think it plays into the learning experience.

MT: In that same vein, do you have any advice for anyone looking to make music?

AE: (Deep Breath) Just do it. If you really really want to, and are true to yourself, you’ll find a way to make music. If it makes the terrible things in life just a tiny bit better, you’ll be okay. When I first started making music, I found it impossible to find like-minded people. None of my friends shared my musical taste, so I remember many nights scouring MySpace and Craigslist for singers, bassists, and drummers. Eventually I became fed up and realized that no one was going to bring my dream to fruition besides myself. I went online, learned how to use a DAW, recorded my nasally teenage voice, and stayed up till 5AM humming into my laptops microphone. This was a learning process, and this is how I joined my first band, created Hotel of the Laughing Tree, and made irreplaceable lifelong friends. So..if you feel it, do it. Between YouTube and Facebook, its easier than ever to connect with fellow musicians. I think its fun to be creative by yourself, but it really is something special to be able to share that with other like minded people who are working towards the same goal.

MT: Who do you guys listen to?

AE: Lately, I’ve been listening to the new Conor Oberst, The Rosebuds,and Spoon albums. Definitely some of my favorite new releases this year. Jon has been heavily into Ben Folds and Regina Spektor lately, and the rest of the guys range anywhere from Tom Waits to St. Vincent.

MT: I also like to ask fun questions. What are you watching on Netflix right now?

AE: Its all about Kitchen Nightmares for me. I could never get sick of Gordon Ramsay losing his shit in the name of Chicken Cordon Bleu. I know Jon has recently binged the entire series of LOST, so God bless his restless soul.

MT: What do you do when you’re not making music?

AE: I recently rediscovered painting. When I’m not working on songs, I’m either doodling in my sketch pad or working on a new illustration. Oh, and working a 9-5. We all do that.

MT: Favorite movie and/or TV series and why.

AE: Star Wars, The Lion King, The Life Aquatic, and Hook are among my top favorites. I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for flawed hero characters with daddy issues.

Don’t miss your chance to see Hotel of the Laughing Tree live Monday night along with Alexa Dexa at the after party for our screening if “Frank” at Cinema Arts Centre 7pm Monday night August 18th! RSVP on Facebook here!


MImageoe Tompkins, a native of Islip, New York, holds a double degree in jazz studies and music education from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). Upon acceptance to the College-Conservatory of Music he began simultaneous study both with Ray Charles Orchestra alumnus Marc Fields, and Tim Anderson of the Dayton Philharmonic. For several years he worked as a highly-in-demand trombonist on the Cincinnati scene and beyond playing everything from salsa, to reggae, neo-brass band sharing the stage with the likes of Streetlight Manifesto, The Aggrolites, and Foxy Shazam, just to name a few. He currently resides in Islip, working with the Long Island Arts Alliance and finally pursuing his own musical vision with his original group Slang (facebook.com/slangthebandli). When not making music, Moe can typically be found enjoying horror movies, fusion jazz, or White Castle.

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The Quizzical World of Alexa Dexa

alexadexaphotoBy Jenna Weis

Childhood toys, whimsical sounds and visuals, and effortless singing are brought together by Alexa Dexa, who incorporates these unconventional components together to bring a whole new experience for her audiences. As an artist in every sense of the word, Alexa has concocted her very own genre of performance called “toychestral electronic pop” that involves the sounds of desk bells, a toy piano, and self-made electronic beats complimenting her self-written songs. This quirky performer engages all the senses in her performances and brings the concept of fantasy to life.

There is nothing typical about what is created by Alexa. Her instruments of choice spark a nostalgic note that brings us back to the simpler times of childhood, yet the mature content of her songs and soulful voice gives us something special not seen before. She says “My song-writing boasts some mature juxtapositions of words and concepts because I like to work in abstractions that have multi-dimensional meanings.” Recently her songs have a direct connection with the new sights and experiences she has encountered while being on tour, widening the variety of her song concepts. She says that “having a catalyst outside of myself helps me touch on subjects inside myself that might not have otherwise been realized.”
Of course, the most unexpected treats are the toys and child-like art installations done by Alexa herself, enhancing what she calls “sound worlds”. These worlds are inspired by the artist’s personality and aesthetics that appeal to her. She says the intent of combining her songs with her visual work is “to transport the audience into a bit of fantasy and to allow access to my music through a different avenue of perception.” The primary colors of the toys, graphic illustrative backdrops, and mellow tunes haul you into a serene and friendly environment all assembled from the mind of Alexa.

Her inventive creativity is what makes Alexa stand out in the areas of music, performance, and visual art as she blends these boundaries so seamlessly. Alexa will be performing her one-of-a-kind show Monday August 18th at 7PM, after the screening of “Frank” at the Cinema Arts Centre presented by SPARKBOOM™. RSVP on Facebook here.

For more on Alexa Dexa visit http://www.alexadexa.com/


rain roomJenna Weis grew up on Long Island and graduated from Commack High School in 2007. She received her Associates Degree in Visual Arts from Suffolk Community College then went on to receive her Bachelor’s Degree in Art History and Criticism from Stony Brook University. This is her second summer working for SPARKBOOMTM, first as Lead Blogger. She hopes the blog will really engage readers to want to see more of the artists work at our SPARKBOOMTM events and help further promote the artists themselves.

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Jimmy Doyle and The Engineers – The People’s Punk

jd1By Patrick Peterson

New to the SPARKBOOM™ scene, Jimmy Doyle and the Engineers are playing at the Cinema Arts Centre’s 30th Anniversary event for the Talking Head’s legendary film, “Stop Making Sense (RSVP here via FB)”.  Although it’s his first event with us, he’s attended many films at the C.A.C., so he’s happy to be involved and the arts in general.

He cares a lot about the arts, stating; “Playing music is what makes me the happiest in life.” Having started playing music when he was nine, with the usual band stuff. His musical talents continued to progress to the guitar during middle school and from there, he started developing bands. One of particular note, is The FAD.


Photo Credit: @xmikox516

“I’ve been singing in a punk band called The Fad.  We temporarily disbanded in 2008 after an unfortunate van accident, while on tour in Colorado, left us without the means to continue traveling”, Jimmy says. After that, Jimmy continued to play in a few other bands over the years. “I decided to start something for me, which is how JDATE started about two years ago”, he recalls.

Though he thinks that he won’t make a world-wide impact, he would like to get back to touring like he used to. But it’s hard to doubt that he won’t at least impact the local crowd with some of his most endearing songs. Like one of his most heartfelt songs, “I’ll Come See You”, which you can stream here via Quote Unquote Records.

This is a really important song to him, Jimmy writes: “My friend Mitch Dubey was a fantastic person oozing with positivity. He was killed in his CT home a few years back during a home invasion.  One day, I got upset thinking about it and decided to write a happy-sounding song to pay tribute to the positive guy that he was.”

150951_433766296694378_1677915867_nIf you would like to hear this song and more, check them out on Quote Unquote Records.com, where they offer free music available for download with other great bands such as: Bomb The Music Industry!, Laura Stevenson, Cheap Girls & one of Jimmy’s old bands, Let Me Crazy.

Don’t forget to follow Jimmy Doyle and The Engineers on their Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

And if you’re in a band of your own, Jimmy says, “Tom Malinowski, our guitar player, offers affordable recordings so hit him up.” …Always helping arts – Thanks Jimmy.


IMG_0882Patrick Peterson Growing up, Patrick was nicknamed The Mayor. He had and still had an outgoing personality with a sincere, charming, dedicated personality to those he meets. He’s a writing, photography, and video game enthusiast who likes helping out the little guy.


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The Journey of Radio-Free J-Ro

j-ro3By Moe Tompkins

The other night, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the more interesting people I’ve gotten to speak with during my tenure with SPARKBOOM. We spoke casually over wings, and the more I talked to him, the more I was intrigued, not only with his musical and professional endeavors, but his life. Jake Roren, or J-Ro as many of you probably know him, is a DJ with WUSB. He’s been spinning there since 2002, after stints at SUNY Oswego, Seattle, and Buffalo.

J-RO has always been a music lover, and has always wanted to be on radio; ever since he started recording his own radio shows at the age of 12. He studied broadcasting at SUNY Oswego, and had his own show on their local station for all 4 years. From there, his life plays like a slice-of-life Judd Apatow movie. He’s been all over the country, and done just about everything, even spending a short time as a freelance writer, and a stand-up comedian. Seriously, if you bump into him at the Movies that Rock event on Monday 6/30, talk to him, he’s seen it all and done more.

Jake sees himself as a conduit, a way to introduce people to new music. While indie rock is where he is most comfortable, his j-ro2show, and personal record collection boast a range of music that few others can challenge. “I go where the music takes me,” he said when I asked if he had any format, or specific styles that he stuck to. Hackneyed as it might sound to you reading, it didn’t to me, because he said it with an earnestness that is severely lacking by many on the scene today. As we discussed his earnestness, I could not help but ask him (as I do all of my subjects) what his motivations are, and where he ultimately wants to be. Obviously, most musicians and songwriters want to hit it big, get the record deal, etc. But for a radio DJ, in a professional climate where the biggest radio stations are owned by three companies, what do you? J-Ro is just happy, being able to play records, and give people good music to listen to; of course, like many of us, he’d be a little bit happier doing it for more money. But he loves what he does, and sacrifices for it. I will leave you with this. Jake Movies That Rock (Poster)told me an amusing anecdote about his days as a writer. A young woman asked him why he wanted to be a writer. He laughed and looked at her puzzled and said (pardon my paraphrasing) ‘I don’t want to be a writer necessarily, I have to be one. I don’t have a choice! This is something that I would not wish on my worst enemy.’ Anybody who has ever had a passion for anything can probably relate. If you cannot, well, you are either very lucky, or very boring.

If you like Jake as much as I do, you can catch his show on alternating Wednesdays from 2:30pm-5:00PM on WUSB, with his next one being July 9th. Also, Jake happens to be a huge fan of the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington and wanted me to take special care to mention how great they are. This is also where the Movies that Rock event is being held. He’ll be spinning during the after-party of “Mistaken For Strangers” – a documentary on The National, featuring a live Skype Q&A with Director/Star, Tom Berninger. I myself have been there a few times for their monthly Late-night ‘grindhouse’ features, and let me tell you, it ain’t bad. Come check it out Monday! RSVP here via FB / Purchase tickets.

Visit Cinema Arts Centre or SPARKBOOM’s FB page for more info.


MImageoe Tompkins, a native of Islip, New York, holds a double degree in jazz studies and music education from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). Upon acceptance to the College-Conservatory of Music he began simultaneous study both with Ray Charles Orchestra alumnus Marc Fields, and Tim Anderson of the Dayton Philharmonic. For several years he worked as a highly-in-demand trombonist on the Cincinnati scene and beyond playing everything from salsa, to reggae, neo-brass band sharing the stage with the likes of Streetlight Manifesto, The Aggrolites, and Foxy Shazam, just to name a few. He currently resides in Islip, working with the Long Island Arts Alliance and finally pursuing his own musical vision with his original group Slang (facebook.com/slangthebandli). When not making music, Moe can typically be found enjoying horror movies, fusion jazz, or White Castle.

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Discovering Cloud Caverns


Credit: Hurricane of Lions

By Darryl Maraj

Although the band has only been in existence for about two years, Cloud Caverns is quickly and quietly raising the standard of music on Long Island. By seamlessly blending the musical styles of Indie Rock and Folk music, along with outstanding storytelling, Brandon Peterson and Dan Bouza are on their way to greatness. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brandon and Dan and I found out that they’re not only great musicians, but really great guys too.

Even though Cloud Caverns is relatively new, Brandon and Dan have been writing together since their days at East Islip High School. Each of them were in different bands at the time. However, they would periodically meet up just to jam. Nothing was really taken seriously, but they bonded over shared musical interests. They were briefly separated when Dan went to the Crane School of Music in SUNY Potsdam, where he majored in Music Business with a concentration in classical guitar, while Brandon spent some time at Five Towns College also for music business as well as audio engineering. Once the duo reunited, they continued in their noncommittal jams, until one day, they realized that they may have stumbled upon something brilliant. They decided to get more serious about the music they were making together, and Cloud Caverns was born.


Credit: Hurricane of Lions

As previously mentioned, Cloud Caverns, typically is a mix of folk and Indie rock. They noted that some of the main influences on this group were Tom Waits, Iron & Wine and As Tall as Lions. However, one of the main musical philosophies of the band is experimentation with sounds. Brandon, being the main songwriter, will bring a basic sketch of a song. Then the partners go to work finding what the song needs. Does it need horns? Does is need strings? Does it need a drum? Does it need a drum with a can resting on the head? Does it need a drum with a can filled with pennies resting one the head? You get the idea; the process these two go through to make their vision of a song a reality is extremely time and energy consuming. But, based on the way they talk about the process, they love every minute of it.


Credit: Hurricane of Lions

Monday, June 30th will mark the very first live performance of Cloud Caverns! They’re going to be playing for the SPARKBOOM After Party of the Huntington Cinema Arts Centre’s viewing of the Documentary “Mistaken for Strangers” following Indie Rock band, The National. They both were extremely excited for three reasons. 1) It’s their first live performance with this band. Cloud Caverns’ natural habitat is in the studio but, they’re no strangers to playing live. Dan currently plays in a Bluegrass band called Three Suits and a Mandolin, and Brandon plays in rock band, Hotel of the Laughing Tree (who will actually be playing with Cloud Caverns that night on stage!). But, Cloud Caverns is immensely enthusiastic to play the music from their premier album, Gypsy Loft, to a live audience. 2) They’re big fans of The National! They feel honored to follow up a film about one of their favorite bands. And 3) These guys are really excited to be working with SPARKBOOM. The guys said they’re “happy to be a part of… an organization that is working to jump-start the art community on Long Island.”

So, don’t forget, Cloud Caverns will be making a scene, on Monday, June 30th, 9:30 PM, at the Cinema Arts Center, right after the screening of “Mistaken for Strangers” at 7:30 PM. RSVP here via FB / Purchase tickets. Don’t miss out!

You can stream Cloud Caverns’ “Gypsy Life” by clicking here.

Visit Cinema Arts Centre or SPARKBOOM’s FB page for more info.



Darryl Maraj graduated from Five Towns College with a degree in Music Education. At Five Towns, he worked with the great vocal professional and renowned educator, Stephen C. Pagano in jazz, classical, Broadway and pop styles of singing. Currently, Darryl splits his time between his job at the Islip School District, his church- where he is the Music Coordinator, and his band, Slang (facebook.com/slangthebandli). When taking a break from music, Darryl likes to draw, play video games and attempt cooking.

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“Mistaken For Strangers” Comes To Cinema Arts Centre – June 30 | A Chat with Tom Berninger

By Raj Tawney


Movies That Rock (Poster)

On Monday, June 30th, at 7:30 PM, Cinema Arts Centre and SPARKBOOM are teaming up to bring you an evening of film and music – but no, this isn’t Mamma Mia in the slightest. This is a compelling documentary, featuring Indie Rock band, The National….But wait, it’s so much more than a typical “Rock Doc”.

The film is directed and co-starred by Tom Berninger, brother of The National’s lead singer, Matt. Like many brothers, Tom and Matt are opposites, yet when Tom joins The National on tour, their co-existence nearly creates a case study on Sibling Relations.  This documentary is more than just a faceless cameraman following “a day in the life” of a successful rock band.

I recently spoke with Tom and asked him some questions about how this film has changed his life. We also joked about his disdain for Indie Rock and his love for Heavy Metal, which you will observe in the film…

RT:   How does it feel to be referred to as “Director, Tom Berninger” these days?

TB: I’m honored when I hear it. But I’m not totally comfortable with that title. It sounds like I’m more important that I really am or than I feel. The movie was a total collaborative process with my producers and other editors. We all made it. I may have had more to do with it than anybody else but I believe the reason people connect to my story is because of my honesty. And that only came from me feeling pretty average, with nothing to loose.

RT: Have family dinners/gatherings changed?

TB: No. I may have a movie under my belt, but I’m still a little brother. I still get wedgies, at 34.


RT: Do you have any appreciation for Indie Rock after being a roadie and surrounded by the genre?

TB: Sure I guess. I respect it. The genre has given me a little career that I never had before. And all the bands I’ve met were super cool, but, I still don’t listen to it. Maybe someday I will, when I’m old and have had a stroke and unable to move or talk and won’t be able to tell anybody to turn it off.

RT: Pick 1 Heavy Metal band, covering a Children’s TV show theme song (I’m still hoping for a Reading Rainbow cover).

TB: I think the late, great, Ronnie James Dio would have done a fine version of Reading Rainbow. 

RT:  You don’t have to be a fan of The National to enjoy this film. Why do you think it’s resonating with so many people?

TB: Again, I think maybe it’s my honesty. And maybe the movie gives some people hope. They’re a lot of people out there like me, in their late 20’s early 30’s still feeling a little lost. They can’t help but compare themselves to others, their more successful peers. And that’s a depressing spiral. And it’s paralyzing. And I did that all through my 20’s. But as soon as I stop being so self absorbed, a weight was lifted. I guess I settled for myself and that’s when I found a voice. 

Watch the trailer here:

Cinema Arts Centre and SPARKBOOM are proud to present “Movies That Rock”, featuring a new documentary “Mistaken For Strangers”, including Director/Star, Tom Berninger LIVE via Skype.

RSVP on FB here.

(*Includes documentary, after-party, 2 drink tickets)

9:30PM – Featuring drinks + a live performance by Cloud Caverns and Radio Free J-Ro from WUSB 90.1FM spinning!


559866_864324485006_2116370132_n Raj Tawney is head of PR & Media for SPARKBOOM.  He’s also a radio host and reporter. Recently, he was Director of New Media at Book Revue in Huntington, NY, where he interviewed notable figures, from Jessica Alba to Jodi Picoult. He is a dedicated supporter of the Arts and Music community in Long Island.


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