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.
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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 range 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Moe 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.