It's said that breaking up is hard to do. Well, getting back together isn't always a stroll through the park, either. That is, unless you're a member of the Seth Yacovone Band, a defunct Vermont trio that will reform for two performances at Alburg's Multiplicity Festival this weekend. Some musicians require therapy -- or at least a huge wad of cash -- before joining ex-bandmates on stage. But there's no life coach or moneybags promoter behind this reunion; it's a band decision all the way.
Guitarist/vocalist Yacovone convened the group at the tender age of 16. Before long, he was wowing audiences with his six-string wail and rugged vocals. Backed by bassist Tommy Coggio and drummer Steve Hadeka, Yacovone freely mixed genres, combining earnest blues-rock with exploratory funk and soul. The trio's sound endeared them to regional music fans looking for the next jam phenomenon. They released five CDs, culminating with the live album In a Moment in 2003.
SYB split the following year, stunning longtime fans. The band had recently celebrated its 1000th gig and had plenty more lined up. The reasons for the breakup remain vague, but burnout is among the chief suspects. After nearly a decade together, members had developed a powerful musical chemistry. But constant roadwork is hard on working relationships, to say nothing of friendships. As the demand grew, so, undoubtedly, did the stresses.
The Multiplicity Festival will give SYB supporters another opportunity to witness the band in action, this time in an idyllic North Country setting. If that's not tempting enough, there's also a Jell-O wrestling contest.
Yacovone, now 26, remains one of the area's most engaging performers. Seven Days recently chatted with the down-to-earth songwriter about the SYB reunion.
SEVEN DAYS: How did the idea to reform come about?
SETH YACOVONE: I was with Tommy at a birthday party for a friend. We started talking about how we should play a show this summer for the people who loved and supported our band for the nine years we were together. Standing next to us was Steve Henry, the lead singer of The Yo Yo Nipples. He's the guy who puts on Multiplicity. It's a beautiful outdoor field location with a stage and everything. So I asked him if we could throw a party on the land, and he said, "Why don't you just headline Multiplicity?"
SD: Do you think a reunion was inevitable?
SY: I always figured that Tommy, Steve and I would play again at some point, and it seemed like a good idea to do it soon, before we totally forgot all the material. After Tommy and I agreed on it, we contacted Steve. Now we're all raring to go.
SD: Is it just the Alburg dates?
SY: July 28th and 29th will be the only two Seth Yacovone Band shows of 2006.
SD: Have you had any rehearsals yet?
SY: We've had one so far. It was an amazing exercise in muscle memory. We realized just how much this music is a part of us from playing it so much. We're going to be doing some hardcore woodshedding in the days leading up to the gigs. That will allow us to wing it more freely while not losing structure. Hopefully.
SD: What made SYB such a fan favorite for all those years?
SY: Enthusiasm is contagious. In our prime, we loved playing and the band was the most important thing in our lives. I think people could feel that. We were very fortunate to make music that was enjoyed without compromising where we were coming from.
SD: Is there anything you miss about jamming with these guys on a regular basis?
SY: There are tons of things I miss about playing with Tommy and Steve. But we reached a point where we couldn't go on doing what we were doing and keep our sanity, joy and happiness.
SD: You've been doing a lot of solo work lately. Is it more liberating than being in a band?
SY: It is more freeing. I can make tons of mistakes and no one else gets lost. And not having to take care of the business aspect and making sure the musicians are happy makes things less stressful. I can also sing more expressively when I'm not playing loud rock 'n' roll. But I miss the give and take and outside inspiration that comes from playing with others. That's a big reason why SYB is playing together this summer, and why I plan on doing more Seth Yacovone & the Visitors shows in the fall. You just don't get the heart-pounding, sweaty energy release without the volume, drums and girls dancing.
SD: You started SYB as a teenager. What have you learned since then?
SY: I could write a book on that question alone. I was fortunate to learn on the job since I started so young. The main thing I've learned musically is that it truly is possible to let out what is inside of you through music and have it reach out and touch what is inside of others.
Music is basically a series of math equations involving time and space, with endless variations that tap into the listener's emotions. And they respond in ways that are unique to each individual. It's my favorite way of communicating; it's more pure and less of a compromise than speaking. I felt this instinctively the first time I was touched by music. After 10 years of performing and seeing people respond, I know it's worth it if even one listener receives something.
SD: The lifestyle can be trying. Do you ever wish you'd gone to med school instead of working the clubs?
SY: Trust me, you get to know plenty about medicine working the clubs. You just don't get the degree. I sometimes wish I had more education and any desire to hold a stable, responsible, "normal" job. But I really didn't have much choice in the matter. My heart and soul led me where they wanted, and I wouldn't want it any other way. Making music is the only thing that makes me feel like I'm in the right place in this world.
SD: Do you have any words of wisdom for today's teenage musicians?
SY: Believe in the music that feels good to you, steal from all the greats, and let go of fear. If you want to do this for a living, be prepared for ups, downs, lies, truths and having to deal with everything that doesn't have anything to do with music. But always remember to love, cherish and enjoy it.