Monday, January 11, 2010

Some "Shine" for The 37 Project

I still remember where I was, the first time I ever heard John Fontanelli and Andrew Widell play guitar together. It was the fall of 2007, and after meeting John in our Scuba class, had tagged along with them to their friend Liam's house on the other side of town. Granted the town of Cortland isn't very big at all, but if you knew where his house was (past Walmart on 13), you would most certainly classify it as "the other side if town". I was still in the process of becoming friends with these guys and was completely oblivious to their musical talent and creativity. However, that all changed completely once they started "jamming" and the next thing I knew it was 2 in the morning and I hadn't moved from my seat in hours. But that was all it took for me to get hooked. I've always loved and appreciated music, but prior to that night I never had any friends with musical talent, or who enjoyed playing music and were smart enough to create their own. I knew from then on that these guys were something special, and that soon enough everyone would take notice. Two years later, the sky's the limit.

The "band" started during our freshman year at SUNY Cortland (06-07). I throw the quotations in there because that band from freshman year is light-years away different from the band they have today, but nevertheless that's when the magic first happened. Fontanelli and Widell met during that first year at Cortland, both living in DeGroat Hall, and both possessing an intense love and skill for music. They started making a name for themselves by playing together early and often. Whether it be at various on-campus events, coffee house's in Corey Union, or even in the halls of the dorms.

It wasn't until sophomore year though that the name "The 37 Project" was invented. Although the band was named after a friends house (37 Prospect) where they had spent countless hours hanging out and creating music, the band name is meant to symbolize "the lifetime friendships you gain in college and the bond that music and celebration creates," says lead guitar/songwriter John Fontanelli. During this time they were preforming under the genre of "acoustic crunk rock." Since all the band consisted of was two acoustic guitars and their voices, it was pretty fitting and catchy. They were beginning to have a strong following, and had already established themselves as the fan favorites of Great Bar's "Wednesday Open Mic Night".

John and Andrew playing a fan favorite "That One Song" freshmen year

Right from the get-go the guys were able to preform flawless covers from rock bands like Dave Matthews and Sublime, along with edgy rap covers of songs like T.I.'s "Whatever you like" and Asher Roth's "I Love College." It was a good way to get fans interested originally, by perfecting already recognizable tunes, but it was their original music that I always loved the most. During those first two formative years Johnny and Andrew would constantly be writing and creating new songs and chords. I remember naively asking Widell if it would be possible for every chord/rhythm of guitar notes to be created so that you couldn't come up with anything new, and him explaining to me that you'll always be able to come up with a new sound because it all comes down to the order in which you play each note (As you can see, I had no prior knowledge to the creation of music whatsoever). It was around this time that I first fell in love with one of their songs, "Shine". From a musical standpoint this has to be my favorite song of their's and I have a few justifiable reasons to back this up. Reason #1. The lyrics. It's a beautiful song about falling in love, the same topic most beautiful songs are written about, but this one is unique. With lyrics like "Cross my fingers, that I will cross your path" or "We lost, the map that shows us where to go. But it's fine, my path is always lit up when you shine." the passion is evident, and very easy for the audiences, and myself, to relate too. We've all had a girl at sometime or another that made us feel great to be "Here again, lost in you at 4 a.m." In the past two year's I've turned to this song as much, or more, than any other to put me in a better mood, or just to relax and think about life, or that one girl that really does "Shine".
Reason #2. The fan-favorite aspect. For the last couple of years this song has emerged as the ultimate closing song for their concerts. Sure this year, with the addition of many more originals, this song has gotten thrown into the mix a bit earlier in some of their sets, but to me, this will always be the Mariano Rivera for The 37 Project. Like "Crazy Game of Poker" was to O.A.R. and "Dammit" to Blink 182, this was the anthem that could always be expected to close out the night and end a show. Everyone knows every word to it, and it is the rebellious-love anthem that has helped propel them to college rock band stardom. And lastly, Reason #3. The evolution of this song from the first time I heard it. I feel like I've watched this song grow and evolve these last few years like a child. I loved listening to it with John and Andrew playing it acoustically on a front lawn, I loved listening to it with Madeline on the violin, I loved hearing it with Dave on drums and Garrett on bass, and I've grown to love it the most with the addition of Perrotta on harmonica and Glenn on the Sax. It has changed so much musically, but it is amazing how much it has stayed the same. The message and words are still there, with the only thing changing being the supporting cast of devoted musicians, who each individually bring their own style and spark to the song. Each time I hear it, new solo's are added in, and there's a sense of originality to it each time I listen. Additionally, not going to lie, I'm a sucker for the opening guitar rift. Huge fan, what can I say? For years I've harassed Fonts into playing that rift for me at all hours of the day/night and I don't see that changing anytime

As I mentioned earlier, in that last rant about "Shine", I got a little ahead of myself and introduced some new band members without giving them their proper introduction. During the 2008-2009 school year, the band made the leap from acoustic crunk, to full out rock band. In the fall Garrett Beaty was added to play bass guitar and Dave Goldenberg was brought along to play drums. Both are masters of their respective instruments, and have brought so much musical talent, and experience, to The 37 Project. Next came the addition of John Perrotta with his harmonica skills. I like to somewhat take credit for this addition to the band, being that Fontanelli and Perrotta met originally during a jam session at my house one night junior year, and they have become inseparable ever since. Perrotta officially joined the band during a spring '09 performance, and has immediately become a fan-favorite. The other new band member's include Glenn Westfall at Saxophone and long-time contributor Greg Brooker on piano/trumpet. Together they have become somewhat or a rock super-group, acquiring the best they could find at each instrument, and now have a unique/diverse sound that most bands would kill for.
With the release of their first studio album this fall, "Search The Spectrum", it has given the band another great opportunity to get their material out there, and their music heard. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a dream come true. I think every songwriter hopes to one day play and record their music with a kick ass band, and that dream became a reality for me when I saw the finished product (of Search the Spectrum)", exclaims a giddy John Fontanelli. "We all put in hours of time and hard work, but I think we created something we can all be proud of, and that our fans can enjoy." When asked about how it is different now, creating music for a 6, 7 and sometimes even 8 piece band to play, as opposed to the old days when it was just John and Andrew he said "The way we write hasn't changed, but the way we prepare is totally different. Widell and I used be completely concerned with our own individual responsibilities to the sound we created, and now, we've taken on the role of composers. It's a lot more difficult, but the challenges are totally outweighed by the satisfaction of creating something more complete and impressive. It makes it much easier when you get to work with musicians like Dave and Garrett who both have high music I.Q.'s. I can't describe how awesome it is when you have a vision in your head for a song, and the musicians you play with can pick it up with little or no instruction."

The 37 Project preforms "Killing Time" at a battle of the bands concert in 2009

This upcoming spring is sure to be a big one for "The 37 Project", somewhat of a bittersweet victory lap of sorts, since it is the last time the band will be playing together as students at SUNY Cortland. Luckily, the band intends to stay together and will continue to perform and write music with no end in sight. "I think we're discovering our strengths as musicians more and more every time we play together, so whatever direction we head in, it's going to be a positive one." says an optimistic Fontanelli. This band has matured and grown so much since their creation, and get them all together in a room, and you would have to be blind not to see the sense of family unfolding right before your eyes. I'm looking forward to all the new music and memories I will share with these guys in the future, and leave you with a picture from J-font's 21st birthday show at Lucky's, which he considers to be his "most memorable show". That's Jumpin' Johnny Perrotta, center stage, playing harmonica during a cover of "Run Around" by Blue's Travelers.

"We will never relive these days, this is my only chance to say. Don't let these moments pass you by, life moves too fast"


Want more 37? Check out their myspace page at

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