Arts & Entertainment Editor
Welcome back to the Geneva Music Series – a column focused on illuminating the musical venues, artists, histories, and opportunities across Geneva, both on and off campus. This issue, we interviewed Brady Leo, one of two members of the local band Shrimps. Shrimps has been a prominent part of the Geneva music scene over the years, playing at local venues, putting out music, and collaborating with HWS students and faculty in theatre productions and other musical collaborations. In their own words, “Shrimps is an electronic music duo from Geneva, NY. A collaboration between Joe Calabrese and B. Leo, the band’s primary focus is placed on performance, accenting an organic element often absent in the presence of synthesizers. Their debut release, 2011’s the SLOP EP, showcases their love of pop, funk and the palette of sounds provided by vintage video game consoles. They have performed in Rochester, Philadelphia and New York City and have contributed music to numerous compilations.”
The Herald (TH): So, tell us little bit about Shrimps!
Brady Leo (BL): [Shrimps is] usually a pretty strict duo between me and Joe, but we almost always bring in guests and do collaborations. I play guitar, I do synthesizer stuff, I sing, and I also do some programming – like drum programming – and then Joe’s role is predominantly drumming, keyboards, synthesizer and occasionally bass guitar. In terms of our music? I guess it’s rock, for lack of a better term. I don’t like to be that pretentious guy and say “my music defies genres,” but I could do that. I’ve heard it a million times, like, “I don’t know what to call you guys – techno?” And I’m like no, we’re not techno … we’re electronic. Techno is like hard dance music, and that’s not what we do. If you really break it down and take the electronics away, they’re rock songs basically. Maybe they’re funkier rock songs, but they’re like kind of a pop-rock-format.
TH: And how would you describe the music scene in Geneva?
BL: Geneva has a rich history of music. When my dad was around in the late sixties and the seventies, everybody played music, there were bands – and that music was huge, it was blowing up. But my dad swears up and down that when they changed the drinking age to 21, it killed the local music scene pretty much everywhere – the 18-20-year-old crowd is a big crowd that wants to go out and hear live music! So that really hurt things, but music in Geneva was still really alive and well in the 90s. Then in the 2000s, the music scene kind of dried up. Like, our first gig ever was just right outside of Times Square in New York, right off of Broadway, then we played Rochester, and Philadelphia, I think all before we played in Geneva, because there was nothing here. But that’s also the era when Gym Class Heroes broke out and became what was arguably the most successful band that’s ever come out of Geneva. So that’s interesting in itself. But today? It’s pretty solid. Because Geneva is – I hate to say, like, ready for it – but ten years ago? Geneva wasn’t ready for what we were doing in terms of businesses and venues. There was no place for us to do this weird stuff. Today, there are good venues, there are good local businesses that are willing to book a wide variety of bands – though I would like to see the local scene branch out a little bit more. But it’s a start! That being said, maybe there is a rich music scene out there and I’ve missed it the last four months because it’s been too cold to go out! But that’s the other thing – it’s cyclical. The music scene kind of disappears in the winter, and people start to show up and do stuff in the summer.
TH: And that’s what this series is all about! Trying to get more people interested and aware of the music scene in Geneva, no matter the season – not only to encourage more consumption of local music, but also to let young musicians know that there are opportunities out there for them to play gigs, that there is a demand for more music. I think the music scene here is definitely growing and changing, accommodating the existing musicians while making room for new voices (literally). But how would you describe your role in as it pertains to music in Geneva? Like, where does Shrimps fit into that?
BL: This is a tricky question! I don’t really give much thought as to where I fit in – or where we fit in – in the whole scope of Geneva music. Shrimps is predominantly an original act, and I’m very fortunate to be able to play original music in Geneva. We do covers sometimes, but for the most part we’re playing our own stuff, which isn’t always widely accepted, you know? Like in hotel bars, people want to hear songs they know: they want to hear standards and classics and all that. And we don’t want to subject people to things that they don’t want to hear – that’s no fun! So, like, The Ramada is probably not going to book us ever. People ask me, “why don’t you play live after five?” – we would get murdered there! It’s just not the right room.
So, in terms of how we fit into things, we’re basically always trying to do something interesting that makes us laugh, and if it makes us laugh, then there’s a chance it will make other people laugh. We’re not a comedy band per se, but I always say that 20 to maybe 30 percent of Shrimps is humor. I pretty much just do stuff that’s fun and makes me laugh, and if people want to let me do that in their business, or at their event, I’m very thankful!
TH: So, would you ever play anywhere else? Like, are you satisfied with the scene in Geneva today? It obviously has grown a lot since your first gig – is there a decided space for Shrimps now?
BL: Yeah, so, if the opportunity arises, we’ll do it, but we’re not really looking to go out on tour. We could play some shows and have some fun, but do I have to go to Boise, Idaho, to play in front of like 20 people so I can spread my brand across the country? When I can literally walk down the street to Kashong Creek, grab some cider, and play a show in front of 20 people, have the same experience, and actually make more money doing that? Not that money is a thing – all I care about is enough to pay the babysitter, my bar tab, and maybe if I’m lucky have a little money left over for some equipment. That’s the thing – it’s like, if I can have a paid-for night out, I’m winning. A show will be the most fun I have that week, so if I can do that, and not have to pay to do it, then I’m winning. Hashtag winning.
TH: So, like we were talking about before, this series in the Herald is focused on bringing music in Geneva, both student and resident, to the forefront of student awareness. Why do you think it feels like student involvement is generally low?
BL: Not to sound like an old cranky person – because I feel like probably 40 years ago some 40-year-old cranky person said the reason nobody goes out to bars and watches bands is because they’re all sitting at home watching TV – but I feel like with the internet, and Netflix, and the wider variety of what’s available, it is much easier to make the decision to sit on the couch and Netflix and chill, instead of get out and see a local band or see live music. Maybe it’s always been like that. Maybe not – 30 to 40 years ago, you were limited to what’s on TV right now and what records you have in your house. So, I don’t know. But I do feel it is hard to get people to go out to shows!
TH: And how much responsibility do students have in creating and maintaining the local music scene here in Geneva?
BL: So, responsibility is a loaded term. I don’t know if they have any responsibility at all. But they could be a great resource. It would be super awesome – and it has been very awesome – to have student bands pop up, get out, and make music in our city, because it diversifies. Like, you have a new pocket of another part of the world right here for four years. Yes, there’s touring bands that come through, like, “oh this band from Ireland is here, and they’re playing, and it’s awesome.” But you could have somebody from Ireland who’s a student here, and they’re going to be here for four years, bringing their musical background, and influences, and everything they have to offer, to the Geneva music scene for four years. That’s really great. I hope that’s tapped as much as possible by local businesses, and event planners, and all that. Like, I’ve walked into venues, or open jams, or whatever, and boom – dude from NYC getting down on the bass, like, who is this guy, he’s incredible, I want to be his friend, I want to jam with this dude –well he’s a student, and he’ll be here for two more years – awesome. I want more of that for sure. And I hope that the symbiosis between the locals and the students can continue in that matter: that the students reach out and try to book shows downtown and that places downtown continue to book student bands. That’s definitely something that has been great and I hope continues.
TH: So, yeah – to kind of add onto that, what advice do you have for students who want to get more involved with the music in Geneva, whether that be as producers or consumers of music?
BL: Just get out there and make a joyful noise! There’s always something happening. There’s always the opportunity to make something happen. Whether you’re a consumer or producer, there’s always an opportunity – like, every Sunday night, they have open jam at Kashong Creek. Just get out there.
Facebook events are a big thing – as much as I dislike Facebook, Facebook events have definitely made shows happen for us where I’ve expected maybe 10 maybe 20 people to show up, and then the day of the show it gets shared a bunch of times, and bam we’ve got 80 people on front of us. So, keep an eye out on social media. Just get out there. Turn off the TV and get out there.
TH: Anything else our readers should know?
BL: Shrimps is playing May 4 at Kashong Creek! Come through!
Thank you, Brady, for your insight on music in Geneva. We look forward to interviewing more musicians and artists on campus and accumulating a broad perspective on music in Geneva in order to most effectively highlight and promote our music scene. If you are a musician and are interested in being interviewed or writing for the Herald, please email us at Herald@HWS.edu with your ideas.