“Kids flash guitars just like switchblades, hustling for the record machine” With these two cinematic lines Springsteen once described the New Jersey R&R scene in his classic song “Jungleland” from the “Born to Run” album. With scenes as the boardwalk and Madam Marie, or artists like Little Steven van Zandt and Southside Johnny, Asbury Park has gained its place in mythical R&R lore, a place where greatness was born. I’ve always felt that in the development of great music scenes play a pivotal role. Music is never born in a vacuum, all the great artists came from a breeding ground of friendly competition. During the early days of MTV and FM radio the importance of local scenes started to wane, musicians started to lose ground to discos and clubs. With American Idols this trend has reached its peak, music is now a commodity with a very short conservation date, hardly rooted in any locality.
But for those willing to look there are still those soldiers of R&R struggling to keep the scene alive, trying to truly connect to their audience and their immediate surroundings. Walk into the Stone Pony at the Jersey Shore on a given Friday night, one of those dives Springsteen still likes to frequent, you might stumble into Cool Days End, a refreshingly straight forward band taking up their switchblades against the sign of the times, trying to prove to the world there still is a place for R&R. To people who sloughing on their couch in their fresh expensive new condos at the Jersey shore a band like Cool Days End or a club like the Pony may seem like a weed that refuses to die. To Cool Days End base player Rick Marsh the Pony is a great place to be. “It is becoming more and more difficult to find venues that cater real music”, he reflects “In this horrific American Idol mind set, people want to be spoon fed the same puke over and over, with little regard for something new. Keyboard player Bill Kace bemoans that the Jersey scene is virtually non existent. “Original band have to practically beg to play” he reflects sombrely.
Cool Days End is proof that there still are quite a few people who enjoy digging for those diamonds. The band started out as a Springsteen cover band called Glory Days, but to singer songwriter Tom Kistler’s surprise people soon started telling him they liked his original stuff better. It didn’t take the boys long ditch the Boss and started focussing on creating their own material. After base player Rick Masch gave the band their name, Cool Days End was on its way. Though the band is now still closely associated with Springsteen they’re working hard to break that stigma. Keeping them in that corner would be selling them short truth be told. Rob Mike, the band’s lead guitar player, finds his roots firmly in Jazz and Blues with hints of Classical music. Keyboard player Bill Kace already has a long career as a professional musician behind him, playing with New Wave band the Good and Disco ducks Third World, he even enjoyed his stint at the Letterman Show. Kace admits today that he technically didn’t join Cool Days End, “The band kind of adopted me after recording the album”.
Somehow the band manages to mix all those influences to a tight unit. Drummer Rob Kulessa remembers with a smile; “It’s all Rick’s fault, he was replacing our old base player and the first thing he did was sit us down and tear the music down to it’s basic elements” Rob explains that getting the band into a tight unit was relatively easy, “We’re all friends outside of the band and we’re all pulling in the same direction” Though Tom Kistler writes the songs, the band sees the arrangements as a band effort. Cool Days End is not backing up a singer songwriter but a cohesive unit. Most noticeably about Tom’s writing however is how he manages to capture everyday scenes. Cool Days End is by no means a Rock act that wallows in cynicism like a lot of young bands to day, going through their songs is more like looking at snap shots of everyday people. Tom has a song writing style that reminds me more of Merle Haggard than of Springsteen. When I confront him with that notion he laughs a little, “I grew up listening to the country greats, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb and such. An influence coming from his father who was a huge country fan taking him to a place named “the Colar Bar” where he got to see them live in action and sneak into the tour busses. “It’s inspiring music to me he admits, real down to earth”
Some of that Country influence seeped through their classic Rock sound when Cool Days End recorded their current album “Streets, Dreams and everything in Between”, available through CD Baby. The track “Believe in Me” was just screaming for an honest to God fiddle. Rob Kulessa approached Springsteen’s violin player Soozie Tyrell to add the part the band was hearing. “Her time in the studio was amazing to watch” he says looking back, “every thing she did was in one take, pure perfection in the space of an hour and a half”. “She blasted it out!” Tom adds. Cool Days End is currently working real hard to try and get that perfection across to a broad audience, securing deals with radio stations for airplay and striking up an alliance with Live Nation to get the band out on the road, possibly even to Europe, right across the ocean from Asbury Park. “The Jersey Shore is an unique environment for artists” Masch relates “Over the years the bar-band scene has been squeezed into a funnel with only a hand full of survivors, we are proud to be survivors”.
Get the full album through CD Baby