For the Record

“I don’t know why we didn’t give up,” Frank Sacramone said last night with a laugh, the dark mop atop his head still damp with sweat. His Bethany-based progressive metal band, Earthside, had just finished a loud, blistering set at Toad’s Place to celebrate the vinyl release of the group’s debut record, A Dream In Static, and he was marveling at the road he and his bandmates had traveled to get to this point.

See, sweat is nothing new for Earthside, whose members grew up in New Haven, Bethany and Wethersfield, respectively. “We basically put our lives in the gutter and just decided that we were gonna spend four years working on this record,” Sacramone says. “I can’t tell you how hard it was to do this.”

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But he could give me an idea. He says the album—which is an absolute monster, from composition to performance to production quality—is the result of untold 16-hour days in a basement in Sweden with producer David Castillo, who happened to respond to one of countless cold call-style emails the band sent out to potential collaborators. Email is also how Earthside landed feature vocal performances by Sevendust’s Lajon Witherspoon and TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins, who agreed to participate on the strength of the demos the band had provided them. A third featured vocalist, Soilwork’s Björn Strid, was working with a connection of Castillo’s at the time, which greased the wheels.

The end result would be strong for a mid-career record. For a debut effort, it’s unthinkable. “I think we all care very deeply about the art of music, and we expect a certain standard out of ourselves,” Sacramone explains. “To come short of that would just be tragic for us. It’s an obsession.”

As serious as all of that might sound, the band’s stage presence is, in a word, fun. Guitarist Jamie Van Dyck, a Yale School of Music graduate, smiled easily between scrunched metal expressions. Bassist Ryan Griffin tossed his torso-length hair around. Drummer Ben Shanbrom’s face was all grit and determination, which made sense, because he was basically in the middle of a power workout.

Keyboardist Sacramone was the party starter. Not always tethered to his keyboard rig, he jumped around and sang along with the vocals, which were pre-recorded for the live show, accompanying artful projections of the featured vocalists singing along. His highest-energy antics came when he pulled out his curvy white keytar and ran around the stage.

That’s right: Sacramone has a keytar. And it’s no joke. “I want to reinvent people’s perception of the keytar,” he says, to replace the lame after-image we’re all still carrying from the instrument’s heyday in the 1980s.

He’s already got at least one convert.

Suffice it to say that Earthside is as odd, and oddly appealing, as its time signatures. In January, A Dream In Static won two trophies at the 2016 North American Independent Rock Music Association (NAIRMA) Awards, which “recognize creative and technical excellence within the independent music community.” At the end of March, the band is set to embark on a tour of Europe.

Sacramone hasn’t quite come to terms with it all. “I don’t know how this is happening!” he says. “We hoped that good things would come. We put so much time in. We reached out to so many people. And I guess the work paid off.”

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Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories, helped in no small part by a small team of dedicated contributors.

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