Steve Kalorin, the bassist and elder statesman of the group at 38, had tasted regional success with a band almost two decades ago, but gradually put music aside. Years passed before he decided, in 2000, that he wanted to give it another shot.
Justin Newport, the lead singer, had been in a succession of bands in his hometown of Yukon, Oklahoma, “just goofing off,” when it dawned on him that if he was going to have a chance of making it in the music business, he’d have to get serious and take his act east.
Newport, 24, became the final and youngest part of an ensemble that Kalorin and his brother, drummer Dom, started building several years ago. Already on board were guitarist Steve Cumberland and Don Honeycutt, who had auditioned for the vocal job that eventually went to Newport but emerged instead as the band’s sax player.
Other than Newport, these are local guys. Honeycutt, originally from Eatontown, lives in Atlantic Highlands and works in software. Cumberland, a traffic coordinator at an ad agency in Manhattan, grew up in Red Bank and lives with Steve Kalorin, another software guy, on West Westside Avennue. The Kalorin brothers grew up in Long Branch and Shrewsbury.
With Newport crashing at Dom Kalorin’s house on South Street at night, and working for him in his landscaping business by day, the band began crafting and perfecting a body of material in anticipation of going into a recording studio. The next step was to find a label to pay for the studio time and take the band on.
But the plan went briefly awry. Invited to Los Angeles to meet with record industry executives, the band was stymied when it got there. “The feedback was, ‘You’re very talented, but we don’t need talented people,’ ” says Dom Kalorin; instead, the demand was for flashy acts. But an independent producer, “a kid,” says Kalorin, gave the band some key advice. “He said, ‘You can basically do this on your own.’ And we said, you know what? We can.”
At that point, the band embarked on a DIY effort. The result is an album released earlier this year on the band’s Meanfish Records, titled “Bamm Diddley.” It’s a propulsive amalgam of funk, R&B, rock and other genres that invites comparisons to acts as disparate as Live, James Taylor, John Mayer and Fishbone.
Woodfish has also ramped up its determination to control as many aspects of its destiny as it can. The idea, says Steve Kalorin, is to try to establish a local following on which to build, and thus avoid repeating one of the short-lived joys of his first go-round: touring in a van in a hungry search for the next gig. Since completing the record, the band has played Donovan’s Reef, the Stone Pony, and anywhere it might find an appreciative crowd. Last September, Woodfish played at the annual South Street block party.
redbankgreen asked the band what constitutes success in this era of highly fragmented audiences for music. “Success is happiness,” says Newport, “and when we’re on stage, we’re happy.”
“In a way, I think we’re succeeding every day,” says Steve Kalorin, “because in the end, we’re on that stage, playing music. Yes, I’d love to be a rock star, but I don’t want to forget that I got back into this to play.”