Most rock bands look to hitch themselves to whatever the hot new musical trend is. Not so with Underwhelmed. The New York based quintet plays a driving and emotionally overwhelming brand of hard rock that hearkens back to an era where bands left everything they had on the stage. On their new album, Reveal, the band displays the unity and sense of purpose that has built the band a growing national base of fans who love rock, because they live it.
Consisting of Chris Amplo on vocals, Mike Russo on bass, his brother Chris Russo on drums, Paul Boyle on guitar and Mike Armstrong on guitar, the story of Underwhelmed is one of friendship and a shared vision. Starting in 1998, when Chris auditioned for the Russo brothers, the band has dedicated themselves to their own vision of what rock can be. As lead singer Chris Amplo says, “We go for a real sense of purity in what we do. We’re not trying to reinvent rock. We’re five guys playing the music the way we think it should be played.” That way is an amalgam of stylings, containing everything from the anthemic rock Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and U2, to the darker sonic palette of bands like the Doors and the Afghan Whigs.
After filling out their lineup with Paul Boyle and Mike Armstrong in 2003, the band set to take New York by storm. Playing legendary clubs like CBGB’s, the band paid their dues in the competitive New York club scene with an attitude that is at the heart of who the are. Mike states, “Basically, we play with the same passion whether we’re playing for 4 people or 4000. I think audiences recognize that, and it has them feel a real connection to us.”
The results have spoken for themselves. 10,000 visitors to their MySpace page each month and expanding tour base including markets in the mid-Atlantic, mid-West, South and Northeast. “We have a band that’s exciting to watch,” Amplo enthuses. Mike and Chris Russo are incredible musicians – Chris is an unbelievably exciting drummer to watch. Our guitarists, Mike and Paul may look serious on stage, but they keep us grounded - so everyone else can go off - and Paul especially is a real creative inspiration to us.” What makes it even more impressive is that the band has done this all on their own, all self-managed and self-financed.
Now the band is set to take things to the next level with the release of their new album, Reveal. Produced by Thom Hazert at his studios in Strongsville, OH, the album is a collection of songs that are far more than the sum of their parts. Written collectively by the band, the songs display the maturation of the songwriting and confidence that has come with it. As Amplo says, “We’re all more confident in ourselves and each other, and that really comes through in the songs.”
You can hear that confidence in the “Reveal,” the album’s title track. Beginning with a winsome guitar intro and Chris’s strong and supple voice, the song becomes a melodic explosion that showcases Paul and Mike’s driving and thundering guitars and the propulsive rhythm section of Mike and Chris Russo. It’s the kind of radio ready rock that is beyond trends, and never fails to move an audience.
With its irresistible hooks, “Angel” is the kind of song that leaves one breathless with the sheer skill of the songwriting and playing. Like many great songs, it was one that came together quickly. Amplo recalls, “We had the lyrics and melody in an hour and a half. It was like the music came through me and wrote itself.” And “Leave It All Behind,” a tale of love gone wrong, pulses with a raw sensuality and layer of darkness that makes it phenomenally compelling.
The band will be hitting the road soon – playing whenever they can. “If it was up to me,” says Mike with nods from the rest of the band, “I’d just pack up the van and be gone.” “We love getting out there and meeting people,” says Chris. And with an album containing the skill and depth of Reveal, combined with a work ethic that has already paid the band dividends, it seems only a matter of time until Underwhelmed ascend to a level befitting their status as a truly great melodic hard rock band.