THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW - 1999 - present
The legend begins in a small town in northern New Jersey on a warm May night. Bassist Dan Castiel, (formerly of Thrillseeker , Dizzy Dog, etc.) entered the legendary Pink Room for the first time. He was there to have a jam with Joe Dell, ex-keyboardist for Spectrum Green, Haight, and Eternity X. The two felt that the jam was a good impression of what they would be capable of if they found the right partners to help conquer the world. With Dan's powerful bass-playing and Joe's intense keyboard playing they felt they were at the start of creating a band that would be able to compete with any band that was ever on the scene. The plan was to piece together a four-man unit consisting of bass, drums, keys, and guitar. Each member would also have their own unique singing style. Each song would have a hook but also would be well decorated so as not to bore the listener to death. Now that the plan was set it was time to find the right drummer. It didn't take long to find U.S. Bandit's Frank Melick. He was looking for a new outlet, and a new direction. The boys were impressed by his speed, power, and agility. At the end of the audition it looked like a sawmill exploded under his seat. His high, clear vocals added a new weapon in their vocal arsenal. There was one more element needed to complete the band -- a guitar player. One without flash, but with style and feel. Enter Matt Schwarz, a guitarist who's background included large doses of heavy metal, but also classical and folk. He was the most original guitar player the band had ever met. They felt he was perfect for what they wanted to accomplish. He added a low, expressive vocal style as well as the delicate timbres of flute and acoustic guitar. In October '99 Sleepy Hollow was complete. In four months they were out playing the local scene with a dozen originals, bolstered with some covers to fill the two-hour sets they'd booked. Filling the places they played with crowds never before seen by club owners, they were constantly asked back. Moving on to outdoor festivals, they headlined day one at the Fantasy Farm Festival in NY state, leaving the crowd chanting their name. They found time in the autumn of 2000 to put together a four song EP (one song for each vocalist). Each track shows a different facet of the bands creativity and talent (although their more than two dozen originals to date have continued to cover new musical territory, exploiting rock influences from the early 70's to the present, as well as blues, jazz, classical, folk, etc.). 2001 saw them performing at NYC clubs, such as Kenny's Kastaways, Tribeca Blues Club, and the Limelight. After extensively touring throughout the area, including Ken Mutino's Woodstock Reunion and Rally 3-day concert, Sleepy Hollow went back into the studio (Fall 2001) to record their first full length album on Big Nose Records. Keyboardist Joe Dell took the producer's chair, and decided to focus on the hard-rocking organ-and-electric-guitar based songs that made up their NYC club shows (where limited set-up times and space prohibited the full multi-keyboard, acoustic-and-electric guitar, and flute show). While one half of the disc was devoted to classic favorites that the band was eager to record, the other half was devoted to the new 20-minute epic "Goin' Over" (from which the CD took its name) - with lyrics mostly by Joe, telling the story of a young man's descent through increasingly dangerous drug abuse to his final overdose. Musically, the piece was mostly by Matt and Joe, with contributions by Dan and Frank, and could be seen as a virtual trip through heavy metal history - utilizing a different style of hard rock/metal to portray each different chapter in the story (and beginning and ending with Matt's acoustic, renaissancey pieces - including his debut on Celtic harp!). The songs had been well broken-in during the band's busy summer gigging, and were laid down in a weekend (with many of the improvised solos being recorded live with the backing tracks). Mixing, however, proved much less smooth. Joe decided the final mix was too weak and retro-sounding when he went to master the album, and he spent 2002 trying different engineers and mixes. Meanwhile, changes were happening in the band itself. Frank Melick, although a brilliant drummer whose playing was a highlight of the new album (and performances), had always been uncertain of his commitment to the band, and quit to follow other directions soon after the recording was completed. Drummer auditions proved rather disappointing (as anyone who reads rock band biographies would expect). In Sleepy Hollow's case, even after taking into account that many drummers weren't good enough for the band (some even admitting they were intimidated by Frank Melick's excellent musicianship), there was also a problem of musical taste. Sleepy Hollow follows an eclectic path that seems to defy categorization - as exemplified by the fact that they were not retro enough for the classic rock drummers, but not modern enough for the "modern" drummers; too eclectic for the metalheads, and not avant-garde enough for the progressive rock drummers! Matt saw this as an opportunity to try the flip-side of the club sets, and work up an acoustic trio set focusing on Joe's piano playing and Matt's acoustic guitar and flute (Dan's electric bass playing worked nicely in either format!). Although early rehearsals proved quite promising, Joe's energies were put towards the album and the trio never quite left the rehearsal stage. Dan and Matt found this time to work on outside projects - Dan working with various bands, as well as hitting open jams to keep his chops up, Matt focusing on his folk music and a handfull of progressive metal epics he'd been working on on his own. Dan finally drifted from the fold, partially due to the downtime of Sleepy Hollow giving him a chance to do so, and partially due to band direction and management clashes (Dan had never been as enthusiastic about the progressive-rock influences that Matt and Joe loved). After the lull of 2002 (Sleepy Hollow only performed once or twice with a fill-in drummer), 2003 saw a reawakening of the band. Joe had finally found a more metal-minded engineer in the guise of Rick Bennett, a veteran of metal bands from Naughty Angel to Haphazard. Rick worked with Matt on getting a more modern, drop-tuned guitar sound in the studio and Matt re-recorded many of his guitar parts for the album. Although "Goin' Over" would suffer delays in mixing, mastering, and the final sleeve and packaging, at least it was moving along. Matt had started performing acoustic gigs, solo and with his side project Sacred fool, featuring the Jimmy Page-inspired Steve Klem, and recorded a folk CD of his own ("The Lost Way" - the title song of which had been performed by Sleepy Hollow, and which was also planned to include "The Wanderer" and "The Soldier's Lament", which got put aside until the "Legend" sessions due to veering away from the acoustic folk basis of Matt's solo album). This lead to the acoustic Sleepy Hollow finally seeing the light of day in 2003 (sharing the same bookstore/coffeehouse circuit - and some nights sharing a show - with Matt solo and Sacred Fool). Reduced to a duo, Sleepy acoustic Hollow showed a very classically-influenced, progressive-rock side of the band, full of the colorfull sounds of piano, organ, harpsichord, flutes, and acoustic guitar. Matt and Joe wrote some wonderful new songs - such as Joe's "Too Late", a lovely duet for piano and flute with haunting doubled vocals, and Matt's epic "The Wanderer" - containing a long instrumental section where Matt's classical guitar influences are wonderfully complimented by a Joe Dell pipe organ part that recalls the heyday of Gabriel-era Genesis. Matt's "The Mirror", originally turned down as too complex in the early days of the band, first appeared here as an acoustic arrangement (the electric version would later appear live, and on the "Legend" album) - Joe Dell's influence bringing a jazzy feel to Mole's song. The acoustic set also included wonderfully effective renditions of classic Sleepy Hollow rockers - including a "Goin' Over", where some sections are played very similarly to the original, while others are hardly recognizable (like the "Blast Off" section which has been transformed from nu-metal to beatnik coffeehouse jazz!). Spring 2004 finally saw the release of "Goin' Over", gaining interest from both the metal and progressive communities - including requests from radio and internet sites in North and South America and Europe, and various reviews (such as Progression magazine). Sleepy Hollow finally found a new drummer - Deve Guzman, who shared the band member's love for classic metal, hard rock, and prog - but, most of all, was both enthusiastic and open minded! This opened up not only a return to the classic Sleepy Hollow repertoire, but the opportunity to develop both the new acoustic material with a full band, and also to work on some new progressive metal material that had been shelved during the acoustic days. Deve drifted during a period of band inactivity when Joe was occupied for a while with the illness and death of his father. Sleepy Hollow, back down to the core of Matt and Joe, even performed a special acoustic set at Jeff Mach's Wicked Winter Renaissance Faire in early 2006! (A unique version of the band's self-titled song, rearranged for flute and harpsichord with vocals, can be found on video on their myspace page). In 2007, the boys decided to catch up on some recording. They were lucky to find Gary Rinaldi available to assist on drums; Gary had worked with Joe's old almamada from Spectrum Green in the 90's, and filled in for a number of Sleepy Hollow gigs after Frank Melick left. Gary's experience ranged from big band jazz to musical theater to his Iron Maiden tribute group Sanctuary, so he was the perfect choice for Sleepy Hollow's eclectic blend of metal-leaning music. Joe managed to find a perfect studio in Twain Recording, run and engineered by Bob Both, famous for working on a string of albums with James Brown in the 70s. The band began work with some of their acoustic Sleepy Hollow songs, utilizing Twain's grand piano and Mole only bringing a classical guitar and flute for the early sessions. As well as the classically-influenced acoustic songs from the duet years, the band finally recorded some of their favorites from the early days, utilizing Gary's metal drumming skills. Mole also finally got the chance to work in some of his more ambitious progressive metal songs which the original lineup had deemed too much work to learn when they'd wanted to build a repertoire and hit the stage quickly. Finally, Mole and Joe each brought an epic to the recordings - Mole a traditional folk song from his Ren faire repertoire, in an arrangement that runs from heavy metal to acoustic folk, while Joe's idea was to do a Pink Floyd/King Crimson style improv - where the band entered the studio with no plan and improvised something on the spot. Overall, the recordings for what will become the "Legend" album encompass 20 tracks, ranging from under a minute to 15 minutes in length, and from solo piano to pounding progressive metal. The band also recorded some bonus tracks - two seven minute blue-riff based songs, and an alternate version of a "Legend" track for flute and harpsichord. During this time, Joe has been active with the band's recordings - releasing a vinyl edition of the Sleepy Hollow debut EP, and mixing alternate arrangements of some songs from "Legend" for a single disc metal-oriented taster entitled "The Lazarus Project", due out at the end of 2008.