by Pete Mazzaccaro
Music has never been more of a young man’s game. The latest and greatest bands have always been composed mostly of men in their 20s, but the business of music was always controlled by older men who ran record companies and managed distribution channels and concert venues.
These days, that infrastructure is largely obsolete. Musicians are recording their own music, even funding the venture with online Kickstarter campaigns. They’re printing themselves on social media and managing their own digital music properties on everything from iTunes to Band Camp.
For 56 Men, though, a band composed of older men who have been writing, recording and performing music since the late 70s, the new school way of doing things is a refreshing change.
“We like it,” said founding bass player Ian Mellanby. “We see this like the late 70s and early 80s reemerging. Bands are putting out EPs and singles. If a band has good tracks, they can put them out.”
Mellanby and singer/guitarist Joe Borelli, who owns the Chestnut Hill Gallery, 8117 Germantown Ave., formed the band five years ago and released a self-titled album of all original material. Borelli and founding guitarist Jon Cline, who is no longer in the band, had been band mates in the late 70s.
That band was called Uproar and was signed to East Coast Music. It even scored a bit on the Billboard Top 100 called “Driftin’ Away.”
Today, 56 Men is performing songs from a brand-new album, “Landing Lights.” The band is signed to indy label Zip Records, which is getting it distributed through all the digital channels. It played a successful record-release party at Tin Angel in Center City on Saturday, Sept. 14.
“We’re heading up to play out more,” Borelli said. “This album had been a year in process. We started rehearsing to play again about six months ago.”
That process took place at Smash Palace studios in Merchantville, N.J. That studio is named for the band of owner Steve Butler, who recorded, produced and played guitar on “Landing Lights.” Smash Palace is a power pop band that Butler formed in 1985.
Butler’s influence helped land 56 Men on Zip Records, which has released the last three records by Smash Palace, the most recent of which is 2012’s “Do It Again.”
The result is an 11-song album that the band wants to support as much as possible.
“If we were 20 years younger, we’d be at the point when we’d jump in a van,” Mellanby said.”We’re a bit more judicious now. We’d be happy to play other regions of if we get some airplay. ”
Mellanby, a UK native who owns an academic publishing business in Northern Liberties, said the band’s efforts of sending copies of the new album to small radio stations has been working. They’re getting a lot of sounds in the Midwest, in particular. They were also picked up by the popular Internet radio station, Radio Free Americana.
“We passed out 1,000 of these, ” Borelli said, referring to a CD copy of the album. The format is still essential for radio promotions.
Aside from touring, Borelli and Mellanby said they would continue to spend every spare moment they had working on getting the word out, even through social media, particularly Facebook.
“That’s what we need to do, ” Borelli said. “Kids in other bands are on constantly. That’s how they’re able to get and sustain a buzz about the record.”
It’s not necessarily something Borelli or Mellanby, who both have demanding day jobs, necessarily have time for, but it’s what they need to do.
In the meantime, the band is enjoying itself and already thinking of the next step.
“We have new songs we’d love to record for an EP in the spring and, hopefully, put it out on vinyl, too, Mellanby said.
“We’re going certainly not in it for the money,” Borelli said. “We redoing what we love and enjoying it.”