Artist Profile: Stagehands (part 1)

A month or so back, I received a call from an old friend, Marco Panzo. Turns out an idea he was throwing around many years ago has finally reached fruition. So, I went out and met him and two of his band mates to talk broadway, and rock and roll. Our story begins like many, with me showing off my Zoom H4 recorder...

you can record at different qualities.... so

M (Marco)- I hope we get the best quality

Well, you actually get the worst, since I just write it all out anyways

G (Geoff)- you can keep it as your greatest hits

M- Greatest tits?

Z (Mackenzie) - Haha, greatest tits....

G- hits, but that's implied

M- if we ever have a hits album, that's what it's going to be called

well you need at least two albums to have a greatest hits, I think Coal Chamber had two.

M- Yeah, what were their hits?!

G- yeah, but for your greatest hits album, you can just call that the first one if you really believe in yourself

Yeah, but the Rheostatics beat you to it, their first album was called Greatest Hits.

M- we toyed with the idea of writing a "Fuck You" album, about 4 albums in. It would be called "I don't Give a Shit" and on the cover would be a contract... I'm looking forward to being Jaded.
well, the Jaded album is usually everyones favorite.

M- well you've got to earn it, But I have the artwork ready.

So I should grab everyones names and rolls now,

G- yes, I'm Geoff Stevens and I do vocals.

M- Marco Panzo, guitar and vocals

Z- Mackenzie Zufelt, vocals

and your characters, I know you're the boat man, or pirate...

M- I'm the sailor man, I'm the captain of the ship.

G- I'm Stan, the every guy

Z- I would be the narrator.

and from the bio, we don't really know who's side your on.

Z- I'm in every bodies business.

so this whole Stage Hands thing starts with you right Marco

M- It starts with me, and Dave the bassist. He wanted to do a seamless album with a common theme, it didn't really go into the musical aspect yet, but he wanted to do something that wasn't exactly a rock opera or a concept album, cause, everyone does that and they just call it a concept album. So eventually we came up with the idea to do a concept band, where everyone became a character, and the entire album is one big story, we developed the broadway aspect of it later. That was the starting point, and then about three years ago we wrote 50 ideas that eventually became what we have now.

That was you and Dave?

M- That was me and Dave, the drummer Nem was there from the beginning as well, so we'd hammer out some tunes with him, and started getting the story. I mean, it didn't really start developing 100% until Geoff came in, which was about 2 years ago.

and how did you come into it?

G- They approached me after a show, they recruited me at a performance.

M- Technocolor Dreamcoat

G- Yeah, I was in a production of Joseph.

M- which is ironic, because that's where Dave got the idea for the musical aspect.

G- apparently he loves Joseph. We fight on that, because I'm not a huge fan of the show. It was with a company called... oh shoot.... it's like a local...um...

it was with A company

G- yes, they do musicals, and do it for charity. That would be a couple years ago.

and how'd they approach you?

G- Literally just said "we're in a band, we liked your vocals, come audition for us". I said sure. I was feeling adventurous. We vibed when I came to the studio to jam with them. When we decided to start working together, we took it on both musically and story wise, started really flushing out idea's and character arc. I'm mainly a musical theatre background, so it was cool to work from the perspective of them coming from a rock background, making the ideas come together in a story that's cohesive.

So, everyone is putting their input?

G- That's really nice actually that they were really open to creative input.

M- Geoff walked in a tore it to sreds right away.

G- I was kind of harsh.

M- but that's what we needed.

G- we're not precious with it any more. If something sucks, or we grow out of it we move on.

M- We wrote a new song for one of the scenes, a few weeks ago, and we love it so much more. This represents our writing for over 3 years. so some bands write two albums in that time, and we're doing one. so the ideas are pretty varied. And we've been able t develop the characters a bit more. When Mackenzie came in, the narrator character was going to be developed a bit more.

And where did you come in?

Z- It was pretty much all written. Except for the most recent song. I came in a month ago. I'm pretty new. I answered an ad online.

Was that the one for the Keyboard player/ singer?

Z- no, this was for the narrator role. So I went in for an audition, and another meeting after, and it just worked out. I was kind of cool, because I had just moved into the city, and i was looking for a band, or..

A project of some sort

Z- yeah, for sure, and when I saw "a Musical Theatre Rock Band!" that was right up my ally. Because I had graduated from a musical theatre program

Where abouts?

Z- in Brockville, at St. Lawrence. It's a really good program, it's great.

Did you have an idea what you were getting into?

Z- Yeah, I went to see one of their shows at the Horseshoe, with the girl who I was replacing. I just wanted to get a feel for it. It was like nothing I'd heard, seeing a rock show, hearing a rock band, but also having the music theatre and performance aspect. It was neat thing, and I really wanted to be a part of it.

M- That's one of the challenges all along the way to figure out that balance... The name Stagehands itself embodies what we're about. Stage is the glamorous side of it, we want to make it polished, like a theatre performance, but Stagehands are working behind the scenes and lifting crap, that the dirty rock aspect of it. And that's the kind of thing we want to emphasis. It's a total do it yourself musical, but at the same time it's a show. we want it to be entertaining, there's choreography.

G- There's an element of costuming and props. We want to be able to produce the show in any capacity. Weather we have money or not, or if it's a small venue or something larger.

So you guys are prepared for a large scale thing?

G- well, we're not yet prepared [laughter all around] it's evolving.

M- we're saving for pyrotechnics. We have one firework in the bank.

What's the story then, the summing up of what you guys are putting on.

G- well, as you mentioned there's this character Stan who's an aspiring songwriter, singer, he wants to leave a legacy for himself, which is primarily musical. And he feels really inhibited in his home town, because he's not creatively inspired, to be honest, everyone around him puts him down and doesn't believe in his ideas. And he sees and ad, and it's televised which is kind of funny, because I was thinking about how old school that is now, It's almost becoming obsolete. So instead of surfing the net, he's watching TV...

M- TVo would have been a weird thing to write into the lyrics. [sings] Rogers on Demand!

G- It's kind of like Requiem for a Dream that way, he gets really captivated by this television ad, it's like an infomercial for a land where all your dreams come true. It's where performers go, it's kinda like we've set up this fake Hollywood idea within the context of our story. It's a town called Liconia. That's where he meets the sailor, he travels on a boat to Liconia, when he gets there he realized that things are not what they were set up to be. There are cracks in the facade. You discover, both Stan's potential and the weird secrets that lay behind this town. I'm leaving the rest for the imagination.

Z- I want to know the rest of the story!

Where does the name of the town come from?

M- without going to far into the original ideas for the story itself were, which would be embarrassing. The title of the show itself is called the Silent city, it comes from an earlier story idea, where this was a silent town. But we realized, we were writing a musical, and silence doesn't really translate on stage. We kept the name The Silent City, and thought what's a town name that is flashy like Hollywood, but not lame like Dazzlewood or something. Liconia come from Laconic, silence. What's a way to make it sing-songy, and Liconia was the most appealing name we could come up with.

G- Isn't there a real town called Lisconia?

M- there is, in Greece.

You guys will have to visit.

M- We're going to put them on the map, I hope. And so, the silent city comes out of that. It's not meant to be taken literally anymore, but it stands for the question of the show, whether it's part of achieving something in some circumstances compromising your values, and staying silent about them, and this is a town that's done exactly that. Did that answer the question?

G- in a roundabout way...

So how many people are involved in this?

Z- 6?

G- 6 constantly rotating members! Just kidding, but it's funny, you were asking if that was the ad for the keyboard chick, and it was like... no, that's another one. We have issues with girls who have flights of fancy and run out on us. We just end up broken hearted! But then we get amazing new people.

M- The hard thing is we're asking a lot.

G- it is hard to get 6 people together for a non-paying labour of love

M- In these times. There's a sign Up fee when you enter the band [laughs] Try to weed some people out.

G- you give them some free tea to sucker them in

Z- and a button.

You got a button?

Z- I didn't get a button

Yeah, i didn't get one

M- I'm sorry, I should have brought you one.

Oh, that's all right. So you guys... have you done some recordings or your doing some recordings?

M- We're gearing up to record to record with a producer called Zigfried Meyer, who's worked with the Salads, Holly McNarland, Kittie... I forget who else... and there's a band called the Racket, her produced one of personal favourite indie rock albums. he produced in a bedroom, it sounds so good. He's very passionate, and has a studio up in Godrich. We should be recording in the summer if all goes to plan, and releasing it in the fall.

You have a couple songs up on the myspace page.

M- yeah, but the effect doesn't come out the way we want it. We want something with a live energy but at the same time a tight band playing. Sonically, it's kinda hard to create in a basement.

The newer song on the myspace I hadn't heard yet

M- Biblioteque?

Yeah, it's great. I really like the Korg sounds, the keyboard sounds you have on it.

G- we've got another song that's more synth based, I'm all about it.

Z- that's what won me over, really.

So how many shows have you guys done so far?

M- A handful....

G- Yeah 5ish?

M- we've been gigging since last summer.

Z- I've only done one.

G- at the ACC

M- yeah, the Armenian community center.

Whose Armenian, who's the one that got you into that show?

G-Dave. Or Armen.

I liked the video you guys did. You're accent in particular was good, Marco.

Z- I know! He was so good, It took me for ever to learn it.

Well you also speak polish so maybe that helps.

M- Slavic vs Middle eastern... I don't know if they..

Yeah, but maybe it's being able to speak other languages

M- Maybe... actually, Dave's not going to like this, but I actually just tried to sound really silly. And then it sounded really good!

So you've got a show coming up at the Horseshoe

M- The 28th. We've got a guest list on our website, we'll be doing some new songs that people haven't heard. We're amping up the staging and the costuming and the whole production aspect of it.

G- Our hope would be... cause we have a bit more time to play with now than the Horseshoe has given us before, they've been really great about when we can play gigs, considering we're so obscure. So we were hoping to perform the first act of the show. Right now if we get a 30 min set we just do a song cycle of our best songs

Z- Our greatest hits

G- yeah, our greatest hits.

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