buzz interview with
GEORGE LEONTARIS OF
Their single, “This Jagged Alibi” (hear clips at theescapeengine.net), not only melts your face off, but captures their edge, and artistic vision. It’s primal, a great song for when you’re pissed off, but there’s more to it. It’s a tune that mirrored what was going on in their lives at that point. “When we wrote it, we knew we were putting out a record with Fidelity. We were mentally stressed over the fact that we were pressured to write more music.” The single not only let them vent out their pressures but also their devotion to their band. “It was going to be our chance to really reveal to our family and friends what this band meant to us. It’s rushed, chaotic, and full of emotion,” said George. Live, The Escape Engine are awesome, but no strippers or explosions. So could they possibly put on an entertaining show? George provided some insight. “People seem to respond to our live show very well. And once again, I’ll go back to the honesty thing ’cause that’s all it is. We want to show them how we feel. We played this basement show in New Brunswick, NJ and Dom opened up a washing
machine, stuck his head all the way in it, and just started singing one of the songs in it. Some kid came up to me after the show and said, ‘Dude, why did your singer stick his head in the washing machine?’ I was like, ‘I’m not sure, man, it’s just what he felt like doin’.’ He was like, ‘Sick!.’” Singing in washing machines might be odd, but these guys don’t need Dr. Melfi. “That’s how we express ourselves when we play. That 35-40 minutes a night, is all we have, to let it out. It’s therapy and it’s real,” George confessed. On their website you can join “Mafia Melodic,” which is a cult of their fans much like the Kiss Army. “It’s about being positive, and using music as a weapon. It’s about maintaining a relationship with our fans, on a more personal level. It’s a temporary escape from the negativity in life [war, drugs, etc.],” George explains. A fall tour is in the works and it’s your chance to break away from the mundane with The Escape Engine. (theescapeengine.net)
the escape engine HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY by Jay Amabile Not all rock stars really give a frog’s fat ass whether they have the cool studded belt or the $600 sunglasses. Some truly do it for the love of music and the chance to express their emotions through their talents. After my interview with George Leontaris from The Escape Engine, it’s apparent that he’s definitely not your typical rock star. He’s a well-read computer geek, a former engineering student who had a job in the city, and gave it all up for the love of music. (Hey WB, can we say fall line-up?) From waxing poetic about Delacroix (a French artist), his favorite novels, and movies like The Shawshank Redemption, it’s obvious that there’s a lot going on upstairs. A Jersey boy from divorced parents, he ended up in Paramus, NJ, where he met lead singer Dom Lettera in high school. The Escape Engine’s debut album is available now, entitled Celebrity Role Model. The theme of the record is that emulating superstars is futile. I questioned George about the hypocrisy in creating an album with a theme like CRM. Didn’t they look up to rockers when they were coming up the ranks? Do they want young people to shy away from having idols of their own? George rebutted, “Are you kidding? We are post ’80s, ’90s kids. It was a time for rock stars, and it was the discovery of music for me. Slash, Axl, Brett Michaels, Gene Simmons, Ozzy. But the theme of the record is that ‘you’ make ‘you’ important. It’s about teaching young people that the media turns things around, to make us feel like we need to look like this person in order to be beautiful. It’s important to look up to someone for inspiration but to think for themselves, and not let anyone tell them who they need to be.” Emo, punk, hardcore—whatever. From my ear, it
sounds like a bunch of kids complaining and The Escape Engine shouldn’t be botched together with them. “A lot of us are older, and our genre caters to a very young audience. It’s a difficult task trying to relate to these kids right off the bat. We knew we had to really prove ourselves to them,” George explains. And prove themselves they did, because EE pride themselves on being a positive, honest band, not a clone. They’ve accomplished what many bands lust for and they did it all through an independent label (Fidelity) and a limited cash flow. “Money isn’t the issue with this band,” says George. The fact that nothing was ever handed to EE on a silver platter “makes the level of appreciation so much greater,” according to George. George breathes a refreshing air of humility. When we talked about their first video for “This Jagged Alibi” airing on MTV2, he was wide-eyed, “Everyone freaked out. I couldn’t believe it. I felt so accomplished. I remember saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m on MTV.’” (The video is well-crafted by Darren Doane whose bio includes Blink-182, and Thursday.) He realizes that it can go to your head easily but he plans to stay focused on “the most important things, our friendship, our family, our friends, and our fans.” Just when they could start appreciating the fruits of their labor, they had to adjust to a new drummer, Chris Osborne. For EE, picking a drummer wasn’t even about showing off the “skillz.” They were looking at what type of person they are, and how they’d work with the band. “We knew he could play the beats. We spent more time, talking to him, and tried to see him as a person, understanding his personality,” George states. Rounding out the group is classically trained female bassist, Amanda Kilmek, and rhythm guitarist, Mike Carroll.
www.theaquarian.com ARTS WEEKLY SEPTEMBER 1, 2004 45
The Escape Engine Review by Jay Amabile originally published in The Aquarian, East Coast Rocker