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Makin Waves with Comb the Desert, Can’t Swim, Danielle Illario, Will Wood and more

By Bob Makin

originally published: 04/01/2017

Makin Waves with Comb the Desert, Can’t Swim, Danielle Illario, Will Wood and more

Makin Waves with Comb the Desert, Can’t Swim, Danielle Illario, Will Wood and moreThis week, Makin Waves features a chat with the hard-core punk band Comb the Desert, record reviews of Keansburg rock band Can’t Swim and Edison jazz singer Danielle Illario, a live review of Will Wood, and briefs on the Garden State Film Festival, a tribute to the late Vision front man Dave Franklin, Jeff Crespi’s birthday bash, Bongo Boy Records’ Indie Showcase, the Garden State Hip Hop Youth Poetry Jam, Stereo Jo’s EP release party, and tour news from The Double Negatives.  


With the powerful six-song debut EP, “Humanannoyed,” Rockaway-based Comb the Desert are a new hardcore band who have lived up to the names of members’ previous acts, such as Control, Stillwell, and Maverick. In the process of writing a follow-up and demoing at Backroom Studios in Rockaway, Comb the Desert would be an even bigger band if members weren’t busy entrepreneurs with a strong desire to make the world a better place.

Such sentiments criss-cross “Humanannoyed” alongside a sense of planetary doom and a lack of faith in government. Vocalist Joe Galuppo of Woodbridge, lead guitarist Justin Sherwood of Roxbury, drummer Kellene Addison of Hopatcong, and bassist Mike Bell of New Brunswick will play the dichotomous disc, plus new songs, on April 22 at The Court Tavern, also New Brunswick, with Lowlight, Disposable, RocknRoll HiFives, and The Turnbucklers. The show is part of the annual Hub City Music Festival to raise funds and awareness for the Elijah’s Promise food justice and empowerment program, as well as the Makin Waves 30th Anniversary Concert Series

Comb the Desert also will be playing April 14 at The Clash Bar in Clifton and May 13 at The Stanhope House for the Seas of Wake’s farewell show. In the following chat, Bell and Galuppo, also a solo folk-punk singer-songwriter and host of the “Live from the Dining Room” podcast, talk about their band’s record, day jobs, and plans.

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Question: How did Comb the Desert come together, where are you each from, and how did you snatch up Joe from down in Middlesex County?

Mike Bell: Comb the Desert really got started back in early 2015. I began conjuring up a handful of old dirty riffs, never used from a previous prog-rock/hardcore project. After deciding to make a move back up to the woods, aka Sussex County, Kelly and Justin joined in on making them into songs. 

Joe Galuppo: Being a few years younger than the rest of the band, I grew up listening to their bands. Justin and Kelly were in a band together that I used to listen to back in, like, 1999 named Stillwell. I was obsessed. Then I finally met them when I played the same bill as them years ago with their band named Atlas.  


Q: What other well-known Jersey bands have the members of Comb the Desert been in and did they accomplish more than this band has?

Bell: I used to play in a quasi-successful punk/prog band called Maverick in 2001 to 2008. We did some frequent touring and put out two albums. Hard to say what group/groups involved was more successful, but I can say that CTD is more fun than anything else I've ever done.  

Galuppo: Kelly was also in a band named Control and another one named Morgan’s Storm.

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Makin Waves with Comb the Desert, Can’t Swim, Danielle Illario, Will Wood and moreQ: Would Comb the Desert quit their day jobs to pursue the band full-time or are too many of the members too entrepreneurial to do that?

Bell: Eesh, that's a loaded question, Bob! It would take a culmination of the right circumstances financially and spiritually and good ol' luck for me to bounce from the ebb and flow of everyday life. But really, I feel punk bands by design are anti-capitalist, anti-industry and pro-DIY. So it's important to me that we, as a group, never fully let go of that youthful mindset, especially when writing really angry music.

Galuppo: I jump from job to job to meet both my creative and financial needs as I see fit and as the universe allows. I couldn’t say I wouldn’t quit my job if the right opportunity arose.


Q: What entrepreneurial enterprises are members involved?

Bell: I used to do a lot of entrepreneurial shit as a kid. I did some tour managing and booking for indie groups and started a window-cleaning business that did really well for a little while. 

Galuppo: I’m no tycoon in the financial aspect, but as far as irons in the fire, I’ve got a few, most notably the “Live from the Dining Room” music podcast

Kelly owns a few laundromats and also owns a brunch spot in Rockaway called Missy’s Main Street Cafe, which she bought for her fiancé, Missy, and is owned and operated by them. It’s a cool place where old young and punk rockers eat kick-ass eggs and bacon. It’s not uncommon to see the fellows from Agnostic Front or Dillinger Escape Plan eating at the brunch spot.


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Q: For a band made of entrepreneurs, Comb the Desert are socio-politically and environmentally radical lyrically. Is that a dichotomy or for you, do capitalism and radicalism work together?

Bell: I think it's too soon to say if I feel the polarity drawing from that comparison. Truthfully, I am perfectly fine with waking up every morning for work and paying my bills. Then at night, I comb through the rigors of my mind, then craft it to music. I have grown accustomed to this. 

Galuppo: Kelly kicks butt, and she is herself 100 percent of the time in her endeavors for capital. 


Q: Is ‘Don’t HAARP on Me’ a reference to the U.S. government’s mind control and weapons project in Alaska? 

Galuppo: I didn’t know you were down with mad science, Bob! The official narrative of HAARP is far more intriguing than mere mind control. The applications of the technology are pretty endless. It’s spooky stuff. 

I mean, you’re talking to someone who thinks world leaders eat children and politicians are reptilians in poorly made skin suits, so I’m clearly crazy. The moral of the song is that for every bit of evil in the world there is goodness. It’s really unbalanced right now. Obviously, the world has gone totally mad. It’s the new normal. Join a punk band! It will all be over soon. 


Q: ‘How Stella Really Got Her Groove Back (Sally)’ seems to be biblical, apocalyptical. What inspired the lyrics to that song?

Galuppo: It seems like everyone wants an apocalypse, like it’s a video game, and they can hit reset when it gets too real. I’m not a prepper, but I feel that you must mentally prepare yourselves for big changes. ‘Stella’ represents the everyman who has sold out, ones who traded the farm for the 7-Eleven, free thought for a smart phone, people who would likely off themselves at the threat of no Internet. 

As far as biblical, we are witnessing a modern day exodus. They are planning a giant collapse. They are building a wall, not to keep people out but to keep them in. Words like blasphemy and heresy spouting from the mouths of corrupt leaders who can’t explain their failure. The freakin’ flat-earth society is back in full force. They want us to fear God again. The largest and most powerful terror organization in the world has a Twitter account. ‘We ain’t found shit!’


Q: What is the status, expected completion and release of the follow-up to “Humanannoyed?”

Bell: We're fully engaged in the writing process. The physical form of the composition is yet to be decided. We are anticipating new material released sometime this year. 

Galuppo: As life gets harder, music becomes a necessity for our mental health. The band has been writing some ringers!


Q: Will you be working with Jonathan Maisto at Backroom Studios in Rockaway again?

Bell: We already have been working with Jonathon. 

Galuppo: Jonathon feels like a part of CTD, as long as he takes it easy on the lashings. Backroom Studios is packed with fantastic engineers, but Jon is music family.

Makin Waves with Comb the Desert, Can’t Swim, Danielle Illario, Will Wood and more

Q: Are Comb the Desert part of PartySmasher? If so, what impact have they had on the band?

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Bell: We are not affiliated with Party Smasher. But since they are based where we rehearse (Backroom Studios), we are familiar with the brand and fully support it. 


Q: Joe, comment on how Comb the Desert compares and contracts to your folk-punk solo career?

Galuppo: Aside from the obvious differences in music style and physical effort to perform, the largest contrast is the camaraderie and ability to just walk in and yell. Being in a band full of people I grew up listening to from afar is really a highlight of my life. Sometimes I don’t get along with myself during the writing process of my solo stuff. But the band gets along really well because we are all tired and busy, but we make time to rock out. We love it.

I feel all the yelling and angst I get out really helps me with my solo stuff. Being more focused on a different message, as where in the band, it’s a release of anger and excitement fueled by emotion. It’s a big sound to be part of. I’m happy as hell. 


Q: Had you sung in a hardcore band before Comb the Desert? 

Galuppo: I dabbled in screaming but was never any good. Nothing notable before CTD.


Q: You will be performing April 22 at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick with The RocknRoll HiFives, The Turnbucklers, Disposable and Lowlight as part of the Hub City Music Festival and Makin Waves 30th Anniversary Concert Series to benefit the Elijah’s Promise food justice and empowerment program, which runs a soup kitchen to fight hunger and a culinary school and catering service in part to teach hungry and homeless people job skills. Why did you want to play that show and what are you looking forward to most about it? 

Galuppo: Any show that promotes goodness or benefits those in need is a wonderful thing to be part of. We love mixed bills and the lineup is tight! I most look forward to see my favorite family band, The RocknRoll HiFives. Music plus family is everything. They are living the life!


Jersey Jams

Can’t Swim / “Fail You Again” / Pure Noise

Fans of My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New and Modern Chemistry, will relate to and enjoy the raw emotions that Keansburg rockers express on their debut album, “Fail You Again.” The doomy yet melodic anthem “We Won’t Sleep” stands out as it somewhat recalls fun.’s “We Are Young” in its vocally rousing call for youthful fingers to poke the eyes of authority. The hearty, intricate vocal arrangements of “One Shot” and “Show Me” also impress, as does “Kid,” which turns around the aforementioned finger and points it toward the path of adulthood.    

A veteran punk drummer, vocalist-guitarist Chris LoPorto switches things up nicely, not only instrumentally but vocally. He effectively alternates between a guttural growl, such as on “What’s Your Big Idea” and “$50,000,000,” the sweet pine of “We Won’t Sleep” and “Quitting,” and a combination of both on “Hey Amy” and “Stranger.” 

Comprised of fellow veterans punks, Can’t Swim have blasted out of Jersey with this record, having preceded its release with a tour alongside Set Your Goals. They are now on the road with Four Year Strong, Sleep on It, and Light Years on a trek that will bring them April 1 to GameChanger World in Howell and April 2 to Revolution Bar in Amityville, N.Y. Then for Can’t Swim, it’s onto the U.K. with Real Friends and Microwave. 

Danielle Illario, “The Peach” 

Like her idol Amy Winehouse, the funky Danielle Illario approaches traditional jazz with a thick hip-hop vibe that makes new the five classics and standards on her debut EP, “The Peach.” Surrounded by a crackerjack band lead by producer-guitarist Anthony Krizan, Illario’s sultry vocals break down into a sweet scat on the opening “When Sunny Gets Blue,” which also boasts a Vince Guaraldi-styled piano solo by Eitan Levine and cool trumpet run by Lee Hogans. 

On “Moody’s Mood for Love,” Illario channels Billie Holiday at times, while trumpeter Hogans switches things up as her Lester Young. Yet, while smoky, the Lady Day classic “Lover Man” is less Holiday-esque and allows Illario to open up her own delicious space. 

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Her take on Gershwin’s “Summertime” is eclectic with a very traditional-sounding opening rhythm that is layered throughout with a modern groove. Hogans once again lends his mighty chops, blowing in a style reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard. 

The exotic closing croon of “My Funny Valentine,” featuring hot percussion by Chuggie Carter, leaves listeners wanting more, especially originals, from this immensely talented, hard-working songstress, who will celebrate release of “The Peach” on April 1 at Red Bank’s Gotham. Illario also plays there every Wednesday, along with more than a dozen other monthly gigs. 


Jersey Alive

Will Wood / March 18 / Backstage Studios, Rockaway

Will Wood and the Tapeworms have established that they are one of the best unsigned bands in New Jersey. On March 18 in a stuffy recording room of Backroom Studios, where they made their impressive 2015 debut LP, “Everything is a Lot,” and brilliant 2016 follow-up, “SELF-iSH,” front man Wood also established that his emotional, funny, eclectic solo cabaret act is equally powerful and entertaining. 

The frantic, frenetic show was recorded and videotaped for what will be “The Real Will Wood” live album, captured by former Tapeworms bassist Jonathan Maisto, and DVD to be produced by Danger Baby Films. Fans who couldn’t attend the sold-out show of about 100 attendees will be in for a treat, especially four unreleased tracks that prove “SELF-iSH” was no fluke.

“Neithers/Boths/Inbetweens” turns’60s-style, “Hairspray”-like pop confection and convention on its ear as an empathetic anthem for the queer and questioning community. The cross-dressing Wood belted out, “I wish I could be a girl, and that way, you'd wish I could be your girlfriend, boyfriend. Am I pretty enough to lie to? I wish I could be a girl, and that way, you'd wish I could be your girlfriend, boyfriend. Just little old old me in a big world. I wish I were a girl.”

About the side effects of mood stabilizers, “Black Box Warrant” connected to many in his adoring crowd, while “Millie Rolls a Seven” featured an appearance by Wood’s fictitious “daughter,” a young actress who looked like Tuesday from “The Addams Family.” 

Possibly the best of the new songs, “Love Me Normally,” is a poppy, hook-laden “fuck you” to those who think they know what normal is. United in a warm embrace of weird, Wood and his adoring, often fellow face-painted fans don’t care what people think because they know that he is a crazy, creative genius who plays the piano like Brubeck, paints like Peter Max, and spews poetry like a handfasting between a beatnik and a rapper. 

The rest of the hot, sweaty set consisted of six tracks from “Everything,” including the album and show opener “6up 5oh Copout (Pro/Con),” featuring an extended ragtime intro, and the crowd-pleasing singalong, “White Knuckle Jerk (Where Do You Get Off?). From “SELF-iSH,” Wood only offered the Mayan-inspired mind fuck of “2012” and the carnival-like “Mr. Capgras.” 

In addition to new songs and jazz- and classical-flourished solo arrangements of old ones, a highlight of the evening was long monologues, often times about lyrical inspiration, but also a sampling inside Wood’s warped mind. The latter also was expressed by a stage decorated with half-filled bottles of mood stabilizers, TV sets emblazoned with the artist’s signature third eye, and two bookend tapestries from a series of paintings Wood has done over the past few years entitled “Hypnogogia.” The psychedelic scrawlings are inspired by “the visual distortions and accompanying disorientation that,” Wood said, remind him “of psilocybin- or lysergic-influenced second sight, and the seemingly mystical consequences of utter asceticism.”

Always trippy and rarely real, Wood will announce release plans for “The Real Will Wood” soon, as well as plans to record “The Real Will Wood and the Tapeworms” live album. Other plans include shows April 5 at The Meatlocker in Montclair, April 13 at Demarest Hall in New Brunswick, and June 16 at Roxy & Dukes Roads in Dunellen. 

Jersey Talk

Among the many Jersey artists featured in the Garden State Film Festival through April 2 throughout Atlantic City, three makin’ some serious waves are Olivia Baptista of South River, Aaron Hobson of Matawan and Mike Marino of Scotch Plains. On April 1, actor-writer-producer Baptiste will premiere “Waking Up,” the debut comedy short of her Multihyphenate Productions. The award winner’s latest honors are for her web series, “While We Wait,” shot at her family’s Ria Mar restaurant in South River. The comedy about the service industry nabbed five nominations from the Indie Series Awards taking place April 5 in Los Angeles and will be shown the same weekend as the Garden State Film Festival at the Hollywood Festival and in early June at Die Seriale in Germany. Both “Waking Up” and “While We Wait” were created with Multihyphenate partner Diane Chen.

Hobson graduated from Montclair State University in December 2015 with a bachelor’s in fine arts degree. In addition to the Garden State Film Festival on April 2, his thesis film, “The Deep End,” was selected to V.O.B. Film Festival in Brewster, N.Y., and Golden Door International Film Festival in Jersey City, and won Best Student Short (College) from the 2016 Brightside Tavern Short Fest Film Series, also Jersey City. About a troubled lifeguard who decides to get back to her glory days of being an Olympic swimmer, the film recently was followed by “Follow The Stars,” the tale of an astronomer whose dreams are put on hold to care for her struggling family. The short stop-motion western, “Wrath of Gloria,” soon starts production.

Comic actor Marino switches gears as a tough cop in the gritty independent crime feature “Criticsized,” which will be screened on April 1 at the Garden State Film Festival. On his funny side, Marino also is the start of the buzzing web series, “House of Marino,” and recently toured his home state with his comedy act. 

Jersey hardcore legend Dave Franklin will be remembered with a memorial concert on April 2 at Convention Hall in Asbury Park. Doing It for Dave will feature a combo set by the two bands who put the New Brunswick basement scene on the international music map, Lifetime and The Bouncing Souls, plus reunions of Franklin’s band, Vision, as well as Shades Apart, Supertouch, Ensign and much more. Proceeds from the $25 tickets will benefit the North Shore Animal League and the Riot Fest Foundation, whose respective missions are the rescue of animals and the provision of opportunities in music to underprivileged communities. The tribute is expected to raise around $40,000 for the two charitable organizations, whose work was near to Franklin's heart. An after party will follow at The Wonder Bar with The World/Friendship Inferno Society, which is led by former Vision guitarist Jack Terricloth … 

Don’t miss beloved photographer Jeff Crespi’s Birthday Bash & Benefit on April 6 at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park with Common Wealth, Morgan Freemasons and Lyons. Proceeds from $10 donations will help Crespi with medical expenses from a recent brain lesion. If you can’t make the show, you can donate to his Go Fund Me account, which nearly has completed its $15,000 goal. You also can check out Crespi’s new column in New Jersey Stage … 

Bongo Boy Records’ seventh annual Indie Showcase will be April 2 at Roxy & Dukes in Dunellen with Mia Moravis, The Accelerators, Jenny And The Felines with Rockabilly Hall of Famer Keith Murphy, Conceptz, Milo Z, Oddslane, Lisa Coppola, Jordan Green, Les Fradkin, Big Bone Daddy, Raftree, and the Bongo Boy House Band …  

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The funky Stereo Jo will celebrate the release of their debut EP, “Monovision,” on April 1 at Jiggs’ Corner in Butler. The free 45-song show will feature live performances of the EP, a dressy dance party, a medium who will do readings, and sales of the record …

Don't miss Jersey Shore rockers The Double Negatives stacked show March 30 at The Saint in Asbury Park with Philly’s Mo Lowda & the Humble and the crafty, energetic North Jersey band Above the Moon. And check out the stream below.


Bob Makin is the reporter for and a contributor to and former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which originated this column in 1988.



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