New Jersey has had a rather impressive history of being the home for great rock and roll artists. Names like Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi instantly come to mind, but it's been a while since the Garden State has sent someone beyond our borders and watched them get embraced by the rest of the world.
The waiting may soon be over...
New Blood Revival, led by Matt Witte, will be releasing their major label debut, Nice Girls, at the beginning of 2005. The disc is actually finished and the band is selling the CDs from their website (newbloodrevival.com) as well as at their live shows. Many of the songs are fan favorites than the local audiences in clubs from New Brunswick to the Jersey Shore have been hearing for the past year.
New Blood Revival was formed at the end of 1999 and has been a mainstay at local clubs like the Court Tavern and Stone Pony. They expanded their fanbase with succesful tours in southern states like Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. After releasing several independently released records (Campaigning For America, La Notte E Giovane (The Night Is Young, This Is The New Blood Revival, and Squirrel Girl) the band was signed to Atlantic Records.
The upcoming release was recorded in California under the production work of David Kahne who has worked with such artists as Paul McCartney, Sublime, Fishbone and Sugar Ray.
"This record is a little more produced," said Matt Witte. "It's the slickest one of them all. The way the horns sound and stuff - it's got a whole different vibe to it altogether. I really liked working with David. It was probably the best experience I ever had and I think the rest of the band thinks that too. Everybody had a really good time in the studio."
While Matt says that we wished the horns were used on more tracks on the CD, the live shows utilize the horns in ways the band has never done before. The band is touring the country and getting tighter and tighter with each show.
Since being signed, the band has opened shows for The Roots, Reel Big Fish, Authority Zero, Santana, The Wailers, Everclear and more. They will be heading on tour in support of the Toasters for most of September. The long-term schedule is still being planned, but Matt hopes for a return show in the area once the record is officially released.
"I love coming back here," said Witte. "It's always good to come back home and be able to play."
Inbetween band dates, you used to be able to catch Matt do a solo acoustic show (or a duo with Danny Wacker helping out on guitar) at places like the Harvest Moon, O'Neils, and The Champagne Porch. Those shows allowed Matt to show off his distinct story telling skill through a mix of his own tunes and classics from the first part of the century. He has an uncanny ability to weave through a myriad of musical styles and feel at home within each one.
"I miss that a lot," said Witte. "We got to do Doll's Place with Authority Zero. We did an acoustic show and that was the last time we got to play that style. The last thing I did that was pretty close to it was the Writers In The Raw thing with Steve Forbert and that was really cool. Right now, I'm not getting to do that stuff as much but we're still polished with it because we have a lot of time to kill on the road."
The Writers In The Raw Show took place at Harry's Roadhouse in Asbury Park. Matt was chosen as one of the national performers and he certainly did more than hold his own against such veteran performers as Forbert, Peter Karp and Joseph Parsons. In fact, he showed just how comfortable he is in playing the role of a future star. The cards may be stacked against anyone trying to make a living in music these days but searching the web for "New Blood Revival" will find review after review of people who saw the band as an unknown opening act and left as a die-hard fan. Even people who can't seem to find anything positive to say about New Jersey have raved about Witte and his band.
If the band is to grab hold of Jersey's rock and roll mantle it will be largely a combination of their explosive live show and radio exposure. The songs on Nice Girls could easily be heard blaring on radios around the country. They have that certain universal appeal that all great songwriters possess.
And the lyrics also can be dirty... very dirty.
Matt's has a mastery of the English language when it comes to talking about sex. He draws you in with lyrics that make you stop and think "did he just say what I think he said?"
According to Matt, the record label never pressured him to change his writing style, "but they wouldn't let us print the lyrics..." The record will be released with an explicit content warning sticker.
The band was able to start distributing the record because they were tired of waiting for its release and wanted something to promote at the shows. For a band that was used to releasing records once a year, the delay between Squirrel Girl and Nice Girls has seemed like an eternity - especially since New Blood is already looking ahead to their next record.
"We have a little less freedom in the sense that we're used to record whenever we wanted to record," explained Witte. "And now, you're more committed to one record for a couple of years.
"I mean, there's a little bit less freedom but then you get more freedom because you get the opportunity to do things that you wouldn't have gotten not being signed.
"The thing that we want to concentrate on the most is our live show. I'm ectastic with all the stuff recorded with David Khane, but I'm always looking ahead so it's hard for me too. It's like we recorded this record over a year ago. And I love it. I'm really happy with it. And we have all this new material we've been playing out in our live show. The only way to really see us is through the live show."
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.