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The Ayes Have What It Takes

By Gary Wien

originally published: 03/01/2004
Baby put a pot of coffee on
tonight we're gonna stay up
way past dawn
It's gonna be a sky full of stars...
--"Shooting Stars"

From the moment you hear the opening words on the 4-song EP by The Ayes, you know that you're hearing something special. And by the time you run through all four tracks, you're begging to hear more. Rarely has a band become so polished in so short of a period of time.

The Ayes (pronounced "The Eyes"), based in Red Bank, were formed in the beginning of 2003. Since that time they have quietly built themselves quite a following with their unique blend of musical styles. They have a sound that's one part country, one part blues, and two parts rock and roll. They don't care what you call it as long as you like it.

"I've often tried to describe it and I can't," said Gary Scannelli. "I guess it's kind of mellow, sultry light rock with a country feel."

Scanelli plays bass alongside Brian Donegan on lead guitar and Lew Rosengrant on drums. ?But the star of the show is lead singer/guitarist Silvi Gonzalez. It is her voice which provides the sultriness, the sexiness and the haunting aspects that are part of every Ayes song.

"I'd call it haunting alt-country," said Brian Donegan. "It's kind of ambient. Some of the guitar parts remind me of some Cure stuff a little bit. It sounds like classic rock to me. I mean, the riffs sound country but the music doesn't always sound country. All of the different elements give it that vibe."

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The four band members are all accomplished musicians that teach at the Red Bank Academy of the Arts. Simple jamming together led to helping Silvi out with some original songs she had written. The urge to form a band struck her after playing a solo set at the Internet Cafe in Red Bank. Within a few months, the Ayes were born. Or at least they had finally decided upon a name that they could all live with. The sound would take a little longer.

"Originally I think it seemed like we were heading into - I don't want to say punk, but punk would be the extreme," explained Silvi Gonzalez. "Then we decided that we sound really nice by adding a lot of texture into the music as opposed to brute angst and stuff like that."

Gonzalez actually was a punk rocker when she lived in London. Her British accent is still very apparent when she talks, but there's no hint of it when she sings. She has played in bands since she was 12 including one called "Toys" that caught the eye of Malcom Maclaren who was interested in signing the band to a record deal.

"It seemed like they wanted to take over the creative side of things and I just wasn't willing to do that," added Gonzalez.

Lew Rosengrant, who also plays drums for the band Jaski, was the only band member actively in the local music scene before the Ayes were started. The rest of the band hadn't really played seriously for many years. But all four recognize that they have something special going on with the Ayes and they're willing to do what it takes to make it. "My bags are packed!" said Scannelli.

The band will release a new single in March - something that should find its way onto regional radio. From there, they hope to start expanding their fanbase by playing gigs outside of Monmouth County in places like Trenton, Princeton and New Hope, Pennsylvania. You can catch the Ayes on March 4th at the Saint in Asbury Park with 4 Way Street, Highway 9 and Jon Leidersdorff.

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 gary@newjerseystage.com.



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