On Stage: Scantron celebrates EP release at Ortlieb’s

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 


Scantron can mean different things to different types of people.

For those in the tech world, Scantron is a global, technology and services driven company.

For teachers and students, scantron is a device used to scan prepared forms used for multiple-choice and true-or-false testing.

For rockers in the Mid-Atlantic region, Scantron is a high-energy, no-holds-barred, badass garage rock from South Philly.

Scantron, the band, is releasing a new EP on February 14 and celebrating with an “EP Release Show” on February 22 at Ortlieb’s (847 North Third Street, Philadelphia, 267- 324-3348, https://www.eventbrite.com).

Scantron’s new EP is titled, “Electric City,” and the first single from the four-song EP is the just-released track, “White Linen Sheets.”

The songs were all penned by vocalist/guitarist James Everhart. Scantron was founded by Everhart and Will Donnelly – both former members of the Philly-based band Low Cut Connie. The other four members of Scantron are bassist Tyler Yoder, keyboard player Jared Loss, drummer Robb Matthews and vocalist/guitarist George M. Murphy.

“Scantron was kind of a pet project for me and Will Donnelly,” said Everhart, during a phone interview Friday evening from his home in Philadelphia’s Fishtown section.

“We started playing covers before we did originals. Even the name was a joke. It was around the time I joined Low Cut Connie. It gave me an outlet for my songs.

“Playing with Low Cut Connie for six years, I got to travel around the world, got to be on TV, got to play at the Newport Folk Festival, got to be in Rolling Stone. The only thing I didn’t get to do was to be with my wife and to make my own music. I was ready for a new project – ready for something of my own.”

Scantron’s first recorded project was an eponymous EP in 2013 followed by the “Palamino Blackwing” EP in 2014. The band then released three singles – “Oh No / I’m Not Surprised” in 2016, “Please Do Not Come Home / I’ll Never Change” in 2017, and “Make It With You / Give Me Something” in 2018. Scantron’s next release was “Electric City.”

In the summer of 2018, Everhart hit a wall. Six years on the road weighed heavy on his psyche. He was recently married and burned out on the grind of touring. He made the challenging decision to leave Low Cut Connie and return home to Philadelphia.

Later that fall, he found himself reinvigorated, working through a new batch of songs that expressed the hurricane of feelings he was still weathering. The addition of drummer Robb Matthews and the return of bassist Tyler Yoder added a seismic punch to the band’s live shows.

Scantron’s line-up changed a lot over the years,” said Everhart, who grew up in the Pike Creek section of northern Delaware.

“It was a rotating cast. The line-up we have now has been around the longest. And it’s the best lineup we’ve had.

“We recorded the new EP last February at Drowning Fish Studio in Philly’s Port Richmond section. We chose that studio because our buddy Dave Shub works there, it has cool gear and the availability was there.”

Donnelly handled the engineering duties assisted by Shub. The EP was mixed by Adam Hill in Memphis, Tennessee and mastered by Charlie Stavish in Joshua Tree, California.

“The EP was self-produced and engineered,” said Everhart. “We did all the recording in two days. The EP is self-released and we’re working with another company to have a boutique vinyl release later this year.

“In our live show this weekend, we’re playing all the songs from ‘Electric City’ as well as all our other releases. We’re going whole catalog.”

Video link for Scantron — https://youtu.be/S29zxr9rSvI.

The show at Ortlieb’s, which has Eyebawl, Lifters, and Todd Fausnacht as opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Sumo Cyco

Sumo Cyco, a four-piece, female-fronted Canadian punk rock/heavy metal/hard rock band from Hamilton, Ontario, is making a return visit to the area this weekend.

On February 22, the rockers from “North of the Border” will conclude its month-long coast-to-coast USA tour with a local show.

The band is part of the four-act line-up on The 69 Eyes’ “Hell Has No Mercy 2020” Tour at Reverb (1402 North Ninth Street, Reading, 610-743-3069, www.reverbconcerts.com).

Sumo Cyco — Sever (vocals, guitar), Matt “MD13” Drake (lead guitar), Oscar Anesetti (bass), Matt Trozzi (drums) — formed in early 2011 in Toronto and has released 16 singles and 17 official music videos since then. The foursome has released just two albums in almost a decade of existence – but that will change soon.

“It was 2011 when we officially released our first video online and started doing local shows,” said Sever, during a phone interview Thursday afternoon as the band was travelling to a gig in Pittsburgh.

“It’s only been the last few years that we’ve taken it up to a higher level. In 2013, we took first in the Indie Week Toronto competition. The top band got invited to play a festival in Ireland.

“We played the festival and combined it with a full tour of the U.K. I had a lot of people over there that remembered me from my pop career.”

Sever’s pop career came under her born name – Skye Sweetnam.

When Sweetnam first played Philly, people expected her to be a cute 15-year old singer who was the opening act for Britney Spears on her “The Onyx Hotel 2004 Tour” — another pop princess-in-waiting — another “Mini-Diva” ready to serve up a selection of dance songs accompanied by the “choreography du jour.”

That was far from the reality of the situation.

Sweetnam was no pop princess dishing out formulaic hits. Sweetnam was the real deal. She played crunching chords on her guitar backed by a hard-rocking band. And she wrote real songs about real life as a teenager.

“I took guitar lessons over my childhood, but I learned more by myself just trying to do power chords,” said Sever. “Songwriting is one of my biggest passions. I write a lot and I write all the time. I did my first demo when I was 12.”

Even back then, Sweetnam was a self-described “chick playing with a rock band and jumping off drum risers.”

Sweetnam released two albums “Noise from the Basement” in 2004 and “Sound Soldier” in 2007. Sumo Cyco also has two albums so far – “Lost in Cyco City” in 2014 and “Opus Mar” in 2017.

“We’ve been touring a lot since that trip to the U.K.,” said Sever. “We won a John Lennon Songwriting Competition and they sponsored us of the 2015 Warped Tour.

“We released seven singles and then put out the ‘Lost in Cyco City’ album. We kept putting singles and videos online. We were trying to take a new approach to things and not release a record.

“But fans and magazines wanted a record, so we caved. Now, we’re in a good record cycle. We put one out a few years ago and now we have a new one coming.

“We just signed a deal with Napalm Records in January. We’re excited to have more team members to help us get exposure out there.

“The new album is in the works but there is no title yet. Once we finish this tour, it’s time to get back in the studio and make magic happen. We already have more than an album’s worth of songs.”

Video link for Sumo Cyco — https://youtu.be/FtcVlSytJF4.

The all-ages show at Reverb, which also features The 69 Eyes, Wednesday 13, The Crowned, Suicide Puppets, Husk, and Signs of Withdrawal, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Another act will play its final show of a nationwide tour this week in the area. On February 24, Ross the Boss is closing his tour with a show at the Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

Usually, bands or solo musicians will release an album and then go out on the road to support the new LP but that is not the path that Ross the Boss chose to follow.

Ross “The Boss” Friedman

Ross “The Boss” Friedman, a stellar guitarist whose work spans genres and generations, spent the month of February playing shows from coast-to-coast. A few days after he gets back home to Queens, New York, he will release his new album, “Born of Fire.” The LP will be released on March 6 via AFM Records.

Friedman was born in the Bronx, New York, and formed the punk rock band the Dictators in 1973. After recording three albums with the Dictators, Friedman went to France and worked for one year in Fabienne Shine’s band Shakin’ Street.

On Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell tour in 1980 (on which Shakin’ Street were the support act), Friedman was introduced to bass player Joey DeMaio by Ronnie James Dio.

Later in 1980, Friedman and DeMaio formed Manowar, with whom he recorded six albums. In 1990, Friedman joined Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom.

Ross the Boss (the band) was formed when Tarek Maghary organized an appearance by Friedman at the Keep It True Festival in Germany (where he is a promoter) alongside members of a Manowar tribute band called Men of War. They later changed their name to Ross the Boss and began working on original material.

“I was receiving a lot of requests from fans around the world for Manowar music,” said Friedman, during a phone interview Tuesday as he was driving across the desert in Arizona.

“Playing the Keep It True Festival, which was 2017, was great. We played Manowar material and blew the place away.”

In 2018, Ross the Boss released its “By Blood Sworn” album and got rave reviews.

“With that last record, we spent a lot of time working up the songs in the rehearsal room,” said Friedman. “This time, we did demos and then worked off the demos.

“We took the demos to the studio, laid the drums on and then started building from there. Our amazing engineer, CJ Sciøscia, recorded the drums, bass and guitars and everything went great.”

The February tour was just a prelude with a larger tour scheduled for the spring. The later tour affected the album’s release date.

“For us to tour in April, our label and our booking agent said we had to put out new product,” said Friedman. “I didn’t want to put a new album out only two years after the release of ‘By Blood Sworn’ but that’s what happened.

“I got the songs together quickly. Now I’m glad I did it. We did the basic tracks at a friend’s studio in New Jersey and then Seeb Levermann mixed it in Germany. It’s one of the best records I’ve ever made.”

Friedman and his mates are ready to be road warriors again.

“I’ve got my full touring band — Steve Bolognese on drums, Mike LePond on bass, and Marc Lopes lead singer,” said Friedman. “Our set list is half Manowar and half Ross the Boss with some ‘By Blood Sworn’ and some ‘Born of Fire.’”

Video link for Ross the Boss – https://youtu.be/0BMyWdNfJBQ.

The show at the Foundry will start at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $20.

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