The Band Geeks, led by Blue Oyster Cult’s Richie Castellano, are making some of the most musically accurate and challenging cover song videos online today. If you haven’t seen them, head on over to Castellano’s YouTube page for an incredibly diverse selection of songs and styles, with full-length tributes to rock legends Yes, Queen, Styx and Kansas. Of particular note are their Yes covers, including Roundabout (see video below).
Castellano and the band have also tackled a wide variety of ‘70s and ‘80s classics (Loverboy, Hall & Oates, Squeeze), the Jackson 5, Toto, Whitesnake and Wilson Phillips (!). Each song, which sometimes includes guest vocalists, achieves the right musical tone and feel and the attention to detail is impressive.
For Castellano, music is a family affair, anchored by his family’s Staten Island music store Castellano’s House of Music. The New York native began singing with his father at the age of five and guitar lessons with his uncle when he was eight years old. Ron Thal (aka Bumblefoot (Guns ‘N Roses)), a Staten Island guitar wizard, became his mentor and taught him guitar, recording and engineering techniques. After attending college for music production, Castellano produced Regina Spektor’s debut 11:11. A call from a friend led to a sound engineering gig with Blue Oyster Cult and an eventual spot as the band’s bass and keyboard player.
Band Geek started as a simple audio podcast and picked up steam and followers, evolving into a full video editing production, Band Geeks live streams and more.
“Right Now” is a song that lyrically speaks to living your life today. Castellano gave American Songwriter an exclusive look at the thought process behind choosing and recording “Right Now” using social distancing and hooking up with Constantine Maroulis.
“I picked ‘Right Now’ because it’s song that really features everyone. Not only was it a great showcase for Constantine Maroulis’s incredible range, but it also gave the band a fun challenge. It’s a very tricky song to play. The rhythmic accents are displaced in a specific way so it’s not something you can just jam on. The cool thing about the song is that you don’t realize what’s actually happening in it until you try to play it. I love it when popular songs manage to sneak in prog elements like this.”
“In terms of production and arrangement, every part is interesting and challenging. The drum part is a very specific groove to this song and something you really don’t hear too often. The bass part has a ton going on including throwing in some slap every so often. That’s something you wouldn’t expect to work in a Van Halen song, but it totally does. The piano part is instantly recognizable and extremely difficult to play. The organ part is like the hidden gem of the arrangement. It’s something you don’t immediately associate with the song, but when it’s missing, you notice it big time. We’re also fortunate to have one of the best singers around playing the organ part which was incredibly helpful on the high background vocals. The guitar part is actually pretty subdued for a Van Halen song… until you get to the solo which is arguably one the best solos Eddie Van Halen ever played.”
“I think all of these elements made this an exciting project for all of us. Plus, we’ve never done a Van Halen song with the Band Geeks so now we’re able to check that off our list.”
“When Constantine and I first started discussing the idea of doing this, we both agreed that it was important that it be a true collaboration instead of simply using us as a backing band. This song gave all of us the opportunity to do our thing.”
“We got the whole thing together in about a week. I started with a reference track with a click on it. I sent to it our piano player, Rob Kipp, first. He recorded his audio and video and then sent it to me. Then I send a new reference track to our drummer, Andy Ascolese, who added his parts. We repeated this process with Andy Graziano who played bass on this video. After we had the piano and rhythm section recorded, Ann Marie and I added our parts together. I did a rough mix of the completed backing track and sent that to Constantine who absolutely knocked the lead vocal out of the park!”
“Once I had all the parts, I did a proper mix, trying to match the original as closely as I could. Then I brought everyone’s video performances into a video editor and created the video that you see.”
“The Band Geeks and I were absolutely thrilled to do this with Constantine Maroulis. He was so much fun to work with and we’re looking forward to doing more in the future!”
We recorded this practicing social distancing, from our respective homes. For info on how this is done, go to https://richiecastellano.com/faq/
Constantine Maroulis – Vocals; Richie Castellano – Guitar/Vocals; Rob Kipp – Piano/Vocals; Ann Marie Castellano – Keyboard/Vocals; Andy Graziano – Bass/Vocals; Andy Ascolese – Drums/Vocals; Produced, mixed and edited by Richie Castellano. Additional engineering by Andy Ascolese and STATiC
Check out the band’s Roundabout Quarantine cover: