Listening to Tiziano Dominico’s music is like approaching an anthology of short stories. Instead of an overarching style, he and his group seem to dabble in varied poppy sounds and themes with an almost mischievous, excitable glee. Part of that is that comes from the fact that his band (bassist Matt Willhelm, drummer Pastor Oropeza, and guitarist Omar Felker) are more than just a mere backing band. Listen to them and you hear four guys having a blast, challenging each other, and pushing their music constantly forward.
How’d you guys meet?
Tiziano – I actually met Matt in 2008 but I developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome soon after. Doctors said I was playing guitar too much and suggested I take at least two years off to avoid surgery. Luckily it worked. Once I was well, I ran into Matt again around 2011.
Matt – We ran into each other at Black Hole, started playing, and I introduced both Omar and Pastor to Z. Omar was a friend. We’d started playing jazz and Latin gigs together in town so I got him in with Z when we started looking for a lead guitar player. We’d already gone through three drummers when I met Pastor at a jam session. He was badass and not playing with anyone, so I knew we had to snag him.
Pastor – I’d played in fun, garage high-school bands improvising funky jams and this band had the organization and maturity that I was looking for.
Matt – Before this band, I’d only been in bands where I was playing as a hired gun or in bands that were pretty much jam bands. So it was nice to be in a musical environment where I had creative input, and actual written parts that I could really put time and thought in to. When I started playing with Z the project was a songwriter with a backup band. In these past few months especially, it’s clearly changed to a band. And while Z is at the foreground, we are a single unit. Musically, I don’t think I imagined it would be what it is today.
Tiziano – When Omar and Pastor joined, everything changed – it was no longer a songwriter and a backing band. Logically, our sound couldn’t evolve with temp members. Once we had a permanent lineup, that’s when the change happened. That’s when we became a band.
When did you guys realize that you weren’t just a back-up band?
Pastor – When Tiziano didn’t say anything. I began to compose my own drum parts and Tiziano didn’t have much to say about it other than words of encouragement. Then, I knew that I was part of the long-term project and not just a back-up band for this singer-songwriter guy.
How was recording at Sugar Hill and what are your plans for releasing music?
Tiziano – John Griffin is wonderful. Currently we are working with him to complete a single and then a full length album. The single will be out within the next month or two. The album will be released around the end of Spring 2013. We will also begin shooting a video later this Fall.
How do the songs come together?
Tiziano – My songs always start on their own; they’re reactions to experiences. I usually write the idea down and try and get to a guitar and a quiet room ASAP. Eventually, I figure out some basic guitar and vocal patterns. Then I give it some theme to guide it and just start modifying and modifying. I don’t stop until I get the greatest possible effect, which is a song one would want to listen to over and over again, possibly for the rest of one’s life. Then I hand it over to the band and let them modify it some more till they reach that same end.
What I’ve written on guitar and vocals pretty much stays the same. However, [when we play live,] the rest of the band has been largely improving over what I am doing and modifying as they go. So solos, drum fills, bass phrases were often improvised live much like in jazz. It resulted in some really amazing musical moments at shows that didn’t happen in our rehearsal space. After a performance, we would talk about what one another did and then go back in the studio and build on that. That can only come from a live audience. Building your songs this way is not unheard of. Bands like Sabbath, Them, Love and The Doors built their first albums that same way. The audience response is another type of instinct; it’s wise to listen to them.
Tiziano Dominico performs
November 2nd @ Mangos
November 24th @ Mangos
December 7th, 2012 at Fitzgerald’s LaSien and The Trimms