Zupe and Nichols to perform free concert Sunday afternoon

January 18, 2012|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Zupe and Dave Nichols will perform a free concert Sunday, Jan. 22, at Hancock Performing Arts/Community Center.
Submitted photo

You might not recognize their names. But if you're a fan of "Malcolm in the Middle," "The Simple Life," "Dateline NBC," MTV's "Road Rules" and "Real World," you probably recognize their music.

After all, their work has been featured on some of the top shows on television.

They've also lent their music talents to radio and television commercials.

But they're not just about soundtracks and jingles.

The men known as Zupe and Nichols can play a mean blend of blues, jazz and rock.

In fact, their "Speechless" album received a Grindie Award from, recognizing "the work of virtuosos" and "top quality production." 

In 2011, "Step on It," was nominated for "Best Instrumental  Composition" in the Hollywood Music in Media Awards. And both men are multi-year recipients of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Plus Award, honoring writer members of any genre whose performances are primarily in venues not surveyed.

The duo will bring their distinct sound to the Tri-State area when they perform in concert at the Hancock Performing Arts/Community Center at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22..

The event is sponsored by the Hancock Arts Council and is free and open to the public.

Both men admit their music is "a smorgasbord of influences."

As a child, Zupe, who lives in Altoona, Pa., remembers his father breaking out his accordion while he and his siblings would dance.

"And my mom was always a fan of pop radio," he said. "My earliest music memory is listening to her radio in the kitchen and Buffalo Springfield's & 'For What It's Worth' came on."

But, at night, classical music on the living room record player filled the house.

Zupe said he was a huge fan of all the music variety shows, including "The Andy Williams Show" and the "Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour."

And when he began his formal music education in elementary school, his teachers instilled a love of music from the big band era.

"So while most of my friends listened to Led Zeppelin or Van Halen, I was getting into Duke Ellington and Count Basie," he recalled.

As a young trumpet student, he also was inspired by Herb Alpert, Doc Severinsen and Miles Davis.

But, in addition to the trumpet, Zupe was a pianist, "so the pop music at the time didn't go unnoticed.  The synth-based new wave bands like The Cars, The Babies, The Tubes and Gary Numan definitely made an impression."

For Dave Nichols, who resides in Somerset, Pa., music was a part of his life even before he could read.

"I would mark my 45 rpm records with numbers so I could tell which ones I liked or not," he said. "The early Elvis Presley recordings really stick out ';Hound Dog,' 'Milk Cow Blues (Boogie),' 'I Got A Woman.' I played them on my Wevcor record player, and if the needle went bad, I had to wait a week for a new one to come from Pittsburgh. And, of course, one of my fondest memories is when I finally traded in my acoustic guitar for an electric one."

Entering his teens, Nichols said he was a fan of rockabilly, including Scotty Moore (Elvis' first guitar player), Lonnie Mack and Duane Eddy.

"In my later teens, I fell in love with the big guitar names from England — namely Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.  Some homegrown guys like Ritchie Blackmore and Leslie West also inspired my playing."

Zupe said he knew by the seventh grade that "one way or another, making music is what my life would be."

For Nichols, there was never a definitive time.

"It just crept up on me," he said.

While the piano/keyboards are his instruments of choice, Zupe said he plays most brass instruments, in particular the trumpet, some woodwinds, drums and "painfully, little guitar. But that's why I have Dave."

Nichols plays guitar, some bass "and drums and keyboards just enough to annoy people."

The two musicians' paths crossed in 1988, when Zupe's sister was working as a cocktail waitress.

"I was just starting out as a solo act," he said, "using computers and drum machines with my keyboards on stage to perform in clubs. Coincidentally, Dave was working in a duo using the same kind of format. My sister told me I had to go hear these guys. So the next time they were in town, I went to listen. They were great and we hit it off from the get-go."

Nichols describes the duo's music as "a funky blend of fusion, blues, progressive jazz and rock."

While they often write and record together, Nichols said they both perform individually the most.

"I'm in a central Pennsylvania-based band called "The Boomers," and Zupe still does his solo gig with keyboards on stage," he explained.

But they do travel a lot, he added, "and we certainly want to do more concerts like what we'll be doing in Hancock."

In addition to performing, the men have found a niche writing jingles.

"We started pitching some commercial ideas to a music store we frequented," Zupe said. "We put together a demo tape and sent it to a few advertising houses. And not long after, we started getting some work."

When it comes to writing music for an album and writing music for an advertiser, Zupe said there are differences.

"With  jingle writing, we have exactly 30 seconds or less to get the entire idea across to the listener," he noted. "The elements of writing are the same. You need a hook, it needs to be repetitive and memorable and it has to sell. When composing for ourselves, we have the luxury of developing an idea or a theme over time."

Despite living in central Pennsylvania, Zupe said both men are examples of how to have a successful music career without living in a hub of the music industry.

"Years ago, it was still fairly easy to work the music cities without living there," he said.  "But now, it's even easier.  Everything can be done online — from communications to delivery of music."

Zupe said those attending their upcoming concert in Hancock will hear some songs from their 2007 instrumental album, "Speechless."

"But what's even more exciting for us is performing songs from our not-yet-released new album, which is a vocal album," Nichols said  "So you'll get the instrumentals from "Speechless" that paved the way for us initially and some new vocal-based songs that still maintain our style and sound."

But most importantly, said Zupe, "the audience is going to hear two musicians who love what they do without taking themselves too seriously."

If you go ...       

WHAT: Zupe and Nichols

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22

WHERE: Hancock Performing Arts/Community Center, High Street, Hancock

COST: Free

CONTACT:  Call 301-678-5719

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