Alums collaborate and perform at NYC’s The Bitter End
Although Danny Calano ’15 did not anticipate being able to make his own music less than one year after graduating from Dartmouth, for a young musician, his plans have taken a turn in the best possible way. On April 30, Calano and classmate Evan Griffith ’15 performed at The Bitter End, a rock and roll nightclub and music venue in Greenwich Village, New York City.
With a 230-person capacity, The Bitter End’s small size belies its renown in the music industry. Many well-known artists, including Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen, have played at the venue.
Griffith said the venue is a common site for musicians to perform at while traveling through the city.
“It’s a really amazing launchpad for new artists and more established acts,” Griffith said. “It’s really a great place to be.”
The Bitter End’s head talent buyer discovered Calano’s music online and messaged him about performing at the club during the prime time Saturday night slot after stating how much he liked his music, Calano shared.
“That was really amazing to be able to perform at this historic venue at such an early point in our careers,” Griffith remarked.
During the performance, Calano sang a mix of original songs and covers, while Griffith, who is also Calano’s manager and producer, played the auxiliary keys. Guitarist David Cooper, drummer Jake Nankin and bassist Sam Torres accompanied the duo for the set.
“I was so excited to be performing at such an incredible venue,” Calano said.
Calano said he and the band rehearsed for an extensive period and performed at a few shows together before the show in New York.
“We had a lot of momentum going into our performance at The Bitter End thanks to those prior shows,” Calano said.
During their undergraduate years, he and Griffith were involved in a number of musical groups. Calano sang for the a cappella group the Dodecaphonics and opened last year’s Green Key concert with The Euphemisms, a student rock band based in the Upper Valley.
Griffith was involved in a number of classical music groups. He directed the Dartmouth Chamber Orchestra, the Dartmouth Hillel Choir and was a member of the Handel Society of Dartmouth College. Griffith found his passion in music production after doing an independent study with music professor Michael Casey over his sophomore summer. The track he produced in the independent study resulted in Calano’s debut song, “Can’t Let You Go” (2016).
Calano and Griffith met during their sophomore summer when Griffith joined Summerphonics, the summer spin-off of the Dodecaphonics. During their senior year, Griffith asked Calano to sing and record demo tracks for his senior thesis on Jewish hymnals.
Calano said the partnership came easily because they work well together.
“We’re both perfectionists and challenge each other,” Calano reflected.
Calano decided to collaborate with Griffith on contemporary pop tracks, marking the beginning of their current musical partnership. They recorded two songs and released one this past summer and the other earlier this year.
Without Griffith’s support as his producer, Calano said he didn’t think he would be able to keep making music after graduating.
“It really was the perfect timing and perfect place,” Calano said. “Everything just fell right into where it should be and where it is now.”
As the music producer, Griffith expands on a piece of music that Calano creates by proposing ideas and shaping the piece until it resembles a final product.
Griffith noted his job is to turn a composition into a final master that people can hear on the radio.
“It’s my job to realize the chorus of a song could hit a little harder in one place or that we need more lyrical content in the verse,” Griffith said. “Maybe we need more synth here or drumming there.”
After putting the tracks together, Griffith decided that Calano needed to play these tracks in live performances and put a band together to do so.
“I don’t just sit behind the computer. I also produce the artist,” Griffith explained.
Pulling connections from friends and colleagues, Griffith and Calano roped in Cooper, Nankins and Torres, to form the band they currently perform with.
With Calano working at a music-marketing company, Griffith working as a music publicist in public relations and every member of the band having separate full-time jobs, Calano noted that being able to make music together required a high level of commitment and dedication.
However Griffith said the group clicked in early rehearsals and developed a great friendship and partnership.
“Now, we write music and everyone will chip in ideas for cool things to try,” Griffith said. “It’s really a collaborative, creative environment.”
John Rybicki, Calano and Griffith’s lawyer, who helped them set up their band agreement, said Calano’s on-stage persona is very sincere.
“[Calano] is such a sweet, down-to-earth guy,” Rybicki said. “It’s infectious when someone is that excited to be on stage.”
After experimenting with a mostly pop sound in their first few tracks, Griffith said the band intends to incorporate more rock into their next few songs.
Calano cited pop punk bands such as Green Day, All Time Low and Blink-182 as his vocal inspirations and noted that the driving but clear and powerful vocals of those bands were one of his major influences when he first started gaining confidence as a singer.
Calano and Griffith’s next performance will be at Leftfield, a bar and music venue in New York City on May 26. Beyond that, they plan on recording more songs and releasing an EP later this year.