As I mentioned in one of my recent tomes, saratoga living Power Player and good buddy of mine Jim Mastrianni, who also happens to be the chairman of the board of directors at Caffè Lena, has been producing my new band’s debut EP. We’re called Turnover Mule, because we’re always “muling” the delicious apple turnovers from Golden Harvest Farms in Valatie, NY, to practice at one another’s houses. Over several sessions in Jim’s musical man cave, we’ve laid down acoustic and electric rhythm and lead guitars, banjo, bass, drums and vocal tracks. And though we still have a ways to go, we’re making progress (you’ll be the first to hear the finished product, I promise).
One of the nice things about recording at Jim’s is that our band has gotten to hear previews of the other sessions he’s been working on. We listened in on some nearly-finished tracks from Saratoga artist Angelina Valente‘s debut EP, You and Me; and a few from Saratoga band Warden and Co.‘s forthcoming Songs for Everyone. The latter were the most recent spins—and now they’re nearly ready for their first big public offering at a venue you might be familiar with.
For Saratoga music scene novices, Warden and Co. consists of three core members, Seth Warden (songwriter/guitarist/lead vocals), Doug Moody (violin/viola/vocals) and Brian Melick (percussion), along with a number of other session musicians, including local bassist Dave Maswick and Jim himself, who contributed keys and organ to the new EP, as well as producing it. The trio’s no stranger to The Capital Region music scene. Warden, Moody and Melick have been performing together since 2011, when Warden joined the other two in the backing band for local Irish music legend Kevin McKrell (leader of one of the area’s most beloved folk acts and Parting Glass staples, The McKrells). They performed together for about three years, and during that time, Warden was also going back to school to get a master’s degree in education, so that he could eventually teach music. (He now teaches in the Cohoes public school system.) As part of his coursework—and for his own children’s sake—Warden began writing children’s music, and he asked Moody and Melick if they’d be interested in putting together an album based on the songs. They jumped at the opportunity, and for about a decade, the three have been touring around the region, performing as Seth and the Moody Melix. “It’s been awesome!” says Warden. “It’s opened more doors than any musical adventure that I’ve ever tried to do, even back in my rock-and-roll days in college; it’s been such a gift.”
Of course, the children’s music band wasn’t Warden, Moody and Melick’s lone gig. The three had also been touring around the area playing “adult music,” and after Warden wrote a number of originals, one thing led to another, and the band found themselves in Jim’s studio. “It was supposed to be just four songs, but because of the excellent experience that we were all having, it turned into seven,” says Warden of the forthcoming Songs for Everyone. The album features a few breakup songs, but mostly upbeat fare, including album-opener “Song for Everyone,” which has a real Samples vibe and lives up to its name, striking a tight balance between the adult edge of the trio and its children’s songwriting chops. (Warden tells me that the melody actually dates back 24 years to his undergraduate days at the College of St. Rose; the lyrics didn’t come until this year.) “Running Out of Reasons” and “Even the Ocean,” both of which Turnover Mule heard as demos, will, no doubt, remind listeners of another slightly more famous Saratoga summer mainstay, the Dave Matthews Band.
The nice thing about having your EP produced by—and a session musician featured on it be—the head of the board of directors at Caffè Lena is, well, just that. So in the least surprising booking of the year, Warden and Co. will be performing their new EP at the historic Saratoga venue on Wednesday, October 9 at 7pm (tickets are available here.) (In all seriousness, says Jim, he went through normal channels to make the event happen.) They’ll be joined onstage by Jim, of course, who’ll be reprising his role on keys, as well as local musicians Pete Pashoukos (lead guitar) and Bob Buckley (bass) to round out the “company.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for their upcoming tour schedule. Warden says he and his bandmates have performed regularly at venues such as Carson’s Woodside Tavern in Malta, NY, and the Saratoga Winery, so expect more upcoming gigs (they’ve even put in time at Saratoga Race Course and are available to play a three-hour set of cover tunes at local weddings).
Since all the band’s members have paid their dues on the Capital Region circuit for years, Warden says they have the right to be a little pickier about where they book Warden and Co. shows. “When it comes to performing in Saratoga, I’m a big fan of stepping outside the Caroline Street area, just because I like people who are listening to the music,” he says. “Granted, work is work, and I love all the [venues] in Saratoga, but personally, I like [a more] adult crowd.” In other words, don’t expect to hear any Slipknot covers on their Caffè Lena set list. And whereas it’s highly probable that the band will play all seven songs from their new EP at the release show, as Warden notes, he’s already written seven new songs—so it’s entirely possible that, as early as this winter, while Jim’s putting the finishing touches on Turnover Mule’s debut, we could be crossing paths with Warden and Co. in the garage again. We’ll make sure to save them a parking spot or two.