Tribe Lost Bands follow-up, Greg LoPiccolo interview

Tribe, Found

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The amount of email that came in from my piece on Boston legends Tribe was staggering. These guys struck an alarming emotional chord with people. One guy even asked me if a former female friend of his had contacted me yet. They had apparently fallen out of touch, and he was hoping that I could reunite them. I’m now running the Tribe Dating Service, hooking up people who bonded to Boston’s finest. Okay, so that’s not true. The story about the guy looking for the girl is true. But I’m not hooking anyone up.

I must give thanks to whichever staffer at WFNX in Boston forwarded my email request for assistance to bassist Greg LoPiccolo, who contacted me soon after. We had a quick email chat, where he filled me in on some of the band members’ goings-on. And, as luck would have it, the mother of all gifts for Tribe fans in New York just fell into our hands. Read on…

Bullz-Eye: Give the readers a quick update on what you’ve been up to since Tribe disbanded.

Greg LoPiccolo: I started doing music scoring and sound effects development at a PC game company called LookingGlass Studios back when I was still in the band (1993/1994). When the band broke up, I started working there full-time doing game audio. Over the course of about five years, I ended up in project management and served as project leader on a game called “Thief.” In 1999, I came to Harmonix Music Systems. We make music games, mostly for the PlayStation 2. Our most recent game is “Guitar Hero” (which resident gamer Jason Zingale says is the coolest, game, ever). I also am married and have two boys (nine and six). I spend a lot of time in Vermont these days. I’ve got a house there, and it’s set up with amps and drums and whatnot, so I still have fun playing with friends and family.

BE: What was the moment where you first suspected that the band was in trouble?

GL: When Warner Bros didn’t pick up our option for the third album; that was kind of a momentum-killer.

BE: How often do you talk with the other members of the band?

GL: I work with Eric, so I talk to him every day. Terri and Eric hang out with us pretty regularly. I see Mike Levesque very occasionally. I haven’t been in touch with Janet or Dave in years. (Note: Dave apparently resides in New Hampshire with his two children.)

BE: You seem to be the only one who knows where Janet is and what she’s up to. Can you fill us in?

GL: I don’t know too much. She’s in New York; I think she works in publishing.

BE: Which Tribe songs, both yours and the ones written by Eric and Terri, are you most proud of?

GL: For my own songs, I was happy with how “Joyride (I Saw the Film)” came out. I heard it for the first time in a long time recently, and thought, “Hey, that’s pretty rockin’!” I also was happy with “Sing to Neptune.” For Eric and Terri songs, I always thought that “Dogflower” was awesome. Also, “Making a Plan” and “Vigil”; I love the little guitar solo on “Vigil.”

BE: Conversely, are there any songs that you’d like stricken from the record?

GL: Some are better than others, but there’s none I hate.

BE: Sleeper sounds much different, sonically speaking, than I expected a John Porter-produced Tribe album to sound (denser, not as crisp). Care to comment? Do you agree, disagree? Does it sound the way you thought it would?

GL: I was personally a little disappointed in the sound of Sleeper. We weren’t getting along that well when we were making it, so we didn’t collaborate very effectively. I think some of the songs are really good, but it’s kind of a murky-sounding record.

BE: Tell us about the most “rock star” moment you experienced with Tribe.

GL: We had a show in a little burlesque theater in Paris, where before the show, the French label people warned us not to worry if the audience wasn’t demonstrative, and that it didn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t like us. Then we went on, it was packed, and the crowd went nuts. Also, they had this huge catered spread backstage; it felt totally big-time. That was fun.

BE: Are you surprised by the reverence that people have for Tribe? Did you have any idea that the band would still have such a strong cult following today?

GL: We do? Occasionally, I run into someone who remembers the band, but it doesn’t come up much in my day-to-day life. I am happy that we were able to create some songs that people actually cared about.

BE: Was there anything that you really wanted to do within the band that never came to pass? (Play Saturday Night Live, Madison Square Garden, get a top 40 single, that kind of thing)

GL: I loved touring, and we did a fair amount, but we never got big enough to merit our own tour bus. I really wanted to do a tour on a tour bus, and it never happened. I would have been happy touring for years; I never got burned out on it.

BE: What bands are you listening to these days?

GL: New Pornographers, Rival Schools, Pete Yorn, John Mayer.

BE: Any last words you’d like to share with your fans?

GL: Hey, thanks for caring about our songs, and for coming to see us! It had its ups and downs, but at its best, it was a really special experience that I was privileged to be a part of.

The Return of Janet?

Perhaps the most interesting piece of information I received was from a fan who found, God knows how, two pictures from an online scrapbook that feature “Janet LaValley.” These indeed appear to be her, dressed head to toe in black and posing in front of a wall of books (that whole publishing day job). If you would like to see them, click here.

But that pales in comparison to the announcement on the home page of erstwhile Candy Butcher Mike Viola that the special guest at Viola’s upcoming gig at Caffe Lena’s in Saratoga Springs, New York is none other than our beloved Janet. A thousand questions spring to mind: is she the opening act, or just a backup singer? If she’s opening up, what songs is she performing? Will anyone from Tribe be joining her? No matter, Tribe fans, get yer buns to Lena’s on April 9, and send us a report. We’re dying to know.