Tryx Interview

They're one of the more popular rock bands in Syracuse. They've been nominated for a Sammy in the Best Rock Band category, Best Dance Show Band category and Best Lead Rock Vocal category. They recorded an original full-length CD titled "Love and Lies" which won them a Sammy's People Choice Award. They've performed at the Party in the Plaza, The Chocolate Fest, Harbor Fest, Balloon Fest, The 93Q Christmas Spectacular and New Years Eve at the Hotel Syracuse. They regularly appear at nightclubs such as Syracuse Suds Factory, Bleachers, Lucy's, Three Rivers Inn, Sam's Lakeside, The Great Laker Inn in Oswego and Pfohl's Beach House in Sylvan Beach. They don't use set lists but instead try to tailor their material to fit the audience. Their song list covers a wide range of material from the 60's to the 90's, but their personal favorites are songs from the 80's. And they place the emphasis on dancing and having a good time. Have you guessed yet that we're talking about Tryx?!

While Tryx is primarily a Rock ‘n’ Roll dance band, they're best known for show tunes including full length versions of songs from the musical "Grease". Caryn Patterson (keyboards, vocals) and Kevin McNamara (lead vocals) are as well known in the local musical Theatre as they are in local Rock 'n' Roll. They have starred in the Sammy Award winning version of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1994 at the Salt City Center, "Phantom" in 1996, and "Showboat" in 1997. Caryn has worked behind the scenes as a musical director with many Theatre 90 shows including training the children's choir for the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in which they received special recognition as the best choir on the tour. Tryx guitarist Scott Patterson spoke with us about the history of the group:

Q. Scott, who put this band together and what year was that?
A. O.K., well this band actually goes back to the early 80's. It was actually formed by two people who aren't with the band now. When I think of this version of the band what I think of is a band that basically re-started in 1987. The band played together in the mid 80's and Kevin and Caryn go all the way back to 1984 together. But, Kevin went to California in 1986, and we really didn't have much of a band. We had a couple different bands, a couple different names. So there was kind of a lay-off there. We reformed really in 1987, when Kevin came back. We got the thing rolling again.

Q. What did Kevin do in California?
A. He played in some shows, some Theatre. He did "Grease" out there. Jesus Christ Superstar while he was out there. He did the typical auditions. But, he kind of got tired of California. When he came back to Syracuse, we put Tryx back together with him. So Kevin and Caryn actually go back to 1984, in a band that included other musicians that called itself Tryx. But it really wasn't this line-up. But, it did include Kevin and Caryn which to me is kind of the key, of the band. So, we put the band back together when Kevin came back in the Fall of '87 and we've pretty much been that band ever since, with a few minor member changes. In fact our bass player, Mike Fialkovic, is currently on a leave of absence. He'll be coming back, but, Mick Walker has been covering for him and doing a phenomenal job. Mick's got quite a storied history. He played with 'Lil Georgie and The Hungarian's, Marilyn's Chamber, Mark Doyle's All Star Band and the Flashcubes. The rest of us have basically been in only one band - Tryx. We're like family.

Q. That's kind of unusual.
A. Yeah. It's very, very unusual. That's one thing we think is strong about us. Even our roadies have been with us for ten years, or longer. With the exception of Mick, we all go back a long time together. We also changed drummers. The drummer was Mike Mimas, but it's now Danny Capucilli.

Q. You've always been a Top 40 Dance Band haven't you?
A. Yeah. Well, we've always thought of ourselves as a Rock 'n' Roll Dance Band, in the sense that maybe not quite as Top 40 as some people. We always focused on the Rock 'n' Roll side of dancing. But, it's been basically a Top 40 Dance Band.

Q. Is there any significance to the name Tryx?
A. No. The name was just a spoof on Styx back in the 80's when Styx was kind of popular. The band does play a lot of classic rock from the 80's, Styx, Journey, Loverboy, Van Halen, Bon Jovi. Just as a spoof to sound like something of the 80's, it was the name Tryx. We never expected the name to last as long as we've been together.

Q There are singers and musicians in this city who look down their noses at cover bands.
A. Some musicians do, yeah.

Q. Have you ever encountered this attitude from other Syracuse musicians?
A. Well, I don't think we've encountered it, ourselves, personally. We kind of know it exists. Some of the original acts do look down on the Top 40 Bands, but, I don't think we've ever personally encountered it.

Q. No remarks of any kind?
A. No. There was a thing in the New Times a few years ago when they kind of said something to the effect that in the Party in the Plaza will be the usual run of cover, Top 40 Bands, like Tryx. It was kind of written in a way of ho-hum. Nothing exciting 'cause it's just cover bands. I can't remember the actual way it was written, but it was probably not as flattering as we would've liked. We're kind of linked with the cover band thing 'cause we've done if for so long. So, we're probably an easier label than other bands. A lot of people know we are. We're fairly popular and we are a cover band. It's easy for people to label us, or group us into that kind of thing.

Q. But, in 1992 was it that you released this tape "Love and Lies"?
A. Yeah. Actually, it was a full-length CD, in 1993. It was all originals and it won the Syracuse Area Music Award Peoples Choice for Best Album. They called in and voted for it. That was kind of a paradox. We're known as a cover band and actually won a Peoples Choice Award for the Best Album in 1993. We do perform some originals live. We just don't do that many. We tend to mix our originals in with our covers. Our originals really do sound Top 40. So, we willingly admit that the material we write and play is very consistent with the cover material we do. We don't have any ego hang-ups about what we play and what we do.

Q. What prompted you to put together a CD of original material?
A. What happened was, we were just a cover band and I don't say that in a derogatory way, but we were playing mostly covers, but we were really getting quite popular. We were very popular in areas like Sylvan Beach, and Alex Bay, and we were getting quite popular in the City of Syracuse. We just thought let's take advantage of this popularity. We used our cover material to become popular so then we could use that as a vehicle to promote our originals. And so we just started incorporating originals into our set list. Actually we were playing originals from as early as 1987 when we re-formed, but we weren't playing money and we didn't have them in a package to give to people. We kind of packaged it up and went into the studio. The album was produced by Mick Walker, our current bass player. He did a fantastic job. We didn't release the album to change what we were. We just released the album to kind of enhance what we were. We know we're a cover band. People know what to expect when they see Tryx. We just wanted to put something out there on our own, and were surprised at how well it was received. There's a duct on the album called "Last Tender Moment" between Caryn and Kevin that goes over very well in our live shows. People do like to see the ducts. Those seem to be our most popular material. We weren't trying to make it big. We have a pretty level head on where we are, and what we do. We've got quite a big popular fan base and it was, "let's do something".

Q. Has Tryx ever been nominated for a Sammy in the Dance/Cover Band category?
A. Yes. In fact, I think it's noteworthy that they just added that Dance/Cover Band category.

Q. In the last couple years?
A. Right. And we were nominated in it.

Q. Did you win?
A. No. We lost to Electric Chick Magnets, and to other bands. The Electric Chick Magnets won it that year.

Q. Are you up for an award this year?
A. Not that we know of. Last year Kevin was nominated for Best Vocal. We've been nominated as Best Rock Band in 1993, but we actually won for our album. In 1996 I believe we were nominated for Best Cover Band which was a change 'cause they didn't have Cover Band back when we were nominated for Rock Band. We've been nominated multiple times, I think four times over all. I think there was another year we were in the Best Band category, but, I'm not sure. I know that we've had a nomination in virtually every Sammy they've had.

Q. Tell me what the easiest thing is about being in a Top 40 Band and what's the hardest?
A. Well, the easiest thing is it's probably the easiest means to get out and play. If you just love to play, being in a Top 40 Band usually there's more venues that you can play. You've got larger appeal. You can get more opportunities to play be it events or clubs. The all original thing I think is satisfying in some respects, but much more difficult to promote your own original material. So, we used the Top 40 thing to promote our original material. We kind of like to let the people know that, because we do have this stigma of being strictly a cover band. The hardest thing about being in a Top 40 Band is to get the kind of respect and recognition that some people would want. We don't have this big desire for it. But, I think some Top 40 Bands wish they could get a little more respect in the musical circles.

Q. How often does Tryx perform?
A. We only play about four dates a month. We always take at least one weekend off, and sometimes two in the slower seasons. We're all employed full-time, as is our roadies, so we just limit to occasional weekends. There probably was a time when we played more and there was a time when we played virtually three nights a week, to try to get established. But, now we're established.

Q. With the popularity Tryx enjoys, do you offer merchandise? Do you sell T-shirts, and head-bands?
A. We're really not into the merchandising. We do make Tryx T-shirts and we do make Tryx hats. We tend to give them away, or if not, we sell them at cost. We're not trying to make a profit off our fans. We want our fans to come out and support us and have a good time. If they want shirts, we'll get them for them, and we'll sell 'em to them for our cost. Lots of times we'll have people get a coupon when they come in, and we'll raffle off the tickets. It doesn't cost 'em anything and somebody's gonna get some free shirts and some free hats. But, we don't do a lot of merchandising like a lot of other bands because we're not self promotional. Our name has really developed by word of mouth. Our fan base has developed by people coming out to see us, liking us, and coming out again. We haven't developed our fan base based on a lot of merchandising or self-promotion. In fact, we've never self-promoted the band at any time. We've never submitted an article. You know how difficult it was to track us down for an interview.

Q. As a matter of fact, I've never seen much on this group in the local press.
A. Right. Exactly. And the reason you haven’t in all honestly is that we don't actively promote that. In other words, some bands will constantly be sending information in to the local papers. You come to us, and we certainly will appreciate the press, but, we've never actively tried to seduce the press. We're a professional outfit, but we're fairly low key about it. In fact, in some ways we're kind of a secret. There's a good fan base out there that knows what we do and they follow us pretty faithfully, and the club owners are always very satisfied with the crowds that we draw.

Q. For some reason, I would confuse Tryx with Target.
A. I think Target was often confused with us. They were like the premier Top 40 Band coming from the Utica area. There were a lot of rooms that we both played. Both groups had a kind of Top 40 feel. We're not gonna be raunchy. We don't swear on stage. We don't do heavy rock. We do stuff that is danceable. Our set lists were not at all similar, but we had the same kind of thing and people would often confuse the two bands. There were times I thought we're kind of in competition with them, but, we never really were. They're fabulous players and they did it as a full-time occupation. We're musicians who early in the 80's realized we didn't want to do it full-time. It's a lot of stress. It's a very volatile job. We're just more comfortable doing it as sort of our hobby. We do it professionally, but it is our hobby.

Q. You still have fun with it?
A. We do, and the reason I think we still have fun with it and the reason the family is still together, if you look at a lot of bands, they go through multiple personnel changes. But, we've had the same format for eight years. So, we don't change personnel 'cause we're all still having fun and enjoying it. Since we don't do it for a living, we don't have to do it, which is why we don't play all the time.

Q. You think the time is right for another Tryx CD?
A. Yeah. We've started laying down demos for another original. We've got a few tunes down that we're hoping to eventually package up and release, hopefully in 1999 or 2000.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved