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A MONSTER EFFORT

Latest album by The Almost brings band together

The_Almost.jpg

“Hey, we got a record over here, Dusty,” Jay Vilardi shouts across the EMI rooftop to Dusty Redmon, his guitar counterpart in The Almost.
Redmon, who is standing a few feet away, cuts off the conversation he’s having with someone else and looks over at Vilardi.

“What?” Redmon asks.

“We got a record,” Vilardi responds with enthusiasm.

Redmon got the message the second time.

“Are the thank yous in it?” Redmon asks as he approaches Vilardi.

“Yeah — thanks to him,” Vilardi answers, smiling.

Vilardi gestures to singer Aaron Gillespie, who’s carefully looking over a copy of Monster Monster (Tooth & Nail/Virgin/EMI), the new Almost album.

Bassist Alex Aponte joins the others in gazing at the CD’s booklet and packaging, and their collective reaction makes it evident that this sunny late October afternoon in Manhattan has taken on some added meaning.

Not only are the members of The Almost seeing the finished commercial version of Monster Monster for the first time, it’s also the first Almost album that isn’t a one-man effort.

When Underoath drummer Gillespie started the band as a side project, he recorded the first Almost album, 2007’s Southern Weather, all by himself.
But in order to hit the road, he needed a full band, so he recruited Vilardi, Redmon and Aponte. By the time the tour supporting Southern Weather was done,

Gillespie had learned they were the right guys to work with him in the future.

“The dudes were already amazing players, but touring is sort of a rehearsal you can’t mimic,” Gillespie says. “You can get in a room and play the songs over and over again, but once they’re road-tested, that’s when you really see people’s true colors – night after night, regardless of health or mood, you really see when a dude can come through.”

Writing Monster Monster was a group effort, with Vilardi, Redmon and Aponte e-mailing files back and forth to Gillespie, resulting in lots of material, says Vilardi.

“The thing that I was worried about is you always hear a song sounds cool, but where the vibe comes from is when you’re rocking out together [and encouraging each other],” he explains. “We got together in the studio, played the songs for the first time ever together in the [same] room, even though we had all been working on stuff for months, and they all felt fine. All in all, I’d say it’s a process I’d do again. I think you have to find the right people, and I think that everybody in this band really put [the effort] into the record.

“We wrote a mature album,” Vilardi adds, citing Foo Fighters as a band everyone looked to during the writing process. “[Gillespie’s] lyrics are different – they’re not for the kid we think we know but for the kid we think is [out] there.”

For the band’s tour supporting Monster Monster, Gillespie has relinquished the drum stool to longtime friend Joe Musten, who used to be in a band with Redmon.

The way Vilardi sees it, Musten brings with him the right amount of skill and experience.

“You want people who have been road tested and know how to tour,” Vilardi says. “We still have to have somebody who can be away from home and play every night, and we just knew he was that dude. Talent means nothing if you can’t leave your home.”

— By Chris M. Junior

The Almost on tour, in-store and online (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 4: Online chat at 8 p.m. EST – AbsolutePunk.net
* Nov. 5: Best Buy in-store — Farmers Branch, Texas (4 p.m.)
* Nov. 5: House of Blues – Dallas
* Nov. 6: Best Buy in-store — The Woodlands, Texas (5 p.m.)
* Nov. 6: House of Blues – Houston
* Nov. 7: La Zona Rosa – Austin, Texas
* Nov. 9: The Marquee – Tempe, Ariz.
* Nov. 10: The Wiltern – Los Angeles
* Nov. 11: Warfield Theatre – San Francisco
* Nov. 12: Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, Ore.
* Nov. 13: Shadowbox SoHo – Seattle

Left to right: Aaron Gillespie, Joe Musten, Dusty Redmon, Alex Aponte and Jay Vilardi (Photo by Chris M. Junior)