Behind the Beat: Two Dudes in a Room

“I was kind of considering that me playing music and recording music was kind of over with, that that phase had closed,” says Northampton cartoonist, graphic designer and radio personality Tom Pappalardo. “[In] ’07 and 08, I didn’t do anything. In ’09, I started recording things and putting them online.”

Pappalardo, founder and bassist for No-Shadow Kick, decided to give it another go. Despite the fact that he’d recorded some guitar-heavy solo tunes and commercial jingles since his band went dormant, he says it never dawned on him that he could just form a band as a guitar player.

“All my new tunes were really guitar-based, but it didn’t occur to me that I could play guitar in a band, and start one by just adding a drummer back in. Then seeing the two dudes from Calexico playing together opening for Neko Case, I didn’t necessarily like it, but I was like, ‘Oh, right, guitar and drums, that’s something that people do.'”

To jumpstart his latest project, The Demographic, Pappalardo called on friend, former No-Shadow Kick collaborator and drummer extraordinaire Sturgis Cunningham, who says the duo fell together startlingly quickly.

“Tom called me up and said, ‘I’ve got these songs, and they’ve been in a notebook for 20 years. Do you want to help me get them together?’ I said sure, and within three or four hours of just screwing around in the basement, we’ve got a bunch of tunes, and we’re like, ‘It’s on!'”

Within a few weeks, the nascent band appeared in—and won—a preliminary leg of the Happy Valley Showdown competition, thanks to a spirited Run-DMC cover and some witty stage banter.

Though a few of the duo’s tunes are country-fried strummers, a majority are straight-ahead Husker Du-esque rockers, scratching an itch both fellows claim to have had for some time.

Pappalardo says that, like the lineup, he’s keeping things musically simple. “I’m not a guitarist, so I’m writing extremely basic things because that’s the extent of my ability, really,” he explains. “And the approach we took right from the start was really sparse arrangements: no big intros, no big outros, no bridges on some, no choruses on some. It’s very compact, so, therefore, I write a song on acoustic guitar and it translates pretty easily with loudness and we just fiddle around with the arrangement and it’s good to go. And you have one less person—no bass player—and so you’re tight. Whatever changes or parts, it feels like everything’s just coming together easier.”

The Demographic has already recorded several tunes, but will have to wait a few months to play more shows and release a full-length, as Cunningham is embarking on another tour as drummer for Nerdcore artist MC Frontalot. The two are unsure whether they will overdub some bass, but are certain that The Demographic will remain a two-piece.

In addition to expediency and ease of decision making, there is another advantage with the duo configuration. “Yeah, there’s the money issue,” Cunningham jokes. “We don’t have to give a bass player anything because we don’t have one. We don’t have to split 20 dollars three ways.”

For tunes and show info, visit

Author: Matthew Dube

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