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Longwave are a New York City band by way of Rochester, where singer/guitarist Steve Schiltz lived 'til the day he finished high school. "I was the valedictorian," he says. "I told my teachers, 'I'm not going to college, I'm gonna go and play every smoky bar in the country.' Three years of our life has been, 'put in 20 bucks to pay for gas and do it.'"
DAY SLEEPER is Longwave's third CD, coming on the heels of last year's self-titled, self-released EP and the 2000 album Endsongs (Lunasea). Produced, engineered and mixed by Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev producer Dave Fridmann (with additional engineering by Bill Racine and Michael Ivins), DAY SLEEPER is a four-song snapshot of a dynamic young guitar band drowned in sound, from the epic dream-pop atmospherics of "Day Sleeper" and "State of Mind" to the languid hookery of "Pool Song" and the toe-tapping explosions of "Everywhere You Turn."
The band has earned comparisons to U2, Television, Doves and Echo and the Bunnymen, though Schiltz only cottons to the former influence, along with the Beatles and R.E.M. He laid the foundation for Longwave in 1998, upon meeting bassist Dave Marchese, a Queens native who grew up on NYC punk and WLIR new wave. They were just fooling around until Schiltz recruited Shannon Ferguson, his fellow temp worker at a giant Wall Street bank. Never mind that he also played the bass.
"Steve said, 'You should be the guitar player,'" Ferguson recounts, 'I really don't know how to play guitar.' I had never used a pick or effects pedals before joining the band."
Money was tight after the first album, and Schiltz was frustrated that everybody's day job limited the band's ability to hit the road. So Longwave retreated to the discomfort of their rehearsal space, hoping that the resulting five-song EP would drum up some music biz attention while they sold it at their gigs.
It worked: they hired management…but that very same day the drummer quit. "We couldn't play live or do anything," Schiltz says. "Things seemed to be going well, but we were not even a band." After months of trying to come up with a replacement in New York City, Schiltz turned to his hometown, and to drummer Mike James, his childhood friend and former bandmate up in Rochester. "Listen," Schiltz said, "things are going very well, but we can't find a drummer that we like. You gotta move down here."
James did move, and that same week, Schiltz got a call from Ryan Gentles, manager of a certain fellow Lower East Side band. "He said, do you want to do a couple shows with the Strokes?" Schiltz recalls. "We said, yes. He said, 'But do you have a drummer?' We said, 'yes.'" Interest started to spread from the five song EP. Mark Kates, owner of Fenway Recordings, and Joe McEwen at RCA Records were among the first believers and after months of being wined and dined the band signed on to work with both (RCA will release Longwave's second full-length effort in 2003).
The Strokes asked the band to tour with them for a run of dates in the South and West Coast in January and February of 2002. Upon impressing the headliner and their fans they accompanied the Strokes again in the spring, this time in the UK, capped off by two sold out shows at London's Brixton Academy. The buzz that accrued in the UK led to Longwave playing festival shows this past August, where the Vines happened to catch their set and put them on their European tour.
"It makes people pay attention initially," Marchese says of being associated with the Strokes and the so-called New York rock revival. "I wouldn't say we sound like the other bands in New York, or even that bands in New York sound similar, so we don't think about it too much" Adds Schiltz, "It's just that living in New York is now considered cool. But we can't dwell on that, we have to be the best band we can possibly be."