The Badlees Archives

Cellarbirds ready to fly

by Alan K. Stout
Times Leader Staff Writer

February 18, 1998

The Cellarbirds are Bret Alexander, Paul Smith and Ron Simasek.
The Cellarbirds are Bret Alexander, Paul Smith and Ron Simasek.

When people hear that a few guys from a band are getting together to play some shows on their own, the rumors immediately fly.

"There's trouble within the group," is the word in the clubs.

"They're breaking up."

"The end is near."

Nothing could be more further from the truth with longtime local favorites and national recording artists The Badlees. But when word of The Cellarbirds — a new band featuring guitarist Bret Alexander, bassist Paul Smith and drummer Ron Simasek — began to spread last month, the group was met with some of those same questions and concerns from fans.

"I was kind of surprised that anybody was making such a big deal about it," says Alexander, who recently joined Smith and Simasek in a conversation with The Times Leader.

"A lot of people are asking. ... It's like a gossip-column thing, but we're just having fun."

Alexander says The Badlees, through touring, have seen members of many bands branch off into smaller acts or play with other artists. Alexander himself recently has played on stage with other musicians, including former 78 West vocalist Robert Reilly. And Badlees' vocalist Pete Palladino also has upcoming solo shows.

"This kind of thing happens all the time with lots of groups," he says. "We've been across the country and have played with little pick-up bands ... Mellencamp's band has one ... people who have their own little thing that they do when they're not out on the road. It's not a big deal."

"We're just moonlighting and playing some B-sides," he adds. "It gives you an opportunity to play a lot of those songs that don't necessarily fit The Badlees."

The Cellarbirds' name comes from the exotic birds Alexander raises in his basement, where the trio also practices. Smith says The Cellarbirds' set-list will be different from that of The Badlees, and that the band doesn't plan on performing any previously released Badlees songs.

"Not a one," he says. "We have a couple of brand-new songs, and there's one or two that were written before that didn't make the cut. ... It's kind of a good balance between older songs, new songs that people have been writing, and a cover or two.

"We just wanted to try out some material in the format of three instruments," he adds. "It's a totally different thing. There's no way we're going to delve into a Badlees arrangement off a record."

Smith reveals two songs that should be played at the shows: the sometimes performed but never released Badlees' number, "The Ballad of Dick & Jane," and an old John Lennon favorite, "Working Class Hero."

"We've been rehearsing for the last few weeks, nearly every day," says Simasek. "Everybody sings their own songs, and, like Paul said, it's a whole different ball game. You play differently when there's three instruments. ... Everybody re-arranged their set-ups and their rigs. It's fun forging a whole new sound with no expectations."

Alexander says that The Badlees' label, Polydor Records, is aware of the new project, and that fellow Badlees Palladino and Jeff Feltenberger are supportive. "Everybody's cool with us doing it," he says. "Pete came to the show last weekend."

As for The Badlees, the group's new album, tentatively tilted "Up There Down Here," is nearly completed and will be released nationally June 9.

"It's the next step," says Alexander. "I think people are going to really like it. Some of it will be a lot different than the last record, and some of it's along the same lines. It's real diverse ...

"Make sure everybody understands, The Badlees are alive and well."

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