In Session: Under the Den

ALBANY – This Friday, April 22nd, Under the Den, along with other local acts Bad Mothers, Seize Atlantis, and Sydney Worthley, will be performing at Empire Underground in Albany.  On the heels of their last two singles, “On the Run” and “Drunk and Lonely,” Under the Den is definitely here and ready for action. Honing their craft even further over the course of the pandemic, they are surely an act not to miss. With Madison Lewis’ vocals competing (but never in a bad way) with the soaring guitar work provided by Benjamin Zoleski, all the while being supported by a solid rhythm bedrock provided by Jay and John Nowak on bass and drums, the band simply kicks ass. The other acts on the bill only further cement the fact you’re not going to want to miss this show. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., with an 8:00 p.m. start time.

I was able to catch up with half of Under the Den to not only discuss the upcoming show, but also to find out what they’ve been up to since last we talked. For our full discussion, please continue reading below. For more information on Friday’s event, please click here.

Lucas Garrett: Thank you, guys, for sitting down tonight to talk about the band. Last we spoke, it was in the throes of the pandemic.

Benjamin Zoleski: Yeah.

LG: How’re you doing?

BZ: Doing pretty good, I’d say. I was away for a little bit, but since I’ve been back, we’ve been playing fairly consistently and keep rehearsing.  Keep making sure things are as tight as they can be. I’d say we’re pretty good. Madison?

Madison Lewis: I think you covered it all. Ha.

LG: You have a big show coming up on Friday. Tell us a bit about that.

BZ: Well, it’s at the Empire Underground. It’s part of the Empire Live venue in Albany. It’s us, Bad Mothers, Seize Atlantis, and Sydney Worthley. We’ve had this one on the books for a little bit and we’ve been really looking forward to it. In some ways – I can only speak for myself – it’s surreal that it’s finally here. We’re super pumped for it.

LG: I was having a conversation with someone and we were talking about going back to normalcy, whatever that is. They said something that really stuck with me, and I’d love your input on this. This Friday night seems like a “show.” They were saying to me, “You know what? I’m tired of playing gigs. I want to play shows.” I instantly knew what they meant…

BZ: Right.

LG: I love the idea of four bands and, you know, just making a show. What do you guys feel about that?

BZ: You know, I think there’s something really nice and special about being able to do a “show” show. A gig – I just like to play no matter what. Playing music live, just the fact that I get to do it. Especially being with Under the Den. I do my solo thing, but most of my stuff lately has been with Under the Den. It’s a real treat. We play these “gigs,” as you say, but it’s still fun. But there’s something different when you know you’re going into a show; showcasing stuff you’ve made, stuff you had a hand in creating. You get to share that with people, some of whom maybe listened to the tunes, listened to the EP. Then, there’s some who’ve maybe seen our name but haven’t heard us. It’s almost like a first date; a first kiss sort of situation where you’re about to have this shared experience with somebody. It could be great or it could be just another day in the life. You don’t know until you’re in it.

LG: There’s a certain ethos to a show that just isn’t there for a gig.

BZ: Yes.

LG: I’m not downplaying people who make a living playing gigs. For me, personally, I love when I see these shows advertised that look so kick ass.

BZ: I think slowly, but surely, we’re starting to get back into a spot where there are more shows. Like with what Super Dark is doing with the venue No Fun in Troy. There are bands coming from out of the area. What the hell is normal, anyway? But it’s starting to feel like a scene is coming back.

LG: I’m cautiously optimistic.

BZ: We gotta appreciate it when it’s there, and if it goes away we have to find a way to keep living and doing stuff. Every time we’re out, though, it’s a treasure.

LG: I feel the same way. I feel like since the pandemic, there’s more of an acceptance, enjoyment, and searching for original music. When we play now, people are wanting that more than anything. It’s been nice. Have you guys found something similar?

ML: I don’t know that it’s been specifically about original music. Although I have noticed people are definitely into going to original shows because what I keep hearing from a lot of the people at the original shows is that they only really see cover gigs a lot of the time lately. So, original content is a treat. It’s been a really great environment in terms of the enthusiasm. People have been really excited to be out and together, enjoying the shared experience. That’s been an awesome energy.

LG: I totally agree with that.

BZ: To piggyback on what Madison was saying, we were doing a punk show at Pauly’s Hotel. I remember there being a guy saying, “I don’t want to hear any covers. Play me something that you made.” I think there’s a … humans have a tendency to want something that is genuine and real and pure. They’re looking for that sort of realness. I think there’s an energy that comes along with sharing something you’ve created, something you’ve written. There’s a sort of intimacy that goes along with it.

LG: I was just going to say. You mentioned a first date a little while ago and when you share something that you write, when you write something for school or whatever, it’s more academic. That’s one thing. But when you share something that you wrote about your life, or someone else’s life or experience, that’s emotionally intimate. If the audience hates it, then that’s terrible, the way that feels. It really is kind of a courtship, I think.

BZ: Yeah.

LG: Not to be fanciful with the whole process, but that’s how it feels to me. When we get asked to play somewhere and no one knows who we are; it’s some random town. If by the end of the night they’re into it, I feel like I did my job.

BZ: Right. Oh yeah. That’s what I was saying with the honesty, and the wanting of that. When it’s something that is from you – and that intimacy – you might not be able to put your finger on it, but that’s there. For better or worse, there’s that shared, those shared moments. Some people take from it good things, bad things. It’s really down to (like any good art) how anybody interprets it. For instance, I could play a song I wrote, and someone could be like, “I didn’t really care for that. It wasn’t my cup of tea.” Someone else in that same audience could have the reaction, “That song reminded me of a certain time, certain season in my life. Certain place or emotion.” Sometimes, because of everybody’s comfort level, I suppose, you don’t always know if you had that effect unless they say something. Sometimes you do hear that “This song really brought me back to this certain time,” or, “That song made me think of this,” and that’s a whole other beast. That’s profound.

LG: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about? What’re you feeling? What’s good?

BZ: Well, we have our most recent single, “Drunk and Lonely,” that’s been out for a little bit, as well as “On the Run.” We have another coming out real soon; it’s in its final stages. We’re super pumped for this show on Friday. We’ve got a show in Brooklyn, and Ithaca later in the month. Lately, for gigs that aren’t strictly original, they’re leaning more towards an emo-centric night.

ML: That distinction between shows and gigs that we were talking about earlier. The band has worked to have that dual identity. We do these covers that we love that are usually very emo-oriented. We like having fun in that way, but we also have original content. That’s who we are; we’re Under the Den. We started doing the emo nights at Spa City and they were so well-received that we changed our covers around to accommodate that sound. It’s been going really well.

I’m really excited that we’re at it doing shows again; it was nice to have that break, but I really missed it. The show on Friday is going to be just really spectacular. We’ve worked really hard on our original music and organizing a strong setlist. We worked hard to find bands that also have a really great sound. Sydney Worthley is an incredibly talented musician. Her songs stick with you. Bad Mothers has a great, raw, feel, and Seize Atlantis we’ve played with before. They’re great

BZ: Oh yeah.

ML: The lineup is something we’re really proud of.

LG: That’s great. Well, thank you very much, you guys!

BZ: Thank you, Lucas!

ML: Thank you so much.

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