I always say, “Cats Like Us brings people together.” I've met the most fascinating people through the shop and it's no wonder---they are also interested in the same things we stand for: great fashion, rescuing animals, and music. When I first met Jason Van Cleve, he was a customer involved with the Queen City Roller Girls (our local derby league), then he invited me to a few gigs around town that his band Lower Town Trio was playing. In Buffalo, NY you have a handful of rockabilly bands that put their own take on the musical style. Lower Town Trio is no different. I interviewed Jason to find out more about their story....
Who are the members?
Jason Van Cleve - Guitar & Lead Vocals
Christopher Van Cleve - Drums (Standup)
Michael Geraci - Upright Bass & Backing Vocals
There are a couple rotating members when we need them: Michael Haggerty - Drums, Sal Ianello - Bass, Andy Pothier - Drums and Ryan Hurley – Bass.
How did all of you meet? How long have you been playing? Do you have any formal training?
Chris and I are brothers and have been playing together for years in the band Lower Town Trio, and for a short time in his former band The Quakes. We crossed paths with Michael Geraci when he was playing in his other band The B-Side Bastards. We don’t have any formal training and you can tell!!! But you don’t need a lot to play three chord songs. Haha. Simplicity is best.
Where did the name come from?
Chris and I grew up in Lockport, NY, in an area known as Lower Town, the Historic area below the escarpment. If you have ever been to Reid's hot dog stand in Lockport you are in Lower Town. We literally grew up on Reid's sauce.
Who writes the songs? What inspires you? Favorite style of music to listen to?
I write all the songs. Most of the songs were inspired by anger or sadness. Maybe it’s a form of therapy for me. I don’t know why, but its hard for me to write “happy” songs. I do love all the Americana forms of music like country, rockabilly, swing, punk and ska. Every mixed CD in my car has a bit of everything from all different spectrums of music. This shows in our music.
You play a lot of gigs. Do you have a favorite venue?
We have been playing a bunch of shows lately which is typical of summer time. My favorite venue definitely would have been the former Mohawk Place. It’s where Lower Town Trio kind of started, back in the Pete Perrone era. He was the original owner, then he sold the place in 2009 and it closed recently.
You like cats right, after all you own two, Mr. Sulu and Mr. Spock, but you also are involved with benefits like Rock-a-Bully? How did that start?
Rock-a-Bully is a yearly concert fundraiser for Fix-a-Bull pitbull Spay/Neuter program of Western New York. I think we were the first band they booked the first year so they named the Rock-a-Bully event after us because we are a rockabilly band. Suzanne Laba is huge dog saving enthusiast and I became friends with her and her cause. We play a lot of benefits. Our band has never been about making money, it’s more of a hobby and having fun doing it!
What is your involvement with Queen City Roller Girls roller derby?
I am actually a league member and I run the score board at all their bouts. I am Stat Man. I have been actively involved for five years now. The league is a great bunch of friends and roller derby girls love rockabilly music. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, so we play a lot of their after parties and benefits too.
How did you first hear about Cats Like Us?
By chance I was looking for 50’s clothes and someone told me there was a store in this area! Shocked I looked it up online and then took a trip to see what it was all about. Love it there! They are always very helpful and have even ordered specialty items for me before.
You wrote a jingle for Cats Like Us. Why did you write it? It was a unexpected and we love it!
I didn’t really write it. It wrote itself! I was in the store one time and it just came to me. “Cats Like Us is the place to be, Cats Like Us on Main Street.” If the store was somewhere else, it wouldn’t have worked.
What are some future projects Lower Town Trio has coming up?
We have a bunch of shows coming up. There is a list on our website http://Lowertowntrio.com
Do you have a CD available?
We are working on the CD right now. It has been a slow process getting it done, but when it is completed there will be 13 original songs on it. The CD is going to be called "Last of the Rebels":
How can people get a hold of you?
Thank you Jason for taking the time to answer a few questions and again for our Cats Like Us jingle. Give your kitties some love from us!