Interviewed by Mark Balogh
Date: July 11th, 2005
The band Boystown may or may not be familiar to you. If you lived in northern New Jersey back in the mid to later 80’s and frequented the bar/club scene, then maybe at one time or another you caught the band in concert. I have lived in NJ my whole life and grew up on the very type of music that Boystown played but somehow the band went unnoticed to me.
Recently, “Angels With Dirty Faces”, the album that was recorded back in 1989 has been given a new lease on life and people have been able to discover this gem of a band! If you love the 80’s AOR sound that was made popular by the likes of Foreigner, Giant and fellow New Jerseyites Bon Jovi, than you really can’t do much better than Boystown.
David Polemeni, the band’s singer was gracious enough to answer some questions and fill us in on this long lost “mysterious” band and let us know what’s happening with them in 2005.
Thanks David for taking the time to talk with us here at RockEyez. Can you start by telling us how and when Boystown came together?
In 1985, we formed in Ridgefield, New Jersey, my hometown. It went through various alumni until the musicians on the record got together. I met Nelson Williams through publicist Carol Kaye . Bobby and Joey were in another band and were playing in Walley’s Backstage Café in Bergenfield, NJ. I soon convinced them to come with me. Joey knew John Teto and he was the last to join Boystown.
As I said in my album review, your voice suits the bands style of music perfectly. Who were some of your influences vocally?
I was most influenced by Roger Daltrey and Paul Rogers as a boy in the early 70’s. Then came Boston and Foreigner. Along with Bruce Springsteen, I would say all of the above at one time or another.
Where you involved with any other bands either before or after Boystown?
No, I was a singer/songwriter and a solo acoustic artist before then. I just went by my name.
Did the band do any touring in the U.S. or was it just regionally around the NJ area? You mention in the album liner notes that the band was fortunate enough to get the chance to play for the children at Father Flannigan’s Boystown in Omaha, NE. How did that opportunity come about and how was the experience?
Yes, we did a club tour across the U.S. We ended up in Anaheim, California opening up for John Entwistle at the Celebrity Theatre. In New York, the publicity person for Boys Town Nebraska saw us at the China Club and approached us. We actually went back two years in a row and did the show. It was an amazing experience to see an entire town run by once abandoned children. The job they do and the love they show for the kids is something everyone should see and I encourage a visit. As you can imagine we were like the Beatles there! Boystown was the only act allowed to play… ever. They examined our music, lyrics and put us through a process before inviting us. Some of the kids have contacted me via email seeing the CD online. It’s now a part of their childhood, which is a good feeling.
I said in my review of “Angels with Dirty Faces” that I thought the band had all the makings of a top-notch major label act. Where there ever any dealings with major labels here in the U.S. at the time the album was recorded?
We did get in front of some of the majors but there were a few things going on at that time. In retrospect, I found out how critical management is to securing a record and we did not have experienced people. I have to say I was unwilling to alter my sound to Guns N’ Roses, Poison, or Cinderella. We had success in England the way we sounded on the CD and that was our true sound. The Seattle thing was also knocking at the door. I knew the music was strong and the band was special. I wasn’t about to tear all the hard work down. I walked away proud of the accomplishments and the music.
There is no mention of who produced the album in the CD booklet. Can you fill us in on who’s responsible for it?
Aaron Zigman produced “Oil & Water” and “Angels With Dirty Faces.” I produced “Stranger in My Bed” and David Prater (Dream Theater, Firehouse, etc.) produced the rest, with the exception of the live version of “Throw Your Hands Up.” He and Aaron Zigman helped us define our sound in those days.
How did the band come to release the album with the UK label AIR Records?
At the time there was a sampler you could put a song on called “Best Unsigned Bands of the US.” We put “Way of the World” on it and AIR Records called.
How much did the band tour in the UK and how was the experience?
It was extensive as it was a radio tour and live shows. We were there for three months. The experience was exciting and you don’t mind the long rides and bad hotels. The people were the best part and appreciated that we were there. The road crew were workhorses and showed me how to appreciate a pint of Guinness. I still show appreciation to this day!
Why did you decide to re-release “Angels with Dirty Faces” in 2005?
Some of the fans from England were emailing me asking if I was in Boystown. They still had cassettes and 45’s; and they Googled my name and found my music company. CD Baby was a distribution company and that was that!
How has the reaction to the re-release been so far?
I’m blown away at the reaction! I didn’t expect it to take off overseas. I really put it up there for the few fans that never could get their hands on the full recording. I had no idea of this AOR community still thriving and needing more music. “Angels” is a new record for them. It’s very gratifying that it has found its place .
Did you ever consider pursuing a deal with one of the melodic rock labels out of Europe for the re-release of “Angels with Dirty Faces”? I’ve had this discussion with friends and I think it is very smart for bands to release material themselves these days… with the Internet and being able to reach so many potential fans without label help.
Several labels are now approaching us but you are right it really doesn’t make sense for online sales. I think if the Melodic Rock labels offered retail distribution it would make sense to do that. This record had no promotion budget and has been reviewed by every major online E-zine. It shows the market is looking for you without a publicist or label.
Do you think this is the way the music industry is headed and that the major labels will play a lesser roll in the way musicians release their product in the future?
I think the majors can promote a release and sell more records due to their financing. If they kept recording costs down and gave the artists a bigger royalty, they would have a happy artist and not need to go platinum to recover the investment. Indie labels are seeing profit at 10,000 units. If the majors don’t adopt this practice, they will keep crumbling. They also need music people in creative positions who understand recording and the artist.
Your bio mentions you had a couple songs appear in the TV show “21 Jump Street” and in a few films. How did that come about?
We opened for the New Kids on the Block in LA, CA and Michael Babcock, the music man for Fox TV was in the audience.
The song “Throw Your Hands Up” appears on the re-release in live form. Are there any other unreleased Boystown songs from back in the day lying around?
We have unearthed a dozen tunes never released.
Everyone who was into AOR and the hard rock sounds made popular in the 80’s knows that the grunge music of the 90’s pretty much decimated the scene. Was this the reason the band did just the one album?
What do you think of the current music scene in the U.S. these days?
I think it’s like the Wild West out there now. Online distribution enables good music to grab market share and chip away at the indies and majors. It’s a transformation that will not define itself for a few more years.
Your website indicates there is new music forthcoming from the band. It’s obviously been a long time since the release of the first album. What direction sound-wise is the band headed towards in 2005?
This is the big question. The AOR market is a group of audiophiles who love the production as much as the songs. We would not make a record that would be a full departure. However, we may gear two or three tracks toward the AAA radio market here in the US.
Who is involved in Boystown these days?
All the original members are back.
Is there any timetable as to when we might see a new album from the band?
Everyone is so busy with their own lives it would be safe to say the end of 2006 for a new Boystown record. During that time, I plan to release a solo acoustic record.
I guess that is about it! Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us here at RockEyez. Is there anything you would like to add?
I think it’s important your publication educates and informs fans about bands and artists off the beaten path that contributed as much as they were allowed. RockEyez is their voice… keep it up.