**The following interview was conducted by Praise vocalist Andy Norton. Since Reaper Records has not uploaded the Memorial Day record on any streaming sites, I went ahead and embedded some YouTube videos featuring the tracks for context. -Carlos Ramirez (No Echo)**
I believe I heard the Memorial Day demo for the first time in 2002 or 2003. Turning Point was/is one of my favorite bands and Frank "Skip" [Candelori]'s lyrics were foundational for me (that includes the Godspeed's Swimmers Ear record).
A friend gave me a burnt cd with the demo on it. There was so much mystery behind it; all we knew was that it was "Skip from Turning Point." I remember sitting in my room in awe.
"Undead" was the first song (I'm still not sure what the intended sequence was) when that break around 2:20 hits “and I know I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I know my face may be easy to read” with the guitar lead under it and then it goes into the bridge and then you think it's over but it kicks in again… Jesus Christ, it was like a punch in the gut.
Every song has at least one moment like that. The songs feel and sound just out of reach, it’s not quite with you all the time but every now and then there is a riff or lyric delivered like “and wouldn't you know it, just keeps getting harder I make the same mistakes without getting smarter” then steps back for two lines and hits you even harder with the chorus.
It's incredibly vulnerable, but at a little bit of a distance. I love these songs so much and I am so happy that this release is finally seeing the light of day.
I met Brandon Wallace in 2004 when we joined the same band and flew out to the West Coast to start practicing for a summer tour. We were practicing in the evening so Brandon and I would just hang all day and staying up all night while the other guys were working and doing their thing.
One of the first nights there, after watching hours of The Ashlee Simpson Show, Brandon and I were trying to fall an asleep in the living room at Chris Williams' house shooting the shit, talking about movies and hardcore.
Turning Point comes up so asked if he liked Godspeed, Brandon’s like “oh yeah, of course, man” so I'm thinking to myself, no one knows about Memorial Day demo I'm gonna hit him with this bomb and I get to share this mysterious thing that barely anyone knows about.
I asked if he had heard Memorial Day and there is like this long pause and Brandon says, “yeah, I played drums in that band." My head exploded. I could not believe it. I had a lot of questions but I also felt like it might be a sensitive subject so we moved on quickly.
Brandon has been a close friend since and over the years Memorial Day would come up whether it was at the possibility of the record finally coming out or him teasing me with a clip of the video of the one show (we thought) Memorial Day played.
When Bob Wilson proposed this idea, I honestly wasn’t sure what more could be said about Memorial Day but with the help of Anthony [Montemurro], Nicky [Fantazzi], and Brandon I found that there is actually a lot to the story.
How did Memorial Day start? Were you doing any other bands at that time?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): When I joined the band, it was already in its first kind of iteration. Maybe second even? I think there were one or two bass players before I jumped in. I’m pretty sure the Christ and ihateyou were both pretty much done by the time Memorial Day started but you’ll have to get the real scoop from them.
Brandon Wallace (drums): Nick and I were in a highly underrated band called Christ. We had a few left-over song ideas when the band broke up and Nick and I weren’t finished playing together yet. We had been recruited to play in a band called The Passenger Train Proposal.
That didn’t last too long, so we initially stole the bass player and singer/guitar player from that band and started Memorial Day.
We went through a few different people until we got Steve Crudello to play guitar and Chris P. to sing. Then the bass player we had left and never came back. I hung out with Anthony almost every day at that time. His grand mom made the best pizza ever and we had to cut it with scissors.
He had a little musical ability but he is so fun to hang out with so we just asked him to play bass. It was the hardest decision of the band, for me, when we kicked Chris out. It just wasn’t meshing.
Anyhow, I don’t know how it came about but one day I was sitting in Nick's living room and he said, “oh yeah, Skip from Turning Point is gonna sing.”
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): This could be long but here’s kinda how i remember it… Brandon, Nick Pascetta, and I were trying to keep Christ going after Aaron left with George Chamberlain from Autumn and a bunch of other various guitar players but that never seemed to work right.
"Aimless Friend" was actually a Christ song that we called Memorial Day. We played it live once at the last Christ show, it had different lyrics and vocal melodies... Brandon and i still wanted to play so we tried to do a new band, we wrote some songs and played with a few different people but it never materialized, we did however use the name "Memorial Day" for the band.
A little while later, Brandon and I joined The Passenger Train Proposal, that was kinda cool but didn't last long. We both decided we liked The After Christ Band or Memorial Day better so we tried to revive it with George and Dave from PTP.
At some point, we switched George with a few different guitar players, went back to songs we had written, wrote new songs, and definitely played our fair share of Stone Roses covers, then Steve came in and we traded Stone Roses covers for Buckcherry covers.
Then, we switched Dave with Anthony, Anthony was around the whole time these songs were written and was way more in tune with us musically and personally so it just gelled better. Chris P., who I was in Prema with, was singing (I'm not sure if Anthony or Chris was in first).
One night on South Street, Steve and I ran into Skip and he asked if we were still trying to do that band, we gave him a tape and he came to practice a few days later with all the songs worked out. It just seemed like magic.
I remember seeing the look on everyone’s faces, we were all like holy fuck from the moment he first sang a note. It was pretty hard to tell Chris we were gonna go with Skip, as Chris and I were really tight, I think he understood, though. I definitely wrote these songs with Skip in mind.
Are there any Memorial Day recordings with Chris P. singing?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): Not that I can recall. Maybe some demo tapes somewhere but nothing official.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): There is a video and a DAT tape of the first balcony show with Chris singing. Pretty sure Joe Burns has it but he thinks it's somewhere in my house.
Was there ever a discussion of what the band wanted to sound like? Who wrote the music? When Skip and Steve joined did that change the style of the band?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): When I joined the songs were more or less written and I just provided new bass lines. The sonic direction of the band, to me, was pretty much set in stone from the beginning. Nick and Steve typically came up with the riffs and we all jammed on them until they became the songs. Then the ebow would come out and finish the job.
Brandon Wallace (drums): As I said, we had a few left-over songs and when Steve joined had a few left over Seven Gone songs. We kind of reshaped a few of those ideas and went with it.
We basically wanted to have a band that all the songs sounded like "Sweet Child O' Mine."
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): Nah, not really, it's just the way Brandon and I play together, we just start playing and the songs write themselves.. we both like so much music it really is just a combination of everything we listen to. We both share very similar musical journeys that shaped our childhoods and young adulthoods.
There are so many different styles and bands that we both love. Anthony definitely went down the same path which is why he fit in so well.
I absolutely love Skip's vocals on the later Turning Point and Godspeed stuff. I really wanted to do a band with him, so I kinda feel like I wrote parts that would work with his voice, so when he joined he definitely completed the puzzle and made the songs whole.
What do you remember about Memorial Day's live shows?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): This is where the fun starts because Brandon and I think we played 4 shows, but Nick says we played 5. The more I talk to him, the more I seem to think he’s right, so we’ll go with his memory here. Three shows were with Chris P. and two with Skip.
The first show ever was in a basement in Queens Village in South Philly on the 4th of July. I only remember it being 7,500 degrees there. That was with Chris P. singing.
Immediately following that show, we played at the East End Cafe in Delaware with this band called Chubby that was fronted by Dennis Brockenborough who played trombone in the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It was a Tuesday and there were about 5 people there.
The show Nick remembers was at The Pontiac on South Street. That was with Skip but I’m not sure if that was the first show with him or the last. Regardless, the most memorable show for me is when we played The Balcony the second time. There were a ton of people there because the word got out that Skip was in the band.
We played "April" by Godspeed at that show and that’s probably the highlight of my musical career. Playing that song with Skip is something you don’t forget. I fucking love Godspeed.
I don't know him personally, but I recall [Turning Point guitarist] Jay Laughlin being there and really rooting for Skip and singing along to "April." I think we played a Stone Roses song, too, but maybe that was with Chris P.?
Brandon Wallace (drums): Ok, so this is where things get strange. I truly only remember 3 shows with Chris and 1 show with Skip. I have zero recollection of playing the Pontiac. I’ll take those guys' words for it, but I don’t recall it at all.
The one show I do recall is the Balcony show. I was playing a show with 2 dudes that were on my favorite 7 inch of all time, so it was a trip. Jay was there and a bunch of Skip's pals came out. I remember him seeming really happy. I remember thinking we played really well and being super excited of, what I thought, was going to be, something great.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): [Laughs] Brandon is so off on that. So, here's what I remember: 6 shows, 3 with Chris, 3 with Skip. A basement, the balcony and someplace in Delaware with Chris. The balcony, the Pontiac, then the balcony again with Skip.
The first balcony show we played April, the first 4 songs on the demo and an instrumental intro. The second balcony show we cut "April" added a new song that was really in a different direction, I always called it the Sebadoh song, as it was more in that kinda vein, we also still had the instrumental intro and now played all 5 songs on the demo.
What Stone Roses song did you cover?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): "I Wanna Be Adored."
Are there any recordings of the instrumental and Sebadoh song?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): Maybe just the live versions but nothing was committed to tape. I really thought the "Signs" cover was Memorial Day because I recall Steve egging me on. Again, memory is not serving me well here but I'm pretty sure it was Memorial Day and I was just doing it to make Steve laugh.
On the record it was the Tesla version, not the Five Man Electrical Band one.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): The instrumental song would be on any of the live videos that Brandon has. It was always planned to be the opener. It was kinda like an acoustic Oasis song but with a lot of ebow. Steve might have had a rehearsal tape of it as well.
Were these songs recorded before or after the show you played?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): My memory is shit when it comes to the timeline, but i think we recorded them around the same time as that last Balcony show. It may have overlapped that a bit because it wasn’t long after that show that Skip decided to stop doing the band.
Brandon Wallace (drums): After. At one point in the showm Skip says, “we’re playing this show to see how these songs sound. We’re gonna go in hiding to record a record soon.”
How long did it take to record?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): It didn’t take too long to record. Maybe a few weeks?
Brandon Wallace (drums): It was all a blur. To me, it seemed like it took a weekend. I remember blazing through the drums. (which shows in some parts of the record) I had been in so many bands with Nick at that time that I couldn’t wait to see what he did and what was in his head.
He always did the most amazing stuff. When he was done I knew the songs were amazing.... then Skip sang.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): It was done over a couple weeks, maybe a long weekend to finish it. We recorded at Why Me? studios with Joe Deluca. Skip, Steve, Brandon and I all recorded with him prior and all felt really comfortable over there.
We practiced a lot so I think we had the songs down pretty tight even though I specifically remember on a couple overdubs Joe just stopping the tape and making me do it over without even listening back. Joe is really good at hearing things and I really feel like he pushed all of us to our best in everything we ever recorded with him.
Who’s idea was the Raising Arizona sound clip on "Ceiling"?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): That was Skip to my recollection. I loved it because that’s one of my favorite all time movies and it being on the record in the context that it is gave me a whole new perspective on it.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): That was all skip, he showed up to the studio with a tape of it.
Was there any intention of releasing this at the time of the recording?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): I’d say so. If memory serves though, Skip left the band pretty soon after we recorded. We tried out a few other singers after he left but nothing stuck.
It was around this time that Nick, Brandon, and I started a side-project called Swingbreak Valentine with George Chamberlain of Autumn fame and Memorial Day was becoming more officially done.
Brandon Wallace (drums): It was supposed to come out on Temperance Records. Then the tapes sat at Why Me? studios forever. One day, Nick drive up and liberated the tapes from the studio.
After that, the only other person that was gonna do it was Ryan Kuper and Redemption Records. I believe, by the time he was ready to do it, he got sick and later passed away. I never met him, but he was super hyped on the project and I kind of find it necessary to keep his name, somewhat, aligned with it.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): Yes, Chuck Miller wanted to put it out on Temperance, but then Steve wanted to look for something else, and in that time Skip left. Chuck still wanted to put it out so we threw this art together real quick. Chuck actually had Jake Bannon design something for us.
In the time that was happening Brandon, Anthony, myself, and George Chamberlain started a band and recorded a demo that Chuck was real into. That was supposed to be a 7 inch, however we broke up just as quickly as we started. Those three songs are really good as well and we recorded a Tesla cover with Anthony singing.
Were any of the lyrics shared with you before Skip tracked them?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): I remember reading the lyrics as he was recording them and being blown away. Skip was a pretty quiet dude from what I recall and these lyrics are intensely personal. He may have shared them with Steve and/or Nick beforehand since they had a closer relationship, but I don’t recall reading them before we recorded them.
Brandon Wallace (drums): Not really. Like Anthony said, he was kind of quiet about it all. I would sneak looks at the lyrics, and just think, “holy shit” and look away.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): I never got to read the notebook. I remember in the studio Skip jokingly said something like “if anyone wants to read the lyrics read them now cause its your only chance” and left the notebook sitting out. I guess since I never got to read them and it wasn't a joke [laughs].
Do you have a favorite song on the record?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): Honestly, I love all of these songs. This is the most personal band I’ve done and it was a true honor to play with everyone involved.
I mean, I am a fan of every band these guys were ever in and here I am part of that legacy. I’m Memorial Day’s [former Judas Priest singer] Tim “The Ripper” Owens. If I had to pick one I’d probably go with "Kiss the Lizard." I love the little seagull-sounding guitar parts.
Brandon Wallace (drums): My absolute favorite part of the record is at the very end. Nick's pedal literally catches fire and it crackles out perfectly in the song. It was a complete accident. It sounds like a plane taking off and then burning to the ground. Amazing stuff.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): Man, tough question. I’m so connected to all of them and really put so much into all of them, being so involved I like each one for different reasons. I absolutely love the contrast of Skip's vocal pattern and enunciation against the music on "Ceiling," although I’m not sure if it's my favorite.
What pedal caught on fire?
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): I was always a fan of batteries as opposed to running my stuff into a power brick, so it was actually the battery crapping out.
That was the first time I ever encountered that the whole time I played with pedals which relying on effects has basically been my whole style since trading my Yngwie records for Cure records in 1988... it was a Boss DD-5 which is a digital delay.
Will Brandon ever put the video of the show on YouTube?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): No. He’s selfish and only wants to watch it himself and just send us 5 second clips of it.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): Only if Anthony and I edit all the 20-second clips together that Brandon randomly sends us. They are actually amazing as he films his television with the video playing and his kids are talking and he is half paying attention to what he’s filming so its just as much a video of the ceiling or of the TV stand as it is of the video on the television.
Those will magically appear on a text or instagram message every few months... I have to admit it’s a brilliant play on Brandon’s part.
Brandon Wallace (drums): Hate5six soon, bitches.
Will the Memorial Day record be available on streaming services?
Anthony Montemurro (bass): I don’t think so. Brandon is the captain of this ship as far as it actually getting released. I asked him about putting it on Bandcamp and he said “we aren’t a band." I can’t argue with that.
Brandon Wallace (drums): No plans as of now. We will see. I said it before somewhere, that I like that this demo had always been kind of like a myth, a whisper. When I spoke with [Reaper Records founder Patrick] Kitzel we both thought it was good to keep the press low. In a way, I’m hoping to still keep it this little secret, just with a layout.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): Nah, someone asked on a Facebook post and reaper said no. It’s been out there on the interweb for a long enough time, I’m sure someone can still find it if they want to.
Is the art on the Reaper release the only art that exists for this recording/band? There has been art floating around that says "the memorial day" and always wondered if that was real.
Anthony Montemurro (bass): For something that has never been released, these 5 songs have been heard by more people than I can count. That “The Memorial Day” thing on YouTube is a mystery to me. I don’t hate it, but I have no idea where that came from.
For a while, it was the only way I could hear the songs so props to whoever put it on there.
The composition book artwork is something we came up with around the time we recorded so it’s always been what we envisioned the artwork to be. I’m pretty sure Jacob Bannon made a version of it at some point and that might be what you see on the Reaper release, or an iteration there of.
Brandon Wallace (drums): Nick could have a different answer, but the layout that’s coming out is a variation of the layout we came up with originally. Jake Bannon did a version and Kitzel used that one and updated it a bit. Don’t know anything about “The Memorial Day” business, but my memory is terrible.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): First, I cant believe Brandon still had this art… fucking amazing. We cut and pasted and scribbled on looseleaf sheets of paper in my kitchen. I haven’t seen it since 1999. New Years Eve morning Brandon, Anthony and I drove this to Chuck at Temperance in New Jersey and that was the last time I saw it. I’ll see it again when it gets released.
Jake Bannon did something that consisted of layers and layers of comic book photos. That thing on youtube with the heart was done by a friend of Steve’s and I don't hate it but I don't love it either. He added "the" to Memorial Day because he claimed he thought it sounded better, that always bothered me.
Perhaps I would like it more if it just said memorial day, not sure.... I know a lot of people did not like the name but it is what it is. Skip wanted to call the band Dying Wish, which is what’s written on the tracking sheets from Why Me?
For the updated art on the Reaper Records 12” I saw that the cover has the title “A Song with Evil Meaning” which is a lyric from Once Upon a Time, why did you pick that lyric?
Brandon Wallace (drums): “A Song with Evil Meaning,” from what I can recollect, was always what it was supposed to be called. Admittedly, I wasn’t into it at first. As time went on and I revisited the idea, I couldn’t imagine it being called anything else.
Unless you have a song, or songs, in your life that tear your heart out every time you hear it, you just won’t get it. From what I gather from some people, this record has a few songs like that.
Anthony Montemurro (bass): Honestly, I had nothing to do with that part of it so I'll deflect to Nick and Brandon. I will say it's fitting because depending on how you approach these songs based on your experiences, they could have a few meanings, all of them evil.
Does anyone still have the art that Jake Bannon did?
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): I actually only ever saw it on an email.. if I could only remember the password to [email protected]
Thank you for taking the time to talk about Memorial Day. Is there anything else you would like to say before we wrap it up?
Brandon Wallace (drums): I just want to thank my wife, my kids, Nick, Steve, Anthony, and Skip. Thank you to Patrick Kitzel for putting up with me. Andy for doing this interview and giving me advice early on in this process. Ken Flavell for listening and understanding, and Tommy Lee for showing the world how to drive a boat.
Anthony Montemurro (bass): I mentioned it before but it was just a true honor to have been a part of this band. At the time we knew it was something special but didn't realize just how important it would become. I'm forever grateful to Brandon, Nick, Steve, and Chris for giving me a shot.
I'm grateful that Skip wanted to sing with us and poured his soul into it. I think he'd be happy with the outcome. I do also want to thank Patrick and Reaper Records for putting this out. It's been great to relive these memories and I'm glad it's getting a fitting release. And thanks to you Andy for pulling this all out of us.
Nicky Fantazzi (guitar): The biggest hugs and kisses in the world to Brandon for getting this moving and Patrick and Reaper for breathing new life into this. I cannot put into words how much this means to me, I’m forever grateful. We all poured our hearts into this and finally getting to hold the test press was such a surreal moment... definitely brought tears to my eyes.
Thanks to everyone that hung around with us back then, some of your pictures are in the layout. It was a lot of fun to see those, man we all look like little kids. Thank you to everyone who ordered this and helped to sell it out, absolutely amazing. Thank you Jen and Arjuna, I’ll make sure I put away a least one copy of each of these for you and not give all my copies away as I’ve always done in the past.
In the layout it says we thank Mötley Crüe even though they had nothing to do with this. I'm gonna go on the record and say Mötley Crüe is why I got a guitar for Christmas in 1984, so looking back they had everything to do with this... and finally thank you, Andy, for caring and wanting to do this interview.
A Song with Evil Meaning is available now from Reaper Records.
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