Crack the Sky remains productive through pandemic

crack the sky interview


Crack the Sky (from left, Dave DeMarco, Rick Witkowski, John Palumbo, Bobby Hird, Joey D’Amico and Glenn Workman).

Crack the Sky’s 18th studio album, Tribes, reinforces the band’s reputation as one of the strongest progressive rock units ever assembled. Crack the Sky also happens to be one of the few bands to still feature the majority of its original lineup more than 40 years later.

“The first record we put out was in 1975, so we’ve been together a long time — of course we were all 12 years old when we did that,” said singer and guitarist John Palumbo with a laugh. “We’re still alive and kicking, we’re still making music, we won’t stop. … Right now we still have four original members, but people come and go in and out. We have a new bass player and new keyboard player. I say ‘new’ but they’ve been with the band on and off for 30 years so we might as well count them as original members.”

The cover of the Crack the Sky album, “Tribes.”

Like most bands in today’s COVID climate, Crack the Sky has been slowed down, but not stopped. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective, they began the recording process just prior to the big shutdown. So what have they been doing since the pandemic began?

“Lots of interviews and trying to get press and, honestly, that’s it,” Palumbo said. “Normally you finish up the album and go out on the road. So everybody is kind of scratching their heads, thinking, ‘What can we do to get this thing rolling?’ We started the album about a year ago and once you start, you don’t stop. We just kept going. There’s a process, obviously, and we kept just pushing forward not knowing, like everybody else, what the hell is going to happen. And here we are.

“I’m lucky enough to be the writer and I try to write every day. That doesn’t mean that I get a song out every day, but I try to keep writing. Otherwise, what do you do? Stare at your feet? This is what I do, so I just keep doing it to maintain some kind of normalcy. I think our last gig was sometime in February (of 2020).”

Today’s technology allows for bands to be in the same room even when the distance is great. There is no scheduling of studio time or worries of travel to get all of the players together. With the click of a computer key, the music is at one’s fingertips.

Palumbo explained the process he and the band have used, given that they are somewhat scattered about.

“I used to be in Baltimore but I’ve lived here in South Jersey for about 25 years now,” he said. “We are spread out all over the place; a couple of people in Baltimore, a couple of people in (Washington, D.C.). (Drummer) Joey (D’Amico) is in Gettysburg, (guitarist) Rick (Witkowski) is in West Virginia. So we are kind of spread out.

“Four of us have a studio. I’ll write a song and put it together based on what I think musically, in a demo, with the harmonies and all of that stuff, and I’ll then send it to Rick’s studio, and there two or three of the guys will go live, depending on scheduling, and put their own twist on it, depending on what I’ve sent. So it really is a band situation. It’s bizarre. (laughs)”

With songs such as “Another Civil War,” “Another Beautiful Day” and the title track (see video below), Tribes, which was released on Jan. 15, has won high praise from a both the band’s fan base and critics, in part because it runs the gamut of emotions and musical stylings.

Considering their longevity, an ever-changing world and other variables that arise in the creative process, does Palumbo find writing music different today from when the band first formed?

“There’s no real discernible difference that I can put my finger on, but I know for myself that I try to keep pushing ahead, moving forward and doing different things,” he said. “So it’s not so much the environment as it is my own kind of low threshold of boredom. I really push hard to come up with fresh stuff, and the rest of the band is of the same mindset.

“Right now, I’m writing for an acoustic album that we’ve been talking about doing and I’m about five tracks deep into that, and I have a solo album that’s next to come out, depending on the schedule of the record company, and then ideally the acoustic one. So, yeah, we will keep going.”

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