The Extensions hit the ground running with release of EP, ‘Bellicose’

Extensions interview

The Extensions (from left, Pete Stern, Kevin Newcomb, Brian Erickson and Lisa LoVell).

The Extensions (featuring singer-songwriter-guitarist Brian Erickson, drummer Pete Stern, bassist Kevin Newcomb and keyboardist Lisa LoVell) was formed not entirely from the ashes of other projects but rather as an “extension” of their individual passions. They will officially celebrate their debut album — a six-song EP titled Bellicose — at Asbury Lanes, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m., at a show also featuring The Mercury Brothers, Dave Mooney & Viewers Like You, Arlan Feiles & the Brokenhearted and Deirdre & the Black Seams. Visit asburylanes.com.

Erickson said his old band The Paper Jets “released a record at the end of 2018, and it became clear that it was going to be our last show or at least our last show for a long time, and I really didn’t want to stop playing in a band and performing live like that. So I found a couple of other musicians whose projects were either ending or were looking to do something kind of different; maybe an extension, if you would, of all of our other bands. And then it all kind of came together.

“Our very first show, we were lucky enough to get booked at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, so we had a nice way to set expectations right from the gate. We weren’t going to be playing dives and this was a serious pursuit right from the outset. We’re very lucky to know and be friendly with the people there. It was a Monday night show and we brought a little bit of crowd with us; we’re happy that they gave us a shot.”

Erickson says the mindset was different from past projects. Their perspective is one of confident swagger, not rebuilding.

“The Paper Jets release show was such a spectacle. We did it at Asbury Lanes and had several hundred people show up. We invited former members to come back and play with us for the first time in years, and if you’re a band on that level, you couldn’t throw a better sort of farewell for yourself. The Paper Jets were together for 10 years so it was like, ‘Let’s get former members back onstage with us, let’s put a great bill together and let’s pack the room.’ So then the impetus was, ‘I’ve got to use that momentum somehow. So why not use it for more music?’ Especially because we already had some new songs written as the new band, and we didn’t want to start by just showing up at open mic nights. We kind of knew, because we have all come from other serious projects, that we didn’t need to get to the back of the line. We could kind of skip ahead a little bit.

“We are willing to put that pressure on ourselves and almost, like, demand to be taken seriously. Find me another band in the scene that is willing to do that: to just start up and say, ‘Yup, here we are,’ and kind of treat it like a big deal. Because if we don’t, who will?

“We got to writing very quickly; I had a couple of the songs hangin’ out there that didn’t quite fit The Paper Jets or maybe would have, had we tried for another record. But as it became clear that the band wasn’t going to really do much, I brought some things to the new crew and we worked on what we liked. A lot of the songs weren’t done and it became a process of, ‘Here are some ideas that I think are okay, accept what you like and reject what you don’t like and let’s hit the stage.’ I didn’t want to wait a year to debut a new project … I said, ‘Let’s all take this seriously. Let’s get into a studio now, let’s really do this.’

“Maybe the record suffers for it a little bit because it kind of sounds like four people in a room. We didn’t really go crazy on the production of it but we got four people in a room after rehearsing the stuff for a few months and just kind of put it all down.

“We recorded it at Firehouse Studio in Oceanport because Matt Dubrow owns and runs the studio, is an easy-going guy and I didn’t want to overcomplicate this. He had gotten us our second show. He was able to keep it in budget for us, too, which was very important.”

Erickson said that though he is the principal songwriter, “we credit everything to the band, because these songs wouldn’t necessarily be what they are if they were left to my own devices or left to another band. Each member puts their unique stamp on it, so everybody gets credited as co-writers. But I’m usually the one who brings a full song or some idea and the band puts their own spin on it, and that’s how they become Extensions songs.

“The reason it’s The Extensions is … well, I was doing a lot of work under my own name too and my buddy Jesse Elliot said, ‘You need something snazzy like Elvis Costello & The Attractions; what about Brian Erickson & the Extensions?’ I thought, ‘That kind of sounds okay,’ so I took it to the band and said, ‘What do you think?’ Basically they said, ‘We can do that, but if we do that we’re not going to be as involved. We aren’t going to make some of the concessions that you might want us to make. If you drop your name and we’re just The Extensions then we are all in.’ I said, ‘Okay, that’s easy enough for me, because I wasn’t looking for a dictatorship, I was just looking for something snappy. So if you guys want to be all in on this, then let’s go all in.’

“There are a lot of bands in the scene where the band will ‘belong’ to, let’s say, the guitarist and the drummer and the lead guy and the bassist get paid. They’re in the band but they’re paid players or others own their band name and just dole out payment and the others are paid like backing players. The preference was that we all wanted to be equal members and be part of this; everybody wanted to be in a band.”

So with the ground rules firmly established, material written and a wide open future, the next logical step was to get the music out to the public. A deal with a label was reached, and the venue secured. Erickson and the band realize the value of striking while the proverbial iron is hot.

“Since we capitalized on the momentum of The Paper Jets show, we were able to sort of get ourselves a deal with Mint 400 Records and, again, on the strength of The Paper Jets release show last year, we were able to jump back in with Asbury Lanes and do The Extensions release there on Sept. 20. I think the way that you keep the momentum going is to capitalize on showings of good faith; where a place or a band or people do right by you and you say, ‘Well, you did right by me and we packed the house, so how about we come in and do it again?’ It would’ve been less pressure on us to do it at a different venue, but sometimes I like that little bit of pressure.”

Erickson says Bellicose is a good indicator of what the band is made of — a harbinger of what’s to come.

“The EP is six songs and they have a specific sound and feel about them. Some of the stuff we’ve started to put together after these have a different feel or tone, they’ve taken on a little bit of a different life, so we decided to save that for a full-length record … This EP is nice and breezy and kind of establishes what we are all about.”

For more about The Extensions, visit facebook.com/theextensionsband.

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