When they first started, they didn't have money for mics, their songs didn't have vocals and they didn't have many options for venues to play. Yet somehow the Pittsfield-based group B.A. Dario has managed to stay together, make music and grow its fan base over the past five years.
The members include guitarist Dan Greene, 26; drummer Brad Greene, 30; bassist Jay Cimini, 32; and Aaron Nackoul, 32, on keys -- all Pittsfield High School alumni.
These days, they play progressive jam rock, or what Dan Greene has dubbed "mutt rock." Call it what you will, it's got a vibe that's danceable and full of energy and flow. They've played a range of venues, from Fiori in Great Barrington to music festivals like the StrangeCreek Campout and Wormtown in Greenfield.
The Eagle recently caught up with the quartet at Mission Bar & Tapas to chat about upcoming gigs, learning to sing and the real story behind their name.
Q: How did you guys meet each other? Have you always played music?
Aaron Nackoul: Well, we all went to PHS, but we didn't really know each other I literally started playing the keyboard the year before we got together. I come from a whole family of musicians. I was just late to the scene.
Brad Greene: Danny and I are brothers, so we've know each other for a while. [Laughs] We've also always played music together and grew up with a lot of classic rock in our home. I also used to play with the band Domino Theory.
Dan Greene: I started drumming and playing in jazz band in middle school. In high school, I picked up guitar.
Jay Cimini: I started as a guitar player and knew Brad. One day I was driving him to band practice and their bass player was a no-show. Two weeks before, I had bought a bass. We started to jam, and the rest is kind of history.
Q: Speaking of history, where does the name "B.A. Dario" come from?
DG: Aw, here we go! [All laugh.]
AN: When we had our old bass player, we used to jam in a horse barn. We had a gig to play a backyard party and we didn't have a name. So we looked up and there was a sign over the door that said, "B.A. Dario," so we went with it.
Two years later, we were at another gig at a Fourth of July party, and it turns out B.A. Dario is a real guy. The granddaughter of the guy was at the party and told us about it. It turns out B.A. Dario was into horseracing and was also linked to the Mafia. He ran the old Berkshire Downs racetrack and some other one in Rhode Island.
BG: We'd thought about scrapping the name, but by then, people started knowing it, so we kept it.
DG: Most people think the B.A. stands for "Badass," so we go with that too. [All laugh.]
Q: How did you get interested in starting B.A. Dario?
AN: We were at a party and I asked them about playing together. ... I had been out in California and heard this electronic-based jam band (BLVD). It had a really unique beat and a lot of synth. It was so new to me. I'd never heard anything like that before. So that's what I had in mind, but it's totally not what we ended up doing.
DG: I was in college so we played on and off. And when I'd come home, we'd mostly just jam in the basement.
JC: We didn't play out much.
AN:But in 2009 we played Bella Terra (a festival). Our good friend Jeff Schneider organizes it and gave us a chance.
JC: At that time we weren't a singing band. Just instrumental music.
DG: We've changed so much since then.
Q: Why did you guys decide you wanted to get out and do gigs?
BG:: It was different than what all the other local bands around here were doing.
DG: That was a drive for it. I mean, we have day jobs and do this on the side, but we wanted to do something beyond the cover bands.
AN: For us, it's about being unique and different. We want to make people sit and listen and tilt their head for a second and say, "Ah, what's this?"
DG:It's different though, out on the festival scene, where there are a lot more bands that sound like you. So that's when we come back and see how we can make the next song we write even more unique.
JC: We're always evolving.
Q: When did you guys start adding vocals?
JC: We've always thought about vocals, but we didn't really have the money for mics. ... It's also a tough ride when you're and instrumental band. People didn't want to book us.
AN: Yeah, they all wanted people who do covers and sing Sublime's "What I've Got." Chin Lee at Flavours (of Malaysia in Pittsfield) gave us our first bar gig.
JC: Afterward, he was like, "I like you guys a lot, but I wish you did more singing."
BG: That pushed us a lot to do vocals.
AN: And none of us are singers, so we really had to work at it. But in 2010 we did our first song with vocals. It was a cover of a Phish song ("The Curtain").
Q: How have you been working to grow as a band?
JC: Trial and error and practice.
BG: We took a recent break for three months so we could write more and get new things out there. ... We also record everything we do.
AN: We take the time to listen back and critique what we've done. Dan has really taken the lead on strengthening our vocals and harmonies and arranging our songs.
DG: If you keep at it, you've eventually got to get better, right?
Q: How would you describe your shows?
DG:We can start playing an original song that will go into Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and then blend back into an original song.
AN: It's high energy, high octane stuff. The way Dan plays guitar, [our music] has much more of an edge to it, versus something like the Grateful Dead. We like to surprise people and change it up.
JC: There's a lot of improv.
DG: Basically, we'll throw hand signals and play off the cuff.
Q: Who or what other groups influence you?
AN: Jeff Beck, Umphrey's McGee ...
DG: Michael Jackson ...
BG: Frank Zappa ...
AN: Disco Biscuits ...
DG: Yanni ... [All laugh]
JC: All of us are influenced by different things. We have different tastes and backgrounds. I grew up listening to a lot of metal, but it all comes together to make our sound.
AN:We're still developing our sound. We're all still kind of learning.
DG: Our music has grown big time. I spent a lot of time Googling music theory and that's changed what we play too.
Q: You've got new material with new vocals. So where would you like to play?
BG: We love Pittsfield and we love living here, but it's primarily a market for cover bands. We'd love more opportunities here, though.
DG: And we'd love to play out in Northampton.
AN: Hint, hint, nudge, nudge to anyone reading. [All laugh.]
BG: We also have an alter ego.
AN: Yeah, it's called "Tree in Z."
BG: We play old school dance covers like Haddaway's "What is Love," "Better Off Alone" by Alice Deejay, "Sandstorm" (by Darude). It's just another way for us to engage with a crowd.
Q: Any dream gigs?
BG:It would be great to get into more cities.
JC: We'd love to play bigger festivals like Disc Jam, Gathering of the Vibes and Summer Camp Music Festival.
AN: Being backstage at places like that and meeting other bands would be awesome.
BG: And it's gonna happen. [All laugh.]