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Queens College students blaze new path with band

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"Our music is something that hasn't been heard in a while and this generation has no idea what it is," said Dead City Radio's lead guitarist Jonathan Shusterman, 20, a Queens College student. "They've been exposed to a generation of bands that have been striving for mediocrity. Bands that are trying to sound just good enough to get on the air. They're not bands that are striving to be great or long lasting. They're striving for the instant success.""We're not trying to sound like a band that already was," continued Josh Yavneh, 21, who shares lead vocals and guitar. "We're trying to sound like a new band, but you can hear our influences, which [hasn't been] done in a long time."Those influences include classic rock gods like The Who, Led Zepplin and The Beatles, bands that many of today's record buyers would probably have a difficult time recognizing. But to Dead City Radio, that isn't a setback at all. "We're trying to sidestep this whole mainstream way of doing things," said Shusterman, "this whole major corporation conglomerate."They took a major step in that direction by starting their own label, along with another musician friend of theirs, Jared Hiller. "We didn't have the funds to get signed," said Shusterman, "and we realized it would be a lot easier and a lot more cost efficient if we distributed and recorded [on our] own." And so Ardis Records was born. Named for a utopian summer home in a Nabokov novel, Ardis became just that, a musical utopia for the band. Dead City Radio finally had a place where they could make the kind of music they wanted, how they wanted without having to pander to mainstream ideals. Even the band's own name reveals some of their disdain for all things mainstream. Named for the experimental spoken word album done by author William S. Burroughs and '80s rock group Sonic Youth, this band is clearly one that doesn't care if they sound like a Top 40 hit or not. Jamming together since high school, singer Jeff Weiss, 21, and Shusterman, were always eager to start a band, but each time what began as an original project always managed to turn into some kind of Pearl Jam cover band, Shusterman said.Their lucky break came when Hiller asked them to open up one of his shows. They recruited a friend who played bass, the mononymous Ernie ("Like Cher, but with a better body," joked Yavneh), along with a drummer and another guitarist, officially forming Dead City Radio, though that line up didn't last for long.After that initial show the original drummer and guitarist left and Dead City was suddenly two members short. Meanwhile, Yavneh and current drummer Ryan Heatherington, 22, who had been playing together in another band, were unexpectedly left bandless when their fellow members went off to college. They eventually hooked up with Dead City through mutual friends and everything finally began to click. That was only a few months ago, but the band has already managed to secure a small following. Three out of the five members attend Queens College, which has helped them spread the good word to other fans their age, as well as fill the venues they play.Despite the fact that they've only played two shows thus far, Dead City has already mastered a pretty solid live show. Weiss's gritty vocals are reminiscent of some of the great rock frontmen of the early '90s, while Yavneh's style is more of a throwback to the late great singer songwriters of the '60s, like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. "'Subterranean Homesick Blues' completely changed the way I perceive music," said Yavneh of the classic Dylan album. "It made me want to start playing guitar because I knew that's what [Dylan] did." Shusterman and Yavneh talk about their musical influences with an endearing fervor. They can present a concise list of every album and song that changed their life (Pearl Jam and Jimi Hendrix for Shusterman, Dylan and The Who for Yavneh) and every live performance by their favorite musicians that inspired them to play. When the band members are together they can finish each other sentences and carry on an entire conversation consisting of nothing but quotes from their favorite movies and television shows. They're like any other group of guys their age, except along with quoting "Simpsons" episodes they're also trying to bring rock and roll music back to the masses. What better aspirations could a 20-something college student have?"World domination," added Yavneh, "if not more." For more information on Dead City Radio, including songs to download, visit www.ardisrecords.com.

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