River City Extension
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River City Extension

Toms River, New Jersey, United States

Toms River, New Jersey, United States
Band Folk Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Umm... Drop"

With a cello, trumpet, a couple mandolins and a djembe drum, River City Extension is “rebelling against music without feeling,” says vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Joe Michelini of his raucous sextet from the seaside township of Toms River, N.J. “No fake modern art.”

What’s that mean, exactly?

“Especially in the indie/acoustic genre, there are a lot of fake modern artists,” says Michelini. “A lot of people that like to shit on a piece of paper and hang it up in a museum. They like to play out of tune guitars, and they don’t really want to know how to tune them,” he continues. “I think that’s the biggest thing we want to take a stand against.”

The band’s first EP, Nautical Sabbatical, is a stunning combination of rabid country blues, Southern gospel and minimalist, post-modern harmony lines. Beautiful choruses coexist with snarled lyrics and pounding keyboards.

In addition to being sonically complex, the album is lyrically impressive too. Like many country and bluegrass tunes, the songs are narratives that reflect Michelini’s past.

As his writing has matured, Michelini has begun to explore the struggles he’s had with the Christian church and his religious upbringing. Doing so has helped his writing take on a new focus.

“Our interest is just getting the most commonly ignored passing moments and making them timeless. The little things that we think don’t mean as much—I feel like those are the things that end up shaping us.”
- Philadelphia Weekly

"River City Extension... and cereal"

Dock Grass sounds like Honey Clusters of Oats.

Just ask Joe Michellini, front man of Tom’s River, New Jersey, based River City Extension, what listeners can expect from the first ever Dock Grass release.

“They should expect to feel like they’re chewing the clusters in Honey Bunches of Oats without milk. It should be a little sweet, it should be a little bit crunchy, it should bring the blood out of your gums a bit, but overall it should be a good swallow,” Michellini says of Nautical Sabbatical, the band’s first release, out January 31st. “They actually make that with just the bunches,” he continues. “So if somebody can’t afford the record they can go out for 2.95, get a box of bunches of Honey Bunches of Oats and chew on that for a while and they’ll have a good idea of what it sounds like.”

Originating as Joe’s solo acoustic project, River City Extension grew into a trio and, finally, the eclectic mix of instruments it is today. “It happened very organically,” Joe explains, “We didn’t really do anything to make it happen.” Members continued to join, found through friends and at gigs, until the current line-up, including Mike Costaney on bass and drums, Jenn Fantaccione on cello, Dan Melius on trumpet, Nick Cucci on djembe, and Desiree Hartman on vocals and mandolin, finally meshed. The band grew throughout the recording of Nautical Sabbatical, helping mold the sound of the album into the alt-country behemoth it became.

The band sounds like early Ryan Adams - think Demolition with an edge – but Joe’s never heard of him. He claims groups like Modest Mouse and Teegan and Sara as main influences, while other member in the band listen to everything from The Mars Volta to The Roots. The myriad of influences lends itself to a distinct sound, but Joe still wrestles with the idea of creating an entirely unique sound.

“I keep hearing how different this record is, and I don’t really know about that. I mean, I feel that we are doing something different, but I mean. This record, there’s stuff like this,” Joe says. “I feel like if there’s something different you want to listen to you need to check out stuff like Wood Goold, and you need to listen to Paper Ashtrays.” He points to the mindset of today’s listeners as being unfriendly to experimental music.

“Fast food isn’t limited to food these days. We don’t want to take the time to listen to a record that’s complicated and going to take some time to digest and enjoy it. We just want something that’s put together snappy in 2 and a half minutes. And the truth is, [Wood Goold’s] music you have to sit down and you have to listen to it to understand it. And it still grows on me to this day, and that’s real music. And that’s what music should be doing. And I think fewer and fewer people are doing that because people just want things handed to them, in a box, for, you know, as I said a dollar.”

Joe is looking for a way to break into this unfriendly musical environment. “I put these songs on the record because I feel they are the marketable ones,” he explains. “That’s not to say that I have sold out, that does not mean that I wrote these songs to get the attention of anybody, because I wrote these songs because I felt them.”

When asked if he’s just trying to justify selling out by pandering to his listeners, Joe defends his viewpoint. “By putting the songs that my listeners enjoy more than I on my record? …I sat down and wrote these with just as much heart as the songs that I enjoy, and that does not make them better or worse.” He points to successful bands that made the same leap.

“I think Radiohead is a really smart band in that they put out their marketable songs first…and then, when he had the time and the money to be spent on doing something more complicated, he did,” Joe says, drawing a comparison between himself and the British band. “And I feel that I am, you know, that’s what I’m doing. And if the record takes off then I will have the money to do something a little more experimental and sort of test the waters with the crowd.”

Until then Joe and the rest of River City Extension will continue writing alt-country masterpieces. The band is Joe and drummer Mike’s full-time job right now, they pump creativity into the band 24/7, whether they’re writing or networking or setting up rehearsals. “I don’t really have any hobbies,” Joe laments, and then he brightens a little. “River City Extension is my hobby. I never realized a band could be so time consuming.”

Nautical Sabbatical will be available on iTunes and other online retailers within the next month. The album can also be purchased at the bands shows. For more information check out myspace.com/rivercityextension. - Rudy The Elephant (Music Blog)

"Live From Bandsonabudget.com: River City Extension"

Amongst the current sea of bands that make up the ever-bustling NJ music scene, few stand out quite like River City Extension. Perhaps it's the fact that their range of influences spans across genres and ties together sounds inspired outside of their immediate demographic. Whatever the reason, their unique upbeat folk/rock sound adds a refreshing twist to the music scene and is sure to grab any first time listener's attention.

Along with cellist Jennifer Fantaccione and bassist Michael Costaney Frontman, frontman Joe Michelini started River City Extension in August of 2007. Soon after, some additions and rearrangements were made, to perfectly construct this unique musical ensemble. This included the additions of Nick Cucci, and trumpet player Dan Melius, while Mike Costaney took on a new roll as drummer. To add new musical elements, Matt Goold recently joined in on banjo and mandolin, along with Matt Lonnergan on bass. If you've seen this band live, you can see how naturally these members perfectly contribute their piece of the puzzle.

The 2009 release of their EP, entitled NauticalSabbatical, exhibits exactly what the band is about: creating something unique, and incredibly musically pleasing. The title track off the EP drags you in with its intense intro and takes you on an incredible musical journey.

The next track on the EP, "Clever and Quickness", is my personal favorite. Right off the bat, the upbeat song makes you want to get up and dance. The diverse usage of instruments and vocals makes this track incredibly fun to listen to.

River City Extension slows it down a bit with the song "It's No Ha-ha-ha". With its harmonica hooks and strong lyrics, this song demands multiple listens; after you hear it once, you won't want it to be over.

NauticalSabbatical does a good job establishing the fun, upbeat style that River City Extension is all about. Music fans will, without a doubt, be hearing more from this group for time to come. - Bandsonabudget.com

"River City Extension"

If it is Christopher Hitchens who originally slipped the God Is Not Great theory into our collective brains through text then it is River City Extension’s singer/songwriter Joe Michelini who provides the soundtrack for our ears. On Nautical Sabbatical, River City Extension’s first studio produced EP, Michelini and friends combine a smorgasbord of horns, strings, quick drum beats and infectious harmonies that will have you bouncing around all day questioning your religious upbringing, head bop by subsequent head bop. The band’s lineup is deep with Michelini (lead vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica), Jenn Fantaccione (cello), Mike Costaney (drums, bass), Nick Cucci (vocals, djembe, percussion), Desiree Hartman (vocals) and Dan Melius (trumpet) each playing their roles well enough to create a truly unique sound that comes through cleanly thanks to solid production from start to finish.

After a brief intro, the first song on the EP is the title track for the record and brings you right into the folk-infused bluegrass rock world that Michelini has created with the help of his talented mates. If at first you’re uncertain about how you feel about “Nautical Sabbatical,” your doubts are erased as soon as the chorus comes in, along with a rambunctious trumpet and string arrangement. By the second time around, you’ll catch yourself singing “Oh God, oh dear” and tapping your feet to the beat.

“Clever And Quickness” is arguably the EP’s catchiest tune. The track begins with a heartbeat-like drum intro and banjo twang that flows into energetic vocals backed by a buffet of instruments which compliments Michelini’s raw crooning impeccably. River City Extension moves effortlessly in and out of choruses and the band’s rhythmic changes make every song arrangement diverse and enjoyable when you look at them individually or judge the whole body of work.

“I Thought About This In March” is a journey into Michelini’s take on love and how to get over things pertaining to past romances. “It’s No Ha-Ha-Ha” is a meticulously folky lyrical jaunt about reality and perceived stereotypes backed by a catchy harmonica driven melody line. “Waiting On A Fix” is the most religiously-themed song on the record and is also one of the album’s stronger points lyrically. (Think: Modest Mouse circa We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, only unplugged and more passionate.)

The final cut on Nautical Sabbatical is my personal favorite of the EP, “Elephant.” Simply put, “Elephant” is a masterful mix of piano, trumpet, cello, and a harmony that will be in your head for days and days. If this song doesn’t impact you then you haven’t a musical soul.

Nautical Sabbatical is a great start for a band with a lot of promise. The songs are well written, catchy and most importantly, versatile enough to keep you interested on what you’ll hear next. After hearing this EP, River City Extension should gain a legitimate following; they are certainly on that level talent-wise. - Revolt-Mag

"So let’s roll ourselves into Saturday March 28th!"

Following was the band River City Extension, these kids are one of the most interesting and unique bands NJ could ask for. Imagine if Arcade Fire, Avett Brothers, and Modest Mouse started a band, and delivered it the way a GOGOL BORDELLO or MAN MAN show is presented. They deliver strong showmanship, while their rabid audience yelled each lyric, and danced to their resounding beats and rhythms. These guys had the energy of a classic punk rock band, yet polished and sophisticated. - ShoreAlternative.com

"River City Extension returns with "Sabbatical""

Road weary and run beyond its years, indie rock's onetime dark horse is finally down for its dirt nap.

The dead weight of the alt-country subgenre is boxed and buried — and Joe Michelini and his band River City Extension are leaning on the shovels.

With the Ocean County-based band's latest release, "Nautical Sabbatical," frontman Michelini and his cohorts drop a shot of mescaline into the neo-folk/Americana soup, elevating the genre ever closer to a sound that transcends designation.

"It's been said that as a musician, all you need to do in order to secure an audience is to fill a void," Michelini said. "I've been mulling that over for a while, and I've realized that it's true. If there is a need for music or a need for change, it doesn't really matter what you're doing. You're going to fill that void, and people are going to accept you for it.

"But I think that's sort of the cheater's way out. I think around here, for us to be able to say we accomplished something, it's when we can say we've created a void. It's when we're giving listeners something they didn't know they needed and find themselves needing after they listen. I think just filling a void is no accomplishment; it's just a matter of being at the right place at the right time."

If Conor Oberst were struck by lightning and then eaten alive by the Electric Six, the post-meal bacchanal would sound something like River City's "Nautical."

At seven songs, the album is an M-80 of agnostic spaz-folk epitomized by its title track, a hyperkinetic, four-minute crescendo that powers the album to life with a thrashing kick to the face.

"We had to bring in some people to do some stuff on the record; obviously that's going to translate differently live, having different instruments, playing parts that were available in the studio but weren't available to the band full time," Michelini said. "We make an effort to bring in as many people as possible in order to keep things fresh and interesting for the listener."

Performers on the album include Dan Melius on trumpet and mellophone, Nick Cucci on vocals and djembe, Mike Costaney on bass, drums and percussion, Jenn Fantaccione on cello, Michelini on guitar, vocals, mandolin and banjo, Desiree Hartman on vocals, and Matt Goold on mandolin and banjo. For its live shows, the band recruits a rotating lineup of backup performers that has included bassist Matt Lonergan (George Washington's Revenge) and guitarist Matt Goold (Wood Goold).

"Biff Swenson did some live percussion at the record release show, but both those guys (Swenson and Goold) are already in a band, a good band," Michelini said. "Biff's in two bands. I'm not going to hold them down, you know? We jam when we can and that's that. It's love all around."

Members agree that their divergent backgrounds and musical tastes often result in creative collisions that only benefit the band during the writing process.

"What we work with aren't so much ideas but themes," Costaney said. "We always try to leave room for collaboration and experimentation."

"Mike, as well as the other members, have been able to make this interesting in ways that I didn't even imagine," adds Michelini, who views himself as a writer and lyricist first and musician second. "I have stories to tell. I have things that I want to say, but the whole band has allowed me to say what I want to say, and throw ideas back at me that I wasn't expecting to be comfortable with. If you listen to anything I did by myself before this, it's just bland. Lyrically, it tells a story, but what's another guy with a guitar telling a story?"
- Asbury Park Press


2009 - NauticalSabbatical (EP)
Track list:
1- Introduction
2- NauticalSabbatical
3- Clever & Quickness
4- (I Had Thought About This In) March
5- It's No Ha-ha-ha
6- Waitin' On A Fix
7- Elephant



River City Extension is dockgrass. What is dockgrass? It's when singer/songwriter Joe Michelini, cellist Jenn Fantaccione, drummer/bassist Michael Costaney, vocalist Desiree Hartman, percussionist Nick Cucci, and trumpet player Dan Melius get together to start a project that is going to rebel against music without feeling or, "fake modern art".

Started August of '07 in Toms River, NJ, the band has gone through many members and many changes to finally arrive at the bluegrass/folk-rock/punk-rock and some other rocks type of sound they are today, which is often compared to bands like The Avett Brothers, and The Pogues. With already many small accomplishments under their belt, these core members plus a few friends hope to take music a place it has never gone before, with instrumentation and arrangements sewn together with the thread of musical diversity to form a complex quilt of genres, emotions, and an ultimately penetrating live show. River City Extension believes in the human spirit and the power to overcome anything with grace, art, precision, and of course a bottle or two of New Jersey's finest.

They have just self-released their first record NauticalSabbatical, and are playing shows all across the east-coast, in hopes of getting funding for a larger midwestern tour this summer.

-Stage plot is available upon request. Please contact rivercityextension@gmail.com