Talisman the band
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Talisman the band

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Band Pop Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Picking up the beat for Talisman"

By William Kenny
Times Staff Writer

In 1984, Don Henley sang the lyrics, "Don’t look back. You can never look back," on his Grammy-winning solo hit The Boys of Summer. He must have been lying, or at least severely mistaken.

A band of Philadelphia area rock-and-rollers, led by a Northeast lady perhaps known best to Times readers as a community activist and the local queen of recycling, is proving that even musicians can in fact rekindle long-dormant collaborations with spectacular results.

Members of Talisman the Band first joined forces in the mid-1990s (around the same time Henley’s Eagles reunited for their Hell Freezes Over tour) to arrange and record a collection of songs written by front woman and Upper Holmesburg resident Crystal "C" Eiswert for her acoustic guitar. But after a couple of years of touring the local bar circuit and with just two recorded tracks in the can, individual obligations like families and careers intervened to short-circuit the band.

Now, just over a decade later, the four original members — Eiswert, Michael DeAngelis, Jim Nichols and Steven Jay — have finally gotten around to finishing the project. They’ve added seven new recordings to those first two and this fall released their debut CD, The Wicked World’s Come of Age.

The music showcases Eiswert’s deep vocal range and contemplative lyrics, along with Nichols’ eclectic and polished guitar melodies and solos, driven by the steady rhythms of DeAngelis on drums and Jay on bass guitar. On several of the songs, Eiswert adds some acoustic guitar, keeping much of their original spirit alive.

Ironically, band members feel that the songs may appeal to a wider audience now than they did the first time around because of the renewed popularity of adult-oriented rock.
"I think Crystal’s songwriting is something that has come around," said Nichols. "With the advent of WXPN (88.5-FM) and the adult-alternative scene, it’s come back around. In 2008, more people are tuning in to the style." "I always felt in the back of my mind that these good songs shouldn’t go to waste," agreed DeAngelis, a Perkasie resident. More than any other bandmate, the drummer can take credit for getting the group going in the first place. He and Eiswert met as co-workers in 1991 and learned of their common interest in music.
"I had been writing songs since I was real young and never did anything with them," Eiswert said. "I never thought about trying to hook up with other musicians." "I was playing drums and Crystal was playing guitar," DeAngelis said. "We just started strumming and it started clicking."

They spent about a year performing as "C: The Duo" in smallish night spots, cafés, bookstores and other modest venues. They recorded a cassette tape and called it Shades of Gray. Eiswert’s words touched upon a spectrum of familiar singer-songwriter subjects like relationships, family, and loss of innocence, but with a unique tone. Meanwhile, both performers recognized a much greater potential in the music.

"There’s only so much you can do with drums and an acoustic guitar," DeAngelis said. The duo decided to expand. Nichols, who had experienced earlier success with a prominent Philly-area cover band, was first to respond to their classified ad seeking a lead guitarist. Jay followed soon after, also in response to an ad. "I just wanted to add some needed texture to the music," DeAngelis said. "Jim had the most profound effect on the sound by his guitar-playing. He has a very melodic style."

"I think the sound grew organically," said Nichols, a Quakertown resident. "They had this sound and I was able to come in and add additional atmosphere."Jay, a Blue Bell resident, found that Eiswert’s songs afforded the group flexibility in their interpretations. "Especially on bass," he said. "You can play them simply or complex. They offer a lot of versatility."

Managing their collective musical aspirations within their individual obligations proved too much an obstacle at the time, however. One member was starting a family, while others had their own families and day jobs to consider. "We didn’t have a plan. We just enjoyed playing our music," DeAngelis said.

The difficulty they found in getting an LP-length recording together in that first go-round was another unwelcome surprise. Progress was slow. "Getting two songs down took almost as much effort as getting this whole (new) CD done," Eiswert said.

Jay was first to leave the group. The remaining three members interviewed some potential replacements, but none fit the bill.
"Then the three of us just decided to take a break," Eiswert said.

In the interim, Eiswert helped create the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association in her neighborhood and dedicated herself to recycling advocacy. She was featured in the Nov. 10, 2005 edition of the Times for her near-obsessive efforts to reduce non-recyclable waste in her home. She proudly notes that the packaging for the band’s new CD is ultra-green. It was made from recycled drink containers and paperboard. Unfortunately, they have been unable to convince distributors to inventory the discs without the environmentally unfriendly cellophane shrink-wrap.

Eiswert and DeAngelis continued working together, while she and Nichols’ wife Norma remained in touch. Nichols and DeAngelis remained active musically in cover bands, while Eiswert and Jay stopped playing altogether, though they also stayed in touch via e-mail.

In late 2006, Jay happened to attend a benefit show by DeAngelis’ band. Around the same time, DeAngelis, Eiswert and Nichols began discussing a reunion of sorts. The idea was to remix their two earlier recordings — Comfortable Love and Burning Bridges. "We remixed these songs, and I threw it out to everybody. There was interest there," DeAngelis said. "I wanted to go through the process and have something down to show for it," Jay said.

The remix occurred in October 2006, followed by rehearsals early the following year. That summer they began working with engineer and co-producer Pete Davis at Signal Sound Studios in Quakertown. About a year later, they had seven more songs for the album.

While the process brought a tidal wave of memories flooding back, members agree that the final product now is not what it might have been a decade ago. "For me, I think my musical tastes have changed," Nichols said.
"In terms of my technique, that has evolved," Jay said.

The project has re-energized their creativity on multiple levels. Eiswert is back writing songs again.
"I want to be a songwriter. My dream would be to have a nice minor hit that somebody famous would like to record and take around the country, then to have them come back for more," she said.

"As players, I look forward to us breaking some new ground," DeAngelis said. "Adding complexity to the music has been a bonus for us lately."

Talisman the Band will perform at John and Peter’s, 96 S. Main St., New Hope, on Saturday, Nov. 22, from 3 to 6 p.m. Call 215-862-5981 for information. For information about the band, visit myspace.com/talismanthebandusa
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or bkenny@phillynews.com - The Northeast Times

"Talisman finds a freshness in its songs"


She blames it on her Central Pennsylvania upbringing.

Though the music of Talisman boasts a definite classic rock bent, founder Crystal “C” Eiswert — the band’s lone female and lyricist — can’t take credit for it.”

One of the ongoing jokes in the band is that the guys will break into classic rock song that everybody knows and I’m standing there and they’re mystified that I’ve never heard the song, but I’m, like, ‘I’m from Central Pa. We had Top 40 pop and country radio,’ ” says Eiswert, who grew up in Selinsgrove, Snyder County, but now calls Philadelphia home. “I come from The Archies (the fictional bubblegum pop band from the late 1960s cartoon ‘The Archie Show’) and ’70s music and ’80smusic and real pop.”

Those influences are present, too, in what she refers to as the band’s “pop-flavored original rock,” though that palette is just as likely to bear shades of jazz and blues with Eiswert’s rich, dusky alto infusing a dark emotion into her lyrics. But like the band itself, the music has been constantly evolving.

Talisman, which performs tonight at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia, grew out of a duo that Eiswert formed with drummer Mike DeAngelis when she first moved to Philadelphia in 1994.Calling themselves “C,” they changed their name to Talisman after adding guitarist Jim Nichols and bassist Steven Jay. But despite a rising momentum with frequent gigs in the Philadelphia area and a growing fan base, the band decided to take a break, its members individually pulled to family commitments, full-time jobs and other independent music projects.

Eventually, they would reunite, an impromptu decision to remix two previously recorded songs inspiring them to record several more, with the end result being a CD, “The Wicked World’s Come of Age,” released in 2008. But while that album found Eiswert offering up a brooding collection of songs steeped in heartbreak and despondent life reflections, these days, she’s just as likely to write about the underbelly of a world populated by hookers and drug dealers as she is the throes of infatuation.

Talisman boasts a new lineup, too. She and Nichols, whom she has been collaborating with in her songwriting, are the only members from the original band. Last summer, in a realignment, DeAngelis and Jay were amicably replaced by drummer Dan McCoach of Kutztown and bassist Mike “Kurm” Kurman of Doylestown.

The new lineup is working on a CD, “Caffeine and Lust,” slated for release this spring.” I was a lot younger at the juncture when the songs were written for ‘The Wicked World’s Come of Age.’ These new songs are a lot less ‘woe is me,’ and they’re much stronger than those songs because they are true (collaborative) songs,” says Eiswert. “The joy of having the duality of the songwriting is that Jim adds a lot more complexity to the songs and I keep things more rooted in pop. There’s still a drive to have hooks and very memorable melodies going on yet it’s not what you’d expect.”

For Eiswert, the youngest of six children in a musical family where everyone either sang or played an instrument (or did both), songwriting has always come naturally. She wrote her first song at age 9, adjust a few years later, was writing about subjects as complicated as the Iran hostage crisis.

While she would eventually be inspired by the Indigo Girls and Irish singer-songwriter Chris de Burgh, her formative musical memory involves a swift and heady appreciation for the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” “That’s the first music I really remember listening to,” says Eiswert, who admits to being able to recite the album verbatim. “There are so many hooks to that music that would stick in my mind. I tend to be someone who, when I have an interest in something, it just rolls around in my head for extended periods of time, and I listen to it over and over again until I finally get it out of my system, but ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ never got out of my system. I still watch the movie at least once a year and listen to the music frequently.”

It was the Indigo Girls, however, that turned the longtime piano player into a self-taught guitarist. “I was watching VH1 in college and the Indigo Girls video for ‘Closer to Fine’ came on. Here were two in-your-face chicks rocking out with acoustic guitars and I thought, ‘I want to do that,’ ”says Eiswert.

While she’s excited to see where the latest incarnation of Talisman will lead, she’d also be content as a professional songwriter.

“I’m not taking it for granted, but songwriting is so easy — I get the first line for a song and usually the whole thing comes out. It’s like breathing,” says Eiswert. “Performing is great and I have a blast at it and we have great chemistry going on, but my real dream would be to have someone hear my stuff and go, ‘I want to record that.’ ”


2010 Caffeine & Lust (EP) - Spring 2010
2009 Auld Lang Syne (Single)
2008 The Wicked World's Come of Age (9 song CD)
1996 Two Songs

Full songs can be heard on:
MYSPACE - http://myspace.com/talismanthebandusa
FACEBOOK - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Talisman-the-band/52478276264

TWITTER - http://twitter.com/talismantheband
REVERBNATION - http://www.reverbnation.com/talismantheband
OFFICIAL SITE - http://www.talismantheband.com



Lennox & Stewart (Eurythmics). Ray & Saliers (Indigo Girls). Lennon & McCartney.

All legendary songwriting teams.

What is it about these musical pairings that result in some of the most memorable lyrics and melodies of all time?

It’s an innate ability to match a great voice with original musical arrangements, and to create relatable verse that strikes a chord in everyone -- no matter their lot in life.

Eiswert and Nichols – as in Crystal Eiswert and Jim Nichols of Talisman (the band) -- are another songwriting team that was simply meant to be … a musical match that creates stick-in-your head verse that you’ll find yourself humming for days.

Singer/songwriter and acoustic guitarist Eiswert and lead guitarist Nichols first teamed up in 1996, mixing poignant and relatable lyrics, a solid beat, and great melodies together to create a great rock sound -- building a loyal fan base. After several fun years, life got in the way and the first incarnation of Talisman (the band) decided to take a break that turned into an 11-year stretch.

But even time can’t stop certain forces from occurring. Some things are just meant to happen, no matter what life throws your way. Creative teams can’t deny the energy that comes from their pairing.

So, frontwoman Eiswert continued writing and performing acoustic solo work and collaborated with
Nichols on a project called “Kitsch” -- a creative revisiting of some of pop music’s most forgotten songs (remember Thunder Island by Jay Ferguson and Shannon by Henry Gross?).

Fast forward to late 2006, when three of Taliman’s original members got together to remix their then signature songs “Burning Bridges” and “Comfortable Love.” This simple remix project lead to a complete reunification of the original line-up, and resulted in their long-awaited, full-length CD, "The Wicked World's Come of Age."

Songs like “Daddy’s Girl” and “Shadows” are catchy instant classics that join the already memorable tracks “Burning Bridges” and “Comfortable Love” – and have received airplay on Internet radio station SRRocks.com and Terrestrial radio station WSTW 93.7FM. A Talisman interpretation of the holiday classic, "Auld Lang Syne," also has received radio airplay.

The creative backbone of Eiswert and Nichols now boasts a new lineup of revolving local talent, including drummers Dan McCoach and Craig Smith, and bassists Mike "Kurm" Kurman and Mike Miller.

You can find Talisman the Band captivating crowds in such venerable Philadelphia-area music venues as Tin Angel, Jon & Peters, Puck Live, Dawson Street Pub, and Canal Street Pub.

The new lineup is putting the final touches on a CD, "Caffeine and Lust," slated for release this spring – featuring live tracks recorded at Tin Angel.