The Great Apes
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The Great Apes

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Pop Funk

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n the back of their minds, Joe Trombino ’08, and Dominick Magnotta ’08, kept the thought of starting a major project with a clear objective and a clear sound.

They said it took them six years, but with an electric blend of funk soul and disco rock, The Great Apes — the band they formed last year — has experienced a recent momentum run.

On March 5, The Great Apes was selected as one of five Queens finalists out of a field that was whittled down to 11 contestants in the third annual “Battle of the Boroughs,” a citywide talent competition produced by New York Public Radio.


The Great Apes: A-Game (Alison Leyton Brown), J-Skull (Joe Scatassa), D (Dom Magnotta) , J-Trom (Joe Trombino) and Z (Zach Abramson). Artwork courtesy Joe Trombino
More than 400 acts from all five boroughs answered the radio giant’s call for submissions from September through December, according to Rosalin Luetum, a spokesperson for NYPR.

“If there is one thing that every New York musician wants and needs, is publicity and whenever there’s a competition that doesn’t charge you to submit your music then everyone and their mother is going to try and go,” Trombino said.

From that pool, 55 semifinalists — 11 from each borough — were chosen. Each borough’s representatives fight it out over the course of one night when the audience, as well as online viewers — streaming the shows live — and people tuning in via their mobile phones, can vote for their favorite.

The Queens winner, to be announced on March 19, will have to wait until June 29 to compete with the winners from other boroughs.

The prize is a headlining show at the Greene Space, a multimedia performance venue in Manhattan, as well as a free recording session in one of NYPR’s studios.

The Great Apes are joined by Shelly Bhushan, Cate Song, Sinner Man and SWEET Fix as finalists in the competition. But before they triumphed, they were presented with the challenge of kicking off the live round, where they were judged on the performance of one song.

“We knew that going first, we had to really come out and just wow them and hit them with an energy that they wouldn’t forget by the end of the night,” Trombino said. “I’m happy to say that we succeeded in that. That’s kind of our forte.”

Donning war paint and sleeveless shirts, the band rocked the crowd with their lead single, “Bones,” which is also one of Trombino’s favorites.

“It gets people moving. With this song, the rhythm is undeniable and it’s very easy to get,” the Astoria resident said. “The lyrical content is also very positive. It basically states that no matter who you are, what you look like or what your style is, we all have bones. We all are human and we all have the capability to get funky, get crazy and have a hell of a good time.”


The Great Apes, a band formed by two QC alumni, was selected to play in NYPR's Battle of the Boroughs and is hopeful to represent Queens as a finalist. Photo courtesy Joe Trombino
The lead singer energized the crowd with his dance moves and cites James Brown as one of his major influences.

“I pride myself on getting a full-body workout by the end of the show,” he said.

The band’s name came to be because the group believes that the main component of music “is the primal urge in people to sweat, to move their bodies and respond to rhythm.”

“We realize that it’s such an instinctive and primal response, so it’s very ape-like and we are very into the evolution of life so it fit well. It’s kind of like tying us back to our roots,” Trombino said.

During their days at Queens College, Trombino and Magnotta, although they always had a love for music, struggled to find their calling. They both bounced around in different departments and interests, including English and dance, before settling in with the theatre department.

“We were both musicians before we were actors actually and the theatre department was a place where we both found our niche,” said Magnotta, the band’s drummer. “At Queens College, since it’s a commuter college, it can be tricky to find your thing and find where you fit in and what you are inspired to study.”

After graduation, the duo dropped their acting careers and reverted back to their first passion.

“Music was always our strong point and [it] was the thing that I would walk in the rain and pass out flyers for. I wouldn’t do that for a play,” Trombino said.

Their passion lead them to form The Great Apes with three other members and although the band’s sound is a mixture of multiple genres, Trombino believes it will work to their advantage once all the votes are tallied on March 19.

“What we’re trying to do is have a familiar sound in there, but put our own spin on it,” he said. - The Knight News


Definitely among the best on Friday was the top-five pick the Great Apes, who were first up with their song “Bones.”
The band genuinely energized the crowd with the catchy funk-rock song, while lead singer and East Elmhurst native Joe Trombino impressed with his dance moves, giving shout-outs to Queens (“Astoria, Whitestone, East Elmhurst, Jamaica, Forest Hills, Ridgewood — it’s all good!”). In the immediate post-show interview with MC Terrance McKnight, of WQXR, Trombino cited Prince, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Jamiroquai as major influences. - The Queens Chronicle


Discography

Damn Dirty (EP 2012)
Dancefloor Democracy (single release 2012)

Photos

Bio

On the heels of their recent 'Damn Dirty' Live EP release, self-proclaimed 'funk-blast warriors' The Great Apes continue to solidify their place in NYC as a beacon for all inter-borough hip shakers. In June they were awarded the ‘Audience Choice’ award at WNYC’s 2012 Battle of the Boroughs after delivering a fierce performance repping Queens County.

Throughout the year the band’s live show remains a tremendous strength in their repertoire. The combination of J.Trom's soul-man howl with the group’s electro-funk force consistently electrifies fans. “Obviously, your music has an emotional impact,” declared radio host Terrance McKnight to a roaring crowd at the band’s WNYC appearance. That emotional impact comes in large part from The Great Apes’ ability to marry the soul of the past to the raging pulse of today, sending their vibrations far off into the future.

In October 2012, The Great Apes released their first studio single ‘Dancefloor Democracy, which takes the band’s Beastie Boys no-holds-barred approach and dials it in with David Byrne-sian precision. With the release of an accompanying music video, the group plans to deliver gift baskets of sweaty dance wonders through 2013.