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A Staten Island Band Strives to Make a Career out of Their Passion

As the next band made their way through the crowd of the large, overly packed venue, eager and excited fans shoved their way towards the stage, displaying their anticipation for the next performance. “We are Curious Volume,” said the lead singer as he began to strum his guitar. In a rage of excitement fans jumped, screamed, and moshed pushing and slamming into each other expressing their enjoyment.

Bassist John Trotta (right) and lead singer Andrew Paladino (left) performing to their fans

A ska/punk band from Staten Island, Curious Volume has performed their way through break-ups, fights, and the arduous task of growing up. Their ability to turn personal experiences and struggles into upbeat songs makes them a popular Staten Island based band.

Forming in 2004, it wasn’t until a year later when lead singer/guitarist Andrew “dNo” Paladino, bassist John Trotta, and drummer Cole Rice decided to seriously devote themselves to Curious Volume.

“We were young kids,” said John Trotta. “We were feeling ourselves out and seeing what we wanted.”

Throughout high school, the Blink-182 inspired band performed weekly in their hometown of Staten Island, playing at popular venues such as Dock Street and L’Amour. Through their energetic and enticing personalities on stage, catchy songs, and ability to interact with their crowd through shout outs and crowd surfing, a passionate and dedicated fan base developed.

In January 2010, Curious Volume released their first full-length album, “Mumbles and Whispers.”

Singer Andrew "dNo" Paladino

“We had eight songs that were written by dNo without the plans to develop into a concept album,” said Trotta. “A few things were added here or there to the songs without any intention to turn it into a concept album, it just naturally happened that way.”

To promote their self-produced album, Curious Volume teamed up with owner of Backslash Bomb Productions and good friend Kevin Rogers to make their first music video, “About Anything.”

According to the Staten Island Advance, “For those of us old enough to remember the unabashed goofiness and fun of this music in the 1990s, it’s a throwback; an amusing story line celebrating the punk ethic of total apathy.”

Weeks later Curious Volume came out with a second music video produced by Rogers entitled, “Any Other Night.” The meaningful video has a “never take your life for granted theme,” as dNo goes through the five stages of grieving to ultimately answer the question, “If I were to die tomorrow, would I be content with my life?”

Through promotion by playing countless shows, “Mumbles and Whispers” received between 1300-1400 downloads.

In January of 2011, the band faced their most difficult dilemma yet, when drummer Cole Rice decided to leave the band.

“We were initially on the same page but when you go to school you become a different person,” said Trotta. “He just wasn’t the same person he was when we started the band and it just wasn’t right for him anymore.”

Curious Volume preparing for their performance

Quickly after Rice’s departure from Curious Volume, long time friend Zack Sandel took his place on the drums. After years of being a trio, dNo and Trotta decided to add a fourth member to the band, on keyboard.

“We always wanted to have the band a three piece, but when Brian Buchanan started playing with us we knew he was an excellent musician in other areas as well so we went against what we said and had him join the band,” said Trotta.

Finished with their second year of College, Curious Volume plans to spend their summer making new music, performing shows, and trying to get their name out there even more.

“I can tell you our band is 100% first in all of our lives and that is the most important thing that we do for ourselves. We are absolutely trying to make a career out of it,” said Trotta.

Curious Volume is in the process of getting an acoustic EP out, containing three songs from “Mumbles and Whispers.” They are also planning to come out with a seven-inch vinyl. DNo is currently in the process of writing their second album, which will involve lyrics depicting heartbreak, decisions, and leaving their immaturity behind to enter the real world.

“They always come out with new music that gets the crowd going. I really do think that they are going to make it big,” said long time fan Theresa Bessler.

Curious Volume is currently planning a 3-4 week tour this summer, visiting the North East, East Coast, South, and Midwest in continuation of promoting “Mumbles and Whispers.”

“I have always said and I always will, we will do whatever we can to be the best band we can be, to have our music heard by the most ears, and to stay as true as possible to our original feel for music,” said Trotta.


Posted in Music | 4 Comments

Just as Fun as Jumping into a Great Big Pile of Leaves

Awkwardly standing near the stage of the Highline Ballroom with about ten other onlookers scattered around the spacious and dim lit room, I noticed a sudden change in the venue’s atmosphere as the next band made their way towards the stage. The air was now filled with liveliness, as passionate and anxious fans began to crowd into the previously empty room, pushing me closer towards the stage.

A Great Big Pile of Leaves, the three-member indie rock band, possessed exceptional stage presence throughout their live performance.

Gradually working their way into their first song of the evening, A Great Big Pile of Leaves played a flawless two minute long introduction, reminiscent of introductions given by the legendary band, Pink Floyd.

Singer/Guitarist Pete Weiland Performing at the Highline Ballroom

Once lead singer and guitarist Pete Weiland began to sing the show took off, as the supportive and energetic crowd cheered, danced, and banged their hands to the beat against the stage.

Although some songs were repetitive at times, A Great Big Pile of Leaves did everything but bore their crowd. Their most catchy and enticing song, Alligator Bop, is composed of lyrics such as, “We’d drive around for hours with no direction and no goal except to act stupid, and intertwine ourselves into situations to laugh about.” Weiland passionately yet softly sings while innovatively taking simple words and construing them to the beat, repeating certain vowels to give the word a stuttering effect. Weiland’s improper pronunciation at times leads to original sounding lyrics, as the singer manages to stay in tune.

With the electrifying sounds of the guitar, drums and bass bouncing off the walls and causing a rush of adrenaline throughout the audience, the band was applauded for the various techniques used to enhance the sound and quality of their music. Weiland used a technique called finger tapping while playing his guitar, a technique typical in more rock-oriented genres, which was used well during the performance.

“When I heard them I had a very entranced feeling,” said Brooklyn resident Antonio Rosa who attended the show. “The way they organized their music was very atypical which drew my attention greatly.”

Bassist Tucker Yaro Performing at the Highline Ballroom

A Great Big Pile of Leaves, the unique name founded by Weiland, began in 2007 when Weiland and drummer, Tyler Soucy, decided to write material and form their own band, as bassist Tucker Yaro joined later on. Their first full-length record, “Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex?” was released the summer of 2010.

Although the band is currently unsigned, they are now on tour, opening for The Appleseed Cast. They will be back on the road again this fall, touring with Motion City Soundtrack, Say Anything, and Saves the Day.

A Great Big Pile of Leaves has great big journey ahead of them.



Posted in music reviews | 4 Comments

Why Lip-sync? Just Sing!

With clever studio tricks such as auto-tune and lip-syncing, a singer is able to mimic the proper noted and perfectly pitched track as he or she is performing on stage. These tricks many artists and studios consider as “ingenious,” deceives audiences as they question their favorite artist’s singing potential.

It is understandable for artists (mainly pop artists) to allow their entire CD to go through the auto-tuning process, especially when trying to succeed in this competitive field. However, when artists think they can trick their fans when singing live by lip-syncing to their auto-tuned track, this is when it becomes inexcusable.

Britney Spears lip-syncing to her fans at the Prudential Center

I was deeply disappointed when I attended a Britney Spears concert in March 2009 to find out that I had paid $137 to hear her “Circus” album blasting through the speakers. If I wanted to see her lip-sync her entire auto-tuned album, I would have watched her performance on television, I didn’t need to pay $137 to see her in person.

The same goes for other artists such as Ashlee Simpson and Lindsay Lohan (before drugs and jail) who lip-synced to their tracks while singing live, causing controversy among fans and the media.

Why is it so hard for artists to actually get up on stage and sing without their soundtrack playing in the background? If this is so essential to their performance then they clearly can’t sing and shouldn’t be on stage at all.

Angels and Airwaves lead singer Tom Delonge singing a single from their album "Love" at the Bamboozle Festival.

Last year I attended The Bamboozle Festival where I watched over 20 bands and artists actually sing their songs. Sure, they weren’t exactly in tune half the time and they failed to perfect their pitch at moments, but who cares? Their singing was raw and real, it wasn’t some robotic sounding track.

It was at Bamboozle when I sung, at times screamed, along with the energetic crowd when I realized this is what real, live music is. It doesn’t have to be 100 percent perfect or flawless, it just needs to sound authentic and genuine.

Posted in Music Rant/ love song | 16 Comments

“Pearl” does not Shine

Does the sound of nails scratching on a chalkboard, or the screeching of a subway train cause you to uncontrollably cringe? Well if so, avoid Tamar Kali’s “Pearl.” The obnoxious beat loudly covers the singer’s voice, as the only lyrics you could hear through her singing are mumbled. Did I say singing? Sorry, I meant screaming. Tamar screams the high notes of the song so badly, not even auto tune can make it sound good.

Posted in Independent Film | Comments Off on “Pearl” does not Shine

Radiohead Fails to Reach its Viewers

Radiohead’s single “Lotus Flower” off of their most recent album “King of Limbs” is a mellow, soft sounding track with a catchy beat that leaves viewers humming the tune for hours. Unfortunately, the presentation and dragged out introduction leaves audiences confused and bored, as Lotus Flower is unable to get the recognition it deserves.

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Italy is Now Only a Car Ride Away

The original Puglia, 189 Hester Street New York, NY

With the aroma of sweet tomato sauce, fresh Parmesan cheese and garden grown parsley filling the air, and the soothing tones of Umberto Tozzi and Andrea Bocelli playing from the speakers above, Puglia distinguishes itself from other Italian restaurants in New York City by making customers feel as if they are dining in Puglia, Italy.

This establishment of 92 years is located in the midst of Little Italy on Hester Street. The owner Benjamin Mancuso and his two sons Anthony and Michael decided to share the authenticity of Puglia with the residents of Staten Island by opening Puglia of Hester Street in September 2009.

According to, Gregorio Garofalo came to America from Puglia, Italy in 1919 in hopes of achieving the American Dream. In that same year, Garofalo took his passion for cooking and talent of creating delectable homemade wine and opened Puglia, making his dream a reality.

After his death in 1972, his restaurant remained in the family.  His daughter Mary, her husband Anthony Mancuso, and her brother Joe Garofalo each assisted in running Puglia.

Puglia of Hester Street, 4255 Amboy Rd Staten Island, NY

“Puglia of Hester Street has a very warm and welcoming feeling,” said co-owner Michael Mancuso. “Because the restaurant has been passed down, we are a well known family. When people see recognizable faces mixed with Italian traditions, they feel at home.”

In a study done by, 60% of all new restaurants either fail or change owner within their first year of business. Puglia of Hester Street has overcome this statistic by offering customers fresh Italian food made with quality products.

According to Mancuso, Puglia is known for serving peasant food. Capuzello, sheep’s head, and tripe, the lining of the stomach of a young ox, are old style dishes difficult to find.

Not only does Puglia cater to the older generation by offering these rare dishes, but to all generations. Fettuccine Alfredo ($11.50), Linguini with Clams ($14.50), and Eggplant Rollatini ($15.00) are classic Italian dishes.

Puglia’s Famous Rigatoni Vodka Pizza

Puglia of Hester Street also offers a various selection of original brick oven pizza pies. The Heart Stopper ($19.95), which is loaded with roasted peppers, prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, and of course fresh mozzarella, is bound to stop any pizza lover’s heart, or at least make it skip a beat. Puglia’s Famous Rigatoni Vodka Pizza ($15.95) is covered with creamy vodka sauce as the mixture of tomato and marinara sauce is simmered to perfection. On top of this creamy texture is rigatoni pasta and fresh mozzarella so soft, it melts in ones mouth.

Puglia helps customers find their true Italian roots by offering a wide variety of food choices, allowing customers indulge themselves in an assortment of sauces, pastas, pies, and fish. This wide selection has certainly paid off, as Puglia serves between 1,000 t0 1,500 customers a week.

“I come to Puglia of Hester Street at least twice a month with family and friends. Their friendly service, weekly seafood specials, and great food at reasonable prices always makes Puglia my top pick,” said Staten Island resident Danny O’Shaughnessy.

Weekly entertainment is also a way Puglia is able to attract customers. Jorge Buccio, who you may recognize from Adam Sandler’s film, “Big Daddy” performs Italian hits such as “O Sole Mio,” adding a romantic atmosphere for customers sharing a meal with their loved ones. Another entertainer is Debra Ente, also known as Debbie Broadway. Ente assists Jorge with duets but when on her own, she performs upbeat songs ranging from the “Tarantella,” an energetic Italian dance, to more modern songs such as “All the Single Ladies” by Beyonce.

“Puglia of Hester Street has remained successful since its opening and that is thanks to the traditions and values passed down from my great grandfather,” said Mancuso proudly.

Posted in Food | 4 Comments

Bitter Service, Sweet Food

381 3rd Ave (Btwn 27th & 28th St)

Amber’s modern style decor and trendy bar is a contrast from the stream of customary diners and bars along 3rd avenue, making this restaurant seem like the East 20’s best kept secret.

The second level boasts the Asian restaurants ability to stand out from other establishments with a more intimate and mellow setting provided by the brick walls, dim red lights, and cushioned chairs. However, as Katy Perry’s “Hot and Cold” blasted through the speakers, I was left with a “hot and cold” feeling as my dining experience slowly began.

Several minutes after being seated and wondering where our waiter/waitress was, she finally arrived. Asking for our drinks and orders was the only time she spoke to us the entire evening.

Unlike the unfriendly and aloof service, the appetizers and entrees did not disappoint.

Veggie Mini Rolls

Ordering Veggie Mini Rolls ($6) as an appetizer, the steamed carrots and spinach leaves inside tasted fresh and seemed healthy as I was able to distinguish the vegetables from its lightly fried exterior. The sweet chili dipping sauce on the side had a sweet and sour sauce appearance and taste with a hint of spice, acting as the perfect accommodation.

Shrimp Tempura, Salmon Avocado Rolls

The sushi added to the delectable quality of Amber as well. The Salmon Avocado Roll ($5.50) and Shrimp Tempura Roll ($7) each had an unique and tangy flavor to them. With ripe avocado, firm rice, and the fish tasting as if it was caught and cleaned that morning, my fears of eating contaminated sushi were thankfully put to rest.

Pineapple Fried Rice

The originality of these two dishes were seen throughout the entire menu in dishes such as, Tropical Mango Chicken ($17), Spicy Sautéed Sweet Peanut Sauce ($17), and my final choice of the evening, the Pineapple Fried Rice ($11). Served in an actual pineapple (I appreciated the literal touch), the rice was spicy yet sweet as chunks of pineapples evened the flavor. Inside were cashew nuts, chicken, and pineapple-flavored raisins, which tasted as juicy and fruity as the actual pineapples. Once a spoon full, or should I say chopstick full, enters your mouth, so does bursts of fruity, spicy, and sweet flavors.

Unfortunately, the hot streak ended there. Because our waitress forgot our soup and salads, we didn’t receive them until after the main course, when we were completely full.

It seems almost impossible to mess up soup and salad, especially after these unique dishes, right? Well Amber knows how to make the impossible possible.

Known for its salty flavor, the Miso soup ($2.50) was bland and altogether tasteless. The salad, which looked like a plate of leaves with clumpy orange juice on top, was insipid as well; leaving me to believe this error from the waitress was a blessing in disguise.

All in all, Amber was a bittersweet experience. The restaurant has delectable main courses, generous portions accommodating the price, and a pleasant decor. Unfortunately, the indifferent staff and overly loud music, which ranged from 1920’s jazz to obnoxious Z100 pop, lead me to unfortunately quote Katy Perry as I sat in my comfortable seat, unable to hear my friend over the loud music , “You don’t really want to stay, but you don’t really want to go.”

Posted in Food | Tagged , | 8 Comments

From the Streets to the Stage

Originality and having your own voice are two journalistic qualities Adrian Nicole Leblanc has achieved effortlessly.

As the inspiring author and journalist read excerpts from her book, Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx to the audience, her sense of concern and endearment for the people she has gotten to know over a ten year period is evident through her writing.

Sitting in the Newman Library Conference Center, I listened to Leblanc read excerpts from her book, illustrating the lives Jessica and Cocoa. As I became enticed by the story of these two girls, my previous plans of catching the 7:20 ferry home and getting dinner no longer felt important to me.

Leblanc has taken an innovative turn in her career and is now focused on her new book about a struggling stand up comedian.

Through her voice and originality, Leblanc is able to capture the hearts and interest of her readers through these tragic yet motivating stories of life, hopelessness, addiction, and taking all the means necessary, even prostitution, to survive.

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I Came to Eat Dinner, Not Catch a Cold

After hurrying my way through the crowded streets of New York City with the incentive to avoid frostbite from the frigid cold, you would think my dedication of venturing out into this weather for dinner would be rewarded at the restaurant of my choice.

Boy was I wrong.

It seems when waiters and waitresses see me walk through the door they automatically assume I prefer my chicken with a side of wind and freezing cold. Which is why at least five times this winter, I was seated right next to the treacherous door at my former favorite restaurant.

Eating dinner in the city at least twice a week, I understand how the dinner rush leads to a long line of customers anticipating a table. In order to avoid an hour wait, being seated near the door is fine. However, when there are at least ten vacant, warm tables available, I expect to eat my dinner in a breeze free zone.

This annoyance was not something I cared about at first. However, as I became more frustrated, and cold, I realized I should not have to be eating dinner with my winter coat and scarf on.

If I wanted to eat in the cold, I would have saved my money on the tip and went to the Shake Shack.

As I became more aware, I searched around for an answer as to why I was placed next to the door more then once. Maybe this restaurant is saving their better seats for their big spending customers. Maybe this is a way for waitresses to equally divide their tips. Maybe those customers made reservations prior, or maybe it was just by chance.

Whatever the case may be, I have found a solution to this bitter problem by dining at restaurants such as Chipotle, where I can eat good food, pay no tip, and not have to worry about enduring the cold weather inside.

Posted in Food Rant / love song | 3 Comments

Who Needs Connections When You Have Ambition, Passion, and the Internet

Pursuing a career in a highly competitive field such as filmmaking may seem strenuous, demanding, and overall impossible, especially with an absence of connections, right? Well think again, with a “make it happen” attitude and a never-ending drive to succeed anything is possible, just ask up and coming filmmaker Ryan Dunlap.

“I kept making things. It feels impossible from time to time but you take it one step at a time” said the award-winning director.

Dunlap was introduced to film at the age of nineteen when he assisted his friend edit a short film, sparking Dunlap’s passion. He then borrowed his father’s camcorder and put his filmmaking skills to the test.

“Looking back, the process was probably much more fun than the finished result. After that, I invested in a better camera and started writing more serious material and began to seriously study films,” said Dunlap.

He continued his new found passion at the University of Tulsa where he minored in film. Aside from formal training, Dunlap based his teaching methods on a “do it yourself” effort, teaching himself how to edit, film, direct, and more.

According to, Dunlap’s success did not arise until 2009, when his three-minute short film Leave Me won the 2009 Christian Filmmakers 36 hour Contest. In Dunlap’s emotional and inspiring short film Leave Me, he illustrates a man’s struggle to cope with his wife’s death by adding a unique twist that helps him find relief through his wife’s camera.

“When Leave Me came out, I would get notes, comments, and e-mails telling me how they had recently lost their father and the film helped them heal. Or they were going to take their lunch break to go buy their wife flowers. It caused me to realize I had a new responsibility to the viewer. If I could introduce more love into their lives, then I needed to do that instead of leaving them with something that would leave them depressed or not affected at all” said Dunlap.

Dunlap returned to the Christian Filmmaker 36 hour contest in 2010 where he won first place again for his short film 12:01, a story about a young boy’s reaction when discovering his time is running out.

According to judge Wes Llewellyn from, “You have clearly mastered many of the skills needed to tell great stories and need to move up to the next level of production. I’d like to see what you would do with a descent budget and more time. This short represents a story with a lot of depth that could easily turn into an incredible feature. If I were you, I’d give thought to moving in that direction.”

A main contributor to Dunlap’s success over the years is his use of the Internet where he is able to display his short films and communicate with his supportive fans. Websites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and various blogs have helped people become aware of Dunlap’s work. According to, Dunlap has 467 subscribers and an outstanding 87,855 views for Leave me and 9,090 views for 12:01.

Kelly Foronda, a Film Major at the College of Staten Island, was inspired to pursue her passion for film after discovering Dunlap’s short films on “His uplifting stories captivates the mind while capturing each character’s precise emotion. His skill for filmmaking is something I hope to acquire one day.”

Dunlap is now in post-production of his first feature film Greyscale. In this film, he portrays the themes of love and death by adding elements of murder and mystery, taking a different approach while staying true to his roots.

Due to the praise received for both Leave me and Greyscale, Dunlap is now employed at Brightbulb Entertainment, a film company where he has just completed his first documentary, Export.

Has Dunlap had his big break yet? “Yes and no,” he says.

“I’ve not been offered budgets in the millions of dollars to direct projects with, but it’s all a process and I’ve definitely had a few great breaks because of hard work on prior projects. I’m excited to see where things go.”


Posted in Independent Film | 1 Comment