Words of wisdom and a fortuitous encounter with a Chilean engineer are what started a musical journey for Anthony Frattolillo, who spoke with Tahoe Onstage on his way to Crystal Bay for tonight’s Red Room show.
He and seven others who make up the Herbert Bail Orchestra were packed in a van en route to the band’s Tahoe debut. They had just bought essential sundries — gas, guitar strings, water and food – to travel just ahead, they hoped, of a snowstorm.
“We’re getting a little cabin fever but it’s fun,’ Frattolillo said. “I did not know we were going over the Donner Pass. It’s a good thing we bought a bunch of snacks. We’ve got a lot of beef jerky.”
Hardly a cannibal cruise, the Los Angeles group is on a mini rock tour to Tahoe then Reno’s Third Street for a Saturday night show.
Formed “two or three years ago,” the Herbert Bail Orchestra has often been described as playing gypsy music.
“As soon as there’s a fiddle and an accordion, people want to say its gypsy,” Frattolillo said “We’re a folk rock band but it’s not like your normal folk-rock thing. We’re trying to be intentionally eclectic with our instrumentation and what we do. The important thing for all of us is we like to make people jump up and down. We like to shake people out of their bones.”
Frattolillo, who sings and plays guitar, started the band with lifelong friend Andrew Katz, who sings and plays the aforementioned accordion. Jack Dawson is on fiddle, Eugene Owens bass, Michael Villiers drums, Ian Souter trumpet and percussionist Stephen Chachi Mitchell, who, Katz said, “has all these weird shakers and clinkers and bangers.”
Pianist Colin Warling did not make the trip.
“We love sharing our music with people,” Katz said. “Playing it for people live is so exciting.”
The band made a record, “The Future’s in the Past,” (available on CD and vinyl) and is touring because of its love of playing live music. The members have day jobs – Katz and Frattolillo are in the production industry and Warling makes custom bass guitars for the Fretted Frog.
Frattolillo and Katz first traveled to Los Angeles seeking adventure with a Rottweiler named Billie Trouble they adopted from a Harlem animal shelter.
“We did not go to Los Angeles intending to start a band,” Katz said. “We were just like, ‘We’ve got to get the fuck out of New York City for a second. Five years later we are living in and loving L.A.”
Finally, regarding the beginning of Frattolillo trip along a musical pathway, it was a middle school teacher who told his class, “If you start to learn an instrument now, by the time you are 20 you will be a master with it.”
Frattolillo found an old, unused guitar at his half-sister’s apartment, and as he was leaving the building, the doorman asked him about it.
“I don’t play, but I am going to learn,” Frattolillo told the man, who was an engineer when he lived in Chili. He also had a rock band.”
“He said, ‘I’ll teach you how to play, but I don’t want any money, just trade (for miscellaneous work around the building.)’ ”
After he learned to play, Frattolillo made a vow: “I am going to sing until my teeth fall out.”
The Herbert Bail Orchestra
When: 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room