You hit play and hear some static buzzing, a beep, a bell, and then the guitars and drums hit hard, stop, hit again, and then you’re in it. “Drowning” is the first song from She Called, the first album by New Haven’s own RYXNO, a powerful punk-charged rock band that has made a place for itself on the local live music scene for over a year with an onslaught of ecstatic shows that just keep building their following.
Though the band has released four of the songs individually over the past year, She Called is the result of months of planning and perfecting RYXNO members’ desire to offer their fans the same dynamic energy they bring to their live shows.
Frederic Kaeser (lead vocals), Brian Antonucci (guitar), Kevin Caputo (guitar), Sean Koravo (bass), and Bridges Stanley (drums) have been together as a band since 2016. All of them except for Stanley went to high school together.
“Caputo was my college roommate, too, and Koravo is my best friend. I grew up with him since kindergarten,” said Kaeser. “We are soulmate musicians. We grew up playing the same music and liking the same music. Literally what he’s listening to in his car right now I’d be like ‘yeah, let’s go.’”
The band began when Antonucci and Kaeser had gotten back from a road trip to Nashville back in 2016 and had a few songs between the two of them, some written separately and some together. They booked a show and realized eventually as more songs came to fruition that Kaeser, a drummer, was instead going to be the front man and lead vocalist for the band.
“And no one took me seriously, like it might have been a joke,” said Kaeser. “I was serious, though. I’m like, ‘I want to be Michael Jackson right now. I don’t want to be Neil Peart anymore.’”
“And that makes it most fun,” said Antonucci. “Like the giggles from people when you’re getting started, but doing it anyway.”
With Kaeser no longer the drummer, the band needed one. Stanley joined the band after Kaeser and Antonucci asked him during a visit to Sam Ash, where Stanley was working.
“They said, ‘hey, we need a drummer for our band, you want to join?’ And I was, ‘uh, yeah!’” Stanley said. “I was still playing in City Streets Country Roads. We were about to release a record at the time,” he added. Kaeser and Antonucci said they just needed him for a show. “Why not?” Stanley thought.
“A year later, here I am,” Stanley said. The year 2017 found RYXNO playing all over town, all the time.
“Our first five shows we were like, ‘this is going well,’ and then all of a sudden we got more invites to play shows,” Stanley said. “At that point we were like, ‘we can’t say no to anything.’ And that’s how it turned into almost every weekend for that summer. We just wanted to get the name out, we didn’t have much online presence so we wanted to go out and play.”
Until they decided to start recording She Called.
“It was hard coming off a summer of shows and not playing shows anymore and being real strict with, ‘no, we’re recording,’” Antonucci said. “I get anxious with downtime. I like to play as much and record as much as we can because when the down time hits then I have too much time to think.”
The five members worked as a unit to put together the ten songs on She Called. They describe their songwriting as a “group effort.”
“I’ve been in bands all of my life where I see all these mistakes that everybody makes,” Kaeser said, “and the number one mistake is if only one person is in charge and everybody is not motivated. But we’re all good musicians, everybody writes. Someone says, ‘I have this song, check it out,’ and we’ll just play it.”
“It’s cool too because Freddie’s a drummer,” Stanley said, “I can take a liberty, but we also agree on a lot of things.”
“He hears something that I don’t hear, and I hear something that he doesn’t hear,” said Kaeser, “and we fix it. For me music is a mutual thing, and I can’t get better if you’re not going to see what I’m doing.”
Kaeser then got serious. “This is something that we’re going to have forever. I just want to get out there and play it. Brian is producing the album and he’s playing guitar and he’s doing all this stuff, so it sounds incredible. Wait until you hear it. It’s gonna be great. It’s not a joke, it’s serious. This is what I want to do. This is what we want to do. Everybody in this band, talent-wise and friend-wise, it’s a family. They all deserve to get their bread and butter.”
Though sure enough, with She Called finished, RYXNO has started playing in town again.
“The whole purpose of you playing music out, and a lot of bands don’t get this, is you’re entertaining people,” said Kaeser. “People are going out to see you play. You have a lot of responsibility. You can’t get drunk and throw up on the floor…. Every show should be 100 percent.”
“The best shows we do here are when the room is fucking rocking, the floor is like 70 percent broken beer glasses and shit because the crowd is working too,” said Antonucci. “The crowd is working. The band is working. It’s like a heartbeat. This is pumping this, this valve is opening, and it goes back and forth. In the band sometimes you’re the defibrillator, and sometimes there’s a dead crowd and you have to jump start them.”
“I go to shows, and I feel like my soul leaves my body,” Kaeser said. “If there are three people in front of me, I want those three people to have the best time ever because they’re coming out to forget. Why do you go to a bar after work? To forget, to get out of your house, forget your job, your problems and leave it somewhere else. So that’s what I learned, from being a performer, that’s how it should be.”
On Saturday RYXNO celebrated the release of She Called at Three Sheets’s monthly Art in the Back, Music in the Front series, along with openers Nightbloom and Sean Henry, who both released new singles this past week as well.
RYXNO played the entire new album — 10 songs that you want to hear again as soon as the last song is over — as part of a sweat-soaked non-stop 14-song set to a crowd packed right up to the stage. From the brazen show-starting “Drowning” to the set-ending encore (after screams of one more from the audience) cover of Radiohead’s “My Iron Lung,” RYXNO gave its fans exactly what they wanted in hard and fast doses.
Kaeser directed the crowd and went easily from primal screams on “Drowning” and “The Witch” to a sweeter, sexier crooning on “She Called” and “Cold Heart Breaker,” never not the enigmatic front man, even when he launched himself into the crowd to be carried around the room, his friends and fans holding him up. The rest of the band kept it tight, fun, and frantic from song to song. Antonucci’s guitar work was so precisely unpredictable and mesmerizing it was hard to look away. Stanley, Korevo, and Caputo kept the rhythm strong and steady, with sharp stops and starts, but in complete control at all times. The band members were in constant contact, smiling, interacting lovingly and taking the crowd along with them at every note — not that it took much to do, as the audience was ripe and ready for them. They even helped Kaeser walk on the ceiling. (No joke: You can see that for yourself in the second video below).
By the third and fourth songs, which saw Sean Henry join Kaeser on stage for vocals, the floor was shaking from the movement of the crowd, acting as if they were one giant organism instead of a group of individuals. It didn’t stop for the rest of the night. Kaeser was also joined by Ace Carlson of Nightbloom on vocals for “The Witch” and Matthew Scully of the band Chousand on vocals for “Try Me.” Drinks were spilled. Bodies collided. Eyes were wide and smiling. Fists were raised and pounding. Voices were joined in song and adoration as the band played hit after hit.
“These guys are my best friends,” Kaeser told the crowd right before the aptly named song “All My Friends.” “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here.” Here was all friendship, fun, and frenzied entertainment. It was, exactly as Kaeser had promised, a good time.
The members of RYXNO mentioned that they have been referred to as a “Strokes cover band,” as well as sounding like The Doors. They have also been nicknamed The Inglorious Bastards of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
“When someone said that I thought it was cool,” said Antonucci, “and then I thought I really admire Harry Dean Stanton too, and I wouldn’t mind if we were the Harry Dean Stanton Inglorious Bastards of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I don’t equate the other comparisons to other music or musicians, but Harry? He’s just him.”
Then there is the name of the band (pronounced “rhino”) and that X. Kaeser initially wanted to name the band Rhino, then decided to play around with it a bit, thinking about maybe using Ryno.
He ended up with RYXNO after an unexpected night out with the band Cage the Elephant, who told the band to put an X in the name.
“For me there was a lot you could do with it. It’s right in the middle, and there are five people in the band, so it all fit,” said Kaeser. “Eventually everyone was like ‘what does it mean?’ and a lot of people had their own critique, but that X can be anything you want.”