The pandemic has been brutal for those in the performing arts, whether they’re stage actors, comedians or rock musicians. Four Westchester fathers addressed the grim setting of the COVID-19 era and spun it into something positive – a rock album.
The album, “4 Corners of a Circle,” comes from the band W2, short for the last names of the principals, Phil Went of Purdys and Joseph Walden of Valhalla. Its focus is on finding the good amidst the misery of the past couple years. The album will be released Feb. 14.
“We saw an opportunity to do something positive and something healthy,” said Walden. “It’s a chance to express ourselves – what we’re feeling, what we’re going through, what the world is going through.”
Went and Walden play in a rock band called Signal 2 Noise. Went is the guitarist, Walden the singer. Went writes the music, and Walden, a designer at luxury Christmas ornament brand Christopher Radko, pens the lyrics.
They reached out to musician friends who also were frustrated with their inability to play gigs and were soon joined by Peter J. Blume, a horn player from Valhalla, and Brian Doherty, a drummer from Thornwood. A Mount Pleasant police officer, Blume plays in rock band Kick Start Charlie and German folk band The Spitzbuam.
All four are fathers in their fifties. Typical of the times, each of the four worked together remotely.
“Phil and Joe are probably the best songwriting team I’ve ever worked with,” Blume said. “They complement each other very, very well.”
Doherty spent years touring with They Might Be Giants before becoming a teacher at a Yonkers public school, and plays with Mount Pleasant cover band Heard Immunity.
“Any time I’m considering a project, the songs have to be there,” Doherty said. “Joe and Phil have this gift of carving out these great songs.
“4 Corners of a Circle” began with a lone track. Fittingly called “Social Distance,” it’s about looking forward to the days when friends come over for dinner parties or barbecues. The men penned a couple more songs; then a legit home-recording setup was a prerequisite.
More followed. “Closer” plays with the theme of emotional isolation amidst COVID. “How Do You Love Me (When I’m Down)” wonders how a spouse handles a partner dragged down by these challenging times.
The songs started to add up. “Two songs, three songs, four,” said Walden. “Before we knew it we had an album.”
W2 next focused on videos. In keeping with the hometown vibe of the band, W2 shot videos for a few of the songs in Westchester locales, including downtown White Plains and Kensico Dam. Went, an assistant director at Montessori Children’s Room in Armonk, is also a freelance photographer and videographer.
For the video for “Social Distance,” they filmed on the vacant streets of White Plains on an early Sunday morning in 2020. “We wanted to capture that feeling of the streets being completely dead,” said Went.
Band members played the finished video for their friend Brian Mahon, who owns Hudson Grille on Mamaroneck Avenue. Mahon asked if he could share it with White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach as he dined in the restaurant. As a result, the White Plains Business Improvement District deployed the video for marketing purposes.
“Their song captures a hopefulness in a difficult time and is a testament to the resilience of not only our residents, but our city as well,” said Roach at the time.
The video for “How Do You Love Me (When I’m Down)” was shot at Hudson Grille, and “Closer” at Kensico Dam. All are on YouTube.
“4 Corners of a Circle” can be streamed on the major music platforms, including Spotify, and the band’s website, W2.hearnow.com. There’s a limited number of CDs, which will be sold in select Westchester shops, including Stone Gate Wine & Spirits in Valhalla, with proceeds helping local charities.
The musicians appreciated that, without deadlines, they could take their time getting each song as close to perfect as possible. “It wasn’t overwhelming,” said Went, who produced the album. “It was just one at a time.”
Band members describe the music as classic rock with hook-oriented pop sensibility; Bon Jovi, Journey and U2 are cited as influences. A handful of other area musicians also appear on the album.
Went and Walden said there is no doubt their hired hands gave their songs greater dimension. Blume plays trumpet, trombone, flugelhorn and cornet. His horns give the tracks a James Bond feel, said Walden, while Went mentioned how Blume provides a “counter-melody” in the tunes. “There’s another whole song within the song,” Went said. “The listener is more engaged now.”
Went and Walden note drummer Doherty’s wide range of styles, be it swing, jazz or rock. “All these textures just make each piece so much more interesting to listen to,” said Walden.
None of the band members, all fathers in their 50s, has any illusion about the album catapulting them to rock-star status. But that’s not the point of it. “It’s us doing something we love to do and wanting to share it,” said Walden. “It’s a way for us to deal with what’s going on in the world–to take all that stress and do something positive with it.”
Michael MaloneFor The Journal News – Published Feb. 11, 2022