The Montauk Project: Local Band to Play SXSW Wednesday

Though an East End local will fiercely defend the merits of year-round living on this side of the canal, it’s a decently well-kept secret that most residents take a wintertime escape. And those who don’t, make the best of the solitude.

The Montauk Project, a local rock band set to release its first full-length album, Belly of the Beast, on March 25, turned that seasonal mass exodus into an opportunity to realize their potential.

“When we started the band, it was in the middle of winter. We were jamming out, playing as loud as we wanted,” Jasper Conroy, one-fourth of the all-local band, says. The 10-track album was recorded at their home studio in Montauk. Together for almost three years, the band features Schiavoni on vocals and guitar, Conroy on drums and vocals, Chris Wood on bass and Jack Marshall on lead guitar and vocals; and Matthew King does live sound and studio production.

Belly of the Beast exclusively features original material, primarily written by Schiavoni and Conroy. “The first feature track from the album is called ‘The Beast.’ We wrote it as a metaphor for capturing a beast at sea, a struggle,” Schiavoni says. “[The album title] is an expansion on the same idea. Anyone who’s been through a rough time can say that they’re in the belly of the beast.”

The Montauk Project has spent a fair bit of time in that proverbial belly, as they’ve been on the brink of breaking out and have steadily built a following on the East End and in Manhattan. They call 668 The Gig Shack their local spot. “We blow the whole place out,” Schiavoni notes. And at sunset, The Montaukett is another favorite.

The Montauk Project first obtained affirmation that they were on the rise last year, when Jagermeister signed on as a sponsor.

The Montauk Project Band

The Montauk Project, Photo Courtesy The Montauk Project

But, like the band’s namesake hamlet, the true beast will stir later in March. In addition to being the month of the band’s album release, March also marks the first time that The Montauk Project will perform outside of the New York metro area. The rock group has slotted a March 12 performance at South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. “We’ve been trying to branch out, and [South by Southwest] has been on our radar for a few years,” Schiavoni says. “This is a very big step for us. We’re pretty confident we have a good thing going, and if they right people hear what we have, they might be interested.”

Of course, the band also has plans to play in the Montauk St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the hamlet’s annual forced awakening from hibernation, on March 23.

The Montauk Project primarily identifies as a rock band, with an eclectic array of influences from both the ’70s and ’90s. “It flows together with ’90s grunge rock. Classic rock with a modern twist,” Schiavoni says. Though three of the four members have long hair, “we’re definitely not a hair band,” Conroy says. “Do we fit the stereotype? Maybe…”

The name The Montauk Project, which many associate with government conspiracy theories and mind experiments conducted at Camp Hero, was born simply because it was the group’s project out of Montauk.

“We try to play off of the double meaning with our music,” Jasper says. “With our first EP [in 2012], one of our songs was titled ‘Mind Control’ and one was ‘The Rainbow Song.’”

The band notes that they’re not representing conspiracy theorists, but they don’t object to the increased recognition—and Google association—they get from sharing a name with something that has captured the attention of a very niche but very national audience.

“I used to work at Flying Point [Surf and Sport],” Schiavoni says. “[and someone came in and said] Why would you name your band after such a horrible thing?”

Government mind games aside, the timing couldn’t be more right for a Montauk-based band to burst onto the national scene. “It’s not that the band is about Montauk, but people have heard of [the hamlet],” Schiavoni says.

Last summer, Paris Vogue named Montauk the new Saint-Tropez. The Montauk name may even garner some recognition in hyper-prideful Texas, albeit on a less grand of a scale. Montauk’s 7-Eleven, a Dallas-based chain, was recently named the highest grossing in the country.

More than their feelings on their name, however, The Montauk Project is confident in their sound. “If you’re a rock and roll lover, [our show] would be a hard one not to get into,” says Schiavoni.

After returning to the East End for the parade, the band has scheduled two album release parties—in Manhattan at Pianos on the Lower East Side on March 29; and on April 5 at 230 Elm in Southampton.

Visit themontaukproject.com for additional information, tour schedule and to hear select songs before Belly of the Beast drops.

The Montauk Project playing live!

The Montauk Project playing live! Photo: Courtesy The Montauk Project

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