Long-Time Local Rockers Find a New Sound

By Tre Mastran

Jambar Contributor

A new heavy rock amalgamation has recently emerged on the Youngstown scene with a goal to provide a unique phonic experience for their listeners.

Between the Witches, a four-piece instrumental act composed of long-time local performers Tony Cucitrone, Bob Smrecansky, Eric Tharp and Ian James made their musical debut in October after half a year of composing tunes and have since released a demo of their work.

Tony Cucitrone, guitarist for Between the Witches, has appeared along with drummer Ian James since 2006 as part of the rock duo, Braille. As one who has often experimented with sound throughout his years playing, Cucitrone preferred not to describe what he does with similarities to others.

“I feel like the majority of our songs have a decent amount of energy behind them, even if they’re slower paced,” Cucitrone said. “It’s hard to try and figure out who you sound like to make that sort of comparison. I’m not super keen on doing that.”

To this former Braille musician, the music he creates is closely tied to how he personally confronts internal conflict.

“I’ve started more to look internally for inspiration rather than externally,” Cucitrone said. “For me it’s more like finding whatever internal struggle is going on … Sometimes I can use it to manifest negative energy in a positive way, if that makes sense.”

Between the Witches bassist, Eric Tharp, is no stranger to the stage himself. As a 32-year-old musician who has performed publicly since the age of 15, Tharp viewed the sound that his band produces as divergent from the norm.

“We just kind of do whatever we want,” Tharp said. “That’s the only role we’ve had. Whatever we feel like playing, that’s what we’re going to do. So, it’s really hard to pigeonhole us into one thing.”

The composition and production processes for the fledgling band has been uncharacteristically fortuitous as opposed to the typical local act.

“[We record] down in the basement. We have the snake running upstairs which has all the filters and compressors and a Mac up there. Our drummer [Ian James] used to own a studio. So, he has all the stuff.”

This band, as the combined result of a fusion between several pre-existing local acts, has more than luck to thank for the quality of their productions. Each member brings a wealth of experience and a closet of instruments and gear acquired through years of honing their craft and sound individually.

Bob Smrecansky, Between the Witches second guitarist, recalled a time when the band would write riffs by playing phone numbers, with each number corresponding to the number of beats in a measure. Such a style of composition emits song structures with uncanny time signatures and an ominous tone matching their general vibe.

“We are all obsessed with the occult and horror, but ultimately we are humans struggling through life. We have been ostracized by society,” Smrecansky said. “Between the Witches is where we exist … We are counter culture.”

Between the Witches will be performing their second show with new music on Dec. 2 at Cedars West End.