In a very NPR Tiny Desk fashion, four Pittsburgh musicians have begun a video-based discovery series out of an attic studio featuring many talented artists performing with them as a house band. The Attic, featuring the musical talents of Caleb Lombardi, Aidan Epstein, Roger Romero and Allen Bell, has brought a new musical platform to Pittsburgh to showcase upcoming local artists via their very own YouTube channel, and the videos are demanding your attention to see what you’ve been missing.
Stationed in Highland Park, The Attic is exactly what it’s named after: a studio complete with live set up and recording studio capabilities hidden in the third floor of the house where Caleb, Roger, and Aidan all live. Having lived in the house for 2 years now, Caleb began building the studio in January of 2017, all with plans in the back of his head to make it a hub for local bands and artists to utilize for all of their musical needs. It wasn’t until the three roommates met Allen Bell last August that the team was solidified and plans for The Attic really began to bloom.
The Attic’s first video in what they call the “discovery series” went live on YouTube in January, featuring the angelic vocals of local artist Sierra Sellers, backed by the four musicians, with Caleb on keys, Roger on saxophone and flute, Aidan on bass, and Allen on drums. This kicked off a currently three-part series where the house band hunted down some of their favorite local artists with whom they believed they could collaborate on a great live performance video. Most importantly, they chose artists who had more of a background in studio recording rather than live performances, and who strayed outside the jazz background nearly all of the members of the band have. They did this as a way for everybody involved to challenge themselves and learn something new. “I feel like this is a learning experience for all of us, from the artist who may not have worked with a live band, to us who are so used to working with experienced musicians or just being in the scene where you know people. [There’s] the added challenge of maybe not having known the person right away, or them not having the same musical ability as you do. This isn’t a chance to look down on someone or become uncomfortable, this is where the collaboration comes in,” Roger explains, with Aidan adding, “Live gigging experience is different than producing experience. We’re getting cutting record experience, and they’re getting live performance experience.” Caleb also comments with how The Attic is essentially a musical thinktank, saying, “This is the perfect place for musical growth and relational growth, because in a setting like this you have to use your words and communicate. It’s intimate and we have a goal, it’s all about working together.” Since the release of the video with Sierra, The Attic has put out two more videos with performances from Amir Miles and Christian Holt, better known as Mulu. While the discovery series will continue, The Attic boys aren’t stopping there.
In the works is what will be your new favorite thing to watch all summer: the Live Summer Sessions, live-streamed concerts every other Monday from your favorite local bands. Think of it as a free concert you can attend while never having to leave your couch. While the house band will continue bringing on independent artists for their own videos, the Live Summer Sessions will allow full bands who have been knocking down the door to get in The Attic to perform. Each performance will be live-streamed on The Attic’s Facebook and Instagram page where viewers can tune in and enjoy 45 minute concerts from their phone or laptop while sitting on their porch enjoying the summer weather. “We’ve had a lot of people hitting us up to want to be up here, and we found it hard to weed through great bands that don’t exactly fit our discovery series,” Caleb details on how the upcoming series came to be. “We just want to make this particular project a way to scratch the itch of the bands who want to come up here, and it’s a new piece of media material for the audience in the summer to spend 45 minutes watching.”
“Basically nobody is doing this, nobody is live streaming concerts on a regular basis. So it’s like a new concert medium,” Aidan says, and it’s definitely true that while that’s not seen really anywhere, it’s especially new and special to Pittsburgh. Roger also notes, “We keep seeing talent everywhere in this city, people we genuinely enjoy watching, so why not help each other out?” Roger was one attendee of the meeting where the city brought in a talent executive from Austin, Texas to analyze the entertainment scene here in Pittsburgh and see how it can be helped. It’s been a general consensus from many attendees that while a lot of people showed up to complain that about the music and entertainment scene, it’s a lot of those same people that don’t support local bands and artists. The guys in The Attic want to be the ones to change that. “Not putting us on the level of Nashville or Austin, but this place has the talent to gain national attention, and we want to work on that,” Roger says, with Caleb adding, “We want to be the group that people will remember for putting artists on the map and pushing the scene forward. We hope to be trailblazers in the scene who are committed to the music in the city and are doing what we can to push it. It’s all about the music scene and establishing branches of how people are going to get and interact with music.”
The guys have very personal goals with what The Attic offers, wanting to create lasting relationships with the same musicians they’re promoting. Allen notes, “It could be like ‘show up, do the video, [and] never talk to them again,’ but it’s not like that.” He also mentions that each artist the band has worked with so far has given very positive feedback on their experience. “We believe in the idea that if you give, you’ll receive. In any scale, it always comes out that way,” Caleb explains, detailing how after working with Sierra Sellers on the first video, they built a trust and bond that opened up the next opportunity to be her backing band at the last For The People event at Brillobox last month. “These relationships grow out of mutual respect and admiration,” Roger follows. The guys hope to make that same kind of lasting relationship with the bands they bring in for the Live Summer Sessions. “It’s purely about the space and the atmosphere, that’s why it’s called The Attic. We want to make it so attractive to the bands that they know they aren’t going to get this experience anywhere else,” says Caleb.
While they are excited to get working on their next endeavor, there are some speed bumps they can’t avoid. The Attic is full of people who work many different jobs and play with many different bands, and who don’t all have the time to dedicate to the distribution of their product. Distribution and building their audience has been their number one struggle throughout this process, with Aidan saying, “There are a lot of people seeing it on Facebook and Instagram, but aren’t actually engaging with it to the level that we would like. We think the product is really good and we are trying to figure out how to get people to enjoy it and consume it and watch the whole thing.” They’re looking for somebody who can help. “We are on the market to add somebody to the team who would buy into the vision and be with us for marketing and social media and distribution, because we are trash at it,” Caleb says, explaining that every cost is out of pocket right now and none of the guys make money, meaning whoever were to come on for this position wouldn’t be able to be immediately compensated either. With new endeavors come new business plans though, and the Live Summer Sessions allow the guys to explore money-making opportunities by offering performing bands the audio and video from the streams at a price. Eventually, Caleb says, it will be a business through and through.
The Live Summer Sessions are set to begin in late May and go through late August. These guys are four extremely talented musicians who are wholeheartedly dedicated to their craft and the scene in which they can enjoy it. With what The Attic is bringing to the table, Pittsburgh will have a whole new way to experience and support local music. You can follow their Instagram @theatticpgh and check out their latest video at the top of this article!