Pittsburgh's independent music source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Slam Band and Sam ‘Black Hole’

The genre-straddling Pittsburgh group Slam Band and Sam have their feet in many different musical worlds.

“I think our sound is about layered simplicity,” says saxophonist Mark Jackovic. “You have these layers of rock, layers of jazz, layers of funk and no matter how hard we try to go down the straight middle of funk or rock, it just doesn’t really happen because of those influences. We can’t get rid of them.”

Slam Band and Sam have only been playing together for about three years, but for the members of the band, the connection immediately felt much deeper than that.

“It just clicked instantly,” beams Jackovic. “We were writing tunes on the second practice. That instant, spontaneous creation is pretty hard to do with four or five people all at once and it happened.”

The collaborative spirit of those first few jam sessions has endured as the band navigates not only performing but writing, explains drummer Nick Bello.

“We essentially all write as a group, everybody together,” Bello said. “Somebody will bring in an idea and we’ll just build and build and synthesize on top of that. Even if I have an idea, as a drummer, every single member of the band has input when it comes to writing.”

Regardless of how it feels in the practice room or in the studio, there’s one true test for any band – us. Bello puts it simply: “People start dancing and you know you’re doing your job OK.”

You can hear it all come together on the band’s new single, “Black Hole.” The inspiration for this funky, bluesy, rocking affirmation to keeping our heads up came from a very lofty place.

“I don’t know how they got this image, but NASA had just released this image of a black hole. I started talking to the guys about it and we started writing a song, started putting the pieces together,” says Jackovic. “‘Black Hole’ is overcoming everything. There’s a lot of anxiety and feelings and all those kinds of deals when you’re performing or in life, you go through a lot of drama and that’s ‘Black Hole.’ You gotta get through it. You have to get through the hard times. The black hole still spins. It’s still going to suck you in. The galaxy is still revolving. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed, but you gotta try.”

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.