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October Project - Live at The TLA Philadelphia 1996

Tags: fahl voice band

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 #October Project #Mary Fahl #folk rock #alternative rock #alternative folk rock #adult alternative #classical rock #progressive pop #1990s #music video

October Project's music is dominated by distinctive and powerful female lead vocals (nothing to do with waif-like, breathy whisperings). Indeed, Mary Fahl's deep Voice has an earthy sensuality that looms larger than life on the band's two albums, both filled with superb chorus hooks and haunting melodies. October Project also features keyboardist/vocalist Marina Belica, guitarist David Sabatino, keyboardist Emil Adler (piano, keyboards and harmonium) as well as his wife Julie Flanders who, although not a musician per se, writes the band's lyrics. They released two fine albums in the mid '90's before getting dumped by their record company in 1996, at which point they simply broke off. Like an afterthought, some of the band members later resurfaced as the November Project but reverted back to their former name and released a self-produced E.P. in 2003. Deemed more pop than prog, the music of October Project is perhaps best described as 'vocal-dominated symphonic prog', something akin to Renaissance for the orchestral textures, although Mary Fahl does not sound at all like Annie Haslam. The band's first two albums, which focus primarily on her rich, sultry vocals, feature intense melancholy ballads that ride on a combination of lush keyboards, strings and guitars. Keyboards and acoustic guitar are emphasized on the eponymous "October Project" whereas on "Falling Farther In", an album of slightly more linear compositions with pared-down arrangements, the electric guitar is more prominent. The E.P. "Different Eyes", which features the late reunion of some of the band members (sans Mary Fahl), showcases some reworked material from the band's early days.  From:

Mary Fahl’s parents weren’t musicians, but they liked listening to music at home in Stony Point, New York. And with one record player upstairs in the boys room, it was the music blaring from the big family console downstairs that seeped into Fahl’s skin and bones. That meant a lot of show tunes from Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza in South Pacific to My Fair Lady, with an original Broadway cast that included Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. “Mary Martin had that big alto voice,” Fahl said. “Even the men that sang on that record, Ezio Pinza … I liked their voices. People in Broadway now don’t even sound like that. I miss those kinds of voices. They sounded like real people back then. Everybody sounds the same to me now. And I used to sing along with those things. And I think it built up my voice.”
Eventually, though, she was turned on to British folk by an older brother, and her tastes shifted from Joni Mitchell and Carole King to Sandy Denny (“There’s something so pure in that voice; it’s so emotional”), Richard and Linda Thompson, and June Tabor. Soul and R&B weren’t played either upstairs or downstairs so, for better or worse, those voices didn’t influence Fahl. “So many modern voices are so gospel-inflected,” Fahl said with a touch of disapproval. “There’s a lot of white girls out there that, they sound like they’re singing in church because those gospel-inflected singers are so great. And the black singers are fantastic.” But one hip and powerful American white chick named Grace Slick did get Fahl’s attention. “Everybody had ‘White Rabbit,’ ” she said. “Everybody had Jefferson Airplane. So I loved her, I loved those powerful alto voices. It’s funny, ’cause I really, I have to admit I don’t recognize a lot of people that are on Top 40 radio right now. To me, I can’t pick one out from the other. I just can’t. And then there’s sort of another branch that has gone off. It’s sort of Feist made a left turn and everybody followed her. And I like her. I think she’s great. But I didn’t grow up with that. That ain’t my voice.”
Raised in a Catholic family with more siblings than expendable outcome, Fahl was fortunate to be a natural-born singer. While never taking a voice lesson, she watched her cousins develop into “great instrumentalists. … Like prodigies. I was not that. I just sang all the time.” If she wanted to pursue a musical career, Fahl was on her own. Laughing at the memory, she remembered her mother saying, “Well, if you were really good, you would be like your cousin Alice. You wouldn’t need lessons. You could just pick it up and play it.” Instead, Fahl performed at holiday shows and plays in the Catholic schools she attended, entered an acting program at NYU for a year with the hope of going into musical theater, then left because “I felt like I was wasting my parents’ money. It was a big stretch for them.” Transferring to McGill University (with $800 a year tuition) in Montreal, she occasionally sang in little coffee houses or rock groups that weren’t much bigger.
Upon graduation, “I didn’t know what I was going to do, really,” she said. “I sort of floundered around and went to Europe and sang a little bit there.” Eventually returning to New York, destiny introduced her to Julie Flanders. “She was not happy and not working and not doing anything creative,” Fahl remembered. And she said, ‘You know, I really want to be a songwriter,’ and I said, ‘That’s funny, I want to be a singer.’ And then she introduced me to her boyfriend, who was working as a clerk at HBO or something like that.”
Flanders’ boyfriend (and future husband) was Emil Adler. And the three of them witnessed the birth of October Project. “We were all sort of that stage where we wanted to do something and we were old enough and serious enough that we just said, ‘Well, this it. We’re gonna make this happen no matter what,’ ” Fahl recalled. “We really worked so hard and just left no stone unturned. You know, took it very, very seriously.”
Within two years, they had a deal with Epic Records, then toured with the likes of Sarah McLachlan and Crash Test Dummies. In 1995, the Los Angeles Times proclaimed, “Mary Fahl is the voice that launched a single promising rock band, October Project.” Taking an artsy, classical approach to the rock genre, the band that also included Marina Belica and David Sabatino seemed like a perfect fit for Fahl’s golden pipes. But perhaps they were too serious for AM or FM radio, especially during the growing grunge era.  From:

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October Project - Live at The TLA Philadelphia 1996


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