The Jock Of Rock Presents: Jeff Costello

Publish Notes: 

Cider Magazine Keene, NH August, 2013

The Jock Of Rock Presents: Jeff Costello
The Jock Of Rock Presents: Jeff Costello
The Jock Of Rock Presents: Jeff Costello

SURRY, NH - This month’s Jock Of Rock installment is strangely unique for me, due to the fact that local drummer, Jeff Costello, actually spent a few years of his youth growing up in the same North Walpole house that I would just a few years later. I can actually remember my Dad telling me that I was going to love our new house because “it had big rooms, one even big enough to contain a drum set!”

Photos courtesy of Jeff Costello

I can only surmise that this had to be the drums of a young Jeff, slamming away on his kit with visions of rock-and-roll grandeur vibrating through the walls! And now, ironically, here I am some (gulp) 35 years later, writing a music feature about the same dude who was “up on the hill” in that same house as I and playin’ those drums. It is also good to note that neither of our loves for music has wavered over the years and which has now, ultimately brought us together for this article. But, I digress...

Originally from Medford, Ma., Jeff moved to North Walpole, NH in 1973 and attended Fall Mountain Regional High School in Langdon. “I started playing the drums around 1974 or ’75,” Jeff said in a recent Cider interview. “A couple of my friends were playing guitar and bass and I sort of just fell into playing the drums. However, today my house and garage are full of all kinds of instruments… I must look like a hoarder! I play a little guitar and keys as well.”

Jeff’s parents were a big influence early on, although they were not musicians themselves. “My parents were musically hip and had a lot of great stuff to listen to ranging from the Beatles, to The Four Tops, to Vanilla Fudge – all sorts of rock music, R ‘n’ B and some jazz, too.

“As for early musical mentors – all the great local bands that I saw at school and the clubs I snuck into – such as Stonecross, Teaser, Fox and Co., Better Days, Davis Brothers Garage Band and Glass Mountain. There was a club in Bellows Falls called Meatland Cafe, and we’d sit across the street on an embankment and listen. One of my good friends, Mark Jennings of the band Stagefright, is actually who I blame to this day, for making me want to play in a rock band!”

Jeff’s first significant band, Mistress, formed in the early 80’s and would develop quite a local following throughout the Connecticut River Valley. “Mistress became a very popular band in the area club scene despite a few lineup changes over the years.

"Then I hooked up with a trio called After Hours – a steady, house gig-type band that was a lot of fun. Then, I joined a couple country rock outfits including The Cousin Brothers Band and High Noon… Jezebel Cain was another rock band I was involved in that was a lot of fun.”

Of course, there would be many more musical adventures to follow… almost too many to name. “Early on, I did get to play with (the late) Chris Whitley when we were really young… like 16… before he moved to New York City. After I graduated from Fall Mountain I went on the road with a Canadian band called Teaser and learned a lot about touring as a tech… then I really started getting into it. After that, I played in a band out of Barre, VT., The Union Street Band… we had a tour bus and a road crew and it was a great vocal band, playing lots of R ‘n’ B and some funky Southern rock.”

Also around that time, Jeff was involved in a recording by a band called The Syndicate, with local musicians Roy Brown and Bob Leitgib, and engineer Bryce Chicoine. “The Syndicate received some minor airplay and the songs still sound great today. We would write and record a couple songs and then our friend Carey Lee Rush would play them for the crowd at The Duck Inn in Springfield. We were thrilled to see a quick liking to our songs! Then I went to Mountain Jam with Rick Davis and Peter “Zip” Zipfeld… and sometimes Davey Davis - when we could coax him away from fishing… I learned a lot of harmony and swing styles from those guys.”

Gravitating back to rock, Jeff played in a local cover band called Wildheart, which would morph into Acidbran and subsequently, a 1996 label deal with Birdcage Records based in Los Angeles. The album was produced locally by the late, great Vermonter Tom “T-Bone” Wolk, a multi-instrumentalist and producer most famous for his work as bassist of Hall & Oates and the Saturday Night Live Band during the mid 1980’s. Acidbran also did many shows with Larry Mitchell, another national artist and amazing guitarist in his own right.

“Acidbran was the first band I was a part of that got a record label,” Jeff said. “We met T-Bone through Retro Music in Keene and became friends… I had actually helped him move from New York to Vermont. He offered to produce our CD and also played on a track. The album was released on Birdcage with Jah Paul Jones of Dread Zeppelin, and we got some air play around the country and even a couple movie soundtracks. The CD is still available through Amazon.

“Acidbran guitarist Mike Fitzgerald and I also worked for a small record label and Mike got Larry Mitchell deal there. Larry would use (local musician) Mark Bond and I as his rhythm section for his shows and he sometimes would sit in with Acidbran. Larry is an extremely talented and nice guy - Google him sometime, check him out… yikes, he is amazing!”

Since Jeff’s brush with the big time, he has continued to perform with a number of different bands over the years including a Boston band called Flipcity which appeared on MTV, (and was the first American band to ever perform on a Soviet ship)a stint in the aforementioned Davis Brothers Garage Band, some funk and jazz with Hipology and Miles O’Toole, and a nine-year stint with The Al Alessi Band.

“We made the news with Flipcity (the Soviet experience) which also consisted of a lot of vodka… and Al Alessi was a great gig for a long time which opened up a lot of doors… we played at the Atlanta Olympics and a great New Year’s Eve show in New Orleans."

After the Alessi band experience Jeff hooked up with Vermont guitarist Joey Leone’s band for the next few years, but the drives up to Killington for 5 to 8 shows a week eventually wore him down. “After that, Crashgirl was formed,(based in the Keene-area and closer to home) which then morphed into Kelly’s Heroes. “These bands were great also, but eventually Kelly and I decided to break from only doing cover songs, so I did some recording and am now doing shows with the Christa Renee Band.

“My jazz fix is now with the BC3 band and we’re recording a CD soon. A couple years ago I met Vinx and since then, I have played a few shows and also appeared on a recording with him and Emily Mussolino. I also recently joined a band called Hug The Dog and we are currently playing festivals and getting ready to record a 10-song CD.

“Of course, with all this music I do, (we’ve only talked the half of it) one does need a break from it so I became a roller derby referee! But musically speaking, being involved with all these great people over the years and to be able to do what I love is a real blessing. I also acted in a small horror film and would love to do more film work someday… and now, my brain hurts from trying to recall all of this music!” We thank you for the results, Jeff… now go to your room!

Upcoming shows for Jeff include a BC3 gig at the Keene Music Festival. Hug The Dog will be at The Uplift Festival on August 3, George’s Window on August 24, The Keene Music Festival on August 31 and the band will be in New York City August 14-16. The Christa Renee Band is at George’s Window on August 24 and the Keene Music Fest in August.