Multi-platinum recording artists 10,000 Maniacs' musical career may be 30 years in the making, but the new addition to the group may bring with her a fresh face, voice and youthfulness that both long-time fans and newcomers will enjoy.
10KM's summer touring schedule can be crazy at times according to bassist Steve Gustafson. So, the band needed a backup singer and acoustic guitar player who could be flexible with their personal time to accommodate the tour schedule. After seeing Melanie Luciano perform last year at the Jamestown Community College music program's rock ensembles concert, Gustafson knew she had the talent. So, in spring he gave her a CD with five 10KM songs to learn and said, "See you at the audition."
"She showed up a month later without notes, ready to go, and did a fantastic job," Gustafson told The Post-Journal. "Of course, she then had one month to learn 20 more songs, and she did that as well."
JCC graduate Melanie Luciano, right, was recently selected to tour with 10,000 Maniacs as the band’s new rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist. Luciano, 20, is pictured with 10,000 Maniacs’ bassist Steve Gustafson.
Luciano, 20, currently lives above Germaine and Pappalardo, which is owned by Bill Eckstrom, who works with 10KM bassist Steve Gustafson at JCC. Gustafson asked Eckstrom if he knew anyone who'd like to audition, and he suggested Luciano.
"It was a strange coincidence," said Luciano. "I guess they liked me at the audition because a couple weeks later we set up a rehearsal. It was kind of difficult because I didn't really know their music since they are a little before my time. So, it wasn't just learning the music it was learning the songs themselves. They are all so much older than me, and they just celebrated their 30th anniversary, so I had a lot to catch up on."
Quick to catch on, Luciano put her best foot forward and managed to make it through her first live show with 10KM.
"Melanie has a lot of confidence in her abilities, but she's never played a concert for 4,000 people, and I think she was a bit stunned at our first show this year in Buffalo, and it was a real challenge for her," Gustafson said. "We told her to relax, have fun and to sing out, and she would be just fine. We've thrown a lot at her in a short period of time, and she has responded. She will only get better. The fact that she is very sweet and a wonderful young woman is a bonus for us. How long our relationship together will last is up to her."
Before this opportunity, Luciano had never played in a full band. She has an acoustic project with Adam McKillip called Onomatopoeia. But, to play with a band that is already established is an exciting experience, according to Luciano.
"It's not even so much playing with 10,000 Maniacs, because that's a lot to take in anyway," said Luciano. "But, playing with a full band entirely is a whole experience in itself. It's so loud on stage, and I had no idea what it was going to sound like when I got up there. I've played for a crowd before, but never for people who knew the music I was playing or were that into actually seeing the band itself play. These people came to see 10,000 Maniacs, and it is crazy that I'm actually a part of that."
After the live performances, Luciano found herself being approached by fans who took the time to offer support.
"They have been open arms to welcome me," said Luciano. "But, they've been telling me how lucky I am, which they don't need to tell me because I already know. I mean, I still can't even believe it myself."
Yet, being on stage isn't Luciano's favorite part of being on tour with 10KM.
"I couldn't believe how funny the guys are," said Luciano. "It's not like they try to hide who they are when they are around me. They are who they are and are so willing to laugh at anything, even themselves. So, spending 24 hours in a car with them has been my favorite part. Not to mention you get to go on stage to play this awesome music after bonding with them, it's incredible."
Luciano's favorite song to play with 10KM is "Stockton Gala Days."
"It really builds up and has this awesome D-minor in it that when it hits is so much fun," said Luciano.
So far, Luciano has played with 10KM in Buffalo, New Hampshire and New Jersey.
"When I heard we were doing theater shows I expected everyone to be sitting down watching us and not participating," said Luciano. "But, in New Jersey everyone was up and dancing. The energy was crazy. It was bouncing off the crowd; then it would hit us, and we would bounce it back. It came together so well, and everyone was so into it, including us."
With the offer extended for her to continue touring with 10KM, Luciano can focus on perfecting her performance skills both at home and on stage.
"If it keeps being this fun and awesome I don't really see myself leaving any time soon," said Luciano. "Hopefully, Adam and I will still play together when I am home because we still like to play locally."
10KM is in the process of releasing a new album that it hopes to have completed by the end of summer. The songs were recorded before Luciano joined the mix so she won't be featured on it.
"If at some point I do end up on one that would probably be the ultimate dream come true," she said.
There currently aren't any plans for the band to play locally before the end of the year. And, once the summer touring schedule ends, most of the band members will be busy with other projects until the holidays.
Area residents who missed the opportunity to see 10KM play in Buffalo may want to instead focus on the upcoming album. According to Gustafson, it has been a fun experience to record locally with engineer David Hone.
"We are very excited about the project," said Gustafson.
Some of the new songs are available for streaming on the Internet at facebook.com/10kmaniacs by clicking "band profile" and on the 10KM official website, maniacs.com.