Kingston quartet SUZE blends jazz, funk rhythms and vintage blues rock and roll to create the unique sound it delivers across the region.
The band was founded in the summer of 2007, and though the lineup has changed since then, founding member Adam McKinley and guitarist Adam Gabriel, along with rhythm-section members Jason Stefanski and Brian Gildea, have continued to share their “vision and music” with Northeast Pennsylvania.
Q: How did you get involved in music?
Brian Gildea: I didn’t really get serious until college when I picked up the electric bass. I immediately fell in love with making music and feel incredibly lucky that it came into my life.
Adam McKinley: I was 19 when I first picked up the guitar and spent years trying to teach myself, and I currently have been taking piano lessons for almost seven years.
Jay Stefanski: Once I was about 11 years old I convinced my parents to get me a kit, and the rest is history. God bless their eardrums during that first year or so.
Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public?
BG: I had been playing bass for about a month, so I had almost zero technique on the instrument. It was a show in a screamo band at Cafe Metro. I was never really into that kind of music, but it didn’t really matter. I was just happy to be playing music at all.
AM: My first real gig was actually what led to the formation of the band, but a year or so before that my friends convinced me to do open mic night at the Jazz Cafe, and I was terrified. I had only been playing guitar for a about a year at that point. Needless to say I relied heavily on my voice that night.
AG: My first few piano recitals were absolutely nerve wracking. I was around the 11- to 13-year-old range when I did those. My last one I vividly remember because I blanked halfway through the piece. I guess that’s the very first time I performed improv. I eventually got through the rest.
Q: How did you guys come up with your name?
AM: The name started off as a something of an inside joke within my group of friends. It was a way to call someone “lame.” It was a word that was thrown around so much that we kind of just thought it would be temporary, but it really seemed to resonate in an odd way.
Q: How did you meet?
BG: I met Adam G. and Jay when we were playing in a soul cover band called Soul Shadows. We got along really well and liked each other’s playing, so when SUZE needed a bassist, I got the call.
AM: Adam and I had known each other a little in our college years, and when our original guitarist left the band he reached out to take over. I had been a big fan of Jay’s band Woody Brown’s Project when we started on the scene and were floating in similar circles. Brian actually sat in with us at a Halloween show a few years ago, and I didn’t even realize it until his name popped up in conversations about continuing the band and finding a new bassist.
AG: SUZE was already a band for a couple years when I heard they were in need of a new guitarist. I had partied with the boys from time to time and figured I’d reach out to them.
Q: What is the process like for writing your music?
BG: Usually Adam M. sketches out some parts or a whole song. Then he’ll bring them in and let us add our own interpretation of the original idea. The end result is a little bit of each of us.
AM: I typically come up with something on the guitar (or in rare cases the piano), and the mood of whatever that may sound like dictates what I write about. I tend to tackle subjects that aren’t always that common, lyrically speaking. It’s mostly something I find to be an interesting story or concept to talk about. There are times where I fully form the songs before bringing them in but most times they are sketches and we come together to flesh out the ideas.
AG: We typically start with a skeleton song/idea. From there we just hash it out as a full band until we like what we hear. It’s a nice democratic process.
Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
BG: I’ve gotten better at supporting other musicians. When I first started, I would just play whatever weird stuff popped into my head, without hearing how it sounded with the band. These days I focus more and more on listening and really thinking “does this fit”?
AM: I personally have grown so much. I started off as someone who only knew basic chords and worked to become a better lead player, even though that isn’t my main role.
AG: I listen way more while I play. It is something I’m constantly working on. That, and trying to convey more with less. That I could still use some work on.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a musician?
BG: My favorite memories revolve around (the) writing process. There’s no better feeling in the world than when you stumble onto a great song and start unearthing all these cool aspects of it.
AM: My favorite moments almost always happen in a live setting, whether it be in rehearsal or at a show. We like to leave a little room for spontaneity and improvisation, which leads to different moments in the same songs each time we play them. Writing and recording are also very exciting when you get to see an idea that goes from a notebook and turns into a tangible product.
AG: I’ve been lucky enough to call all my fellow band mates friends (both past and present). Every time I’m on stage with them is a favorite memory.
Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
AM: The scene has changed so much in the 10 years I’ve been around. Almost all of the bands that existed when we first started are no longer around. The musicians are, but the bands don’t always last. I’m very proud of that. I value loyalty and continuity, so the fact that we’ve been able to somehow make this last means the world to me. There is so much talent it almost feels as if this area is bursting at the seams, but the venues and crowds have grown thinner over the years.
AG: I have drifted through a couple of different scenes throughout the years, so I’m not sure long-term how anything has changed. All I can say is there’s always been a lot of talent.
JS: It’s struggling lately. There’s lots of talent in our area, but it seems the live scene has been dying out over the last few years. Oh, and we need way more horn players around here.
Q: Who has influenced you over the years?
BG: Duke Ellington, Primus, Tool, Soul Coughing, Nine Inch Nails, Chiptune music, John Paul Jones, James Jamerson and all the musicians that I’ve ever played with.
AM: Honestly, I’m mostly influenced by the other musicians in this area. The people that continue to do it are the ones that push me to want to continue making music for anyone who will listen. Also, Jack White is my hero.
AG: Tom Morello, John Scofield, Frank Zappa (and) Trey Anastasio, to name four out of about a few hundred.
Q: What is the biggest challenge?
BG: Figuring out what our path looks like to getting more people to hear our music.
AM: The biggest challenge is to push forward even when it feels as though a lot of people don’t care. It’s always difficult to take the next step and constantly adapt to the temperature of the scene. But that’s also what keeps it interesting, and it’s why we do it.
AG: Cloning our fan base.
JS: Staying inspired every day.
Q: What are your future goals for the band?
BG: Firstly, we need to record. We have a ton of new stuff that no one has heard yet outside of shows. After that, I’d like to start playing some festivals with other bands in our genre and also look into finding management for the band.
AM: The goal has always been to figure out a way to make a living doing what we love.