Jude Mandarano is a Scranton native and bass player in the Mesos. He is a graduate of Bishop O’Hara High School and the University of Scranton, where he majored in criminal justice and minored in philosophy. He lives in Scranton.

Meet Jude Mandarano…

What do you do for a living?
Support local music.

Talk about your band, the Mesos.
We’re out of Dunmore, and we play prog-rock and punk rock and a lot of older rock and roll hits. We kind of pride ourselves on being a rock and roll band. We just have fun with it. We are a three-piece. I play bass in the band, Dom Fortese plays guitar and sings lead vocals, and George Hirvnak plays the drums. They’re both solid musicians, and we just try to get the crowd happy. We have been playing out but are now working on an album. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s going to be ferocious, dirty and loud.

What is your musical background? 
I play guitar and bass. I play whatever I can get my hands on, really. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12. Since I can remember, music has always been in my life. Before I got a guitar, I would dabble on piano. I didn’t take lessons until I was a little older, but it was always something I wanted to pick up and do. I loved hearing music and wondered, “How do I make music?” I’m still wondering that.

What first got you interested in music?
I feel like you learn so much by just being with other people, because their music and the way they play comes out. The way I play then comes out even more. There are so many facets to musical experience. Learning from a book is one way to do it, but there’s improvisation, and it’s all about creating the right vibe sometimes. You’re creating a feeling in someone with the words and the song.

Can you compare and contrast your experiences of playing solo versus in a group?
Being solo, you don’t have anybody to fall back on. There’s no net, so I’ve got to be as prepared as possible going into a show. It means putting hours and hours into songs and getting them to where I have them in my mind. That’s kind of my writing process. I have something in my mind, I’ll play it, I’ll sing over it or write something down. Sometimes I’ll have an idea and I start writing it and running with it. Sometimes I create just to create. That’s what I love the most, just finding something and creating something that comes from the feeling that I have.

What inspires your lyrics?
If there’s something that just kind of has that allure to it and I want to know more about it, sometimes I dig into my own mind and ask myself, “What am I really thinking? What do I really see? What am I observing?” That’s where I like to go with music and dig into the details.

How did you come onto the Scranton music scene?
I had a group called King James. We played like Grateful Dead and that sort of jam vibe. We had some songs we covered and did some of our own stuff. We said, “We’ve got to get out and start playing this.” We turned into this band called the Lumbertruck. We were an eight-piece band at that point with congos and drums, some percussion and guitars and singers. I dropped out of that and started with another band. I guess the reason I got into music that way was because we wanted to get out and take it to another level and see some different people.

What is your favorite part about being a musician?
It’s fun and the experience. This is something that comes from my soul, music is. It’s something that I can give to other people, and they can relate to. That helps me relate to other people.

If you could play music alongside any musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d say Bob Dylan. I’d probably do something weird with him. Not just something from his ’60s folk album. I like how he tries different things and different looks. He’s an artist who’s morphed over time, and I would love to collaborate with him.

Who are your biggest musical inspirations, and why?
Growing up, I would look to Robbie Walsh. He gave me a ton of knowledge on guitar; he’s a great player locally. He’s a huge source of inspiration and information. Lou Shank told me I had to get lessons from Robbie; he’s going to show you the ropes. Jami Novak, who is on the scene, he would come into my father’s restaurant and he always just seemed so crazy, he was a lot of fun. He inspired me. He always had these stories about how he was in another country, and I thought that was so cool. I wanted to get there.

If you could pass knowledge or wisdom on to a young musician, what would you say?
No. 1, change your strings. Take care of your instrument. The thing is, some people get into it and they pick up the guitar, and it’s not something they’re really playing. You’ve got to take care of the instrument and realize this is a tool that you can use to make something. The product is usually merriment, sometimes it’s sadness, drama, but you’re creating a feeling for someone else. So the more time you put into your craft, the better you get at it. Any young musician just needs to play and play and play and listen. You’ve got to listen to people around you and find people around. Once you do that, it’s going to take you somewhere you never thought you would wind up and it’s amazing.

What does being a musician mean to you?
It’s a release. I don’t think it’s easy for people to talk about what goes on inside and what they think about from day to day. We all go through some really tough times, it’s humanity and it’s a wild ride. To be able to sing about things that aren’t really easy to talk about and be there for someone who might not want to talk about it is a cool thing. The other side is that it just creates an energy for me. We all have some sort of potential, and we put that into some sort of kinetic movement. Suddenly where there was silence, now there’s sound. You create a rhythm and change something that was dull and boring into something that is colorful.

What are your interests outside of music?
I enjoy art and having good conversation. I enjoy movies. I try to keep myself entertained when I’m not entertaining other people.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that has helped shape you into who you are today?
I read philosophy, and I realized that philosophers like Socrates and Plato are always questioning life and motivations, and that sort of changed my mindset, because every now and then, I stop to smell the roses and reassess things and ask, “Why am I doing the things I do?” I also realized there’s wealth and there’s money. Everyone tries to clamor for a dollar, but the main thing is the wealth that’s between people. There’s wealth you can find just doing good things for other people and spreading love. Once I was turned on to that and the philosophical side of life and started asking questions, that definitely changed my perspective.

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