Interview with Tim Palmieri of The Breakfast

The Breakfast begins where other bands try to end up.
By Randy Ray

I'm like any other writer/rock critic/music nut. I have CDs and albums throughout every room of the house. Our van has more CDs and tapes stuffed in cabinets and diaper bags with the wrong CDs in the wrong cases: why is Derek Trucks in my Loveless case? Surrounding one corner of the office/den/pile of crap room, lies a glowing stack next to my Ornette Coleman heap...PB morphed into The Breakfast: downloads rest with official output. I exaggerate their importance? Listen to the 1st Set of 3/30/01: Tribal Funk Affliction>See the Light>Help On The Way>Slipknot!>What the Funk>Frankly Po Zest>Phaddy Boom Baddy.

Real Radio will be released on March 15, and is their first CD since 2003's live Bona Fide. First studio release since 2001's Deuce and second since the 1999 debut album. First release under the HMG (Horizon Music Group) label. Tim Palmieri plays lead and acoustic guitars as well as writing and singing most of their songs. He is complimented by bassist Ron Spears, keyboardist Jordan Giangreco, and drummer Adrian Tramontano--a strong unit that has been intact for many years. The band has an explosively distinctive sound, but it is Palmieri who is one of those rare musicians that can play anything that comes to mind. He spoke with me on the day The Breakfast had their first of a series of CD Release Parties. Their band site is

HGMN: I've heard so many musicians say that their goal is to play every note that they can think of--can you do that yet?

Palmieri: My fingers will play whatever's in my head.

HGMN: And sometimes outside of your head.

Yes, but that depends on where my head is at. (laughs) Sometimes my fingers are not in tune with my head and my head is shouting at my fingers: Play Faster! FASTER!!

HGMN: How are the solo acoustic shows at Richter's going? (Palmieri plays every Wednesday night at the venue in New Haven, Connecticut barring any Breakfast gigs.)

Palmieri: The acoustic work drifts into The Breakfast. People in the crowd are talking to me during the show--no barriers, huge set lists and sandwiches.

HGMN: What's a half yard? (Richter's second featured attraction.)

Palmieri: A half yard of beer. It's a tall plastic glass with a long, skinny neck. Imagine a half yard of Guinness! (The man talks my language musically and chemically...many a Friday night at the Irish Bank pub in San Francisco gulping Guinness with friends during what is known in Phishtory as The Hiatus.)

HGMN: Do you have a favorite place to gig with The Breakfast?

Palmieri: The Funk Box. (The Breakfast had played the previous evening at this hot Baltimore, Maryland spot. They opened up for The Code Talkers featuring the legendary Colonel Bruce Hampton of Aquarium Rescue Unit fame.) The stage is the perfect height. Great sound. A balcony. Great backstage. A fridge stocked with beer.

HGMN: It's been four years since Deuce; two since the live Bona Fide. Why the long delay?

Palmieri: (Long pause) Life. Situations came up. We had an option for one more album with Sonance Records, but it costs a lot of money to record a studio album the right way. We put out Bona Fide, which was basically a live album with work done on it afterwards with some editing. Patience is a virtue.

What songs are you proud of on Real Radio?

Palmieri: Grand Scheme of Things--it's Guitar Overdub Happy (he said with glee in his voice. I smiled. Huge fan of the distance equals depth-guitar army equals headphone candy Jimmy Page production method.) Fresh Cut had me laying down the acoustic tracks and then we overdubbed the drums, bass and keyboards. We're debuting that song tonight. Score has the Addison Grove Project horns, and Jen Hartswick and Kris Jenson.

HGMN: How did you get Jen Hartswick? Call up Trey (Anastasio whose band Hartswick occasionally plays with in between stints with her own band) and say "hey, can I use Jen for an afternoon?"

Palmieri: No. (laughs) A mutual relation through our soundman and someone she went to college with; plus, she knew the Addison Groove Project. Fairy has Jeff Pevar on guitar.

HGMN: I read that he once played in the Ray Charles band.

Palmieri: Yeah. He's always off on tour playing with musicians like David Crosby. We met him backstage at Camp Creek [Mariahville, New York] in 2001 and he raved about us! He's been a fan ever since. Gravity was live in the studio with a second solo dubbed into the mix. I'm especially proud of Dimension 5. It's a song written by Ron Spears (bass guitarist) and is sort of punk rock meets softer rock. My solo sounds like Queen every time I listen to it! The Grand Scheme of Things was one of the first songs I wrote in a band before The Breakfast. On Real Radio, it maintains the same integrity, while being short and to the point. We sometimes stretch it to 25 minutes live.

HGMN: That version will be on your Tales From Topographic Oceans album.

Yeah, right. (laughs) What did that have--two songs on it?!" (The 1974 Yes double album had one song per side--each totaling around 18 minutes.)

HGMN: Do you prefer live studio recording or laying down the basic tracks first and then overdubbing the solos?

Palmieri: Depends on the vibe and structure of the song. Real Radio features all of the musicianship in the band while making a new studio record. The approach was to focus on a layering direction with good tones, sounds, lyrics and harmonies. We've been playing most of the songs live for quite a while. Real Radio is the official stamp of those songs.

HGMN: What studio did you use?

Horizon Studios in West Haven where Deuce was recorded. Vic Steffens produced again. He's been with us since we were 15.

HGMN: I love the CD cover. No one would expect that of The Breakfast.

Palmieri: I do too. Phil Camarota designed it. He's Ron Spears' brother-in-law. He came to us with the concept and colors and suggested that we play as if we were plugged into our own radio station.

(Exactly. I then went into a long diatribe about the issues of modern radio and the amazing virtues of the improvisational scene. In my passion, I told Tim Palmieri that this is The Golden Era of Live Music--Miles Davis and The Dead at the Fillmore in 1970 times ten--and that only the cool and hip seem to be paying attention. Hell, if this were 1978, he'd be on the cover of Creem magazine every three months. Palmieri is a little more level-headed than me: organized chaos to my...uh...chaos.)

HGMN: What has happened to radio?

Palmieri: DJs are not choosing their own bands and songs, but we're allowing you to plug in and play us. That is why Real Radio works on so many levels--it's the real deal.

What is your tour schedule like for 2005?

Palmieri: We'll be playing throughout the spring and summer and then doing a national tour in the fall when the colleges have everyone back in town.