Three guys are talking in a bar about music and decide they should get together and jam.
And a band is born.
Maybe it wasn’t that easy but it’s close. After spending some time with the members of Sonny on the Causeway you know it fits.
What started as a July 2011 conversation between Ed Luecke, Michael Whitbeck, and Aaron Sinkovich at Chet’s Place in Uniondale is the origin of the band that just had their song “Detour” voted as the 2018 Song of the Year by the listeners of the Binghamton, N.Y., based radio station 100.5FM The Drive.
Sinkovich and Whitbeck play guitar, Luecke plays bass. The trio is joined by vocalist and keyboardist Brendan Regan and drummer John Pullo.
“We all enjoy music and come on what’s cooler than being in a band,” Whitbeck joked.
Sonny is not just another cover band. While the band began by playing covers at their shows, they slowly added original music. It’s an eclectic mix with a definite early to mid-90s influence on their sound. The songs are a mix of what they like and what their audience desires.
“We play what we like to play but with a balance to what our audience wants to hear,” Whitbeck offered.
As the band played in local venues and defined their sound, they incorporated more of their original music, culminating in 2015 when they appeared in the Artist Showcase which demanded that the music be at least 45 minutes of original music.
In 2016 Sonny participated in The Drive’s “Battle of the Bands” competition and was unceremoniously eliminated in the first round. But that didn’t deter the members and in 2017 the band marched through the competition winning the crown at the final battle held at Touch of Texas in Binghamton.
While the band is more than a hobby there are no delusions from Sonny’s members of living a rock star life. Luecke and Whitbeck are insurance agents for Whitbeck Insurance in Clarks Summit, which also serves as the band’s studio. Sinkovich is an English teacher at Mountain View High School, Regan is a funeral director in Scranton, and Pullo works in marketing for Famous Smoke Shop and is editor of Cigar Advisor. They have families with their own commitments and children involved in various activities.
Because of that the band plays a limited schedule with 10-12 shows per year and most of the time in the spring through the end of November.
“I like to hibernate,” said Regan self mockingly.
And the band’s genesis hasn’t changed as the motivation remains their shared love of music and the camaraderie that comes with playing in a band.
“It’s a way to identify with a group, like a group of guys who get together to play golf, we play music,” Sinkovich explained.
“We enjoy what we do,” added Luecke. “And it’s much cooler to be in a band than to play golf.”
The band reflects the different personalities and talents of each member. “Everyone brings something different,” Pullo said.
Luecke is considered the band’s task master and keeps everyone focused. He is also the recording engineer. As the band formulated its original music and won Battle of the Bands, Luecke taught himself how to record music and utilize all the technology available for musicians to produce their own albums.
The nearly two-year process culminated with Sonny on the Causeway’s first album Mistakes You Make When You’re Young, which the band released in 2018 in CD format. It can be purchased on the band’s website www.sonnyonthecauseway.com. The band can be accessed throught their Facebook page, and the music is available on streaming services iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.
“It’s really amazing what Ed has done and taught himself along the way,” Sinkovich said.
“There’s just so much out there available to bands that may not have been there in the past,” offered Luecke. He acknowledged that it also takes some time to master what needs to be done to record an album. “There’s a lot of trial and error,” joked Luecke.
While the band has had its successes on the big stage and played in some of the area’s larger venues – like the Wingfest in Binghamton – Sonny enjoys their shows at local venues such as The County Seat, the Harvest Moon Festival at Holy Name of Mary in Montrose, and 2 Dogz and a Guy Brewery. And while they feel performing at Touch of Texas was a great experience, the smaller venues have their enjoyable nuances.
“You’re in the (County) Seat, stuck in the corner, ceiling on top of you, audience members practically on the stage, and yet it’s a great sound and a good time,” Luecke said.
The connection the band makes with the audience during performances, along with their fans that follow them, is a motivating factor for the band.
“You make that connection with the audience and that feeling takes over. You just go to another level,” explained Pullo.
“It’s neat when a student comes in and says how he listened to one of our songs on iTunes,” Sinkovich added.
Sonny on the Causeway members describe their sound as “Pop/Rock” music and their influences come from all different genres.
“I have bad taste in music,” Regan joked. “But I think those years when you are 13-14 years old are very formative. A lot of times my voice tries to emulate how I heard music at that time in my life.”
The playlist includes their original music and takes on classic and obscure tunes from the 80s and 90s.
“It’s funny, one night we did a take on the Alan Parson Project’s Eye in the Sky, and you can tell the crowd doesn’t really know what to think. Then you see that one person who’s totally into it,” said Whitbeck. “That’s a great feeling.”
Sonny on the Causeway will continue rocking in 2019, enjoying the camaraderie, entertaining their audiences, and of course, being cool.