Joseph Michelini isn’t as much a survivor as he is an inspirer.
Having been a long-standing staple of the New Jersey coffee house scene, Michelini wasn’t very content just sitting around while strumming acoustic laments for baristas. Slowly he began introducing banjos and cellos into his set, and one man became three people, which soon became eight, which soon became River City Extension.
With a sound that seems to find a sweet spot that lies perfectly between Neutral Milk Hotel’s near-orchestral bombast and Modest Mouse’s popular brand of almost-cynicism, River City Extension makes full use of the various instruments at their disposal (cellos, trumpets, a djembe for Pete’s sake!), but never once plays them just for the sake of eclecticism. On The Unmistakable Man—the group’s second full-length—the Extension swerves between acoustic ballads (“Today, I Feel Like I’m Evolving”) and piano-lead group sing-a-longs (“Holy Cross”) with remarkable ease, the whole disc feeling like a unified statement while never sacrificing the need for a storming pop hook. It’s no wonder its live shows are as heralded as they are.
Shortly after the release of the band’s latest record, Michelini tackled PopMatters’ 20 Questions, revealing a deep-seated love of Paul Simon’s Graceland, the frustration over a stolen laptop filled with songs, and why life truly isn’t complete until you have heated toilet seats ...