Biz, Beats & Arts — A Spotlight on Rockaway’s Unsung Heroes: The Knobs

 Biz, Beats & Arts — A Spotlight  on Rockaway’s Unsung Heroes:  The Knobs

By Kami-Leigh Agard

Who are some of Rockaway’s unsung heroes? The businesses, bands, performers and artists that keep Rockaway alive all year long—even during the brutal winter months. In this new feature, read about the entities and individuals who make the peninsula and Broad Channel one of the best places in NYC to live, dine, jam and enjoy the arts in all its forms, and exemplify why we should support local all year round. This inaugural installation kicks off with The Knobs, a New Wave ‘80s cover band of five: singers and guitarists, Bernie Keegan and Ian MacAulay; drummer, Michael Marlowe; bass player, James Dunlop; and keyboardist, Mike Paciullo. In the following Q&A, Paciullo breaks down why Rockaway’s diverse array of businesses and fellow music aficionados make doing what they love both a privilege and joy.

RT: So, when did you and your bandmates get together to become The Knobs?

MP: Bernie and Ian started with the idea for a band in 2016, but we didn’t get together, as initially a trio with me playing the keyboards, until 2017. Our first gig headlined as The Knobs was at The Cabana in Long Beach. Then our very first gigs in Rockaway were at The Wharf and Belle Harbor Yacht Club, and we’ve been playing everywhere ever since.

RT:  What’s the story behind the band’s name, “The Knobs?”

MP: We were practicing one afternoon in the drummer’s basement, and we hadn’t come up with a name yet for the band. While we were practicing, he hit his cymbal so hard that it flew off the stand, right past my hand and took the knob right off the volume button on my keyboard. So, it just came to me. Why don’t we just call the band, “The Knobs?” The guys loved it! Interestingly enough, I played without the volume knob for a while. So, the name stuck.

RT: On the band’s Facebook page, you’re described as “Playing the best of WLIR-era alternative rock.” Why this particular genre of music?

MP: Individually, we all have varied musical taste, but this particular genre, New Wave ‘80s music, is what ties us together. We all really dig it, and that’s what keeps us going as a band.

RT: The Rockaway music scene is filled with bands that play the ever-popular classic rock. So, The Knobs definitely stand out. How would you describe your audience?

MP: Overall, Rockaway is a very music-loving, music-oriented part of NYC, which is very cool. Having that as a backdrop, we bring a specific type of music that appeals to people that were around in the ‘80s. Maybe they were in their teens, twenties or even early thirties. So, the age appeal clearly is with people in the 50 to 65 crowd, who grew up listening to The Cure, R.E.M., The Psychedelic Furs, The Cars and more. Groups that had their best years in the ‘80s.

RT: In your shows, younger people definitely show up. What do you think is the lure?

MP: Younger people love the music because they’re hearing it from their parents. We’ve seen young people bouncing around to our music because their parents love it. They grew up hearing it played in the house and come to our shows with their parents, which is really nice to see. Plus, New Wave ‘80s is pretty danceable too. Plus, isn’t music universal? If it’s got a great groove, a great beat, you’re gonna start tapping your feet. That’s just human nature.

RT: You guys all have day jobs. What motivates you to balance a busy schedule that includes a full-time job, family and a busy music side gig?

MP: I’m in the finance industry, a pressure-filled job, but it pays the bills. I play with The Knobs because I enjoy the music, the company and I enjoy watching other people enjoy us. If I could make a living playing music, I would quit my day job. Nobody does this for the money. We just love doing what we do. It’s amazing that seven years later, we’re still at it. Despite personnel changes, the core of the group has remained intact since the beginning—me, Ian and Bernie. I’ve known Ian since I was 12 years old.

RT: How did you learn to play music?

MP: When I was about seven years old, I took guitar lessons for three years and stopped. My passion to learn the keyboard started when I was 10 years old during a sleepover at my friend’s house. He had this little electronic organ. I was fascinated by how the colored buttons made all these different sounds. When my dad came to pick me up after the sleepover, I showed the organ to my dad and told him I wanted to learn. A few months later, this big double-decker organ got delivered to my house with six months of free lessons. So, I took lessons until about age 16. Then high school got in the way, and unfortunately, stopped taking lessons. One of my biggest regrets because maybe I could’ve gotten a lot better.

RT: What do you think makes The Knobs stand out?

MP:  Hearing music that you won’t necessarily hear from any other band, locally. The only station that plays what we play is SiriusXM’s First Wave channel. People have come to our gigs and said, “Wow. I haven’t heard that song in years, let alone hearing it played live.” We don’t just play the hits, we also play songs from bands that real fans would instantly know. For example, U2’s “Until the End of the World,” is a fan favorite, though it’s not one of their biggest hits.

RT: What advice would you give to the younger generation who want to play music?

MP: Find like-minded people who like the same music you do and collaborate. With all the electronic software-based collaborative tools available today, I wish we had them 40 years ago. Equipment is not as heavy as it used to be. You can literally sit in your basement with tiny little speakers that sound great, which weren’t in existence 40 years ago. However, I feel things like the Internet have steered young people away from getting together and playing music. It’s unfortunate.

RT: What would you like the Rockaway community to know about The Knobs?

MP: We’re just people who like the same music, love playing together and watching people have a good time, while supporting a local business.

The Knobs will be playing at The Rockaway Hotel Rooftop bar (108-10 Rockaway Beach Drive) this Friday, January 19, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more info, visit: Theknobsband on Instagram.

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