By John Benson
Seven years after Anthony LaMarca packed his bags for New York City, the Boardman native still can’t get Youngstown out of his mind.
Perhaps that’s because the singer-guitarist’s newest band, The Building, which has garnered comparisons to Wilco and The National, includes his Youngstown-based brother, Angelo LaMarca (guitar, vocals), and former Boardman High School classmates Megan Sears (cello) and Andrew Carlson (bass), with Kentucky native Jason Lawrence (drums) rounding out the group.
Also, when it came time to write material for the group’s recently released debut effort, “The Swooshy Businessman,” LaMarca said just as Bruce Springsteen constantly uses conglomerate characters from New Jersey, he found himself detailing life in Mahoning Valley and Western Pennsylvania the same way.
“I like to say our genre is romantic American music,” said LaMarca, a 2005 Boardman High School graduate. “I don’t know if they have happy endings. Our record is sort of not directly based in or about Youngstown, but it’s more of a reflection of how growing up in that area has been our lives, both in a good and bad way.”
LaMarca said there’s a prideful streak that runs among Youngstown area residents who romanticize the past; however, it’s this idealizing of a time gone by that he said often keeps folks from moving on.
“That can also be your main crippling point,” LaMarca said.
Songs on “The Swooshy Businessman” that epitomize this mind-set include the up-tempo, noise-filled “Leavittsburg” and the slow waltz “About To Go.”
What’s interesting about LaMarca’s push-pull love affair with Youngstown is the fact he moved away shortly after graduating from high school.
“There was never any question for me about leaving,” LaMarca said. “It was just knowing I had to come [to New York City] to do what I wanted to be doing, which is play music.”
LaMarca moved to The Big Apple to study jazz percussion at The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. He graduated in 2009 but not before befriending former Luna members Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips. Soon, LaMarca was touring in their indie act, Dean & Britta. That outfit is mounting a small Midwest jaunt this month that includes a rare Saturday show at Cedars.
LaMarca will be playing with Dean & Britta, which is actually performing songs from Wareham’s erstwhile act Galaxie 500, as well as performing with The Building. The latter is using this hometown show as a CD-release gig.
It’s been an interesting journey so far for LaMarca, who now spends his days eschewing Brooklyn hipsters. In fact, he mentioned feeling compelled to give anyone who talks about Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Jane’s Carousel the back story about how the 1920s merry-go-round came from Youngstown’s Idora Park, which closed decades ago.
So as a self-named ambassador of Youngstown, what exactly does he say about Northeast Ohio?
“I tell people that Youngstown is the center of the universe,” LaMarca said.
And when they’re done laughing?
He said, laughing, “Then I say, ‘No, really, it is.’”