This is the second EP album from Beach Viper. It features another five songs that are evocative of 80s arena hard rock. Channeling the band’s closeness to the West Coast of the United States (the band is based in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona—the Phoenix Metro/Scottsdale area), the band’s sound is ostensibly full of sun-drenched chordal hooks, memorable choruses, and persistent hard rock grooves driving it all. The band line-up follows a tried and true hard rock formula: A throaty singer/showman leading the charge, Steve “Traik” Traikovich; catchy guitar riffs and solo wizardry by Rob “El Jefe” Trop; solid bass lines as underlayment for the guitar chugging melodies by Karl “KG” Sproule; and a hard-hitting drummer staying meticulously ‘in the pocket,’ holding the band’s sound together, by Geoff “Kill” McCormick. As suggested by the cover art,“Alive & Free” is one of those hard rock albums that you want crank up in a car as you drove the open road, windows open, and if possible, with the top down.
It seems there are always a series of events that lead to a band’s formation. When Rob Trop departed New York in 2011 for the sunny climes of the “Valley of the Sun” (famously referred to that as it gets over 300 days of sun a year), he also resigned his position as guitarist in a New York cover band. He did not think there would be much of a hard rock music scene in Scottsdale, Arizona, and so he did not consider the possibility he could meet like-minded musicians. But as John Lennon famously said in one of his lyrics, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” And so too here that maxim would apply; it would turn out that the future Beach Viper guitarist was wrong about future band engagements.
Rob forgot he had a profile from years prior on a website that connects musicians. And so, after settling down in Scottsdale, out-of-the-blue one day Rob received an e-mail inquiry from Steve Traikovich, indicating the latter was looking for a guitar player for a classic rock cover band. Rob was somewhat surprised, but happy all the same. To play at the audition, Rob ran out and bought a Marshall combo amp. He had sold his previous Marshall stack, not thinking he would need it again, since he figured he only be jamming by himself in his guitar room ‘man cave.’
The audition including ripping through some classic rock covers. Rob was selected after the audition, setting in motion what would become Beach Viper. The cover band’s set list was a bit ‘lighter’ than Rob’s tastes/ That was largely due to what he refers to as his primary five guitar influences, namely, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Jimmy Page, George Lynch, and Ace Frehley. “Ace is the whole reason I switched from piano lessons to guitar lessons.”
One random day after rehearsal Rob inquired of Steve how he felt about adding some heavier and more ambitious hard rock covers. As it turns out, Steve was a fan of many same heavier bands Rob referred to. As a result, the cover band at that time (not Beach Viper) started to get harder and louder, dropping many of the lighter, pop covers, that previously were in the set lists.
The final transmogrification into Beach Viper came next. Rob had some original song ideas he had long been experimenting with. So he inquired of Steve if he had any lyrics one day, while just randomly ‘chewing the fat’ about band plans. With a pithy reply, Steve answered: “Of course.” From there, the original hard rock songs of Beach Viper began to germinate. But they needed a new name for the original band that would fit their style of music.
Rob ‘El Jefe’ and Steve ‘Traik’ made a list of possible band names, meeting at a local Italian joint called Vito’s. Curiously, the name for the viper mascot became “Vito” later. Rob is not sure if that was a coincidence or if it subconsciously was in his head. “I have no idea honestly, thinking about now.” Given their sound, they wanted a name that evoked summer, California, sun, the beach, good times, and rock ‘n’ roll. The “Viper” part of the name sounded sonically cool with “Beach.” And since Scottsdale is in the Sonoran Desert, and there are snakes there after all, having “Viper” in the name seemed a natural fit. The name goes with their sound, which Steve describes as “Beach Metal.” Many people say the band name is indeed cool, as is their band logo/mascot, Vito the Viper. As Iron Maiden has Eddie the Monster, Beach Viper has Vito the Viper, though there is no giant Vito the Viper robot for the live shows…yet.
The band does have some mellower tunes, namely, the spiritual “Sedona” from the first album, and “West Coast” from the Alive & Free album. “West Coast” is an acoustic song with some striking piano overlays and a laid back groove that makes you want to be on a beach with friends, beer, a bon fire, on a warm, summer, starry night, with the ocean waves gently breaking in the background. The chorus lyric, in referring to things left behind in the Eastern part of the country chides the listener: “I don’t know what I will miss the most—it doesn’t matter on the West Coast.”
It turns out that Rob ‘El Jefe’ and Steve ‘Traik’ are a singer/guitar writing team that history has proven to be a great for fomenting hard rock songs, e.g., Plant/Page, Tyler/Perry, Roth/Van Halen. Rob and Steve often come up with initial bones of the song, and then Karl ‘KG’and Geoff “Kill” help assuage it into an addictive hard-rock tune.
The rhythm section line-up of Karl “KG” and Geoff “Kill” arose because of the many common ailments that affect bands. After the previous bassist left the band due to a relocation issue (before the full evolution into Beach Viper), auditions were held, with Karl “KG” Sproule winning the spot. Karl has an excellent musician’s sense for proper song/guitar tone, timing, and background vocals. It is a big help with honing Beach Viper’s songs into finished gems. As Karl is a guitar player too, this results in some interesting applications of his bass lines to the songs.
The drumming position went through several fits and starts. There was the proverbial ‘different direction’ impulses, personality issues, or drumming ability. Rob stated: “The drummer is the root of the whole tree; without a solid drummer, the band just falls apart.” Rob pushed Steve to hold the auditions that resulted in the merger with Geoff “Kill” McCormick, a real skin basher who stays ‘in the pocket.’ Rob remembers the excitement when Geoff sent a video link of himself doing a Motley Crue play-though of “Dr. Feelgood.” That video was shot with an overhead camera, had the theatrics of constant stick twirling, with Geoff never losing the beat (he also wore some 80s white-striped glam metal pants for some additional visual effect). Rob promptly sent the video to Steve, telling him: “This is the guy we need.” The only remaining issue was the ever-important one of whether Geoff’s personality would synch with the rest of the members. Thankfully, it did. The band has been a solid hard rock machine ever since.
Some Comments from the Beach Viper members:
“The sound and image of Beach Viper in both Alive & Free and the debut EP can be best described as high octane/ high energy music that evokes good times on the beach, with a tan, beer in hand, with killer rock ‘n’ roll music cranked up!” — Steve ‘The Traik’ Traikovich
“The songs on Alive & Free have all those elements that keep a song in your head, i.e., punchy guitar riffs/hooks, cool lyrics, soaring, memorable chorus harmonies, and a power rhythm section.” — Rob ‘El Jefe’ Trop
“The Alive & Free” EP is a jump into hyper-drive. I think the direction of this 2nd album was a natural progression for the band.” — Karl ‘KG’ Sproule
“This album is a reflection of collaborative nature of the band - each member contributed in some way. We recorded it as we were learning to work together, so it's not a destination, but a point in time in our musical journey, infused with an appreciation for life and good times that results in something we call......"Beach Metal". — Geoff ‘Kill’ McCormick
Steve ‘Traik’ Traikovich - Vocals
Rob ‘El Jefe’ Trop - Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Karl ‘KG’ Sproule - Bass, Vocals
Geoff ‘Kill’ McCormick - Drums, Vocals
CD Track Listing:
1- I Shall Return
2- Alive & Free
3- Beach Stomp Boogie
4- Climbing to the Top
5- West Coast
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