March 24, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi
You can catch Believe In Ghost! on Saturday, April 1, at The Let Love Inn, located at 27-20 23rd Ave., in Astoria, where the band will perform an hour of original work alongside Loser Cruiser and Persons. The show is free to attend. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.
As one-fifth of a popular band from Astoria called Believe In Ghost!, Billy Conahan and his bandmembers have performed all over New York City, including performances at ICONYC Brewing (Long Island City) and LIC BAR; The Let Love Inn and SingleCut Beersmiths (both in Astoria); Rockwood Music Hall, The Bitter End and Red Lion (all in Manhattan); Coney Island Brewery, Mama Tried, Knitting Factory and The Daily Press (all in Brooklyn); Bowery Electric; and many other venues. The band has also showcased its talents at several spots across the country.
Also true to his dream is Queens/NYC-born, “music-obsessed brewer” and SingleCut Beersmiths’ founder, Rich Buceta, whose life-long passions “led to a place where hops and vinyl could shine side by side.”
“With three songwriters, we are constantly writing, rehearsing and practicing new material. We often debut a new song a week. We have three hours of originals, so, depending on the gig, we pick and choose from them according to what we feel is right for the room,” Conahan noted.
Band members include Rocco Stroker (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboard, earrings); Billy Conahan (vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica, bars); Berk O (vocals, percussion, keyboard, bucket hat); Ricky Martorelli (drums, drip); and also features Tyler Clayton Appel (sax and vibes).
Known for their infectious self-awareness, dynamic arrangements and constant rotation of new, original music, the band’s sounds are simultaneously familiar yet ever-changing.
“After the previous band that Rocco, Berk, and I were in, disbanded, we were left with the choice of either going separate ways or continuing on,” Conahan said. “So, we decided to change our name, but the name took nearly a month to become finalized. The sound changed drastically as well, going from acoustic-folk pop to a rock-blues-hip-hop-funk base. And, after releasing 2 EPs as a trio, we added Ricky as our permanent drummer and practically begged Tyler to join us for all of our gigs after jamming with him once.”
Bursting back on the scene with a renewed sense of purpose, Believe In Ghost! instantly became fan favorites around Gotham.
Along with the many artists who still inspire him daily, Conahan noted that some of his favorites include Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Talking Heads.
Talking about his backstory, the musician told QNS that he came from a background of actors and music lovers, so becoming a musician wasn’t a surprise to anyone. “I taught myself guitar, started writing poetry and music around 13 years old, and haven’t stopped since,” he added. “As a child of the stage, I absorbed the whole idea of performance and fell in love with it.”
It turns out that in his spare time, the “ghost believer” holds a wide variety of interesting jobs and wears many hats. He’s currently acting at the Metropolitan Opera in “Der Rosenkavalier.” “I got into the opera from a gig in Astoria, actually. The casting director was in the audience and said that I looked the part and should audition,” Conahan recalled. “I didn’t expect to get it; I figured it would be a good story, one day. Next thing I know, I had been cast in “Der Rosenkavalier” for [silver-voiced soprano] Renee Fleming’s farewell run, as her servant Mohammad. I appear in every scene she appears in and even close the opera on a pratfall.”
Set in an idealized Vienna of the past, Richard Strauss’s most popular opera concerns a wise woman of the world who is involved with a much younger lover but ultimately forced to accept the laws of time, giving him up to a pretty young heiress.
The multi-talented musician makes some extra cash when beer tending at SingleCut Beersmiths and roasting coffee at Mighty Oak Roasters in Astoria. Besides that, he finds time to play baseball with a group of musicians in Brooklyn, and bowl, when asked to join a league team as a hired hand.
The ghost-believing band members have always rooted for their creative community. “We’re all very proud of the Astoria music scene and community at large for cultivating and nurturing art and its artists in Queens,” Conahan said.
He added: “Astoria Music Collective (AMC) has really pushed for the arts in all corners of Astoria. Hosting shows from pubs and parks to breweries and open streets. It’s been incredible to see how many places have embraced music, and they’ve helped introduce us to so many different audiences and people.”
Perhaps every neighborhood should have a community-based, grassroots music program, like AMC, which is centered around a diverse and eclectic collective of local and outer borough musicians.
“In a community that is rich with talented musicians, our friends Believe In Ghost! are stand-outs, not only in the diversity and creativeness of their sound but also in their hard work and hustle,” said AMC Founder Miguel Hernandez. “I can’t think of any band that works as hard as them, and it shows in both their live performance and recordings.”
“They’ve developed their own fan base, organically within community, which is an incredible thing to see and makes booking with them so easy. You never have to worry about them or their audience; you feel like you’ve already won the room before you even hear the first note. And, they are really nice guys, so every time we work together, it’s an absolute pleasure!”