By Sydney Bucholtz
Assistant Features Editor
From the Goo Goo Dolls, to Spyro Gyra, to Cute Is What We Aim For, Buffalo, New York has witnessed a myriad of bands from their point of establishment through their rise to fame. Since last year, the city has experienced the evolution of a new musical group, most members of which have attended schools in the Buffalo area. With their roots in local schools ranging from Saint Joseph’s Collegiate Institute to Williamsville North High School, the six members of Mom Said No have begun turning their wheels and branching outward, developing as another one of Buffalo’s own bands quickly on the rise.
With some promising gigs scheduled in the coming months, a few members of Mom Said No, Chris Lillis and Aaron Schapiro, reflected about the formation of the group. “It started off as Ben and Elliott, as their kind of little thing,” Lillis described. “Elliott was writing and Ben played guitar. Now, we have a solid formation of…us, which is the six of us.” After a few swaps and a few replacements, in order to maintain the ideal balance of sound, the “six of us” that currently comprise the band are Chris Lillis (keyboard/vocals), Mike Lillis (drummer), Aaron Schapiro (lead guitar), Tim Jackson (vocals), Elliott Hunt (guitar/vocals) and Ben MacFayden (bass/vocals). “We’re, like, the fifth generation of Mom Said No,” Schapiro expressed to The Griffin.
The variety found in the group’s formation and instrumentation is also prevailing in the age range of its members. “There’s a huge age range,” said Schapiro. “ I’m fifteen and Mike is twenty-three.” In fact, the different schools and universities that the members attend span across New York State, including Ithaca College, State University of New York at Fredonia, Canisius College, Williamsville North High School, and Niagara County Community College. However, this unique versatility is one of the reigning factors that has contributed to the band’s distinct sound.
On the topic of versatility, one of the members plays a total of eight instruments. “I’ve never really done anything in my life other than music,” said Schapiro. “I mean, I started playing piano when I was three and trumpet when I was seven, guitar when I was ten, bass when I was twelve, drums when I was fourteen…” He elaborated by saying that at some point between these lessons over the years, violin, flute and clarinet were also implemented into his schedule. “As far as my musical background goes,” Schapiro continued, “it’s kind of all I’ve ever done. I’ve had a couple bands with my one friend, just different, random, recording a song or two, but all I’ve done is music.”
Having this extensive musical education came in handy when Schapiro auditioned for Mom Said No. “I learned something like six songs in a week, so I guess that impressed Elliott enough to keep me around,” he shared. Schapiro described that he soon became the lead guitarist, before Mom Said No recruited Chris this past February. “I played one show, and then [Lillis] was actually at the show watching,” Schapiro remembered. Lillis responded that their addition to the group “definitely added more dynamics. Until [February], we didn’t have a lead guitarist.” He added, “We don’t know if [Mom Said No] is completed now. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were even more incarnations of the band.” Lillis and Schapiro conveyed that the balance and members of the group were in a practical flux, for the purpose of maximum overall effectiveness, until the current members were brought together.
The group as a whole collectively operates by contributing and building off of each other, and in turn, fully utilizing the abundance of talent available. As Schapiro started, “Most of the writing is done by Elliott and Tim.” Lillis furthered, “We kind of add layers. They start off with the base, so they have an idea to the sound they’re going for, and we all add a different layer to how we think it should sound,” he explained. “So then, by the end, we have something that sounds semi-decent, terrible, or anything in between.” The end result of this artistic process is created in a product inspired by, as Lillis described, certain forms of pop music, as well as some alternative roots, such music similar to The Black Keys and Weezer, “Elliott’s idol.”
Lillis described his favorite song to perform. “For me, it’d have to be ‘The Intro,’ which is normally the first song that we start off with.” His reasoning was “mostly because of the funky keyboard part that it’s got.” Lillis continued, “It’s super synthesized and everything, so that’s really cool to me. My favorite for [Schapiro] is probably ‘Come Alive,’ which is the ending song we do. He does all sorts of crazy stuff, like plays behind his head and picks with his teeth.” Schapiro contributed, “‘Come Alive’ is a lot of fun at the end because Tim will say, ‘Alright everyone, get up and dance’ for this last minute of the half of the song. And everyone will be going crazy while I’m shredding behind my head. But I think my favorite song would probably be ‘Song to You.’”
Mom Said No has made musical appearances at a collection of places in the Buffalo area. “We just did the Elmwood Art Festival,” Lillis said. “It was a lot of fun, except we were the first band and it was, like, ten in the morning. So, there weren’t a lot of people, but we still had a lot of fun.” Schapiro added, “It goes from that, and then we’ve played a bar at 11:00 on a Tuesday night for literally no one. So there’s really a big range in the types of shows we play.”
“I think Buffalo Iron Works was my favorite venue,” Lillis recalled. “The way they treat musicians there is really cool. You walk backstage and they have this whole upstairs area, and then you go into the green room and, of course, they have this stocked fridge. They have these really nice couches, they have a shower… That was different in comparison to a lot of the other places.” Schapiro attested, “It was one of the most legitimate places were ever played.” He continued, “We did the Miss Buffalo cruise over the summer and that was really a lot of fun. Just because we were just kind of thrown together, and everything was kind of up to us, but it ended up being a good show.” He elaborated about another similar concert situation, “A month ago [we performed at] The Ninth Ward. It’s underneath an old church; it’s got this super gothic vibe. Tiny little place, you could probably only fit fifty chairs in there,” he said. “Didn’t know how we were going to fit six people up there. We kind of just had to make it work.”
A few of the band’s upcoming performances are going to be very local in proximity to Buffalo. Mom Said No has coordinated with Austin Rothwell, president of The Wire, and are planning a show with him on October 1 at Canisius College. It will feature the band’s performance, rap performances by Rothwell, as well as a performance by Canisius College student Jerrell Lanos. Mom Said No has also scheduled concerts on October 21 at the Evening Star Concert Hall in Niagara Falls and on October 23 at the Bug Jar in Rochester. The group will also make a concert appearance on December 15 at the bar Nietzsche’s on Allen Street in Buffalo.
As the band progresses in its career, whether gaining exposure through more performances or continuing to collaborate in regards to creating the best possible musical pieces, Mom Said No is unmistakably growing and certainly are artists to watch. Lillis described their current state of development as a group by saying, “It’s difficult because everyone’s in school and everyone’s got their own priorities. But I think that we’re definitely moving forward in the sense that we’re working on our LP right now; we’re attempting to start it… So we’ve got that in the works.” Schapiro contributed his thoughts, as well. “I think right now we’re definitely on an upswing,” he shared. “We’re definitely moving up right now, and I don’t see it fizzling out anytime soon. Everyone keeps saying that the point it is now is the most solid it’s ever been. Elliott and Ben have said that, the ones who have been there from the beginning… They kind of think, now, this is it.”