Band builds popularity with hard work, has fun along the way

From left to right: Rival Galaxies band members Todd Richards, Matt Ferguson and Mike Fucilli. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)From left to right: Rival Galaxies band members Todd Richards, Matt Ferguson and Mike Fucilli. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

BY REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — Something groovy is brewing in Niskayuna.

On any given evening at Mike Fucilli’s mint-green house on Clifton Park Road, the synths, guitar, bass, and drums of funky party band Rival Galaxies reverberate.

Practices are especially enthusiastic these days, as the band prepares for its first Alive at Five performance.

The group will take the Alive at Five stage with Australian alternative band Atlas Genius on Thursday, July 16, at the traditional weekly summer fun fest.

Rival Galaxies’ introduction into the Alive at Five lineup is a natural next step for a band whose local name recognition has been growing steadily since forming in 2012, with Todd Richards on drums, Matt Ferguson on synths, Nick Wallas on bass and Fucilli on guitar and keyboard; Fucilli also contributes vocals.

A recent show at Riverfest in Troy buoyed the band’s confidence after they saw the audience visibly embrace their sound and style.

“Playing Riverfest was amazing,” Fucilli said. “We were out on the street. There was no stage. Everyone surrounded us. It was awesome.”

From left to right: Rival Galaxies band members Todd Richards, Mike Fucilli and Matt Ferguson. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

From left to right: Rival Galaxies band members Todd Richards, Mike Fucilli and Matt Ferguson. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

Rival Galaxies’ positive momentum has been dampened, however, by the recent departure of Wallas, who moved to the West Coast.

“It’s sad. We miss him; it’s weird,” Ferguson said. The original four members played their final show in Troy at the end of June.

The search for a new bassist is a snag, but recruiting is easier than it originally was now that Rival Galaxies has a reputation among local musicians.

Its origins were unassuming: Fucilli — who by day is the Gazette Newspapers’ web administrator — was sick of playing music alone and decided to spread the word that he was looking for bandmates.

Ferguson and Fucilli had run in similar circles in high school, going to shows at Valentine’s in Albany before the venue closed. Richards simply responded to an online ad Fucilli posted.

“Mike actually posted something on Craigslist,” Richards said with a laugh.

The way they got their name is no more glamorous than they way they met: basically, the band members tossed some different options around via email and text message until one stuck. Their first performance was played under the banner of Lazer Dragon, but they eventually agreed Rival Galaxies fit better. Some other rejected band names have instead been selected for song titles, like Hot Cops, a reference to the TV show “Arrested Development.”

But when it comes to drawing a crowd, the band’s backstory hardly matters. Rival Galaxies has become known as a consistent band to dance to among local concertgoers. Plus, they have a confetti canon.

“That’s kind of the goal, is to get people moving,” Ferguson said.

The band often records their performances to watch back later, so they can keep improving their sound and set. Sometimes, though, the videos provide positive feedback that the stage lights caused them to miss during the performance.

“It’s fun to go back and say, ‘Whoa, those people were dancing the whole time,’ ” Ferguson said.

The Low Beat and The Hollow in Albany (formerly The Bayou) are favorite bookings.

“I love the music scene here. I’ve stuck around here for that reason,” he said. “You have to work so hard to draw people out to a show, so you get really good or unique.”

Rival Galaxies occasionally caters to the crowd with a cover or two, but in general all their songs are original. While members agreed it can be a challenge to find time to write new songs, they all seem to enjoy creating.

“The writing process is just as much fun as performing,” Fucilli said.

From left to right: Rival Galaxies band members Todd Richards, Mike Fucilli and Matt Ferguson. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

From left to right: Rival Galaxies band members Todd Richards, Mike Fucilli and Matt Ferguson. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

In many bands, individual members write their songs alone, then present them to the group for collaborative arrangement. But in Rival Galaxies, things are different.

“It became very organic,” Ferguson said. The bandmates tend to jam for fun until they hit on a phrase that inspires them. Then they build from there, gradually creating a song to add to their repertoire.

Collectively, the bandmates are reluctant to try to describe their own sound.

“In a band, you hear all your influences,” Ferguson said. “When other people listen to it, they hear the whole thing.”

That said, he’s willing to admit he’s found a parallel that fans and band members seem to agree on.

“ ‘Rebel Yell’ came on the radio and I was like, ‘You know, we have a little in common with Billy Idol,’ ” Ferguson said. “We groove a little bit more.”

Looking forward, the group said they’re focused on continuing to play local shows, while recording songs to expand their reach outside the Capital Region.

“We’re working on getting an EP out,” Ferguson said. “The mixing and mastering takes a long time.”

All three are in their late 20’s and early 30’s, so they’ve outgrown the starry-eyed sense that fame is just around the corner — but that doesn’t mean they don’t think about making it big.

“I’d love to play music full time,” Ferguson said. But even if it never happens, the time he spends playing synth with Richards and Fucilli is hardly wasted.

“I’d be a very boring person if I didn’t play in a band,” he said.

Alive at Five performances take place at Jennings Landing, 1 Quay St. The rain location is the Corning Preserve Boat Launch at Colonie and Water Streets. Performances begin at 5 p.m. Admission is free.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.