Mike Geroni: On the Road to Big Things

The following interview is a contributed piece from Ronnie Stoeckel, local music supporter and frequent personality on The Balcony Show on WLVU: The Sound of The Underground.

There is one person in this music scene who I strongly believe deserves to be in the spotlight. That person is 16-time Lehigh Valley Music Award nominee and 10-time winner Mike Geroni. Mike is active in quite a few musical projects in the Lehigh Valley, and he is also a race car driver! Who knew?

Here is Mike, in his own words…

The usual question – how did you get your start in music?
I got started after watching Green Day’s ‘Bullet in a Bible’ concert film. Watching that and being really inspired by what Billie Joe Armstrong was doing onstage was what made me go, “I wanna do THAT!’

So, I took up guitar and taught myself by ear how to play a lot of songs, and taught myself some vocal tricks here and there from listening to a lot of pop-punk bands I was listening to at the time. Plus, I got into a few classics that my parents, and even some high school and college friends, got me into like Bryan Adams, Fleetwood Mac, Bad Company, Eric Clapton, and AC/DC.

So, I guess from the stuff I was listening to, I wanted to know how to replicate that, and it eventually led me to meeting friends, getting involved in multiple bands, and playing some pretty crazy places over the years.

Tell us about some of your musical projects, including your current band, Mike Geroni and the Road Zombies.
My longest running band, Groovitude, has been on the scene for almost 10 years now. We’ll be pretty active again soon. I was serving as lead vocalist for StillCraft this past winter and had a blast with it. I’m hoping to stay involved with those guys. I’m also currently the lead guitarist and backing vocalist for Chelsea Lyn Meyer.

As for Mike Geroni & the Road Zombies, we started as an acoustic duo with myself and lead guitarist Miles Hartl back in mid-2014 after recording my solo album ‘Song for a Grave Digger.’ After that, we had James Frank on bass and a rotation of different drummers, which has now led to having numerous musicians come in, have fun, and play some of the best rock and punk music in the area.

The Road Zombies name came from an lesser-known instrumental piece by one of my all-time favorite bands, Social Distortion. I wanted to a 60’s band-style name. Plus, I’m a big ‘Walking Dead’ fan, so Road Zombies it was and still is.

What gives you the inspiration for your songs?
That’s a pretty broad question for me. (Laughs) I’m all over the board. I’m inspired by a lot of things that I’ve either experienced, imagined, or have been generally moved by, and wanted to get creative with it. The songs I write aren’t just, “All is fun in rock n’ roll, fast cars, loud guitars and women.” Most of the time, they’re usually about falling in and out of love, finding love, how love can be a form of insanity depending on how you look at it,  and the chaos it can bring to life, for better or for worse.

Sometimes, I’m inspired by short stories, poems, magazine articles, and pictures. I could go on all day on what can set me off on a songwriting binge. I can’t just write one song, on one theme, in a single session. The amount of lyrical play I give myself is endless, and I try to use up as much as I can.

You’ve recruited some of the most talented musicians in the Lehigh Valley into your band. How did you connect with them?
It’s a domino effect. I meet or start playing with one person, and it leads to meeting somebody else that I end up gelling with, just from playing and talking with them. I can read a player that well and, if they’re able to do the same with me as the other players I have in my pocket, it’s an easy win. It’s all about networking and building friendships with players who are just as, if not more driven with the skill to back it up.

I’m lucky that I play with so many of my friends that have the same outlook show after show, week after week, can do it in-studio, and aren’t only there to get a paycheck.

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Mike Geroni performing with Stealing 2nd Base at Musikfest 2018.

You had a single out with Kate Mertz (That Being Said/Kate and Those Guys) a few years ago called “Rock ‘n Roll Daydream.” Do you have any other collaborations in the works? Anyone you’d like to work with?
I do have an acoustic pop-punk project/collaboration with Chelsea Lyn Meyer called ‘Stealing 2nd Base.’ We don’t get much of a chance to play the pop punk material we grew up listening to, so we’re able to play covers at her open mic and on our own time. We’ve been talking about possibly writing some pop punk material for an EP, so it’s something to look forward to that I hope comes to fruition.

The only other Lehigh Valley-based artist I really want to work with is Warren North from ‘Sunsets North.’ He’s practically one of my adoptive older brothers in the scene. I learn from him every time we meet up and catch up, and I would really like to write and perform with him sometime. We’re good friends and we’ve played some shows together, but never have had the opportunity to work together creatively on a song, so it would be really cool to do that at some point down the road.

I would also like to write a song or two for my buddies in StillCraft, and keep my relationship going with those guys.

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a musician?
I would easily have to say my first solo album, ‘Song for a Grave Digger.’ That’s an album I wrote at what may be the lowest point of my life, and I credit one of my friends for talking me into putting my thoughts and feelings to paper and music. It’s something I feel that I’ll never be able to duplicate again. I’ve never written as furiously, aggressively, and recklessly as I did that whole. It was the first time that I had a record that really sounded like me; it was coming from an honest place where I wasn’t being pressured, and I knew it wasn’t going to be tampered with. It’s still my best release of material

But… without giving away too much, the stuff I have for my next album, when it’s done, will be just as big of an accomplishment.

Outside of music, you also race “dragsters” or “funny cars.” How did you get started?
I want to say I was practically born at the drag races (laughs). Really, though, most of my life has been spent at the drag races or doing something racing related, so it’s really left an impact in my life. I started driving and competing in races in the Junior Dragster bracket when I was 8, and had a successful career in that for about eight or nine years. During that time, my dad had the car that we currently run – a 1948 Fiat bodied Funny Car, which covers the quarter mile in 6.9 seconds at over 190+ mph – professionally built. He was running it locally for a while, until he had a health scare a number of years ago that has since prevented him from competing.

So, I wanted to get back into racing again, pursue my personal goal of coming back as a funny car driver, finish my dad’s goal of surpassing the 200 mph barrier, and get into the touring/regional match racing circuit that I enjoyed watching as a kid.

I went to a racing school, got signed off on my racing license by two professional drag racers, and haven’t looked back since. I went right into it the following year, and started getting into some pretty big shows at racetracks all over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Since racing takes up most of your summer, how do you keep your music career balanced and advancing? How do you combine the two?
Keeping it balanced? (Laughs) A lot of pre-planning. It’s a bit hard to explain how it works, since it’s my own little strategy.

However, advancing my music career has some pros and cons to it. The biggest con would be trying to make time to record the album and a bunch of other original material I’ve been sitting on. i’m hoping to change that soon and make the time. The biggest pro has been the trick or science behind combining the music and racing, which has been a lot of fun. I’ve been using social media as much as possible with my own ‘Nitro Punk’ branding and the ‘support your local drag racing rock musician’ hashtag, getting music friends to come out to a drag race and expose them to this loud, fast, crazy, and intense sport that’s right in your backyard. I’ve also had racing friends come out to a show and support the local music scene, exposing them to follow what’s going on in their backyard.

I’m also making an effort to get other local and independent artists to have their music be seen and heard in racing promotional videos, or jump into the sponsorship realm with race teams. This past full year, I’ve been using myself as the ‘crash test dummy,’ and it’s been a big success with my recent single, ‘Speed Demon Rock n Roll’ respectively. I’m hoping to not just get myself out there more by openly publicizing myself as one of a small handful of drag racing musicians out there, but by allowing other local, independent artists that same opportunity.

Do you have any advice for kids trying to break into the music business?
ALWAYS. STAY. DRIVEN.  Practice, practice, practice songs until you can play them in your sleep while hanging upside down. Even if you’re sick as a dog, hurting like hell, having the worst day ever, and feel like people are trying to distract you or get in the way of what you’re doing, don’t ever lose sight of your goals, no matter what life throws at you. The more you can take on and the longer you work hard at it, the bigger the pay-off and reward.

That’s Mike in a nutshell, friends and fans! Please be kind and check out his music and racing on social media, found here:

Mike Geroni and the Road Zombies
Groovitude
Stealing 2nd Base
Geroni Racing
Instagram

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