By Jameson Mangan | January 21, 2023
Specialists brought their unique blend of funk and dance-rock to Brooklyn Made last Friday night, following strong opening performances by Will Leet and Bentley Robles.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Specialists’ sound is their distinct lack of one single lead vocalist. Instead, the group is bolstered by two equally strong singers in co-founders Mikey Rotunno (bass) and Will Harden (guitar), who took turns leading the crowd through their cleverly written songs.
Harden’s strong, passionate vocals conveyed eager desperation on the angsty jam “Why Do You?” while Rotunno’s smooth, confident voice provided a reassuring atmosphere for concertgoers to comfortably let loose on songs like “Hole in the Wall.” Their two voices bounced back and forth effortlessly and created impressive harmonies when they did intertwine.
Throughout the night, the group’s sound fluctuated between danceable funk pop (think more Talking Heads, less Red Hot Chili Peppers) and 90s flavored indie rock. The group has a knack for finding incredibly catchy pop riffs and peppering them with unexpected fills that would make a music theorist proud.
Although the setlist was made up of mostly originals from the group’s newly released album Hole in the Wall, Specialists slipped a few tasteful covers into the mix that played to their strengths as a group, including a raucous performance of The Black Keys’ “Gold on the Ceiling.”
The young musicians displayed the comfortable stage presence of seasoned vets, which was highlighted during their handful of improvised jam sessions. Keys player, Peter Harden, whipped the audience into a frenzy when he unleashed a particularly tasty solo mid-show, every note punctuated by his emotive facial expressions and a slight head-bang.
It’s safe to say Specialists made more than a few new fans, as the audience responded to their electric energy throughout their entire performance.
We caught up with Peter, Christian, Will, and Mikey of Specialists at Brooklyn Made just after doors opened, where they answered a few questions for the groovement:
What was your first concert you went to?
Peter: Soulive at Brooklyn Bowl
Christian: Carl Palmer Band at Westbury Theatre
Will: Paul McCartney at Yankee Stadium
Mikey: Aerosmith at Jones Beach
Where are you from?
We’re all from the NYC area – Staten Island and Long Island.
How did you first get started?
Will: Peter and I are brothers, the rest of us met in college.
What was the first concert you performed?
Mikey: Our first show as Specialists was at a college basement party.
Christian: Our first show together with this lineup, though, was in the summer of 2019 at The Bitter End.
How would you describe your music, either by genre or general vibe?
Mikey: Lately I’ve been enjoying the term “dance rock”…it’s a little more ambiguous and has a little more intrigue to it. Peter: In a live setting, we like to add more improvisational elements to it as well.
What is your pre show routine (anything you need to do, eat or drink)?
Mike: 2-3 Coors Lights…nothing crazy.
Christian: Maybe slightly more water on the day of the show.
Who/what do you draw inspiration from?
Mikey: The inspiration comes from within, I’m always itching to make music. Even if no one listened, I’d probably make the same music.
Will: As far as what music inspires us, our influences are too vast and widespread to pinpoint any one artist or sound. We listen to it all.
Do you have anything you want people to take away from your music?
Will: I just hope it’s music people can find a purpose for in their day to day lives. I hope there’s a song that makes someone feel better or makes someone more excited about something. If they’re giving us their time, I hope they walk away feeling excited about something.
What’s your dream venue to perform at?
Will: Brooklyn Steel
Christian: Brooklyn Mirage
Mikey: The Palladium in LA
Peter: It’s gotta be the Garden
What’s next for you?
We just released our record today! And we’ve got a slew of tour dates coming up between now and May, we’ll be all up and down the east coast.
📸: shot by Jill Boyatsis