During the first week in March, The Montclarion will be publishing content related to the two-year commemoration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the effect it has had on Montclair State University’s campus community #Since2020.
After being interviewed in 2020, the same year he graduated, Montclair State University’s “Unsung Guitar Hero,” Myles Fabrizio Yambao, has returned to sing the ballad of how two years in a pandemic has shaped him and his rock band, The Neverends.
Yambao graduated from Montclair State with a BFA in theatre/acting concentration, a program that helped him to where he is now as a substitute teacher in the New Milford Public School District.
In his senior year of college, Yambao credited the program for affecting his music career by teaching him to let loose and not be afraid of what others think of him while onstage. Yambao said it taught him to give his all and simply keep on going, even if that means a string breaking or going out of tune.
“I really like the [expression], ‘The band plays on,’” Yambao said. “[Even if] everything’s going down [and] the world’s ending, the band’s just like, ‘OK — Might as well just play till the end of it.’”
That is exactly what The Neverends did as the world fell into lockdown just one week after Yambao’s original interview. They continued to find ways to share their original, indie-rock music sprinkled with touches of jazz, metal, reggae, ‘80s fun and shoegaze.
One of the largest hurdles the band faced as COVID-19 began was struggling to see each other. Yambao said it was hard to get all four members together in a room at the same time.
“Some of our parents have underlying conditions as well, so most of the time we didn’t even want to risk visiting each other in the beginning,” Yambao said. “Things were moving pretty slow or not at all. It was incredibly hard to [stay] motivated [at the start].”
They also had to replace their drummer at the time, Tyler Jon Becker, who was moving away to earn his master’s degree. Yambao, Gerassimos Giannoulis, the bassist of the band, and Stephen Palé, the guitarist, welcomed Salvatore ‘Sal’ Lano, who they met at a show right before lockdown, as the new drummer.
Lano says being a part of The Neverends has been everything he expected and more.
“[Yambao], Palé and [Giannoulis] are all insanely talented musicians and even better people,” Lano said. “Overall, I’ve loved every bit of what I’ve been able to be a part of with this group.”
Having entered the band in 2020, Lano said it was an odd time for them all, but it did come with some positive aspects.
“While not being able to play shows for the first couple of months was a bummer, it did allow me to really get a feel of what the band’s sound was about,” Lano said. “And I feel it really allowed us as a group to mold and write material.”
The group’s dynamic remains strong as they take on different endeavors, according to Giannoulis.
“Working with [Yambao] has always been great,” Giannoulis said. “He is the heart of The Neverends’ sound and spirit. In our songwriting process, [he] is the one who comes up with the main structure, the chord progression and the core melodies. Our guitarist, [Palé], has an amazing ear and sense for songwriting as well. It is great to watch them bounce ideas off each other and hash out a song. It makes it easy for me to write my part that complements their ideas while also allowing me to add my own flair.”
Since Lano joined, The Neverends have been focused on getting back into the groove of regularly writing, rehearsing and finding shows to perform at, which have been picking up once again.
They continue to play at the same venues in New Jersey prior to when the pandemic first began, including Debonair Music Hall in Teaneck, Redhouse in Boonton and The Meatlocker in Montclair. They have upcoming performances in March and April. Details can be found in their Instagram @theneverends.
Yambao is grateful to have these opportunities back after experiencing the absence of gigs at the start of the pandemic.
“Not to be dramatic, but I think I need a gig at least once a month,” Yambao said. “It’s the best high I have ever gotten and I get incredibly depressed whenever it’s, like, two or three weeks in between gigs. There is absolutely nothing like experiencing the joy and magic of music live with other people. It is such a rush and I love every second [of it].”
Yambao feels the pandemic gave him the chance to advance his singing, guitar and songwriting skills.
This is evident as the band works on their second album, which will be released in spring or summer. Its lyrics pose questions about life, family, relationships and love, whereas the lyrics of their previous album, “Party Boi,” were less central.
“I think I’m less afraid to talk about more serious topics in my lyrics now,” Yambao said. “Our music has definitely evolved. We’re experimenting more and branching out from that garage-rock sound that ‘Party Boi’ is littered with. This next album definitely is a bit more complex in all the layers each track has to it.”
Yambao ultimately hopes their music can resonate with others.
“I want our music to be an escape for people,” Yambao said. “I hope people feel something when they listen to us. If our tune gets stuck in their head, that’s cool too.”
While waiting for their new album, you can listen to what The Neverends already has out on Spotify and Apple Music @theneverends and YouTube @TheNeverendsOfficial.