Connecticut-based lead singer/rhythm guitarist Ian Lear-Nickum met lead guitarist/backup vocalist Mike Suozzi when Suozzi hosted a potluck dinner for kindergarten parents in 2018. Lear-Nickum was ready to head home for the night when someone announced there was karaoke upstairs in the music room. Lear-Nickum decided to check it out, they jammed together and decided to form a band. They brought on drummer Mike Mohn and bassist Joe Ryan to round out the group. Last year, vocalist Chelsea Nicholls joined the group, and they’ve been rocking ever since.
They’re one of four bands competing this Saturday at Pound Ridge’s Battle of the Bands during Proud Day. We sat down with Lear-Nickum and Souzzi to talk about rock and roll, their musical inspirations and their status as undefeated Battle champions.
Katonah Connect: What genre of music do you play?
Ian Lear-Nickum: We rock it up as much as possible. We play bands like Motley Crue and Guns & Roses. But we’ll also do Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” but the rock version.
Mike Suozzi: The general stable is sort of 90’s rock and alternative, and a little bit of the late 80’s fun rock music. We mix it up. Everything from Aerosmith and Zeplin through Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots. But we’ll also throw in random things like a rock version of a Taylor Swift song, just to keep it fresh and interesting.
KC: Do you write any of your own music?
ILM: We’ve written some originals, but we haven’t debuted them yet. But every time we write something together it’s a mix between Foo Fighters and Guns & Roses and Tool.
KC: How did you come up with your band’s name?
ILM: Suozzi came up with it. Chris Cornell is one of our favorite vocalists, and we bonded over that. One of our favorite albums that he did is with Temple of the Dog, and there’s a track on that album called “All Night Thing.”
KC: So, do you sing that song?
MS: We don’t, ironically. I think it’s because it’s a slower song.
KC: Who inspires you?
MS: I love bluesy rock stuff. My whole style of playing is very much influenced by that. But not traditional blues, but more like Slash – he’s my number one influence. And then, obviously, he’s very influenced by Joe Perry who is very influenced by Jimmy Page. And musically, I love all kinds of stuff. But mostly, within different ranges of rock and blues. And I probably get a lot of influence from my wife – she just loves pop music, and I’ve come to appreciate it in a way. If you take all of the production stuff out of it, some of it could actually be a cool rock song. Often, the songwriting is actually good, but you don’t think about it just because of the way it’s marketed and over-produced.
ILM: I have two roles in the band. I’m the singer, but I’m also a guitar player. So, I’ve always gravitated towards singers who also play guitar. So obviously, Chris Cornell could do that – he could do both the front man thing and the guitarist thing. But my first real love in terms of 80s’ music was Def Leppard. So, I want to do the Joe Elliott thing. But then I discovered Nirvana. So, there’s the Kurt Cobain meat and potatoes thing –just playing the guitar as hard as possible. But then other vocalists came into the picture. I’ve always been a huge fan of Metallica and the more hard-edged vocals of Chester Bennington from Lincoln Park. And then obviously, Maynard James Keenan from Tool is just my kind of ultimate, between his lyrics and his melodies and his range. That’s kind of what I love. And you can never get a better vocalist than then Freddie Mercury.
KC: Do you sing any Queen songs?
ILM: We do “Fat Bottomed Girls.”
KC: That’s a great song!
MS: Yeah, but it was never part of our repertoire. We only learned it because we were competing in the Gates Battle of the Bands New Canaan. When it’s down to the final two, both bands are given the same song to sing. Last year it was “Fat Bottomed Girls.” We also competed right before COVID-19 and got down to the final two that year as well. That song was “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith.
KC: Did you win either of them?
MS: We won both times.
KC: Have you competed in any other battles?
KC: So, you’re an undefeated Battle of the Bands champion?
ILM: Yeah, We’re two for two. But it’s a very small sample size.
Is there any singer or group you’d like to cover that would shock your fans?
MS: We’ve thrown around Britney Spears. We could probably do a cool version of “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” Or “Toxic” would actually be a wonderful one to cover.
ILM: One of my bucket list songs is “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. I’ve always heard that song as a heavier song.
KC: Besides the fact that you’re undefeated, why do you think your band should win?
MS: At the end of the day, we’re a super talented band all around, but I think our vocals are the thing that really sets us apart. Ian’s just a phenomenal vocalist, he is second to none. I’ve been around this area for a long time. I’ve heard a lot of bands, and there’s literally nobody better who can like sing Ian. His range is insane, and he can out-sing literally anybody.
KC: So, he’s the Freddie Mercury of Connecticut?
MS: Yes, exactly.
ILM: I feel the same way about Suozzi. When I first saw him play, I couldn’t believe there was a dad in my kid’s class who could play guitar exactly like Slash! What are the odds of that? Even down to the tone and the bends. What are the odds that that level of talent existed, and the universe put us together?
KC: What would you like everyone to know about All Night Thing?
ILM: Please come out to see us on Saturday and have fun!
Gia Miller is an award-winning journalist and the editor in chief/co-publisher of Katonah Connect. She says she’s living the dream she never knew she had. Gia enjoys telling people’s stories, laughing at her crazy dog and a good podcast. She thanks multiple alarms, fermented grapes and her husband for helping her get through each day. Her love languages are food and humor.