The Williamsport music scene has yet another new talented musical act under its belt. Alternative-folk band The Alterations will play at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Brickyard, 343 Pine St., with guests Ten Cent Days.
The Alterations are Val LaCerra on acoustic and electric guitar and vocals and John Nicholson on drums, ukulele and vocals.
The Alterations were born out of the love of music from the two band members, following the hiatus of LaCerra's band, Key of V, which she played in with her sister Erin. Nicholson began playing with Key of V during their tour last year.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN/Sun-Gazette
The Alterations are John Nicholson, left, on drums, ukulele and vocals, and Val LaCerra on acoustic and electric guitar and vocals. For more information about the band, visit www.thealterations.net.
"It just made sense for John and me to keep playing," LaCerra said. "I miss Erin and Key of V; The Alterations is a new outlet for me."
Nicholson said as he and LaCerra began playing together, they quickly found themselves having a lot of fun and there was a great energy.
"For me, one of the biggest draws is the openness in this project," he said. "I am a very green musician and I need a lot of space to feel comfortable and confident enough to express myself. It helps, too, that I know Val so well. I also am really interested in creating a space where Valerie can stretch. I am not always sure what will come out of her and that is a huge motivator for me to keep pushing further with my instruments."
LaCerra said the band's sound "comes off as primarily folk, with punk, gypsy, indie and experimental influences."
Both band members said they remember being drawn to music at a very young age. LaCerra said she wrote a lot when she was younger and recorded a CD in 2006, which became the basis for Key of V.
"My earliest memory of music is dancing and singing in my living room as a child," Nicholson said. "We had a Casio keyboard with pre-programmed Lain beats that I would play over and over. Also, I've been told that as a baby, one of my first words was 'Bach' and that when I would bark it out, my mom would play it on our huge '80s stereo."
LaCerra said starting a new band can be very overwhelming, but takes comfort in the fact that she knows her friends and family can be a part of the experience. The Alterations like to welcome other musicians to play with them sometimes, changing the dynamic of the original duo and keeping each performance fresh and entertaining.
"I like the idea of having a band that is open to anyone, but I have never done it until now because at heart, I'm a control freak," LaCerra said. "Playing with rotating members challenges me in a really valuable way."
"I think playing with others is part of that openness attitude that reminds us that this is not all serious," Nicholson said. "It takes the stuffiness right out. It reminds me that we picked this up to have fun and connect with ourselves and others."
Both band members are responsible for writing their own instrumental parts, but also make suggestions to each other and LaCerra is the sole lyricist.
"Usually some phonetically appealing but meaningless lyrics will just come out of me," LaCerra said. "I used to keep these in the song, but now I try to be more intentional, forging and trimming the lyrics with a theme in mind. It definitely takes more work but I think the end product is more articulate. I think there's a place for both styles of writing."
Nicholson's musical influences include Questlove and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He said he connects more with artists on their energy than on any specific musical genre.
"I get so pumped when I hear the quiet strength of Mississippi John Hurt's voice," he said. "To be an African-American musician back then would have been so difficult. He was not only fighting the stage jitters, but I'm sure some bigots after the show. That's courage."
LaCerra said the women of the '90s alternative scene are some of her main influences, including Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos, but she also trained her voice singing to Patsy Cline and Mariah Carey.
"I tend to gravitate towards female vocals and I also identify with female artists," she said. "Being a woman in the music scene can be challenging and surrounding myself with these songs gives me a sense of comfort and strength."
Nicholson finds inspiration in the unknown element of the musical process.
"Sometimes creativity comes out of you and you don't know from where," he said. "That feeling is a deep sense of living for me. Keeps me going for sure."
LaCerra credits the Williamsport music scene as one of the main reasons she started to play and continues to play music.
"There is so much talent and so many people that support it, without the cliqueness I've seen other places with good scenes," she said. "I think the size of Williamsport was ideal for me as a budding artist who was uncomfortable and unsure about her art ... the community here has continued to embrace me, especially with this new project. Without missing a beat, we're playing with amazing musicians for attentive fans. We're all equal parts of a nice community. I'm really grateful."
For more information about The Alterations and to download their songs free, visit www.thealterations.net.