Treadmill Trackstar Says Goodbye To Analog



The  concept of a not-for-profit band isn’t necessarily a new one, as most bands fail to make any significant amount of money from their efforts, laudable or not. Former Columbia, SC resident Angelo Gianni, who has called Asheville, North Carolina home for many years now, has given this method a new internet-age twist, however, with his band Treadmill Trackstar and their newly released album Goodbye to Analog, the third to be issued via fan funding and sales that are plowed directly back into the next album with nobody from the band actually getting paid from the proceeds–the fourth is already underway, actually, even as this one comes out.

All that wouldn’t really matter much if the music wasn’t great, which it is. Gianni and company flirted with the mainstream back in the late 1990s (their 1997 album Only This came out on the Hootie & the Blowfish-curated label Breaking Records), but the last few sets of songs are stronger and more mature than even that commercial ‘high point’.

Eschewing the quieter acoustics of the previous album Leaving Ohio, Gianni brings back the snarling electrics again from the get-go, with “Life Is A Fatal Disease” blasting out of the speakers like a lost Smashing Pumpkins anthem. Its fatalistic lyrical outlook is typical of Gianni’s long-term worldview, which is resigned to everything sucking, pretty much. The difference as he has aged into things like marriage and parenthood is that there are silver linings and positives to be taken from even the everyday crap of life.

“Dying In Style” begins in fine despairing fashion, but the hope for satisfaction is palpable in lines such as, “you know dreams almost never pay, so you know I feast on the kids to live.” Maybe it’s a commentary on our youth-centric culture, or perhaps it’s acknowledgement that his children are giving him a reason to keep on keeping on.

The guitars abate occasionally for quieter numbers, such as “Rewrite Genesis,” which with its cello intro and gently loping drum machine beat sounds suspiciously like a Contemporary Christian tune except for the lyrics:

I don’t need God anymore, she gives me communion, gives me body and blood,

I don’t need God any more, we’ll make our own sun and moon and stars

I don’t need God any more I found something I can touch to believe in

I don’t need God at all, when I pray to her she hears me.

Gianni has never been violently anti-religion, but he’s clear on where he stands on spirituality, which he takes from his personal relationships. He’s still searching, however, something made plain on a song such as “Looking For Light,” which aches for some sense of home among the thorns of life:

“That town I left forever, this one is turning into the same, oh why do we try so hard to run past the length of the chain”

It’s a frustrated search, one that has kept Gianni’s creative muse at work for years with no real expectation of ‘success’ in worldly terms. His efforts with Treadmill Trackstar may not be for monetary profit, but one could argue that he’s more than getting his money’s worth for the therapeutic effect of releasing all this angst and agony in exquisite musical form.

Side note: longtime Treadmill fans will want to notice that cellist Katie Hamilton returns to the group for the first time since that 1997 album; Heidi Carey and drummer Tony Lee both sat out these sessions.

Check out the entire album on Bandcamp below, where it’s available as a Name Your Price download:


Treadmill Trackstar, Leaving Ohio

A self-described “nonprofit band” (aren’t they all, really?), Treadmill Trackstar‘s second act (the band’s roots stretch back to the late 1980’s and they released an album in 1997 on an Atlantic Records subsidiary) is proving to be more fruitful than the first, from both a creative and numerical standpoint. Leaving Ohio is the band’s second album in as many years and they are already working on a third even as this one sees its official release this week. All of these recordings have been financed through fan donations, Kickstarter campaigns, and other creative financing options, allowing Treadmill to proceed at their own pace, a luxury that’s paying off in its best work to date.

If I Belong To Me was a focused return to rock ‘n’ roll form, then this latest effort is the more thoughtful morning after. Recorded almost entirely with acoustic instruments, it is noticeably more mellow but no less densely arranged. Instead of walls of guitars and drum tracks, the space is filled with violin, castanets, acoustic guitars, and the group’s signature cello. This video of the song “Waste” is a great example of the band’s acoustic direction this time out:

A thematic album of sorts that deals with a man trying to get on with life after his long time mate drowns in the Ohio River, there are multiple songs dealing with loss, such as the line in “Cardinal S,” “Sorry kids we never had, your dad and mom are gone.” it’s that kind of perspective that Treadmill’s key instigator, singer-guitarist Angelo Gianni, brings to even the most straightforward stories–thinking always of the possibilities and expanding upon them in ways the average writer wouldn’t even think to.

The most unusual track here has to be “Knives in the Kitchen,” which is like an Edgar Allen Poe poem with a punchline, or ‘gotcha’ moment at the end. Creepy-sounding and totally different than anything Gianni or Treadmill have ever done before, it’s the album’s most arresting yet anachronistic moment, as if “The Telltale Heart” had been set in the backwoods of Alabama.

The acoustic framework suits these songs, perhaps that was one reason Gianni and company went that route; several songs do still retain vestiges of the more insistent rock found on the band’s previous work, however. “Lions in the Woods”, for example, could have easily come out in a crushingly electric version, as the acoustic take included here is fairly intense already.

The title track that closes the album is another different-sounding tune for Treadmill, as it is mostly just Gianni and a piano (think Ben Folds and “Brick”, also an unusual tune for him at the time it was released). It’s a closing in more ways than one, with the theme of loss and leaving reaching its natural conclusion as the character finally resigns himself to departure from all he’s known with both regret and hope. The lyrics are powerful, the best Gianni’s ever written, so I’ll reprint them below. (At the band’s official website you can find the lyrics to all of the new songs)


The rust has been plotting
(To) turn flawless and fine
To rotting and gone
I’ll cover the driveway
With ivy and weeds
Draw the bridge up to stay

You taught
me something about heaven
Then packed it up took it away
Hell is ready for check in
Bell Captain is leading the way

I’m leaving Ohio
What held me is no more
I’m leaving Ohio
Nothing left but the door

I lost it to failing
I lost it to rage
Found it too late
To open your cage
Put your things in the pantry
Swept the leaves from your grave
I will pray for my sinning
but I’ll never be saved

from reaching for heaven
if you’re in the sky
then I’ll try to believe
Hell is a fine destination
I’m not sure which tickets I’ve saved

The flood as it raised
The locust they grazed
But your famine was I never did treasure our days
The crops are all gone
And I give up the farm

I’m leaving Ohio
Lower the drawbridge and let me in
I’m leaving Ohio
I’ll track you and chase you and turn on this pain into fuel
I’m leaving Ohio
Gonna try not to turn back and wave
I’m leaving Ohio
But I’m taking my faith…
I’ll be better when you see me again

Dan Cook (Verna Cannon, Lay Quiet Awhile) and Susan Cramer (SC Philharmonic) lent their talents on violin and Mako Fujji recorded some didgeridoo for the record in Fukuoka, Japan. (Angelo performed with Mako while doing a few solo gigs in Japan in 2010.)

The record is avail on iTunes and and for FREE download at

Treadmill Trackstar’s New CD “I Belong To Me”

Treadmill Trackstar
I Belong To Me
Your Name (Here) Records

The last Treadmill Trackstar album was released in 1997, so for fans, a new one seems like the proverbial manna from heaven, or some kind of unlikely rip in the universe. Spurred in part by the band’s participation in a reunion event in 2007 and self-financed with lots of help from friends and private benefactors (hence the name of the ‘record label’ above), the result sounds less like a return than a completion of unfinished business.

Band leader Angelo Gianni was always a cynical romantic, if there can be such a thing, and his poetic side seemed to be constantly in flux with his cranky pessimism. Here, he seems more resigned to his fate on “I Belong To You.”

“I belong to you / Do with me what you want to do / Judge and grade and maybe push me through”

on “Hands Off,” however, he changes his mind:

“Take your hands off me / I rented myself / But now I belong to me /
Keep your hands off me / No longer a child / And I’m certain to cease you to be.”

Musically, Treadmill Trackstar always sounded a little out of their time, with Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins the closest sonic reference point that made sense. Here, Gianni takes that psychedelic post-grunge and paints broad sonic strokes that sound at times Beatlesque (“Euphoric”) and even Tom Petty-esque (“Check My Reaction”), but mostly unique. Heidi Carey’s cello isn’t as shockingly different as it was a decade ago, and it blends better with the mellower material that dominates the proceedings.

On one of those more sedate tunes, “Bus Went By,” one senses Gianni coming to grips with the lost opportunities and lost years that the past decade of living with something other than this band represent:

“Waiting around / The bus went by / Wating around to matter”

By the close of the song, he’s resigned to whatever fate he has made for himself, though as always he leaves things wide open to interpretation and personal internalization by the listener:

“Feed the meter / It’s just time / and time is free ‘til gone / Dig the century / and make your small mark in the ground / Climb down and lie / Down and lie”

Treadmill Trackstar’s discography will undoubtedly end up being a ‘small mark in the ground’ straddling the centuries, but this album will make a fitting cap for the time capsule buried there. As Gianni himself says on “Last Good Breath”:

“If for a second it all went away / seal up this package and call it a day.”

For a free song download, visit the band’s website here