Meet the rock-and-roll Blackwell brothers, Buffalo's Alex-and-Eddie Van Halen.
Like nearly all the other members of their up-and-coming band, Matt and Andy Blackwell are graduates of Canisius College.
"I've many musical influences, including several classical music classes in college," says Matt, lead guitarist of Toy Box Heroes, which was invited to play with the Goo Goo Dolls not long ago. "My first instrument, if you can believe it, was the trumpet. Since I played instruments before I could read music, it was just a matter of translating that to strings and frets. My brother and I have played together for so long, we're at the point where we know what the other is going to do."
His brother, Andy, concurs:
"Before we found the other members of our band, Matt and I would play together every day, and we learned how to predict what the other wants to do with a particular song. Just by looking at each other we can tell what we're thinking."
That kind of fraternal clairvoyance isn't always pleasant for the Depew High School graduates, both in their 20s. "Because we're brothers, we are often more critical of each other, and definitely not afraid to let our feelings be known," Andy admits. "There've been many times when we were lucky other band members were present to make sure things didn't escalate too far."
"Our goal was to play in a great rock-and-roll band together. After looking for a couple of years, we were finally lucky enough to find three other musicians with the same passion for the music as we have."
Also, Matt says, lots "of practice and dedication" have led this band of brothers to record their first CD at Robby Takac's studio. Not long ago, the Heroes played at a benefit for kids with diabetes.
"We enjoy the chance to help out local charities," Matt says.
Heroes front-man Angelo LoGalbo, a Canisius College grad as well, concedes he doesn't "want to brag -- but Andy and Matt are two extremely talented musicians. As brothers, they've been playing together for so long, and that's really helped us with a tight sound."
The band also rocks with rhythm guitar player Johnny Berlin, yet another Canisius College-degree holder.
John Wolowiec "rounds out the band with his low-end bass punch," says Andy, who's been known to electrify the crowd with his stick twirls, tosses -- even occasionally jumping up on his drums.
"My influences were drummers known for their showmanship, like Keith Moon and Tommy Lee. All my on-stage activities leave me exhausted, but it's extremely rewarding when someone says how much they enjoyed watching me play. More than anything, I want to entertain people and connect with the audience, so they can see how much fun I have."
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