History of the Sights
Eddie Baranek founded The Sights, playing with high school classmates and friends Mike Trombley (drums) and Mark Leahey (bass/vocals) who shared his infatuation with ’60s pop, Motown and garage records. Their first gig as the Sights happened in July of 1998 and the band was quickly taken under the wing of the local scene, performing with more seasoned vets of the Detroit music resurgence. Baranek and Leahey were still under the age of 18 at the time, and were not old enough to remember first-hand the bands that seem to have had the biggest influence on them, including edgy late-’70s punk/new wave acts like the Buzzcocks or early Jam, and certainly not those bands’ influences: British mods like the early Who or the Creation.
In late 1999, drummer Eugene Strobe came aboard. The youthful trio recorded songs for a debut album, Are You Green?, at Jim Diamond’s Ghetto Recorders that same year. Are You Green? was initially released by Detroit’s short-lived Spectator Records in 1999 (when Baranek was only 18) and re-released in 2000 by Los Angeles-based independent Fall of Rome Records.
After recording a 4-song double 7″ for Fall of Rome in the summer of 2001, Dave Shettler started playing drums with the group. Shettler was the latest of a rotating cast of drummers and joined in on recording and songwriting duties for the band’s sophomore full-length, Got What We Want, which was recorded in December 2001. With this, the band’s freakishly precocious ability to blend frenetic garage rock, Motown and 60’s pop into something equal parts classic and catchy got them noticed.
Got What We Want was released in the U.K. a year later, garnering them nice words from both the British press (“Got What We Want is a revelation – a treasure trove of sparky and wildly immediate songwriting.” –NME) and the not-so British press (“At last – a new Detroit-garage band that comes in colors.” –Rolling Stone). The Sights hit the road for a year of touring both countries, including a 10-week stint sleeping inside the group’s 1991 Ford Econoline van. Every note of Got What We Want displays the band’s catholic attention to the last 40 years classic pop and rock, reminiscent of The Zombies and Big Star, The Band and The Rolling Stones to mention only a few. Nate Cavalieri joined the band on organ and piano in the early part of 2002. Matt Hatch started playing bass in the band that same year.
In the spring of 2004, The Sights – now a trio including Bobby Emmett on B3 organ and piano bass – caught the ear of ex-Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, who signed them to his own Scratchie Records. And with that, the band headed back to Ghetto Recorders and recorded their self-titled third LP, The Sights (released in April, 2005). Shettler and Emmett contributed many vocals to the album. Original drummer Mike Trombley rejoined to finish the last few tracks for the record and was later replaced by Keith Fox. The band toured all over the world to support the record, supporting The Donnas, Robert Plant and Guided by Voices. The lineup’s last show was in December of 2007.
During the Sights’ hiatus, Eddie was a supporting player for many Detroit bands, including the Expatriates, Shotgun Wedding, Spitting Nickels, and The Drinking Problem. For more on this transitional period, read the November 2009 feature on the band in the Metro Times.
2009-2010 brought the next stage in the evolution of The Sights. Baranek was joined by Dave Lawson (bass/vocals), Gordon Smith (guitar, keyboards and vocals) and Skip Denomme (drums) to record the band’s fourth LP, Most of What Follows Is True, released on Alive! Records. The album earned the band it’s highest accolades to date.
Throughout 2010-2011, The Sights have maintained an aggressive touring schedule. The Sights Live at Euclid Records was released in December 2010. Also that month, Lawson stepped away from the band to concentrate on recording.
The Sights (Baranek, Smith and Denomme) are now writing their next record. Live, The SIghts are often joined by a horn section (Dean Tartaglia and Allison Young) and they continue to win over audiences with each show.
Where Are They Now?
Bobby Emmett (organ, piano bass: 2004-2007) released a solo record, Learning Love, in 2009 and can be seen touring as a member of Shooter Jennings’ band.
Dave Shettler (drums: 2001-2005) is an in-demand session man, electronic experimenter, disc jockey and woodworker. He recently collaborated with Eddie on the 2010 Scott Morgan album and both Eddie and Dave Lawson on the 2010 Ian Saylor album, Divorce Music.
Mark Leahey (bass: 1998-2002) now lives in the great northwest and is writing, recording, and touring with his new project: On the Tundra. Their music is best described as instrumental indie rock. On the Tundra’s first album “Electric Walls” is available now. onthetundra.bandcamp.com
Nate Cavalieri (organ: 2002-2003) After staying put in Oakland for a few years, Nate hit the road with his girlfriend on an extended stint abroad, doing some work for Lonely Planet and volunteer work. In his words: “In some ways the time on the road with the Sights was perfect training — not enough showers, living out of a bag and exhausting drives. At least the lamp dogs in Mexico come wrapped with bacon.”
Matt Hatch (bass: 2003-2004) stills works and drinks in Detroit. He plays the bass in a few outfits but still annoys his friends with old stories about how sweet he was back when he was in The Sights.
Eugene “Machine” Strobe (drums: 1999-2001) is recording and writing music with assorted musical projects, teaching guitar and drums to aspiring rockers at the ‘Experimental Music School Of Detroit’ (E.M.S.O.D.), is a member of various bicycle clubs such as ‘the Hamtramck Lizard Gang’ and is still organizing community music happenings under the ‘Practice Amp!’ www.myspace.com/practiceamp