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  • Ed Schmieder

Playing Dead Plays On

“Off on the wrong foot,” I thought when I began my conversation with Sam Hoyos of Playing Dead. Explaining that one of the reasons for starting Long Island Stage was to help secure the recognition of the Island’s music scene was of a “regional” sound: think Nashville, think Philly.

Sam disagreed stating “there is a Long Island sound”, and many listeners on the mainland know it when they hear it. It gave me pause, and he made his case.

He was right about the rock sound that having garnered national and international recognition; yes, bands had nailed it. As I paused, I recalled how long ago I encountered the Nassau-Suffolk rock sound but had forgotten: July 3, 1969, at NYC’s Filmore East a triple bill of the Jeff Beck Group, Jethro Tull, and Soft White Underbelly. Long Island music trivia buffs will recognize the third act’s name as Blue Oyster Cult’s original incarnation. That night, Soft White Underbelly held their own alongside two bona fide international rock powerhouses.

Sam’s dedication to our LI music scene is in his DNA. In a December 2019 interview in No Echo (an online hard rock music magazine), he said “…we are on an island with lots of history and super talented songwriters.” - a statement with real conviction.

Listening to Playing Dead’s “discography,” you’ll hear a great Long Island rock band: eclectic, dual-guitar-driven power pop with punk momentum, framing melodic songs with harmonies and smart lyrics.

Listen to 2015’s Transient “Not Today,”

2018’s The Inevitable “Young and Dumb at Heart,”

2019’s Catharsis of Choice “Start Today,”

2020’s Half Full “Everything Under the Sun,”

2021’s Clock Tick Motivation “Dog Whistle,”

2022’s Something to Tide You Over “No Apologies,”

and the new EP, Something from Nothing.

Listen and you’ll understand why one commentator has written “Playing Dead is a band that gets better and better with every album.” The production of the new recording also takes their sound to a new level: less compressed with more “space” and “air” between the instruments and vocalists. Great sounding.

Sam Hoyos has traveled far fast for a rock and roll late-bloomer. His story isn’t as typical as “boy and friends form a high school band and dream big as kids. He said that he drifted into making music: there was a guitar in the house; he started playing around with it until he saw Metallica’s video of “One.” Floodgates opened - then punk bands like Black Flag, and Nirvana’s grunge, Super Chunk, even Wilco poured through - all catalysts. Along for that ride was a friend and now long-time musical sidekick, bassist Dave Casale. Could a band be far behind?

It wasn’t and that band’s prolific output (a new EP or album nearly every year from 2015 to 2023 pandemic be damned) is astonishing. I asked Sam about their process and learned he’s the creative catalyst. In that same No Echo interview he laid it out this way; “I bring [ something] to the band as a full singer songwriter type song then everyone does what they do, and we end up with a Playing Dead song.” Nobody’s playing dead in this band they are all playing on. Time you discovered them.

Link to “16” video Playing Dead

Link to “Red River Podcast” podcast on Spotify (Sam Hoyos and friends) music. movies and miscellanea

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