Hootz1By Alicia Dziak

What do you get when you combine three talented musicians from two local high schools with powerful songwriting, unique vocals, guitar riffs, drums and some of the coolest string instruments? The Hootz—a rip-roarin, good time of a band that’s here to stay.

The Hootz (formerly known as Hootn’Anges) is made up of three main members: Angela (Ange) Marino, who attended Salamanca Central High School and went on to attend JCC and SUNY Fredonia, on bass guitar and lead vocals, her husband, Luke Marino, who attended Franklinville Central, on guitar and lead vocals, and her cousin, Anton Oliverio, who also attended Salamanca Central High School, on drums and back-up vocals. Additionally, the band incorporates freelance musicians from all over New York State on fiddle, banjo and steel guitar.

Ange and Luke met when Luke was playing in an all-guy, four piece band called “Not Quite There.”  The two were introduced by the band’s bass player, a friend of Ange’s, who told Luke about Ange’s singing voice. “(Luke) asked me to get up and sing with him…I’d never really sung publically before, but I played the part and sang ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben King for the first time,” explained Ange. The rest is history. “That song has so much meaning these days and we still include it in our cover performances.”

The newest addition to the band is Oliverio. “Anton is my little cousin and as long as he could hold a pair of drumsticks, he’s been twirling them and playing drum rolls,” Ange said. “He is an absolute prodigy.  At the age of 21 now, he’s won many national competitions and continues to build a name for himself in the WNY music scene for being one of the best drummers around.  We also work with a number of other freelance musicians, such as Nick Piccininni from Waterville, NY, who plays a mean banjo and shreds it on the fiddle as well, and Ken Cornell from Collins, NY, who tears it up on the steel guitar and fiddle.  We met them and continue to meet a number of very talented musicians on the road playing shows.”

While the band’s Facebook page describes their music as “alternative country,” Ange notes that, “It’s hard to put a genre on our music, because we really are not your typical country band.”

“You see, Luke was always writing music for his voice, and…his all-guy band was sort of a punk-rock band. When I began to sing with Luke, I don’t think I even knew I had a country twang in my voice,” Ange explained. “I laid down a couple tracks on a CD he was recording in the studio, and suddenly we realized we were ‘going country.’ Luke began to write around my voice when we started getting noticed for our country appeal. One thing led to another and here we are writing songs with a very contemporary sound for country lovers.”

While The Hootz has played many memorable shows over the years, one performance in particular sticks out in Ange’s mind: “…when we got up and jammed at our wedding, there are no words to describe how amazing it is to know your partner in music is also your partner in life. What a memory that will always be. Our wedding was also my motivation to start writing music. Our first dance at our wedding was to the first song I wrote lyrically and instrumentally, as I wrote it on the keyboard and then later translated it to the bass. The song is called ‘Feeble & Grey.’” she said.

Those checking out the shows can expect a mix of tracks. “We play both originals and covers,” said Ange. “If we play a venue for three hours…we incorporate some covers, but if we are the supporting band or headlining a show, we play about 85 percent originals.”

For the originals, songwriting is a collaborative effort. “Luke was the primary writer on our last CD, ‘Big Deal in a Small Town,’” Ange said. “However, I did help write the lyrics to all of our songs.  I’m more attached to lyrics, while he is the musical genius behind the rhythm and chords.  We make a pretty good team that way. Lately Anton has really stepped up and has been a great help with his sick beats. We’ve been writing and recording for the last two months and should have a new CD release within the next couple of months.”

Recently, The Hootz’s song “I’m Getting Out” has gained a lot of attention on national radio, breaking into the top 100.

As for The Hootz live experience?

“We’ve been told our live performances are ‘more fun than a barrel full of hillbillies’ and we’re like ‘Country with a twist and shout!” Ange said. “A lot of times after we’re done performing, people will approach us and say, ‘I don’t even like country, but you guys rock!’ We definitely keep our show high energy!”

Ange also noted that, “We love incorporating the crowd, so a lot of times we’ll have a shot of Coldcock Whiskey with them, or throw some Luckless Clothing into the crowd, to give a shout out to our sponsors and sort of get everyone up out of their seats. We like to feed off our crowd’s energy and just have a lot of fun, and that in itself is super contagious.”

What can fans expect from The Hootz in the near future? “We are kicking off our ‘We Gonna Rally’ Tour this spring and a lot of upcoming performances will be in and around WNY,” explained Ange.

Upcoming area shows include the new Armor Inn Ellicottville on March 20, Seneca Allegany Casino on April 26, Wine, Beer and Spirits Festival at the Hamburg Fairgrounds on May 16, the Allegany Summer Fest in Allegany on May 23, the Seneca Allegany Casino on May 24 and the Gowanda Harley-Davidson Hollywood Happening on May 31.

Ange noted that with Nashville-based agencies now leading the way, the band will be expanding its tour.

“Our touring will be widening and we will begin to travel across the country in the summer/fall of 2015. If you believe in the Power of Prayer, please we beg you, spread the love!  This road ahead is so exciting and we could use all the positive energy we can get.”

If you need an excuse to have a blast, now is your chance to get out, get your feet movin’ and support local talent from right here in the Enchanted Mountain region. As their national tour soon begins, check out a show and take this opportunity to say you “knew them when…”

For more information, and for a complete list of their tour dates, visit www.thehootz.com.