Overnight success may be a popular phrase, but it is rarely true. John Truscelli’s latest venture, in a sense decades in the making, may finally be that ticket to stardom for him and a group of Summit County musicians.
Rather than launch a new bluegrass or jam band like those frequently found throughout the county and Colorado, Truscelli went to his rock roots and put together Satellite13. The band — whose name refers to an early satellite that broadcast music — mixes subgenres and inspirations like classic rock, grunge, alternative and indie rock.
“A lot of these songs were written a long time ago in the ’90s when rock was thriving and I thought I was Eddie Vedder or Scott Weiland,” said Truscelli, the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter.
Comprised of Tyler Easton on bass, Leo Lopez on drum, Jess Rose on fiddle and Truscelli, the group formed organically through playing together in the local scene over the years. Rose — known for her work in the Shaky Hand String Band — and Easton played together in the Dewey Paul Band, Truscelli and Lopez played together in Easton’s Frisco Funk Collective and Rose and Truscelli perform as a duo.
“It wasn’t just that we picked these people,” Easton said. “It was just a no-brainer. … It made sense and once we dived into it, it was clearly the direction we were going to go.”
Fans of the other acts shouldn’t worry though, they won’t be going on hiatus.
“We’ve been so lucky to make a living doing this here,” Truscelli said. “We wouldn’t just put that on hold for too long unless we had to. We’re just seeing what will happen with this one for this time being because we have an opportunity for that.”
Since December 2018 they’ve been holed up in their Silverthorne studio writing, recording and rehearsing. The lifelong musicians play to each other’s strengths like “yin and yang.” Rose and Easton studied music in college while Lopez has a background in drumming in Venezuela and Truscelli is self-taught and only reads a little bit of music.
“But if you do anything long enough,” said Truscelli, “get the 10,000 hour rule, and it’s almost the same as a degree, really, if you think about it.”
Truscelli’s mother played piano and his father was the drummer and singer in a swing big band, which led to Truscelli picking up those instruments before the guitar. “I kind of got into music whether I wanted to or not when I was a little kid.” After moving to Colorado when he was 6 and playing throughout high school, he got his first gigs in Denver at age 18. Lured by the mountains, Truscelli moved to Breckenridge in 1992 and worked as the entertainment for Two Below Zero Sleigh Rides in Frisco for 14 years. “I was doing side gigs too, but that was kind of my main acoustic gig,” he said. “It’s how I was able to cut my teeth in music and learn how to actually play in front of a crowd.”
Before heading down a similar path of mountains and music, Easton attended Purdue University to study nuclear engineering. But the siren call of bass grooves was too strong and he went to Berklee College of Music to major in bass performance and minor in hip-hop bass.
“I got into music when I was in third or fourth grade with the piano,” Easton said. “It just made sense to me, like math or anything else — how it all worked. When I was a 14-year-old kid I wanted to be Fieldy from Korn, man. I wanted to go out, make those crazy slap sounds like he did and jump around on stage. … I wanted to be a part of anything that creates that energy and inspires people in that kind of way.”
This Friday will be Satelittle13’s first public show, the release of their first EP and the first time they put on a production as complicated as they have planned.
The initial spark for Satellite13 can be traced back to when Truscelli participated in guitarist Steve Vai’s 52-hour jam-a-thon for charity in 2018. Along with Vai, the event featured artists like Dweezil Zappa, Dave Navarro, Steve Morse and Moby.
“I got to go up and do ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ with the whole band. (Music producer) Tom (Fletcher) was there, and asked if we wanted to make a record and he jumped on board.”
Connecting with Fletcher, who has worked with bands such as Toto, Ozzy Osbourne and Yes, soon brought them to systems technician Damon Gold who was fresh off of Elton John’s farewell tour. Recently another music business veteran, Jerry Greenberg, came into the fold.
“It’s somewhere between a musical theater production and rock show,” said Easton. “It’s not just going up there and throwing the songs out. The whole thing is designed as a show.”
“A rock opera,” Truscelli added. “It’s a story about a boy and a girl; who doesn’t relate to that? It’s like ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ with the Foo Fighters and a fiddle playing it.”
Since there is a narrative, they stress to be at the venue on time to not miss key elements of the show. They also want people to hear their new experimental sounds afforded to them. “We recorded a toolbox on one track for a drum loop,” said Truscelli. “Being able to use the technology as an instrument and not a crutch has been fun for us because we’ve never really done that either with a project.“
The concert will be roughly twice as long as their debut EP, with a full-length album slated to release later. Along with the music, the merch table will be home to 16-ounce stainless steel beer tumblers that come with a free specialty beer brewed in collaboration with HighSide Brewing when purchased.
The gang is excited for the change in tune, and — with popular acts like Greta Van Fleet and films such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman” — believes the community will be receptive as well.
“I tell people, timidly, that it’s a rock project and it’s kind of different, and their eyes light up,” Easton said. “They go ‘Oh, fantastic!’ There’s a hunger for that and it’s coming back around.”
While folks are encouraged to see the Friday show that they hope will initiate their national touring career, it won’t be their one and only time playing in Summit County. Satellite13 will perform at the music stage of the Colorado BBQ Challenge on Friday, June 14, from 3–4:30 p.m. As part of the free concert series at the Dillon Amphitheater, Satellite13 will play on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.
“We’re really asking our friends and family in Summit to really come support this one because it really could be a ‘hometown band does well’ type of situation for us here,” John said.
“To see that place full, with what were doing this time … it would just be unbelievable. I might not make it through the night, emotionally.”