Meet The Guys Behind The Lionfish

What is it like to juggle college classes, extracurricular activities and a new album release? Just ask the members of The Lionfish. The band, made up of some of Fairfield University’s most talented performers, is promoting their new album Jonesin’ for You after a yearlong effort.

You may recognize these gentlemen from their performances across campus, but when The Lionfish aren’t making music for us Stags, they’re making music all over the country. Not only has the band performed in rockin’ New York City venues, but they can also adapt to intimate cocktail hours. The versatility in their repertoire is impressive to say the least, but their constant energy is what makes any of The Lionfish’s shows exciting.

The core members of the band include:

Robby Schwartz- Keyboard, lead vocals and trombone

Chris Finelli- Guitar, trumpet and vocals

Dan Horstmann- Drums, vocals

Seamus Barrett- Bass, guitar and vocals

John Domenico- Guitar and vocals

Schwartz’s father Mark also plays with the group occasionally (guitar and vocals) along with the horn section heard on the album consisting of Tim Rhone on trombone, Tim Vyskocil on trumpet and Matt Finelli on the saxophone.

I sat down with Robby Schwartz, Dan Horstmann and Seamus Barrett, and got the scoop about how The Lionfish came to be, what inspires their songwriting, and details surrounding the creation of their first album.

Her Campus: Where did the name “The Lionfish” come from?

Dan Horstmann: That’s a funny story

Robby Schwartz: It’s not really that funny *he laughs*. It was sophomore year and I had a Life magazine and was flipping through it and on the cover there was a picture of a lionfish. I was like ‘that’s a badass looking fish, he’s kind of a scary dude’, so I thought ‘Oh that would be a cool name for a band’ then I slowly convinced everyone: The Lionfish.

HC: What made you decide to start the band?

RS: Dan, Chris, and I met first semester of our freshman year in jazz band…and we were all kind of looking for another outlet to play in. We had played together in various school things like Relay for Life, but never really made anything official. Then, we decided that it was time to get something together. We knew John from jazz band and Seamus from other school things and we just decided to reach out.

DH: We said what the hell, let’s just do it. Let’s make some music.

HC: How difficult is it to schedule rehearsal time? You’re all involved in different clubs and activities on campus. What is it like trying to get everyone together?

RS: It’s very difficult. It’s tough because everyone is a full-time students, so we all have a lot of commitments academically and extracurricular.

HC: And work too.

RS: Right exactly, so it’s tough to get everyone 100% committed all the time, ourselves included, but we do our best with what we can and we’ve had enough success with being able to work around everyone’s schedules and everyone being able to make a commitment to the band to be able to get to where we are today.

HC: Describe your typical gigs both on and off campus.

RS: On-campus tends to be, not more subdued, but just different than off-campus because we’re generally playing for a specific event.

DH: For a longer period of time too.

RS: And we have to cater to that, so we perform more covers, and sometimes we’re background music, but sometimes we’re showcased, and it’s always tough to tell how many people are going to come out for a school event. Whereas if we do an off-campus event, like the New York City show over the summer, we promoted that for a long time and we knew we were going to have a decent amount of people there so it was great and we played a whole bunch of originals. The people are there specifically for us for an off-campus event, which is great because people are going to be in with you for the whole set, where as opposed to a campus event…

HC: People are going to bop in and out.

HC: What’s your favorite type of gig to perform?

Seamus Barrett: I typically enjoy the gigs on-campus because it is always enjoyable to play in front of a large crowd of people that I know.

RS: I think we’re happy to make music for anyone who will listen, but if I had to pick it would just be the more people the better. That’s where we really thrive, in crowd interactions.

HC: You just came out with a new album. Tell me about the recording process.

RS: So basically, Dan had this hookup at the studio from his internship at Red Parlor Records, and it worked out great. We were able to get a full day in. I don’t remember how many hours, do you?

DH: I think it was like 6 or 7 hours. That was probably the most we’ve ever practiced.

RS: It was the most rehearsed we’ve ever been, and we decided which songs we wanted to record and we rehearsed for three weeks or so before then. Then, we went into the studio and tracked 14 songs live that day.

DH: There’s a couple different ways you can record, but we wanted to record with a sort of live feel, so what we did is we went into the studio, tracked 14 songs but we took three takes and the studio was actually large enough where we could all be playing at the same time and still see each other. We made notes of which take we liked best and that was it.

RS: A couple months later we went back, and Chris and I dubbed in the horn parts on all the tracks. Then, we did some mixing and mastering. A couple months later, we went back for the final mastering session and we dubbed a couple more vocals, and had Hattie Briggs and Sam Mazzeo do some background vocals for us on a couple tracks just to fill out the sound as much as we could.

HC: Who writes the songs? Do you take turns writing?

DH: For the most part Robby is the lead songwriter both musically and lyrically. I do have one song on the album that means a lot to me and I actually worked on it with John Domenico.

RS: That track is A Little More by the way.

SB: I am involved in the song writing process towards the end.  Essentially, Robby spearheads most of the lyrical and chord work, and then as a band we all work together to fill in the gaps such as riffs and bass lines. It is an enjoyable process because we all get to add our own individual style to it.

RS: A few of the songs I’ve actually had since high school that I’ve kept in my back pocket and finally found a good outlet for them. A bunch of them were written as recently as a couple weeks before we recorded.

DH: The title track, Jonesin’ for You is one of them.

RS: It’s just interesting because there is not one distinctive style on the album and that’s really reflective of what was a two or three year musical evolution for myself and the rest of the band too. I’m very lucky that I can formulate a song about 80% and come into rehearsal, talk my way through a song, and the guys I work with are just unbelievably talented and get it exactly the way, or even better, than I pictured it in my head.

HC: Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

RS: We’re all just super excited to finally have this out and we hope everyone can get a chance to listen to it. Even if you don’t buy it and just stream it on Spotify, tell us what you think! We’re all interested to see how this turns out. This is something we all care a lot about.

DH: Also, for anybody interested in coming to see a live show we’re going to have an album release party at a venue on Post Road so look out for that!

Jonesin’ for You is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google and Hard Copy! Check it out on Soundcloud now!

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Check out The Lionfish’s website for updates on the group and their upcoming performances