July 05, 2006
Bassist Will Lee, a 20-year veteran musician of "The David Letterman Show," heads the Fab Faux, a Beatles tribute band. The group, comprised of Lee, Jimmy Vivino, Frank Agnello, Jack Petruzelli, and Rich Pagano, will hit the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center stage Saturday at 10 p.m.
Q. Tell us about your act. The Fab Faux is actually composed of five musicians. Why?
A. First off, we want to make it clear that the Fab Faux is not a copy band in the sense that we don't dress or act like the Beatles. We simply love the music and want the audience to enjoy it too. Some of the Beatles later music is pretty complex, so we added a small string and horn section.
Q. Why the Beatles?
A. The group was a very strong influence on me musically, like so many of my generation. I remember seeing the Beatles perform on Ed Sullivan when I was a kid. From then on I was hooked! The Beatles changed the entire direction that music was heading at the time.
Q. Name a few Beatles songs you'll be doing at the Performing Arts Center.
A. Some of our favorites: "I Am The Walrus," "Strawberry Fields," and a lot of stuff from Abbey Road. Also, a few surprises! The idea is that we like to play songs that were recorded by the group post-1965 but were never performed live. That's where we step in, to represent the music that was never played live to an audience.
Q. Have you ever worked with any of the original Beatles?
A. Yes! This is a funny story: in 1994 I received a call from a guy who claimed he was George Harrison. He left a long message saying that he was doing a gig at Royal Albert Theater in London and he wanted me to join him in the show. Now, my brother does a very convincing Liverpool accent and is always playing practical jokes on me. Thinking it was a prank, I didn't return the phone call. A few days later I saw my brother and I said to him, "That call was pretty good, you almost had me convinced it was Harrison." He answered, "I don't know what you're talking about; I didn't call you!" So I went home and listened to the message again. The caller had left all these callback numbers in the UK and I suddenly realized it really was George Harrison! I called him back and ended up playing with him in London. It was a great experience. I was so excited, I cartwheeled onto the stage.
Q. How did the Fab Faux get together?
A. My Manhattan neighbor is Jimmy Vivino, who plays guitar in the house band for "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." I ran into him one day and said I was looking to put together a Beatles cover band. I told him, "Forget the wigs, I just want to play the Beatles' songs to a live audience and be as true to the music as we can be." He said, "Okay." And that's how it started. In 1998, we played our first gig as the Fab Faux at the China Club.
Q. You've played with so many musical icons on "The David Letterman Show" over the years. Who are some of your favorites?
A. I loved accompanying Chaka Chan. She's great. I've also worked on albums with Mick Jagger, Barry Manilow, Pat Metheny, Ricky Martin and Steely Dan, to name just a few.
Q. How do you have time for the Fab Faux with all your other musical commitments?
A. It's not easy. But, you know, I love what I do. We don't get to tour all that much because we are all so busy. Fitting in rehearsal time is also tough. We play about two dozen gigs a year.
Q. How did you land the spot on Letterman?
A. I knew Paul Schafer and he asked me if I wanted 13 weeks of steady work. At that time, Letterman was only in the pilot stage and we weren't sure if it would last more than one season. Well, I've had "steady work" as a musician for about 20 years now!
Q. What thought goes into choosing to play a venue such as the WHBPAC?
A. We chose the theater ourselves. We also manage ourselves. We like to play in relatively small spaces with an intimate audience.
Q. What is one thing you can say about the Beatles' music that really describes your passion?
A. Simple. This is some of the greatest music that was ever written.