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Extremely rare NY Psych Rock Band “Daybreak” Given New Life


Extremely rare NY Psych Rock Given New Life

“Daybreak” by Daybreak (RPC1971/Gear Fab, 2017)

Originally available as a limited, 400 copies, self released LP on the vanity RPC Records label, Daybreak’s 1971 s/t sole album was recently given new life with its reissue on Gear Fab Records. Thankfully, the seven track classic piece of NY psych rock is now available to the masses for the first time ever. 

Formed in 1969 in Pearl River, NY, by four high school friends with similar musical interests, and originally known as Identical Stranger, by 1971 with the addition of a lead vocalist, Daybreak was born. Consisting of Michael Ciulla on lead vocals, Craig Kozlow on lead guitar and vocals, Rich Alper on Farfisa organ, saxophone and vocals, Vinnie Sepelsky on bass guitar and vocals, and Bruce Pollack on drums and vocals, Daybreak were known for their heavy fuzz and wah wah instruments played through Fender, Marshall and Silvertone amps, with Fender and Ovation electric guitars, Farfisa organ with Leslie Tone Cabinet and Ludwig drums.

The group’s live repertoire was a mix of band originals and covers of Steppenwolf, Cream, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, Rolling Stones, The Who and Moody Blues among others. The band’s 1971, seven track, forty one minute, twenty two second LP consists of three group originals, all penned by bassist Sepelsky supplemented by cover versions of Neil Young’s “Down By The River,” Justin Hayward’s “Nights In White Satin,” “Rock Around The Clock” made famous by Bill Haley and The Comets, and Steppenwolf’s medley of “Monster/Suicide/America” written by John Kay and Jerry Edmonton.

Side one of Daybreak opens with the band original “Can’t Get Down” with its guitar and organ intro, heavy riff, building beat and deeply echoed vocals. This hard rocker features three knockout solos by Kozlow, with Pollack’s pounding drums and Alper’s organ shining throughout. Daybreak’s cover of “Down By The River” again opens with Kozlow’s guitar, with drums, bass, organ and Ciulla’s echoed vocals soon joining. A mid-section interlude by Kozlow and Alper is especially tasty, as are the gorgeous vocal harmonies. The cover differs from Young’s original with the inclusion of the organ and includes an extended wah wah fuelled solo by Kozlow with Alper’s Farfisa adding texture underneath. “(I’m Only) Half Yours” a Sepelsky composition has a wah wah guitar intro and a beautiful, yet somewhat restrained, lead line by Kozlow throughout. Pollack’s drum rolls, Sepelsky’s heavy bass and Kozlow’s wah wah are featured throughout, with a mid-tune organ solo by Alper shining as well. Side one closes with the band’s throwback cover of “Rock Around The Clock” with saxaphone by Alper added for good measure.

Side two begins with Daybreak’s cover of Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward’s “Nights In White Satin.” Ciulla’s vocals are nicely echoed and Kozlow’s guitar is tastefully restrained. The tune is played at a slower tempo than others on the album with Alper’s organ replacing the Moodie’s mellotrons, and Alper takes a nice solo mid-tune. Sepelsky’s bass and Pollack’s drums mesh nicely carrying the sound which features Ciulla’s vocals much more to the fore than elsewhere on the album. Next up is the band’s magnum opus, a nine and a half minute cover of Steppenwolf. “Monster” is again introduced by Kozlow’s guitar, and features a heavy bass riff by Sepelsky. Daybreak’s cover includes the familiar repeated riff by Kozlow, Sepelsky and Pollack, but the tune differs from the original with Alper’s organ much more restrained than that of Goldie McJohn on the Steppenwolf version. "Monster” segues into “Suicide” where Ciulla’s vocals take the lead. The guitar, bass and drums remain loyal to the original version and Alper’s organ again mellow, as the repeated riff segues into the medley’s closer “America” with Ciulla’s vocals booming over Kozlow’s guitar. Sepelsky’s bass bounds a la John Entwistle, the band’s sound is sweet but withheld giving way to Ciulla’s take on John Kay’s familiar “America, where are you now, don’t you know we need you now” chant which carries the tune to its close. The album ends with Sepelsky’s “Alone Again” introduced by Kozlow’s guitar. Ciulla’s gentle vocals are deeply echoed as is Kozlow’s guitar whose lead line along with Sepelsky’s bass, Alper’s organ and Pollack’s drums are restrained. Mid song Kozlow’s screaming lead line and Pollack’s pounding drums and crashing cymbals come to the fore. Ciulla’s vocals take charge for the final minute, complimented by lovely vocal harmonies. Sepelsky’s bounding bass and Pollacks pounding drums give way to Alper’s swirling Farfisa at the five minute mark, the band rocking its way to a final vocal chant of “goodbye.”

The Daybreak package includes an introduction by Gear Fab Records owner Roger Maglio and a most informative essay by drummer Bruce Pollack. The digipak includes a band photo with instrument credits and track listing on the front cover and gorgeous individual photos of each band member on the back cover as well as the familiar cloud photo and images of both sides of the original RPC LP inside the digipak, hidden by the CD itself. All in all a most magnificent reissue of this heretofore virtually impossible to acquire slab of 1971 NY heavy psych. Congratulations to the band members and label owner Roger Maglio on a job well done indeed. Daybreak is an absolute must for music collectors and fans of psychedelic rock. It come most heavily recommended by this reviewer.
- Kevin Rathert


An interview with Bruce Pollack

Welcome Bruce.

Hi Klemen, thank you for this opportunity to discuss the reissue of the Daybreak album, which we had originally recorded and released in 1971.

Who were members of Daybreak and where did you get together?

Daybreak was formed in 1969. We all were attending Pearl River High School – which is in Rockland County, NY – not far from New York City.

The group included Michael Ciulla, our lead vocalist, Craig Kozlow, on lead guitar and back-up vocals, Vinnie Seplesky on bass guitar and back-up vocals, Rich Alper on keyboard, sax and back-up vocals, and I played drums and percussion. 

Were any of you in a band together prior to Daybreak?

Yes. Initially the group was called Identical Stranger. At that time, it consisted of Craig, Vinnie and me. 

Craig, Vinnie and I all knew Michael through high school. He was an excellent actor and even though we knew he had excellent stage presence, because he had no experience as a singer, we hadn’t thought of him as being our lead vocalist and front-person. However, one time Michael came to a rehearsal in Vinnie’s basement, and we were working on “Politician” by Cream. Michael stepped up to the microphone, and after belting out only a few verses, we all looked at each other and agreed he would be perfect for the part. The one thing missing was a keyboardist … and after auditioning our fellow class-mate, Rich, he joined us on Farfisa organ.

Tell us a little about your sound, and repertoire. 

Daybreak was truly representative of the heavy fuzz and wah influenced raw garage / psych rock sound of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. And it was played through classic Fender and Marshall tube amps, Fender and Ovation guitars, Fender bass, Farfisa Compact organ with Leslie tone cabinet, and Ludwig drums. Our repertoire included not only Vinnie’s killer originals, but deep cuts by Steppenwolf, Cream, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, Rolling Stones, The Who, Iron Butterfly, Moody Blues … and even an occasional Bonzo Dog Band tune.

Mike Ciulla and Craig Kozlow

You mentioned Vinnie’s killer originals. Tell us more about them.

Vinnie was, and still is, an awesome bass player. In addition, while in Daybreak, he wrote some outstanding originals. Three were included on the album and they all deserve a listen. These include “Can’t Get Down”, “(I’m Only) Half Here” and “Alone Again”. What makes them unique is they all are notable examples of Daybreak’s trademark sound – with Michael’s ethereal vocals, Craig’s fuzz and wah-wah laden leads, Vinnie’s “Hoover Vacuum Cleaner” Fender Bass tone, and Rich’s “gushing” organ work. 

Was there a venue that Daybreak most frequently performed at?

We enjoyed a very successful run at The Pirate’s Hideaway, the place to go on a Friday night in Pearl River. The group also expanded its popularity, regularly performing at many other local and regional venues, at most every youth group function, and winning a high-profile battle of the bands.

Rich Alper

What’s the story behind your album? Where did you record it? What kind of equipment did you use?

The album was recorded, pretty much in one afternoon, at St. Aedan’s, a church in Pearl River. We used to play at many of their CYO dances, and they were happy to let us use their social hall, along with their church organ for this recording. It was a very primitive and low-key recording, aimed as being a demo album. Much of it was recorded in one take, on stereo reel-to-reel. This was the first project our engineer and producer had overseen, and it was a great learning experience.

What’s the story behind the release? How many copies were released?

The album was recorded as a demo, and only 400 copies were pressed. Many copies were pre-sold to our fans, with much of the rest sold at our gigs. A few were also distributed to the NY area radio stations.


Bruce Pollack

What type of air play did it receive?

In addition to regularly being played locally, it was quite a thrill, to have it picked up on occasion by the major NY rock stations.

How pleased was the band with the sound of the album? What if anything would you like to have done differently from the finished product?

This album was recorded as a demo, and for release to our fans, friends and family. We were not looking for it to be a technically perfect recording. While at that time, there were many flaws we would have liked to correct, quite frankly, it is those flaws that help make this album the gem that it has become, and has helped put it in such demand, including among the record collectors around the world.

Are any in the band still involved with music?

Vinnie continues to play with some of the best acts in and around Tampa / St. Petersburg, FL, and I continue to gig in the metro NY/NJ area. Michael additionally has enjoyed a successful career as an actor/singer and voice actor, both in NYC and CT. Rich has long since left music, and recently retired after a successful career as an academic research scientist. While Craig had continued to perform, including playing with me in various bands, sadly he passed away in 2010 (on 10-10-10). We all continue to miss him and pay homage to his memory. The reissue of Daybreak’s 1971 album is dedicated to his memory.

What was one of your favorite stories from Daybreak?

We all enjoyed an affinity for pizza, and rarely was there a gig that we didn’t go afterwards to Rex’s Pizza. A local booking agent, “Mr. B” frequently would come to see us perform, and he too had an affinity for pizza. We always enjoyed it when Mr. B would show up, as we knew he would want to go to Rex’s after the gig … and invariably, pick up the bill!

Vinnie Seplesky

Are the members of Daybreak still in contact with each other? 

The internet, including Facebook is amazing in this regard, and we all remain in contact with each other. From time to time we have had reunions, and additionally, following Craig’s passing, and in true Daybreak tradition, several of us got together to remember him over pizza.

Is there still any unreleased material available?

In addition to the Daybreak album, we also had some live recordings that I had hoped to release. Unfortunately, a few years back, these tapes were lost in a house fire. 

Gear Fab Records is reissuing your album.

Yes. We too are very excited about the reissue of our 1971 album. We also are honored that Daybreak’s music, sound and instrumentation to this day are appreciated as being indicative of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s era.

Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.

We again want to thank you for the opportunity for this interview. We also want to thank Roger from Gear Fab Records for reissuing the album. We are delighted that it is now available both through Gear Fab’s website, as well as on Amazon.com.

- Klemen Breznikar
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