Rick Berlin has been with The Nickel And Dime Band for nearly two years, but the band has history previous to Berlin, rooted in elementary and high school friendships.
Jamaica Plain born and raised, Thomas Appleman and Ricky Mclean — bass and guitar players of The Nickel and Dime Band — are both 35 year-old fathers. And though the band is nearly a decade old, Appleman and Mclean began creating music together well before then, when they were in sixth grade – a music group called Guilty Children. The two started Epileptic Disco their junior year in high school, which consisted of Appleman, Mclean, Appleman’s brother Sam, and two other friends, Dennis Doherty and Dan Daly.
After graduation, Appleman attended Berklee College of Music, while Mclean became a cook at Bella Luna, a restaurant in Jamaica Plain. Their band, Epileptic Disco, burned out in the early 2000s. It became too hard to be an original band, Appleman said.
“Doing all these gigs got so draining and four people would show up. It’s tough being an original band. What happened with [Epileptic] Disco, the people in the band were getting exhausted, putting all this energy in and getting little out,” Appleman said.
After Epileptic Disco ended, they took on a new project performing karaoke rather than original music with The Nickel And Dime Band. The five-piece consisted of Appleman, Mclean, Aaron Robertson, Andrew Brady and Robert Manochio.
The Nickel And Dime Band made a name for itself by playing venues such as the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain. In 2004, the band lost Brady, and proceeded to go through a couple of different guitar players.
Mclean met Berlin in the Brendan Behan Pub one night in 2009. Berlin was “blown away” by Mclean’s playing and wanted to hear more. The Nickel And Dime Band opened for Berlin at The Alchemist Lounge — now Canary Square — when he was playing with his unofficial trio — nephew, Sam Dudley, and Jesse Adams-Lukowsky, who was a classmate of Dudley’s.
The band came together quickly after that night. The band and Rick Berlin did a gig together at a house party in Jamaica Plain. The band’s drummer, Robertson, was out of the country and they needed a sub. That’s when Alec Radzikowski came in.
Radzikowski had a history with the band, though not directly. In high school, he had played with Appleman’s other band aside from Epileptic Disco: The Charles River Band. Radzikowski’s band, 78 Revolutions, had opened for The Nickel And Dime Band at the Midway Café, a bar in Jamaica Plain. Mclean contacted Radzikowski after the gig about playing together and with 78 Revolutions unraveling, he jumped at the chance. Though Robertson is still the drummer for when the band plays gigs without Berlin, Radzikowski cemented a place on the drum kit for the Rick Berlin outfit.
The final member added to the band was Dino Govoni, a 42-year veteran on the saxophone and longtime Berklee professor. Govoni first heard about the band through Appleman after they performed together. The opportunity to work with Berlin was what originally drew him to the project, Govoni said.
He also pointed out what he thinks is really unique about the band – the collection of generations. Rick Berlin With The Nickel And Dime Band spans 46 years from oldest band member to the youngest: Rick Berlin, 67; Dino Govoni, 49; Thomas Appleman, 35; Ricky Mclean, 35; Rob Manachio, 34; Alec Radzikowski, 34; Jesse Adams-Lukowsky, 21; Sam Dudley, 21.
“It’s an interesting collection of guys. The age thing is incredible – I’ve never been in a situation when you got a guy who’s in his 60s and a guy in his 20s. The chemistry seems to work,” Govoni said.
Like any band, the future is uncertain. Every member has a different hope of where they’d like the band to go, but Govoni sounded optimistic.
“I think for me, I’m hoping the best for them, I’ve been in the business a long time and you need to stop holding your breath and you’ll enjoy the ride more when you learn to accept what happens. And if by chance if you get that break, it’s great,” he said.