The band Puddle Splasher got its name from a 1998 Cap’n Jazz song of their plural – “Puddle Splashers” – and when drummer Dante Fotino and guitarist Andy Altadonna had to rush to pick a name for a gig, only one stood out on the list. The Cap’n Jazz song goes, “All I could say is, ‘I wish I had something to say.’”
Thus Puddle Splasher formed on the foundational love for music and skill and with, above all else, something to say, with Adam Thibeault playing bass. Altadonna took the position of frontman, sketching outlines of potential songs, while Fotino filled in the lyrics. The band seems to be riding a great high with Altadonna as its head, with a dozen shows on the agenda throughout June after a third album drops.
Reserved, kind, and artistically driven, Altadonna speaks profusely of his band, his love for music, and his deep admiration for performance. But Altadonna first found words in a nonverbal way: with a guitar, in an after-school music program. There, Altadonna met Fotino, and the two of them caught music teacher Brett Romnes’ attention. “Ever since back then, their musical style, abilities, and tendencies were nothing like I had ever seen before,” Romnes said.
Now, Altadonna leads quite the double life. Working as a software engineer as his day job, Altadonna puts his technical degree to work. But he needs that job just like he needs his music. “Having different things going on is essential to my own sanity. Not sure if that necessarily means I need a nine-to-five job to stay happy, but there’s a balance there that I need. It lets me distance myself from the music when I need it. If all my time was spent writing and touring, I’d grow to resent it.” Still, the idea of touring and playing full-time is like a pipe dream for any young musician. Thibeault, finishing a master’s degree in education, loves the idea of doing music full-time, but knows that many teachers can make it work with their free time – like Steve Von Till from the metal band Neurosis, who teaches fourth grade.
Unique in its formlessness and its refusal to subscribe to any individual musical trend, Puddle Splasher presents us with the band for all fans. Poor Planning, the band’s 2014 four-song EP, featured a heavier emo rock style, with Altadonna’s vocal cords testing his range over skillful riffs. Separate States, released in 2016, took a much different route. Altadonna’s childhood friend and college roommate lost his battle with cancer on November 15, 2015. Suddenly Altadonna was without his partner at Stevens Institute of Technology, alone in their dorm room, now cold without the warming presence of his lifelong friend. They had planned to be roommates, glad to know at least one other person on a new, foreign college campus, but after his friend’s diagnosis took a dangerous turn and was forced to drop out, Altadonna was left alone within those four walls of a dorm room meant for two.
“I still think about him with certain songs. There’s somewhat of an association,” Altadonna said. “He was the only one that I knew prior, so there was comfort there.” With that heaviness clouding overhead, Altadonna sketched out some ballad-like melodies, constructing Separate States song-by-song in a way that acknowledged his presence. Writing most of the album inside his dorm allowed space between the layers of music to remember, as if he exists with the album, an undercurrent pulsing under Altadonna’s voice. In “Decent Thoughts” Altadonna sings, “It’s been so long since everything, anything was fine. You said so long to the empty room, sharing secrets he won’t find…he won’t mind…”
And now, on the fringe of their newest album release of The Blankest Blue, the band is exploring a more “unique, weird, almost psychedelic power-pop” sound, said bassist Thibeault. Such variety is important for bands, especially during such an over-saturation of the music market. “Everyone nowadays has an opportunity to have a voice, which can be a great tool in bringing everyone together,” Romnes, who produced and engineered the album, said. “It can also create a lot of noise and sifting through it can be quite daunting at times.” So by flexing their creative genius, mastered musical skill, and an excitement about something new, the members of Puddle Splasher provide the radio cure. By not sounding “like” anyone, or riding the coattails of another unique group, Puddle Splasher falls under every genre and every category.
Each song on The Blankest Blue is a story, Fotino said. “Many of these songs have lived multiple lives. We really had to work hard to establish a different kind of sound here. We had to work to make sure that the energy behind the stories we’re telling comes across in how we play them.” The recording process paid special attention to the individually reflective nature of the songs. In the studio, where “egos were checked at the door,” as Romnes said, the band would watch iconic films on mute to stimulate their creativity – Blue is the Warmest Color, E.T., 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eyes Wide Shut, to name a few.
And even though it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish oneself in the music world, the boys of Puddle Splasher have The Blankest Blue to show who they are. Romnes agrees. “Great art, whether appreciated on the day it is born or when we are long gone, can help us escape to a place where we can grow,” he said. “There is a deeper meaning behind these songs. One that can shift depending on where you are at personally on your own journey. Their music is meant to stay with you for life and grow with you.”
Listening to Puddle Splasher is like sitting in the backyard of your childhood home around people that you know, but that you miss. The nostalgia runs deep in ways that are difficult to vocalize. But you’ll understand, and Puddle Splasher knows that. So they wait for you to come find them, strumming slowly in a Brooklyn apartment. And even if you don’t find them, when you have a tune that you just can’t stop thinking about, nostalgic, quiet, pensive, and lovely – you’ll know that they have found you instead.
The Blankest Blue can be streamed anywhere Friday, May 17. Puddle Splasher will celebrate the album’s launch on May 31 at Alphaville in Brooklyn, New York. Catch up with their tour:
5/31 – Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville
6/1 – Lancaster, PA @ Station One Center for the Arts
6/2 – Frederick, MD @ Café Nola
6/3 – Erie, PA @ Andromeda
6/4 – Akron, OH @ It’s a Kling Thing!
6/5 – Lakewood, OH @ Mahalls
6/6 – Syracuse, NY @ Apostrophe’s
6/7 – Middletown, CT @ Mac 650
6/8 – New Brunswick, NJ @ TBA