Go For Launch Aims High, Stays Grounded

Ronkonkoma drummer Mike Argondizza keeps the beat steady as the band builds buzz in the New York Metro area and beyond.

Long before he'd hooked up with his current bandmates - as soon as he was able to hold a pair of sticks actually, and long before he was in any band - Mike Argondizza was a drummer.

He quickly graduated from pots and pans to the real deal, keeping the beat as he sat on his dad's lap, who was himself no slouch behind a kit.

"Ever since I was this big," he recalled before a show in June at New York's Gramercy Theatre with his band Go For Launch, moving his now-toughened hands a shoulder-width apart.  

Skilled and well-seasoned despite their relatively short time together, Argondizza and the others - bassist Derek Ortiz, singer Scott Griffin, and guitarists Nick Bilancia and Tony Mauriello - quickly gelled into a solid performing unit, having paid dues and nursed their passions elsewhere prior to their current project. 

Meeting at Five Towns College - with the exception of Ortiz, whose musical education is described as an "independent study" on the band's website bio - the band stays busy but balanced, working day jobs when they're not immersed in their artistic endeavors.

Raised in Massapequa, N.Y. but now living in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., Argondizza enrolled at the school in the fall of 2005 to study audio engineering. He had only peripheral knowledge of some of the band members before then, but a final project in the campus recording studio, requiring himself and (naturally) a band to record, properly introduced him to the band's two guitarists - Nick Bilancia and Tony Mauriello.

Argondizza auditioned successfully after having heard the two songs enough times to memorize the drum parts. Subsequently repurposed by Go For Launch, "Don't Make the Man" and "Danger Girl" survive today as strong setlist fixtures.

"Everyone pitches in on songwriting," he said. "We'll write all the music and record a rough track, and Scott will write the lyrics."

The band's members are now spread out through the New York metro area, though Griffin had logged miles on the road well before he was a touring musician. Originally from Alaska, Griffin's father worked for NASA. The nature of his job meant his son spent his childhood growing up across the country. As a child, singing became his outlet for working through the inevitable bouts of loneliness and insecurity.

Blessed with a versatile voice steeped in emotion, Griffin routinely indulges his R&B jones with a spirited cover of the Temptations' smash hit "Ain't Too Proud To beg."

"Motown grabbed me," he admitted, naming Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke as early influences.

Grffin, according to Bilancia, brought up the new band's name, apparently inspired by his father's work.

"It was hard to get people to agree," the Yonkers native said. "It had to be unanimous." 

Though the road hasn't been a long one yet for the band, the combined years of practice are immediately evident in performance. Quirky melodic detours, complex polyrhythmic breakdowns and sing-along hooks all take turns in the spotlight.

But as focused as the band is on the technical aspects of performance, they are also keenly aware of its ultimately subordinate role. At its heart, Go for Launch's music is human, with all the complex and sometimes messy emotions that often entails.

And on the road, there's no messing around once the band's set is over: Being their own roadies means being aware of the other bands' needs as well.

"One thing we learned as a group is that we have our process for setup and breakdown down to a science," said Mauriello. "We've impressed bookers and promoters on that alone. We're not cutting into someone else time. The only time to relax is when the stuff's put away."

After their last gigs back in August, the band took some time to brainstorm on ideas for a new album, currently in its early stages. To use their studio time as efficiently as possible, the band members refine their song ideas during practice sessions with a home-recording set-up, frequently using recordings from prior sessions as a sonic roadmap.

"At the next practice, we can look at this practice from four months ago," said Ortiz, who lives in New Rochelle. "Putting icing on a cake that's already baked is easy."

The band returned to the road on September 24, playing at Manhattan's The Bitter End for its third time. Go For Launch will return to Long Island on October 30 for a gig at Ollie's Point in Amityville, after an October 14 gig in Massachusetts for its first major date outside the New York metro area.

For more information, go to the band's website. Tracks are available for download on iTunes.


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