The All Ways move on after 'America's Got Talent'
Just last summer, "America's Got Talent" judge Sharon Osbourne said that she could envision The All Ways, a Rockland County rock band, making the finals of the NBC reality TV competition. At the time, the group was making its push not just toward the show's $1 million grand prize but also toward superstardom.
The All Ways' performance in the quarterfinals, however, failed to impress the same judges who'd raved about them weeks earlier. And after a viewer vote, The All Ways' first live song would be their last on "AGT."
Months later, the group and its lead guitarist would part ways.
But The All Ways as they exist now -- vocalist Austin Massirman, 23; drummer Andre Jevnik, 19; and bassist Pat Heraghty, 22 -- say they're doing just fine, even if "AGT" wasn't all they'd hoped it would be. Since their "AGT" run, they've continued to perform live, played in Z100's Jingle Ball preshow concert and released "Novella," their latest album.
"It almost feels like ['America's Got Talent'] was a dream sequence," said Massirman, while sitting in Jevnik's New City basement. "It feels like we did it, we left and now we're back to whatever we were doing before. But at the same time, we got a lot of new fans out of it. It was a cool experience."
Newsday Westchester recently spent a few hours among Jevnik's microphone stands and Marshall stacks to catch up with The All Ways' remaining members, who were candid about their run on "AGT," its aftermath and their next chapter.
ROCKING OUT IN ROCKLAND
Back in 2009, Massirman, a Nanuet singer who graduated from Suffern High School, created The All Ways and their pop-punk sound when he teamed up with Ron Geffen, a guitarist and New City native who went to Clarkstown South High School. They'd watch other band members join and leave in subsequent months, but found stability in Heraghty, who was a Pearl River High School student when he'd first played in a band with Massirman. And when that trio posted a Craigslist ad for a drummer, they found a familiar face in Jevnik, who, like Geffen, is a New City native and Clarkstown South alumnus.
Calling themselves The All Ways -- a name that "derives from nothing," as Massirman would later admit on "America's Got Talent" -- the group played gigs in downtown Nyack and throughout the county, building a local loyal following along the way.
Helping to build fan momentum was the band's studio version of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," which showcased Massirman's high-tenor range (think Steve Perry of Journey, but with more grit and gravel) and Geffen's aggressive electric guitar. Posted on YouTube in June 2011, the band's music video for "Rolling in the Deep" since has amassed more than 822,000 hits.
But Jevnik, who calls himself a "huge" fan of "AGT" judge Howard Stern, envisioned something even greater than The All Ways' online success. In September 2011, he submitted "Rolling in the Deep" as an audition video for the seventh season of "AGT" -- without asking his bandmates first.
Heraghty said he was unsure about Jevnik's decision. "It's cool to be on TV and everything, and perform in front of all those people, but it's almost like, to the music world and entertainment industry, a shortcut," Heraghty said. "I didn't know if it was going to be a mistake or not, because you see people crash and burn on those shows all the time, even if they have talent."
Massirman said he was equally hesitant. "I'd been kind of deciding the direction of the band for 2 1/2 years at that point, and I never really wanted to do any kind of competition," he said. "I always just kind of wanted to do gigs and write songs, and just kind of [succeed] on my own hard work."
For weeks, nothing came of Jevnik's impulsive move, but then he and the band got the call from "AGT."
A STRONG START
Knowing the stakes, The All Ways called upon their most reliable hit for their audition, delivering a rousing, 90-second version of "Rolling in the Deep." On a day when most of the "AGT" auditioners failed to make the cut -- with many incurring the wrath of the judges' buzzers -- The All Ways earned a standing ovation from the audience and three yes votes from the judges, sending the band to Las Vegas for the next round.
"We [went] outside and we were, like, attacked by [fans]," Heraghty said. "We were treated like celebrities ... We were being treated like the Robert Pattinsons of the world. It was great."
All the "AGT" acts that passed the televised audition were flown to Las Vegas, where they'd perform not for a packed house but for the three judges in an otherwise empty theater. Undeterred, The All Ways wailed on their rock-infused cover of Christina Aguilera's "Fighter." Two days later, Stern would be the one to tell them they'd advanced to the quarterfinals in Newark, which had the band literally jumping for joy.
But when the episodes featuring The All Ways began airing, the band members began to feel like forces were working against them.
For starters, they were barely a blip on the radar of unfamiliar viewers. Their "Rolling in the Deep" performance was whittled down to a 10-second highlight and their prized "Fighter" rendition barely approached a minute of screen time. Instead, the focus turned to other acts with stories of personal struggle.
"We don't want to be about our sob stories -- 'Vote for us because you pity us!' -- because that's not what we're about, at all," Heraghty said.
The group tried to shrug it off, but Heraghty also noticed something was awry on the televised version. In Vegas, acts were divided into three categories: judges' favorites, standby acts and a group of six acts that would advance to the quarterfinals or be eliminated without further consideration by the judges. Heraghty said that, in reality, the group fell into the judges' favorites category, but when the show finally aired weeks later, "AGT" made it look like they were on standby.
"We kept just getting the short end of the stick," Heraghty said. "And I hate to say that, because it was a great opportunity, in a sense, and I hate to belittle it; that's not what I'm trying to do. I'm just saying that it wasn't all glamorous."
THE QUARTERFINALS' SONG CHOICE
On July 10, the taped episodes of "AGT" had come to an end, and it was finally time for The All Ways to show what they could do in front of a live TV audience. But behind the scenes at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, they still felt handcuffed by producers, they said.
"When it came to [our] last shows, they didn't really work with us," Heraghty said.
Heraghty said The All Ways gave the show a list of "over 50 songs" they wanted to perform, including rock anthems by Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe and Aerosmith, but were told clearance issues might prevent them from doing so.
"They were saying no to a lot of [songs]," Heraghty said. "Every day, and I kid you not, we'd be sending emails back and forth, and we'd be like, 'How about this one?' and they'd be like, 'Hey, that's a good idea, but can you please try to do this song -- you may have heard of it -- 'Call Me Maybe'?"
Heraghty said they tried rehearsing the Carly Rae Jepsen pop hit in Jevnik's basement, but "it just didn't translate with our sound." When they realized none of their own suggestions appeared to be in play, they kept rehearsing the song they were given.
The real shock happened the night before their live performance, when, according to Heraghty, producers told them to ditch "Call Me Maybe" and, instead, play Lady Gaga and Beyoncé's dance hit "Telephone," which they did.
But imagine how The All Ways felt when the "AGT" judges criticized them for song choice.
"[You chose] a song that is that poppy," Mandel said. "I like you as a rock and roll band, and I don't know that the two [genres] blending is giving us a clear vision of what you want to do."
Stern, who admitted he'd "been a fan" of the group until that point, offered some tough love. "The All Ways is an interesting name for you guys, because you want to have it all ways, and you can't," he said. "I think you guys are good. I want to see you make it on to the next level, but you gotta keep in mind: song choice ..."
While offering the most positive review, Osbourne made it a clean sweep of judges critiquing song selection: "I love your strength on stage; I love your enthusiasm; the song, I'm not crazy about," she said. "But I just hope, hope that [viewers' votes] bring you back next week."
But that would be the end of the line for The All Ways. The next night, they missed the cut for the semifinals, and they wouldn't be called back for the show's wild card round.
(Another Rockland resident, however, would make it all the way to the finals. Stony Point comedian Tom Cotter was the season's runner-up, and all three members of The All Ways had nothing but nice things to say about him, calling him "talented" and "super-nice.")
LIFE AFTER "AGT:" "NOVELLA"
The end of their time on "AGT" wasn't the end of bad news for the band. Last month, the group parted ways with its lead guitarist, Geffen.
"Our 'creative differences' were too different," Massirman said. "Neither was right and neither was wrong. He had a different vision, and I had a different vision, and we realized that they weren't going to work together anymore."
While the group continues its search for Geffen's full-time successor, part-time guitarists have filled in for rehearsals and gigs.
Looking back, Heraghty admits he's still frustrated by his "AGT" experience. "It was a lot of fun -- that was the perk -- but they didn't let you be yourself," he said.
What they all appreciate about their time in the limelight, though, is the way the show exposed the band to a national TV audience. It also bolstered their confidence.
"We learned that we can play in front of 5,000 people and be comfortable," Massirman said. "And not only be comfortable, but be awesome, be excited and have fun."
Their heightened profile also helped them win a contest to perform at a preshow event for the Jingle Ball, a holiday concert event run by New York City radio station Z100.
"'AGT' helped with that, because fans who liked us from the show voted a lot," Jevnik said. "And they told their friends to vote."
In addition to writing new songs, touring and pitching themselves to music labels, the group is focusing on their new four-track EP, "Novella." The album's debut single, "Eyes for You," has collected more than 183,000 hits on YouTube.
Released Jan. 15, the album's a bittersweet accomplishment, as it features some of Geffen's final musical contributions to the group. "It's kind of like the last era of what The All Ways was," Jevnik said.
Music may have its highs and lows, but Massirman said there's nothing else he'd rather be doing.
"I believe that we're going to keep going in the direction we've been going in, and that our dreams are going to come true," he said. "This is all I ever want to do for the rest of my life."
"Novella" is available on iTunes. For more information about The All Ways, visit www.theallways.com.