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Stop! Lovehammers time

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For more than half his life, Marty Casey, 32, has performed with the same band. Then, in his first real audition last February, Marty was chosen as a contestant for the hit CBS summer show, "Rock Star: INXS." A second-place finish (INXS chose Canadian J.D. Fortune to replace their late lead singer, Michael Hutchence) and a win as fan favorite meant the Hickory Hills native was on the cusp of something bigger.

Fast-forward nearly a year, and Marty and local band Lovehammers (guitarist Billy Sawilchik, bassist Dino Kourelis and brother, drummer Bobby Kourelis) are looking at a Jan. 24 drop date of their self-titled, major label release, "Marty Casey & Lovehammers" (Epic). And they've just begun a North American tour opening for the new INXS.

Though they're no strangers to live shows, we caught up with Marty regarding the state of Lovehammers before the band embarked on its nationwide tour and highly publicized shot at stardom.

Billy was the last one to quit his day job [as a liquor distributor sales rep]. How does it feel to be a full-time rock band now?
It feels good to have the focus of my entire life on music and touring, and letting people--not only in Canada and the U.S., but hopefully the rest of the world--know about this band.

You guys are really involved with the fans. Will you be able to keep that up while touring?
I know we've made measures to definitely keep up with our fans. On our bus, we made sure we have satellite, and we bought computers so that we can be connected with the fans all through the whole tour, and keep them up to date as far as what's going on with the shows, what was cool about particular shows, how we're feeling. Just letting people understand what it's like to tour on this big, massive scale.

Lovehammers used to drive themselves to gigs in a van; now you have your own tour bus. Were you able to keep the same crew you've worked with over the years?
We definitely have kept everybody from our crew to go along for the ride, because this is kind of a realization of their dream, too. … We got our management [Doc McGhee] that's just so old-school and soldiers of touring with bands like Motley Crue and Bon Jovi; these people know how to put together tours. We're definitely a tight, old-school unit. It feels really good; it's all about everybody that's helped us get here and bringing everybody along.

What were you and the band doing to prepare for the tour?
We've been rehearsing now three to five hours a day, every day. … [A]nd getting together our personal lives so that you can take off for a year. Just getting everything packed up in storage units and then doing a [load] of press, and just letting everybody know the album's coming out [Jan. 24]. We're really excited that people care. We're really overwhelmed there's this much interest in the band.

Any plans for the album release?
We'll definitely bust out a bottle of champagne and celebrate our first major label release. [Laughs]

You performed with the "Rock Star: INXS" house band for months; now you're back with Lovehammers. Do you think the group's style changed in the time you were apart?
I think Bob, Dino and Billy have completely stepped up their game. They realized that you've got one shot to really make this happen for the rest of your life. So they really turned it up. I'd say from the band they were before I went on the show to the band they are now, musicianship-wise, they've worked their asses off over the past six months. I swear they've really, really just evolved, and they're phenomenal. They're very hungry; it shows in their playing now.

In the days leading up to the start of the tour, what were you feeling most?
There's tons of excitement. And it's just surreal that it is happening. You know, sometimes we've been pretty down on ourselves and we thought it wasn't gonna happen, but we persevered. The fact that it's happening is really wild; it's such a fun trip. And one thing we've been told time and time again that we are doing [now] is: Enjoy the ride. So we're shaking off all that nervousness, and we're shaking off any second-guessing.

You're finally going to meet up with your old "Rock Star" rival on tour, J.D. Fortune. How do you feel about that?
I'm excited to see INXS as the new INXS. INXS 2.0, I guess you'd say, as the real deal now; see what they sound like and see how they interact. I'm sure there's always gonna be rivalry. You always want to be the brightest shining band of the night. We're definitely the underdogs, but I think people are gonna see that we're hungry, and people are gonna see the amount of energy we put out. And we're going to do our best to be the best band out there.

While doing press in Chicago, you went on "FOX News in the Morning" [Jan. 12] and performed as Marty Casey & Lovehammers for the first time on TV. How did it feel?
We were psyched to actually do something like that and perform. I've been seen all summer on television by myself, Marty Casey, and it was nice for the first time to get the Lovehammers, all of us, together on television: Show where I'm at and who I'm with, and introduce the Lovehammers to the viewers. Because it's not just about me; it's about the band. People need to know that.

Marty Casey and Lovehammers return to Chicago for an in-store performance Feb. 4 at Virgin Megastore before they open for INXS at the Chicago Theatre that night.

Karen Budell is the metromix nightlife producer.Originally published Jan. 18, 2006.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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