The Reverse Engineers is a three-piece progressive-alternative rock band based in the USA. Comprised of brothers William, Daniel and Charles Cote, the group has been creating music since 1997.
The Reverse Engineers released their second CD, Max Q, in November 2004. It was produced with help from a grant from the Jim Beam company. The B.E.A.M. program is co-chaired by Matthew Sweet and Pat DiNizio, frontman for The Smithereens. Pat comments, “It is great to see deserving bands such as The Reverse Engineers take a step towards reaching their goals, while still maintaining complete independence.”
The Reverse Engineers released a new single on April 2, 2007 titled “The Miracle Field”. Work is continuing on a new music.
Although The Reverse Engineers (TRE) aren’t yet signed to a record label, their latest release, Max Q, has enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome by thousands of fans worldwide. The first single off the album, “Sunshine with the Shade”, reached #5 on Weedshare.com’s global top 100 chart. Another radio-friendly track, “Weatherman”, garnered airplay on the UPN network morning show, The Daily Buzz, which is broadcast to 136 television stations.
And Internet progressive rock radio stations immediately embraced the leadoff track, “Mercury in Retrograde”. To date the song has been played on more than 80 podcasts.
This warm reception to the long-awaited Max Q CD has helped generate a steady stream of traffic to the band’s website. In the four months since the CD was released, the site has received 12,000 unique visitors.
This attention continued the trend that was started with the release of The Reverse Engineers’ debut EP, Emmett Brown, which received widespread exposure via TV, radio and the Internet. The single “Bandwidth Conservation Society” made its radio debut on the syndicated radio program “Online Tonight with David Lawrence” on April 23, 2001. David Lawrence interviewed the band for forty-five minutes regarding the song and their involvement in CyberDay 1.0. The interview was broadcast live on over 80 stations across N. America, and globally via the Internet. Charles and William were also interviewed live on Tech TV regarding “BCS”. Tech TV is a cable news network that reaches 75 million households in over 100 countries.
“This type of media exposure is unheard of for a young struggling act like ours,” says Bill. “But if you’re bold, creative, and in this case, humorous, you can use the flood of media outlets that exist to broadcast your own unique message.”
Songs from the EP also garnered widespread exposure on the Internet. The song “Cover Girl” reached #1 on MP3.com’s Experimental/Post-rock chart, #1 on Florida’s Alternative chart, and skyrocketed to #11 on MP3.com’s global Alternative Top 40. TRE has been chosen as featured artist on Weedshare.com, MP3.com, Mp3now.com, Changemusic.com (CMJ.com) and Fullconcept.com.
For decades, the garages of suburban America have been busy laboratories for creative musical expression. Amidst the sprawl of shopping malls, parking lots and middle-class subdivisions, The Reverse Engineers started their journey like thousands of other groups. Although it’s been awhile since their garage days, TRE still speaks to a young suburban population thirsty for music that’s long on meaning and short on pretension.
Although the members of the band are brothers, they didn’t spend their youth playing music together. (That is, unless you count hours of air guitar performances on tennis racquets to bands like Boston, Kiss and Rush.) In fact, even though Charles scored the highest marks ever recorded on the Tolland County music tests when he was in elementary school, he was too busy building weather instruments and charting hurricanes to concentrate on playing music. (Listen to the band’s song, “Weatherman”, for more info.)
But when Charles finally did pick up the bass at the ripe old age of 17, he immediately became one of Tampa Bay’s best bass players. It didn’t take long before he had mastered entire albums of Geddy Lee bass lines and started playing out professionally. His first gig was to replace bassist Sean Malone (who would later found Gordian Knot, a project with other notable musicians such as Bill Bruford) in the DB Records’ band, Multi-Color House. Multi-Color House had just released its first record on the legendary Atlanta independent label, and Charles was soon playing gigs throughout the Tampa area and the Southeast.
Daniel, the youngest member of the group, also took awhile to find his primary instrument. Except for a very brief stint playing snare in his 6th grade band, he didn’t get his first drum kit until he was 19 years old. He instead spent his early years expressing his innate sense of rhythm by breakdancing on cardboard in the middle of the living room floor.
But it didn’t take too long before the sound of his older brothers’ Rush records woke him from his MTV-induced coma, and he traded his parachute pants in for a pair of drum sticks. Before long, Dan was deciphering the drum techniques of Stewart Copeland and Neil Peart and dreaming of joining his older brothers in the ultimate rock trio. (Albeit a trio with an infectious groove, courtesy of the years of breakin’.)
Like Charles, Dan was thrown into the deep end on his first gigs. After playing for a year on an old beat-up drum kit, The Reverse Engineers (then known as “Emmett Brown”) booked a weekend at the legendary Atlanta musician haunt, Southern Living Studios, to hastily record a six-song EP in one weekend.
Bill remembers Dan’s first recording session to record the Emmett Brown EP. “I remember laughing to myself when Jimmy Z. was miking up Dan’s $300 drum kit with like $10,000 worth of mics,” laughs Bill. “Here was this kid who had just started playing drums and he was recording a record,” laughs Bill. “By that time, I had played with some pretty damn good drummers – people who had masters degrees in music. But Dan gave it all he had and he sounded great. He’s a natural.”
William was the only Cote brother who started practicing his instrument at the proper pre-pubescent age of 11. “When we moved from the woods of Connecticut to the scorching hot suburbs of Tampa, Florida, I decided it was time to graduate from air guitar to the real thing. So I put down the tennis racquet and got a real guitar. That way I could stay inside and play along to records in the air conditioning,” says Bill.
Bill has the distinction of being the first ever guitarist in Sonny LaRosa’s “World’s Youngest Jazz Band”. But the thrill of accompanying 7-year-old girls singing jazz standards didn’t take long to wear off, and for a few years the guitar took a backseat to baseball and other interests. It wasn’t until Bill saw a weekly classical guitar instruction program on PBS that playing guitar became an obsession.
When he was 13, he sold his J.C. Penney Les Paul copy to a friend and put his pick down to delve into the mysterious and romantic world of classical guitar. His guitar odyssey eventually led him to the even-hotter climate of Miami where he studied under Latin greats like Juan Mercadal and while at UM, Bill also started acquiring skills in the art of studio engineering. Bill left the University of Miami when Charles got him a gig as the lead guitarist for Multi-Color House. On Bill’s 21st birthday, the brothers played their first big gig at a club called The Point in Atlanta. “It was great to finally get to use all that schooling to actually play music at clubs,” says Bill. “That’s when the real learning started. Charles and I played over 250 shows in two years with Multi-Color House, including a showcase at the New Music Seminar in New York.”
In between playing gigs, Charles started working for John Buscarino, a noted guitar maker who built instruments for Jeff Berlin, Steve Morse, Jeff Watson, and a slew of other famous guitarists. This skill would later come in very handy in negotiating with studio owners for studio time. Ricky Keller, owner of Atlanta’s Southern Living Studios, traded a generous block of time for one of Charles’ beautiful, handbuilt Cote basses.
In January of 1992, Charles and Bill left MCH and moved to Atlanta to be part of the active Georgia music scene. Shortly thereafter, they formed The Miracle Field. The band’s demo garnered regular radio airplay on WRAS, Atlanta’s powerful college radio station.
But the band broke up when Charles moved back to Tampa to start his own business building bass guitars. When Charles returned home, he found Dan starting to play the drums, and they started jamming, laying the foundation for a future rock trio.
Dan remembers, “Charles and I locked in together immediately. We spent hours jamming without any guitar or vocals in a hot Florida garage. It was brutally hot, but the chemistry was there, so we kept playing.”
But the lineup wasn’t complete until Bill came home for Thanksgiving that year. A spontaneous jam session sealed the deal, and Bill decided it was time to return home to put together a new group.
Now that the brothers were a functioning unit, all they needed was a name. “R5” was used for the band’s first few gigs, which was the name of Charles’ flagship bass guitar model. But the band felt the name was pretty ambiguous.
Dan, being the group’s movie buff, started suggesting names of characters in movies. “I remember there was a band called ‘Veruca Salt’ out at the time,” said Dan. “They were named after a character from Willy Wonka. So I started thinking of movie characters that I thought were cool. I’m a big fan of Back to The Future, so I suggested Dr. Emmett Brown. We dropped the ‘Dr.’ part and became Emmett Brown. It fit pretty well because we are writing what we consider to be very modern rock music, but we get our inspiration from listening to older records. So the Back to the Future reference fit.”
“People come up to me after shows and try to describe what our sound is like, and we get comparisons to everyone from Morrissey to Elvis Costello to Rush to the Beatles to Bauhaus,” says Charles.
The band played out for quite a few years as Emmett Brown before changing their name to The Reverse Engineers (more on that later).
In February of 1998, the band decided to take their raw and energetic sound and their newly pressed EP to a much bigger music city – Chicago. So they packed up their gear and moved very far north. The band rented a spacious loft on Webster Ave between Lincoln Park and Wicker Park that served as a practice space, living space and a shop space for Charles Cote Basses. “We were living the musician’s dream,” says Dan. “We’d roll out of bed, build bass guitars by day and then play gigs at night. Many mornings I’d awake to the deafening roar of Chuck routing bass bodies in the next room,” laughs Dan.
“We were ready to take Chicago by storm!” says Bill. “We didn’t even consider that a bigger city might not only have more fans and more clubs, but it would probably also have more bands to compete with. Fortunately for us, our demo must have had a cool sound because we got gigs immediately.”
In fact, Emmett Brown’s first gig in Chicago was at the legendary Double Door club. Gigs at other clubs including Lounge Ax and Elbow Room quickly followed, and the band started to build a small but loyal fan base. But just as the band was breaking into the Chicago scene, tragedy struck the bass guitar company the brothers had been so patiently building during the daytime.
“A large percentage of our basses were being purchased by a distributor in Japan, and when the yen crashed, they had to cancel their orders. That’s when we knew we had to close up the shop,” says Charles.
But even though the bass building business folded, the Chicago experience showed the members of the group that people dug their music, and they could hang in even the biggest and most competitive of scenes. The band decided to return to Tampa for personal and economic reasons.
In August 2000, the band purchased a 16-track digital recorder and began recording and mixing music at their home studio. Three more songs were recorded and added to the original EP, creating the debut full-length CD.
The band didn’t pursue a record deal, opting instead to try and get their music heard via the Internet. Daniel took control of uploading songs to every mp3 music site he could find. Before long, the band was making some waves on mp3.com’s charts. The brooding goth-rock song “Cover Girl” became the sleeper hit of the album, skyrocketing to #1 on MP3.com’s Experimental/Post Rock chart, and rising all the way to #11 on their massive Global Alternative chart which contained thousands of songs.
Garageband.com was also becoming a valuable source of Internet exposure for the group. Cover Girl and Relax were both featured as Track of the Day on Garageband.com on 11/19/00 and 11/24/00. Relax made it all the way to #17 in Garageband’s Final Countdown competition.
Jumping on the Internet bandwagon early proved to be a successful approach for the group. To date, the trio’s music has been downloaded well over 20,000 times from over 30 Internet music sites.
It was gratifying for the band to get exposure via the Internet, but the brothers knew they needed to find a way to get their music heard outside of Cyberspace. So when it came time to release the single Bandwidth Conservation Society, a cool lo-fi Beatlesque track, the band got together to brainstorm some promotional concepts. In April 2001, they got the exposure they were searching for with an experiment called CyberDay.
“The lyrics to BCS poked fun at an actual movement that was started during the Internet’s infancy,” explains Charles. “Web developers were concerned that so many people were jumping on the Net that it wouldn’t be able to handle all the traffic. So a group called the Bandwidth Conservation Society was educating people on how to make sites that occupied a very small amount of cyberspace.”
“As if we didn’t have enough real ecological disasters to worry about. Now we had to even conserve cyberspace,” laughs Bill. “By the time we were ready to release BCS, the whole doomsday-Internet-collapse scenario had died down, so we sounded the alarm again.” Within a week, the band had uploaded a site called SaveCyberspace.org that intended to educate the public on how to conserve Cyberspace, “One of nature’s most precious manmade resources.”
The site offered plenty of humorous ways to conserve bandwidth: Surfing with friends (“carpooling” on the information superhighway), printing out and mailing emails instead of forwarding them to friends, etc.
“I think what got the most attention was when we were able to logically show there was a link between excessive Internet usage and global warming,” says Bill. (All tongue-in-cheek of course)
“Before we knew it, we were in the local television station conducting a live global satellite interview on TechTV to announce Cyberday 1.0,” says Chuck. “We organized a worldwide Internet logoff for an hour on April 23, 2001, the day after Earthday. We called it “Spaceout”. They couldn’t quite figure out if it was all a joke or real, but at least they played the song!”
“Of course, the theme song of CyberDay was BCS by The Reverse Engineers,” adds Dan. “We claimed that it was the world’s first Cyber-conscious single. Which in a way was true – it’s only about 2:45 long instead of our normal 4:45. So it took up about half as much space.” (This song can be found in the The Vault section of this website)
Once the events of CyberDay 1.0 died down, the band turned its attention to learning how to use their newly acquired studio gear so they could record their own album. Recording for the second CD, to be titled Max Q, commenced on New Years Day, 2002.
“We’re still learning how to record our own music. It’s not easy to make your home recordings sound as rocking as your hero’s recordings,” admits Bill. “Working with an experienced producer and engineer would probably make the process a whole lot easier.”
But judging from feedback from the first four tracks, the band’s doing a fine job by themselves. The band submitted a CD containing four newly recorded tracks to the B.E.A.M. (Benefiting Emerging Artists in Music) program in August of 2002. The B.E.A.M. program is sponsored by Jim Beam and it awards no-strings-attached grants to musicians to further their careers. In October 2002, the band was selected from over 600 bands and was awarded a $3,000 grant to continue production of their second CD.
“We’re very excited about finishing this record,” says Daniel. “And with the money and support of the B.E.A.M. program we can stop worrying about how to pay for everything and stay focused on writing music.”
With the new influx of cash, the band purchased a few select pieces of recording gear. “It’s not Abbey Road yet, but it’ll do for now,” says Bill who is in charge of capturing the trio’s energetic sound and recording the disc. “It’s a good thing we’ve learned to record ourselves – our songs keep getting longer and longer – I don’t think we could afford all that studio time,” laughs Bill.
While recording the second CD, the band not only got some new gear, but they decided they wanted a new name. “We got tired of people asking which member was Emmett,” says Charles. “Plus, we had heard about this other songwriter out there who was actually named Emmett Brown. He was probably quite annoyed that he was having trouble using his own name,” adds Charles.
Once again, Dan used his fertile imagination and his interest in space and UFO-related phenomenon to come up with a name that fits the band perfectly – The Reverse Engineers.
“’The Reverse Engineers’ not only sounds cool, but it fits us on so many different levels. Our logo is the transistor symbol, and there’s quite a few people in the UFO community who believe that the transistor was reverse engineered from alien spacecraft,” explains Dan. “Plus we tend to write about scientific stuff a lot – while other bands are singing about how their chick did them wrong, we’re writing about space shuttle launches, and meteorologists.”
“Plus, musicians are really reverse engineers in the truest sense,” adds Bill. “You sit down with a record, put it under the microscope and try to pull it apart to find out what makes it so cool sounding, what makes it so magical. We’ve put so much time and energy into Max Q that we’re hopeful it might inspire other musicians to try and reverse engineer our music.”