Being labeled an “aging rocker” might irk other guys in their 50s and 60s who have pursued lifelong ambitions of breaking through with their own rock band, yet never got that big break.
But not Rick Brindell, 59, senior vice president of commercial marketing at an insurance firm in Plainview, and Kevin Holmgren, 65, who works at the same firm as an auto claims specialist. About two years ago, the two work buddies followed their lifelong dreams of starting their own rock and blues band. They called it The Procrastinators, and they have performed in western Suffolk bars.
Brindell and Holmgren see aging rockers like Paul McCartney and Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen, with whom Brindell studied a few years back, as their personal guitar heroes who have had their own ups and downs. And indeed, after 18 months of gigs followed by almost a year off the circuit, The Procrastinators are ready for their Long Island comeback next month. (The band’s schedule and samples of their music are on facebook.com/wearetheprocrastinators)
On a recent evening at Brindell’s Bay Shore home, hanging out in the music room — actually a guest room decorated with guitars — the guys pulled out their axes and played part of their playlist, which includes Hot Tuna’s classic remake of “Hesitation Blues,” as well as original songs by Brindell.
“Want to do ‘Mean, Mean Woman’?” asks Holmgren, who lives in Levittown, his bass guitar at the ready.
“You mean the song I wrote for my lovely wife?” Brindell jokes while tuning up his acoustic guitar. Then they begin playing a classic blues riff as Brindell sings, “I got me a mean, mean woman / She sure can’t do me no good / Treats me like a fool, just like I knew she would.”
As they sing, Mitchell Weithorn, 65, of Bellmore, a Brindell family friend and self-taught drummer, sits on the bed tapping his sticks on his knees.
“I don’t get out much. I drum. That’s it,” deadpans Weithorn, who works as a senior estimator at an Elmont glass firm.
The Procrastinators hope to keep playing until they’re super seniors. They don’t get paid much to perform — sometimes a couple of drinks or, at most, carfare — and their hangovers generally involve exhaustion from too much rocking out instead of downing tequila shots. But even if they don’t wind up playing on “Saturday Night Live,” they’re happy to cross “start a rock band” off their bucket list by playing at Long Island clubs. And if they inspire other folks their age to follow their better-late-than-never philosophy, that’s all right, too.
“It’s never too late to follow your dreams,” Brindell says. “We are an inspiration for other older gents and ladies who have dreams to do something later in life.”
Brindell has been chasing this particular rainbow since he was a kid growing up in Franklin Square. His mother died of cancer on Christmas Day in 1962, leaving his father to raise him, his twin brother Mike, and their older siblings, Andrea and Harvey. He traces his interest in music to a Sunday in 1964, when he watched the Beatles make their American TV debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He and Mike convinced their dad to buy them guitars and pay for music lessons. Because the lessons were on the same night as the “Batman” TV show, he and Mike alternated taking lessons and watching the Caped Crusader so that, between them, they could see the whole series.
After graduating from West Hempstead High School in 1975, Brindell headed off to Georgia College in Milledgeville, but didn’t graduate. He earned his New York insurance license in the early 1980s and 10 years later took his first stab at forming a band with Mike. They called it Mid Life Crisis and performed at nightclubs such as Mulcahy’s in Wantagh before calling it quits. (Mike is a retired carpenter who lives in Jacksonville, Florida. He still plays guitar.)
Around the time Mid Life Crisis broke up, Brindell met and married his wife, Lucille. It was a second marriage for both of them.
Another 15 years went by, and then one day Brindell was at work and saw an email blast from Holmgren, who had recently joined the firm. Holmgren, who was born in the South Bronx and raised in Queens, started playing electric bass at school dances while a junior at Power Memorial Academy, a Catholic high school in Manhattan. He’d gotten back to his music after earning a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from St. John’s University and an MBA in international business from Adelphi University. In the 1990s Holmgren had joined The Off Wall Street Jam in Manhattan, a musician’s club, and performed at a number of famed city clubs, including The Bitter End.
Holmgren’s biography attached to the email also mentioned that he plays bass guitar with The Howlin’ Thurstons, a rock band that specializes in Southern California-style surf music, at Otto’s Shrunken Head tiki bar in Manhattan. That was their introduction.
“Rick came down and said, ‘You play bass? I play bass.’ So Rick got the bug again to play,” Holmgren says.
“I wasn’t playing in any bands at the time and it wasn’t satisfying playing by myself,” Brindell says.
The two new friends started jamming together during lunch hours. They moved on to open mic nights, most notably at NJ Grunts Sports Bar in the Levittown Lanes bowling center. They christened their band The Procrastinators and played at places such as O’Reilly’s in Oakdale, The Viking in Islip and Connolly Station in Bay Shore.
A June show at the Pour House in Holbrook was their last hurrah. Brindell’s wife had learned that she was ill, and he put the band on hold to be a caregiver. Now, Lucille is feeling better and The Procrastinators are ready to get back on the road — that is, Sunrise Highway.
Weithorn was brought in this spring to replace the band’s previous drummer, Pat Hample of Lindenhurst. Hample was set to go but then he fell in the February snowstorm, dislocated his elbow and broke the radius bone in his forearm. He will likely be in physical therapy and unavailable for a year, Brindell says.
Weithorn was all too happy to step in. A 1969 graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, he’d played in basement bands. But he’d hung up his sticks until he noodled with a drum machine about 15 years ago on a trip to a Farmingdale arcade with his son Max.
“I hadn’t played in years and I was terrible, but my son thought it was cool I could play,” Weithorn says. He bought a drum set in a local music store, and father and son both practiced on it until Max found other interests. “I kept practicing and got my chops back playing to songs on my iPod,” Weithorn says.
Weithorn, whose wife, Terry, is a longtime friend of Lucille’s, had performed with Brindell for a while, then played with a group on Long Island for five years up until last year. The drummer is looking forward to helping The Procrastinators juice up their acoustic-heavy playlist.
Brindell’s family supports his vision of a late-starting rock band. “Music has been a longtime love of Rick’s life,” Lucille says. “I think it’s wonderful that somebody has a passion.”
His stepdaughter, Kathy Seitz, 42, of Bay Shore, adds, “It keeps him young, it keeps him happy, so I support him 100 percent. He plays with my son, Jackson, who is 5 years old.”
Although The Procrastinators’ outlook is optimistic and youthful, they’re realistic about how age can affect their schedules. Brindell has to get up for work at 6 a.m., which usually dampens any post-show partying. And rocking out can result in next-day aches.
“When I play out, I kick it up five notches,” Weithorn says. “Your hands can’t take the beating. They swell the next day.”
Holmgren agrees. “One of the big problems is recuperating the following day,” he says. But he adds, “I consider myself very lucky to be able to still rock out even while I gray out.”
Brindell, who is also the band’s manager, says he’s ready to keep The Procrastinators going for the foreseeable future and beyond. “I’ll be doing this when I’m 85,” he says.