Asbury Park’s latewaves calls themselves out

“I had to swallow the big gigantic pill of that maybe, just maybe, I might be an asshole, too.”

In between Asbury Park-based rock band latewaves’ debut EP Partied Out, and their first LP released in 2021, Hell to Pay, singer and guitarist Mike Pellegrino had a realization—the same realization that Taylor Swift sang about in “Anti-Hero,” and a similar epiphany that Lebron had after Kyrie Irving got traded to the Mavericks.

That realization? Maybe he was the problem. 

“I had to swallow the big gigantic pill of that maybe, just maybe, I might be an asshole, too,” explains Pellegrino. “Not the whole thing, but maybe I can be doing some things better on my end, too. I had to come to an acceptance that I had to deal with the cards I’m dealt and that I need to focus on what I have the power to accomplish.”

Every one of us has been frustrated with where we were at a certain point in our lives, and not reaching the milestones that society has set for us. Pellegrino went through these motions in regards to music. It’s a major theme of latewaves’ first EP Partied Out

“My frustrations definitely reflect where I was mentally at the time,” says Pellegrino. “I had a bit of a victim mentality, and things wouldn’t just work out. In the past I have been in bands where we would get to a level of going on a big tour and then the band breaks up or the label doesn’t want you. I’ve played showcases for all sorts of labels and the feedback was always, ‘It’s good, but it’s not what we are going for.’ I did not want to admit that there’s no fast track in doing this. I thought you needed the look, the blue checkmark, all that stuff. I really thought that’s what you needed to succeed in the music industry. I was fed up with that aspect of it, but it doesn’t matter now because we are in our lane and love what we do.”

Right now, latewaves is going beyond the speed limit in their lane, but the band can slow down and reflect on how things have changed since Partied Out

“We didn’t know what we were really going for,” explains Pellegrino. “I thought we were gonna have five members with all the guitars and harmonies we added. It was kind of a rag-tag operation with that EP. We did drums in Portrait Studios in North Jersey, and then I recorded everything else in my apartment. I had no idea what I was doing, and I had Logic open and YouTube open the whole time trying to figure out what to do.’’

Something else the band figured out with Partied Out was how to make do with their surroundings. Latewaves is a three-piece band, but it’s hard to tell with all the noise the band makes. 

“I could go into grueling detail about the ways we have tried to fill out the space in a three-piece band,” says Pellegrino. “We get a lot of feedback that we sound like a big band and that we make a lot of noise as a three-piece band. It was a good way to throw us to the wolves, like, ‘OK, this sounds good in the recording, but how are we gonna make it sound live now?’”

“We had no choice but to figure it out,” says bassist Howie Cohen, “or else we would have sounded like a small band with a big record behind it.”

Latewaves, of course, did figure it out. They released their first LP, Hell to Pay, in 2021, and the experience of releasing that record is something that the Shore-based band will never forget. 

“It was an incredible experience to have, and meant a lot to us,” explains Cohen. “It was gratifying, and it’s led us to great places.”

“Our producers took a liking to us, and helped us grow,” says Pellegrino. “They helped us grow as songwriters and musicians. Every word on that record was gone over by our producer, Vinny. Even what adjectives we would use. I would be in the vocal booth, and he would be like, ‘You need to rephrase that, it’s not how people talk,’ and I would be like, ‘It sings right?’ He would coach the shit out of you in such a good way. Shawna (Grabowski, drums), had experiences being coached like that, but I was never an athlete. It felt like I was on Remember the Titans.’’

In terms of the lyrics and meaning behind the record, Pellegrino believes that it’s more optimistic, but there’s a mix of emotion on the record. One of the more upbeat songs is “Enough is Enough.”

“‘Enough is Enough’ is one of the more positive songs on here,” says Pellegrino. “Even though it’s still kind of sad. That song is mostly about watching someone go through a hard time, and spiraling. The judgment we pass is so easy to the point that we don’t know that we are doing it. Like if we’re in a better spot than someone and we see someone spiraling and going downhill it’s so easy to be like, ‘Oh, what a mess.’ This song is more like, hey, you have been there, and you live in a glass house, and you don’t have a right to judge someone else for their shortcomings. There’s a lot of calling yourself out on Hell to Pay and that song is an example of it. No one is better than the next person.”

Latewaves will be playing “Enough is Enough” and more songs at their upcoming show at House of Independents on May 27. You might even hear some new songs as well from their upcoming LP. 

  “We finished LP2 in December,” says Grabowski. “It could be released later this year but nothing is set in stone. Every song has a different tone and vibe, but collectively it all fits very well together. We haven’t figured out the sequence yet, but when we do, it will be a fun listen.” 

“With these new songs it’s still the latewaves you know and love,” says Pellegrino. “Time plus hard work usually equals a better product, and I think it’s the best shit we have ever done. I’m incredibly excited to show everyone what we did.”

Even though latewaves will be playing shows in Baltimore and NYC, there wouldn’t be a latewaves without another city on I-95, and that is New Brunswick. Grabowski would attend shows in the Hub City starting in middle school, and for Pellegrino, a Hunterdon County native, he would go to New Brunswick as a way to escape the land of cows in Hunterdon. 

“Hanging out in New Brunswick magnified my love for punk music,” says Pellegrino. “It was great to see the community there. The reason why this genre is great is because of communities like New Brunswick, where it’s just as much about the people at the show as it is about the bands playing. I felt welcomed for the first time, and it felt like the puzzle piece finally fit for the first time in my life.”

latewaves will play House of Independents in Asbury Park on May 26.