Bands on the Verge: Nook the Crook

Jenny Dwoskin

Wanted: a crook. Notorious for snatching stages, spotlights and a fan-base of Philadelphians. Goes by the name of Nook. Authorities have labeled the character as “slippery.” Detective Brian Tamland warns, “At times, Nook’s a little bit funk. Then, he’s rock ‘n’ roll, sometimes jazz.” One thing’s for sure, Main Liners: “Nook the Crook” is no figment of Dr. Seuss. “He’s very real and, folks, he doesn’t show any signs of stopping.”

Blame it all on Nicholas Fazzini. The imp’s creation can be credited to the imaginations of this Villanova student and his fellow band members. After graduating from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, the senior Communication major/English minor began to jam with buddies Mike Birchard and Dan Richardson.

“We would get together erratically,” Fazzini says, “but we didn’t have a drummer. And then I went off to Villanova and Dan went to Temple. So, that was that – for the time being, anyway.”

In 2002, the guys recruited drummer, Brian Strain, who was then a student at Messiah College near Harrisburg. But it wasn’t until Strain transferred to West Chester in 2003 that Nook fully came into being.

“Nook the Crook was this cartoon character that Birchard made up,” explains Fazzini. “Plus it rhymes and we are just a bunch of goofy kids. It just kind of stuck.”

Together, the members of Nook the Crook make up quite a “musically-educated” band. Although Fazzini is primarily the guitarist, Birchard the lead vocalist and keyboard player, and Richardson the bassist, all of the guys are quite versatile on the stage. Richardson, for example, was a member of the Temple University orchestra (playing the upright bass) and has played for the president. And Strain has been playing the drums since he was three years old.

“Each band member brings something different to our sound,” adds Fazzini. “For instance, Dan brings a classical element to our songs, having been in an orchestra. I, on the other hand, am into bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. We’re very open-minded when it comes to influences.”

Nook the Crook is not about to be caught underneath a cookie cutter. “Different types of music have particular social classifications – people that listen to or play that kind of music have to dress a certain way, act a certain way,” says Fazzini. “But, as a band, we just listen to people’s music. Even if we don’t like a song, we still learn from it.”

With both talent and optimism, the band has already acquired an impressive status. Because Birchard had been working at a recording studio, Morningstar Records, he was able to finagle his employers into allowing Nook to record a demo CD. Soon, they were playing shows at venues like Emerald City and the Caroline’s Bar and Restaurant, as well as getting airtime on the University’s and LaSalle’s radio stations.

As for the future, Fazzini hopes that the band will get signed to a record label. “Birchard has talked to indie labels, but they would want to put us on tour for two to three years and Bri and I are still in school,” he said.

For the time being, the band will continue to play shows at the Grape Street Pub and possibly The Point. Richardson is working at Guitar Center, and Birchard is also playing with renowned cover band, Split Decision. Strain has one more year at West Chester.

“I hope to get a communications-type job and quit in about a year-year and a half,” Fazzini says. He hopes to leave just in time for Nook the Crook to fully launch itself. “I also hope that no future employers read this,” he adds. “And if the whole music career thing fails, I want to be an anchorman.”

You stay classy, Villanova.