The Cringe is readjusting to domestic life after coming off a brief Midwest tour and awaiting the release of a fall album.
Vocalist, keyboardist and rhythm guitarist John Cusimano says the tour successfully showcased the band’s brand of what he calls “macho-rock,” high-energy instrument machismo derived from Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam and, Cusimano’s favorite, The Who.
Quick to reference a piece of wisdom from his rock idols John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Cusimano is the showman of the group.
Embodying the Cringe’s brand of what he calls “macho-rock,” Cusimano, 45, is unafraid to work the stage and surf the crowd.
While the other Cringe guitarists — lead James “Roto” Rotondi, and bassist Jonny Blaze — are more protective of their equipment, the singer knows smashing a guitar or one of drummer Shawn Pelton’s sets is a sure-fire closer. He’s put five on the stairway to heaven.
Calling from his home in upstate New York, about 200 miles north of the Big Apple, he’s enjoying a few weeks off from the band following a brief tour with L.A. alt-metalheads Trapt, best known for their platinum 2002 single Headstrong.
Cusimano says the six-gig tour of the Midwest was a success. The tour culminated with a chaotic Aug. 9 finale at Peabody’s Concert Club in Cleveland.
After a daytime tour of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, where the Cringe members admired the mellotron used for The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever, they played a show that Cusimano says took him back to 1994 — thanks to a catfight, raging mosh pit and ill-fated guitar toss worthy of Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic that smashed Cusimano in the forehead.
The fight, as Cusimano recalls it, started after one woman near the stage cut in front of another. Hands pulled hair, one woman slammed the other with a wedge monitor and the singer played peacekeeper.
After Cusimano calmed the women and returned to his mic, the fight raged again until security separated the women.
“It was out of control,” he says. “It was kind of frightening actually, but I don’t think anyone got permanently injured.”
Cusimano calls the tour a success despite traveling difficulties and flight delays. He says one attempt with the low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines ended with the band trying to, within an hour, reclaim its luggage from baggage claim, cancel the flight and book a new one.
Though tired by the tour, as with all the group’s tours, Cusimano says his genuine friendship with his bandmates keeps him going.
“It’s a drag to be driving five to six hours a day to whatever the next day,” he says. “But if you do it with your brothers, it keeps it fresh, it keeps it interesting. We treat it like a little vacation, like summer camp for the Cringe.”
Cusimano, drummer Pelton and bassist Blaze all live within three blocks of each other. The band rehearses a couple times a week, and Cusimano and guitarist Rotondi write songs together.
The two writers are part of a songwriting group headed by Austin, Texas, musician and artist Bob Schneider. The 20 group members write songs from phrases picked by Schneider. Cusimano says 80 percent of the Cringe’s upcoming album, Hiding in Plain Sight, came from the writing exercises.
The album, out Oct. 9, comes two years after The Cringe’s last release, Play Thing.
Cusimano says the album deals with distancing oneself from “frenetic” contemporary life. The Catholic-raised singer acknowledges the influence of the Buddhist philosophy followed by Rotondi.
The band will tour to support the album, with dates coming soon, and is now writing the follow-up. For the album, Cusimano says to expect the loud, hooky, face-melting rock the Cringe are known for.
“I’m obsessed with chasing this elusive hook,” he says. “If you can have that all-elusive hook that people like that surprises you in a way … that in a big rock package is what the Cringe try to do.”
In his off time, he rides motorcycles, snowboards and spends time with his red-nosed pitbull, Isaboo, and wife, celebrity chef Rachael Ray, whom Cusimano calls the band’s biggest fan.
He says she attends every gig near their New York state home and keeps the Cringe members well fed. As Cusimano says, “the best way to a band is through is their stomachs.”
He says his favorite dish of Ray’s is the spaghetti carbonara she makes for him on his birthday, a tradition since the first they celebrated as a couple. After a late-night gig, the singer opted out of the fancy chateaubriand steak Ray offered in favor of pasta with bacon and eggs, a classic dish for Italian coalminers returning home from work.
“We are a very emotional couple — in good way,” he says. “We’re always happy and always full of good food.”
As he awaits the Cringe’s next album release and his and Ray’s seventh anniversary on Sept. 24, Cusimano says he has nothing to complain about.
“Life is good,” he says. “We work really hard, try to play hard when we can, take care of our families. You’ve just got to try and not take yourself too seriously.”