This band knows the oldies from the first time around

The Paisley Project rocks Boston's MDC Hatch Shell

By Alison O'Leary Murray, Globe Correspondent, 6/26/2003

Squeezed into a practice space between a printing company's folding machine and boxes of finished fliers, the Paisley Project could be anybody's garage band, rattling the ductwork with loud guitars and playing oldies out of love for the music.

But they aren't a bunch of local youths dreaming about becoming rock 'n roll stars. In fact, they're not youths at all. Now pushing 50 years old, these five musicians with deep ties to the western suburbs started playing individually before the real Beatles broke up.

They've each been in a number of bands, playing at local nightspots, such as Timothy's Too, back when the Framingham area had nightclubs and the Rolling Stones were playing the former Sir Morgan's Cove in Worcester.

Sporting a touch of gray, the musicians in the Paisley Project have honed their skills and accumulated a repertoire of songs from the 1960s and 1970s that they hope will entertain several generations in the western suburbs and beyond. Playing oldies doesn't bother them.

"It's music we like," said David Lavalley, who plays rhythm guitar. "A lot of music today is absent strong melody, which is why many of these older songs get covered by contemporary artists."

The group has already landed a couple of big gigs this summer, including opening for Tommy James and the Shondells at the Boston Hatch Shell on Saturday and opening for Beatlemania at Boston's City Hall Plaza on July 5. They're booked for the Center for Arts in Natick on July 26.

At a recent practice, they slid easily from the Beatles' "If I Needed Someone" to "California Dreamin' by the Mamas and the Papas and then "Somebody To Love" by Jefferson Airplane.

"The nice thing, now that we're over 40, is that we played these songs when they they were new, but after 35 years playing guitar we can do it very well," said Tom Yates, who plays lead guitar.

The members' varied backgrounds contribute to the group's success. Lavalley, who carts his guitars from his Natick home to the West Roxbury practice sessions, recently left a career at Compaq to teach music students privately, which he calls a "musical sabbatical." His marketing savvy, according to fellow band members, has brought the high-profile engagements.

Singer and bass guitarist Tim Leavitt of Southborough is a manufacturing manager at Hopkinton's Control Technology Corp. by day. The award-winning songwriter recently made a splash at his 30th St. Mark's school reunion by bringing the band along to entertain.

Drummer Michael Macrides lives in West Roxbury and provides the practice space.

While all flirted with musical careers, two of the band members have maintained music as a way of life. Yates, of Hudson, was known locally for his role in the band Fair, Yates, and Betschart, a house band at the now defunct Timothy's Spirits in Framingham. He won a statewide country songwriter of the year award while working as a chef for a Sudbury restaurant.

At the keyboard and contributing lead vocals is Linda Chase, who works in music all day as a vocal coach and jingle writer. She has toured extensively, including with the Boston-based rhythm and blues band Soul City. She also sings cabaret at Ken's Steak House in Framingham.

Chase said she was surprised when the others showed up there one night to ask her to join them. It was a reunion of sorts among musicians who had known and admired each other's talents despite never playing together.

Now as the Paisley Project, the group feels like it's hitting all of the right notes.

"Being older takes the edge off. There are no egos; everybody's doing it for the benefit of the whole," Chase said. "And it's weird, the more we do it for the fun of it, the more people pay attention. It's great to watch it grow, doing what you love to do."

The man who booked the group to play in Boston this summer, Howie Cusack, president of Pretty Polly Productions, said the Paisley Project has mastered the oldies sound so well that the group sounds just like the real thing.

"They sent me an email with a sound sample of a Hollies tune that was so good I thought they were thieves who had copied the Hollies' song and put it on their website," Cusack said.

Alison O'Leary Murray can be reached at

This story ran on page 4 of the Globe West section on 6/26/2003.

Paisley spark: From remnants of local '70s bands, a supergroup is born

By Josh B. Wardrop / News Staff Writer
Sunday, June 1, 2003

When retro-rockers The Paisley Project took the stage May 17 at the CMA Blues Festival in Ashland, music lovers in the audience could have been forgiven for having a distinct sense of deja vu. Or, that itching one gets at the back of one's brain when one sees someone they know, but can't quite place.

The chances are good -- if they've lived in MetroWest for awhile -- that they'd seen keyboardist Linda Chase, bassist Tim Leavitt, guitarists Tom Yates and Dave Lavalley, and drummer Mike Macrides onstage before. Only the time was 20 years ago, or more, and the bands they were in were very different. Bands like Image, Ice, Numbers or Fair, Yates & Betschart -- bands that toured throughout the Northeast and were fixtures on the once-burgeoning MetroWest live music scene.

"I had admired Dave and Mike when they were in Numbers," says Leavitt, a lifelong resident of Southborough. "I had followed a lot of Tom's projects, and Linda -- geez, I've known her forever. She played my wedding.

"It wasn't until 25 years later, though, that we finally put it together," Leavitt chuckles.

Call them a modern-day Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Or, if that's before your time, call them the next Audioslave. But with The Paisley Project, it seems that MetroWest has itself a bonafide supergroup, uniting pivotal creative forces from some of the region's premier rock bands of the late 1970s into a new group specializing in the music of that classic rock era.

"About two years ago, I had this real urge to get back into playing live; I really missed it," says Lavalley, a Natick resident who plays rhythm guitar and shares lead vocals with Chase, Leavitt and Yates. "So, Mike and I started jamming with Tom, without really thinking about what it might become. Then, I got to thinking about having a strong singing partner -- and I'd always just thought the world of Linda.

"So, one night we went to see her at Ken's, and proposed the idea of a collaboration to Linda," Lavalley says. "She was excited about the '60s and '70s rock we wanted to play -- not the sort of 'classic rock' repertoire that we've all done about 500,000 times."

Leavitt, a guitarist by trade, was the last to join. He was convinced to switch over to bass, and The Paisley Project was officially launched.

"We all bring different sounds to the band," says Lavalley. "When Mike and I were in Numbers, we did a lot of stuff that focused on vocal harmonies and tight rock -- bands like CSN, Squeeze, The Pretenders, The Police and Genesis."

"Fair, Yates & Betschart played a lot of early Genesis, Jethro Tull, The Kinks," says Yates, a Hudson native who now resides in Stow. "We were the house band at Timothy's Spirits Co. in Framingham for five years, and they pretty much let us play whatever we wanted in those days."

Today, The Paisley Project plays everything from '60s British Invasion bands like The Beatles, The Hollies and Gerry & The Pacemakers to psychedelic classics like "Incense and Peppermints" and Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love." Motown classics, hard rock, '70s singer-songwriter anthems -- nothing, it appears, is outside their range.

"We go from Cream to The Monkees in our shows," Lavalley says. "If it was a good song then, we're into it. Someone at one of our shows said that we play music that takes them back to a time when they didn't have a care in the world, and that's exciting for us."

Lavalley is candid about the change in the audiences to whom The Paisley Project find themselves playing. "Back then, we were playing places like Timothy's Too, Sir Morgan's Cove and the Chateau de Ville, and our audience was 20-year-olds on the make," he chuckles. "Now, we're about playing for 40-somethings who are looking to revisit good memories from their past. We do a lot of outdoor gigs, corporate events, that sort of thing."

This summer is already shaping up to be a busy one for the band. Upcoming gigs include a June 28 show at the Hatch Shell in Boston, opening for Tommy James and the Shondells, as well as a July 26 show at The Center for Arts in Natick and an Aug. 9 show at Maynard's Sit'N Bull Pub.

Since their personal musical heydays in the late '70s and early '80s, the members of The Paisley Project have kept themselves busy with pursuits both musical and otherwise. Macrides owns Hercules Press in West Roxbury, where the band often rehearses. Leavitt came off the road 20 years ago, and stepped into a job at Control Technologies, where he remains to this day. Lavalley is currently taking what he terms "a musical sabbatical," after many years in the computer industry.

Yates and Chase kept their feet most firmly planted in music as a profession. Yates describes himself as a "full-time musician," who works part-time at an organic farm in the area. Chase, meanwhile, sings at local spots such as Ken's Steak House in Framingham, works as a producer/arranger for other artists, and records vocals and music for commercial jingles and soap operas.

At present, the band is sticking strictly to covers, but say that the idea of writing original material has been by no means ruled out. "It's a little early to think about writing songs...," says Yates.

"...But everyone in this group does write," adds Lavalley. "We all have a backlog of our own material. But we think it's best to focus on one thing at a time."

In a group which unites so many creative individuals, it would seem that The Paisley Project would beg inevitable questions about chiefs vs. Indians, or how a number of overzealous cooks tend to spoil the broth. How do the five musicians combat this?

"Age," says Chase, wryly, before chuckling. "We've all done this long enough to know that the final result you hear is the most important thing. I probably could have gotten a lot further with a bigger ego, but I just love singing harmonies too much."

"Our song selection is diverse enough that we all get to have our own moments," says Lavalley.

"And we've always really been fans of each other," says Leavitt. "So, when I get to hear Dave or Linda get into a groove, I just love it."

Chase agrees, "We really are happy listening to each other. That's why it works."

The Paisley Project perform June 28, at the MDC Hatch Shell in Boston. For other upcoming dates, and more information, visit