Kaitlyn Fedele – Polybius (Rochester thrash/death mixed with NWOBHM), Eternal Crypt (blackened melodic death and folk metal)
I played a show with Polybius back in January of 2022, and it was my first time ever seeing and hearing a keytar player in a local band (as far as I can remember anyway). That alone drew my attention, and I subsequently grew to love the band as a whole. These days, however, keytar player, Kaitlyn Fedele is also slinging melodies and shred for Eternal Crypt – taking the place of our fallen brother, James Hallenbeck (RIP). It’s also worth mentioning that Kaitlyn has a vintage wares business called COPESETIC AND is on the verge of a major breakthrough in the Rochester scene: creating the first ever ROCHESTER STEEL COLLECTIVE. We get into all this and more in the following interview:
1. Talk about the conception of Polybius. How did you come to join the project, and how has playing this music pushed you as a musician?
So, Polybius was actually Alex’s (Zillioux) brain-child – he started it out as a solo project that initially most people didn’t really know about. After releasing the first album on his own, he started putting together a band to bring it to the stage, but I was still just a supportive bystander. The summer before he ended up asking me to join, I had gotten so frustrated with my feelings on music after years of burnout and not knowing what direction was right for me anymore that I had told him that I thought I was just going to quit and sell all of my gear. I definitely hit musical rock-bottom. Then, after his initial group started coming together a bit more, he and the group all asked me to join on keys, something completely different from anything I’ve ever done, really. My background has always been in classical and musical theater, so being in a metal band was really uncomfortable at first. Not because I didn’t enjoy the music, but because I just didn’t know how to be.
Being in this group has really offered me that “safe space” to learn again how to just enjoy what I’m doing, and how to share my love of music in a genuine and personal way. I’ve started writing and collaborating in a new way, which has definitely stretched my mind, and I’ve been more inspired to really hone in what specific skills I like about playing my instrument and grind towards improving those things.
2. How long have you been playing the keytar? Who inspired you to first pick up this rad instrument?!
HA! About a year?
I’ve played piano forever, and always considered myself a “purist” about the instrument. Acoustic piano versus a keyboard of any kind all day. But then my bandmates all started hyping the idea of it up to me, so it seemed like it might be a cool thing to go with.
The Dyspläcer boys were kind enough to hand over a midi-controller keytar they bought for the band but never used, so I used that for the first couple shows. It aesthetically looked cool, but functionally was really difficult for live performances. After a few months of using that wacky thing (now adorned by a Dyspläcer sticker in homage), Alex surprised me by bringing home my now-famed Roland AX Edge keytar. SO SICK. That instrument is literally perfect, so if you (or anyone else) is really looking for a keytar, I highly recommend it. That’s when my relationship with that instrument really solidified, I definitely identify with that thing now, it’s my essence.
Since having this synergistic relationship with the keytar, I’ve really noticed more and more artists that use them and make me feel good about being in the club. Emily King and Herbie Hancock both ended up also getting the Roland AX Edge, and it’s pretty sick to see absolute monster players like them playing the same instrument as me.
3. Talk about some of the first bands or artists you listened to that first inspired you to become a musician yourself.
My Papa (grandfather on my dad’s side) was the first and the foundation of my musicianship. When I was a toddler and when we would visit, he would play tunes on the keyboard for me and let me tinker with him and I immediately fell in love. I said I wanted to be a musician when I grow up, and that never changed from then on. I was put into piano lessons around pre-k, and it just grew from there. I picked up clarinet in 4th grade when it was time to choose an instrument and join band. Through middle and high school I played piano and saxophone in jazz and played clarinet in the concert band and for regional competitions. I then went to college and got a BA in performance in clarinet.
My papa was truly my inspiration, nothing else. And retrospectively, I think it was just all the joy I saw out of that man from when he would play. It was so intoxicating, and it brought me that same kind of joy and respite. Sometimes it doesn’t come from famous artists or platinum selling bands, but just your ordinary joe-schmoe doing what he loves. That’s the most inspiring shit.
4. Fast forwarding to today, talk about some bands you love who have emerged, let’s say over the past decade, and have really struck a chord with you. You can discuss bands of any size or status, including locals.
I’ll start with my beloved locals. The real family. The first artists that come to mind are my best friends in life – Alex McArthur and Alex Zillioux.
Alex McArthur and I became best friends after meeting at one of her jazz gigs in Buffalo and we just immediately clicked. I’ve gotten to watch her grow and blossom into such an amazing musician and person over the last (almost) ten years and she’s always been so inspiring to me. When we first met, we were freshly 18 or 19 years old, and she was already regularly gigging at all the jazz spots in Buffalo, killing it. Being her friend, I’ve been able to personally see the nitty gritty of her growth along the way – leaning into the vulnerability of music and the self all at once, planting (metaphorical) seeds and watering them even when you can’t tell if they’ll prosper. Now she’s a vocalist for the Buffalo Philharmonic, among countless other crazy things. Everytime we talk, she’s the new lead role in an up and coming huge theater production, Broadway performers are begging her to come to New York City, she’s getting offers everywhere from everyone. It’s so beautiful to watch a person and artist grow in so many dimensions, because music isn’t just a product, it’s a part of our souls that we share with others.
I feel similarly to my partner, Alex Zillioux. When we first met, he was the drummer for Nuclear Winter, and I’ve gotten to personally watch his growth in so many ways, too. From his songwriting getting to shine in Polybius, his growth on guitar (in only 3 years!), to his growth with drums, it’s crazy. He’s in so many bands all at once, juggling so much, all with such high standards always on his mind. The dedication and perseverance I’ve seen him go through is the most inspiring.
It’s all about the craft, no matter what life throws at you. And what a blessing to watch two completely different people, equally amazing artists, rise to their challenges in different ways and get those perspectives. I have so much love for these two.
I would be dishonest if I didn’t include Eternal Crypt in the local list here, but I’ll leave a lot of my commentary for when I talk specifically about that band because that’s a whole thing in and of itself.
As far as larger artists that have been inspiring, Marc Rebillet was the first artist that really inspired me to experiment more with electronic music about two years ago. Although I’m not super into him now, he does have a special place in my development with his early beginnings. If you haven’t heard of him, definitely check him out at least, it’s pretty fun and interesting. He uses a looper, his keyboard, a drum pad, some battery equipment occasionally and his voice to orchestrate some real funky songs on the spot. It was really refreshing and inspiring to see something so wacky and fun and pushed me to try some wacky stuff out myself.
I’m a chordal/arpeggio nut, so you might hear a touch of influence come out from my younger days enjoying Eric Whitacre, or more recently Alejandro Aranda (scarypoolparty) and previously mentioned Dan Deacon and Strawberry Mountain.
Bands like Chromeo, Sure Sure, Vulfpeck, Emily King, Still Woozy, Saint Motel, and forementioned bands are super inspirational to me in that even though they’re totally different than the music I play in the bands I’m in, they’ve got this super groovy, funky, in-the-pocket style that is just such a quality I’m looking to have every single time I play anything.
5. You recently proposed an underground music collective to some Buffalo and Rochester bands. Are you able to disclose anything about that or is it still too early in the collective’s formative stages?
Currently the collective has three joining groups, with another two in the process to join as well. The current launch date is projected for February 3rd!
This collective is hoping to be the answer to the struggles I’ve seen almost every band go through – bands spend all of their time focused on writing, recording, booking shows, etc, and the things that end up going to the wayside are the more business-end dealings. I.e. making a website, marketing themselves, selling merch online, organizing larger events. These are also the things that can end up really being the breadwinners for artists – the deserved payout for the sacrifices made along the way.
The collective is solving these problems by offering an online platform for local bands to have a nice webpage linked to all of their social accounts, their music on Spotify or Bandcamp, their events on a collective calendar to draw more attention and subsequently bigger crowds, and an online store to sell their merch even when they’re not playing shows. They don’t have to lift a finger, Tiny Fish Printing is printing on demand and shipping it for us, the bands just get the profits.
Not only is the collective offering the website and social media platforms, we will also be booking quarterly shows that are made to benefit the community such by raising money for charities, hosting food drives, hosting artists and vendors at each event, etc. I can’t disclose too much about the first event yet as this is still in the early scheduling stages, but do expect our first big event to take place in late May of this year.
I’m happy to announce that our board members are Matt Berry, Zane Knight and Alex Zillioux. We’ve been collaborating on making sure that we do everything in our power to uplift this community by providing resources and opportunities in every way that we can. The website and shows are just the beginning of what we’ll be doing, I’m so excited to see what this collaboration is going to do for and with our community.
If anyone is interested in joining – please send us an email or check out our website when it’s launched and click the “Apply for Membership” on the “About” page to get started.
Find our website at RochesterSteelCollective.com
or email us at RochesterSteelCollective@gmail.com
6. You recently informed me that you’re taking over for James Hallenbeck (RIP) on keyboards in the band, Eternal Crypt. Talk a little about how that came to be.
It’s definitely a very unique situation. I am stoked to be playing with those guys and so humbled and appreciative that they’ve entrusted me with such a position, but there is a somberness in my heart as to the “why” I’m there in the first place.
They’ve been inspirational to me ever since I was introduced to them and fell in love with their music over the past year to year and a half. I’ve been around Zane and Eddy for a few years since I frequently hang out at Gates of Paradox rehearsals and shows (Alex, Zane and Eddy are in both bands), and when Crypt started up again, I’d sit with and hang out with them, too.
It was never my, nor anyone else’s plan, for me to join the band. About a month or so after James’ passing, Zane reached out to me asking if I would consider stepping in for a show they had already planned for January, to play it as James would’ve wanted them to. Of course I said yes. For so many reasons – for James, for those guys, the music, I love the band, I love the people.
It’s an honor to be asked to fill in for someone like James, to play next to monster musicians like Zane, Eddy, Matt and Alex. My only goal is to honor James and his spirit, and to bring ease to those guys in any way that I can.
7. And now that we’ve got that last part out of the way, kindly share the first James Hallenbeck story you think of when he crosses your mind.
I have two to share, but I can share them in chronological order.
The first was after a Crypt practice, I asked James how he had learned keys, what his processes were and such, and we just had a nice conversation about how we learn. The next week, he comes in with the book of music he especially loved practicing from specifically to lend it to me. It was really, really sweet of him and I definitely think it was just another one of those little stories that everyone has of James just giving and sharing with people for the sake of it.
The second was the last time I saw him. Eternal Crypt played our send-off show before we went on tour last summer. I always held him in high regard as a musician, and during our set (Polybius), he was standing right in front of me, windmilling and hyping me up the whole time. I felt on top of the world – here’s this person who I look up to and respect and in a lot of ways want to be like, enjoying what I’m doing!
At the end of the night, we spent some time outside and he just encouraged us as a band, going on tour, me as a musician. It’s bittersweet. Our last words were, “see you in a month!” or something to that effect. His life was taken while we were away.
8. Since I really wanted to focus on you and your place in the community for this issue, I also wanted to highlight Copesetic Vintage Wares as our featured business this month. I’ll be giving Copesetic its own article in a separate section of this issue, but please touch on your passion for your products and how you came to found this business.
I’ve always loved thrifting and reusing things and finding ways to be frugal, so about two years ago when I received this awesome 70’s nightstand from a Buy Nothing group off of Facebook, I decided to paint it orange to match my living room. That’s really the moment where I fell in love with repurposing furniture, mid century furniture more specifically. After that, I decided to give it a go to refinish a piece and sell it just to see how it goes. I found this old dresser on the Craigslist free section that was about to be thrown out, and after 3 days of work, I refinished it and sold it for $300! Crazy. Copesetic was born.
Since moving up to Rochester, I’ve focused more on smaller houseware items until I could get a workshop space for furniture again, but I’m so happy to say that the workspace is finally coming together and furniture will be back in business!
9. Talk about the most memorable live shows you’ve played so far and why they were so special. Discuss any bands you were in prior to Polybius if this calls for it.
I would have to say the show we played at Stamps opening for Lich King, Stone Cutters and Toxic Ruin was a super fun and memorable show. It was just a fun time with some killer bands, we ended up hanging out with a lot of those guys after the show and I remembered leaving the show feeling so satisfied and whole, like, “yeah, this is what life is supposed to feel like”.
Our last Polybius show felt like that, too, at the Bug Jar. We performed our newest song, “Perpetua”, which I had contributed a lot to the writing of it. Writing is a newer skill of mine that I’m working on, and that song really was written as a letter to myself about my mental health. It was also my first time doing vocals for anything. It was a great turn-out that night, and when we finished the set with the new song, I had to overcome a ton of feelings about doing the vocals, being in front of people, sharing these vulnerable words, etc, and it was like a picturesque moment. I started the vocals, saw all those people there and got nervous. But then I looked out and saw some friends out there and just knew it was okay. It was really a moment of complete vulnerability and surrender.
10. Give us a rundown of your “scene history”. Talk about any and all projects you’ve been involved with other than Polybius and Eternal Crypt.
The majority of my past scene history is really in Buffalo’s public schools and theater district. I spent several years before joining a band as a church music director, choir accompanist and theater musician, so my time in the Rochester metal scene is pretty fresh, still.
While I was the “band girlfriend” to bands like Nuclear Winter, Gates of Paradox, Eternal Crypt for a while, etc, I was doing my own thing playing piano or winds instruments for the Lancaster Opera House or Ellicott Creek Playhouse, accompanying school choirs, directing the church volunteer adult choir, and planning/playing services every week.
Joining Polybius was my first true introduction into the scene as a musician, not just a member of the community, and Eternal Crypt is just another step into the waters. I also recently was part of some group vocals in the upcoming Dyspläcer album which was super fun, so check that out when it’s released!
11. Discuss any upcoming plans your bands have in the near future that you’re at liberty to divulge. (live shows, recording, merch runs, etc.)
Polybius is working on a bunch of recordings right now. I can’t divulge too much, but we have a few things in the works that will get dropped when they’re ready.
Eternal Crypt has been booking more shows over the next few months which will be shared as we get the show fliers. Our next upcoming shows include February 11th at Rosen Krown, March 26th at Photo City Music Hall and March 31st at The Bug Jar!
12. Plug yourself! List any and all relevant links to your online presence, as well as that of your bands!
Just go to RochesterSteelCollective.com and find some bands that I’m in and more!