Musical siblings who made their mark on the Northeastern Pennsylvania music scene but stepped away for several years are poised to introduce to the Wyoming Valley their latest sonic concoction.
Good Stew, a genre-defying five-piece outfit out of Lancaster that features longtime NEPA mainstays Jonathan and Rodney Godinez, will perform at 10 p.m. on New Years Eve at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Township.
After moving to NEPA in the mid-’90s, bassist Jonathan Godinez and drummer Rodney Godinez played in cover bands briefly before turning toward creating original music.
The pair met talented local players like multi-instrumentalist Nick Driscoll, drummer Jami Novak and guitarist Matt Thompson and formed Bottom, the band for which they became known in the region.
Through meeting a community of musicians, the band rotated other players like Chris Gratz of The Frost and Rick Statsman.
“It was a big family band on stage,” Jonathan Godinez said in a recent phone interview. “We had killer experiences at River Street where people were bouncing and dancing. It would just go places. That was the group of guys that used to be in different configurations with us.”
Mountain Top guitarist Pete Terpak, a principal player in Wilkes-Barre-based reggae/roots rock ensemble Subnotics, remembers going to see those configurations as a younger musician and looking up to the artists on stage.
“They were the musicians’ musicians,” Terpak said. “All of the local musicians used to go and watch those guys play.”
Bottom’s reputation grew, allowing the band to book gigs outside of the Wilkes-Barre area, including a series of house parties in Bloomsburg.
“One in particular was madness,” Godinez said.
Following a move to Philadelphia, Godinez even drove to and from NEPA to keep up with the band’s schedule, but eventually, the booking thinned out.
“Rod and I split for a minute and regrouped a couple years later toward Pottstown,” Godinez said. “We reconvened as The Godinez Brothers. We hooked up with a producer down in Philly and tweaked some of the songs. That started to get legs, but we couldn’t find the right musicians, and places to play were hard to find.”
In both ensembles, the Godinez brothers touched on everything from funk to soul to roots rock, pulling from influences as diverse as the spectrum that links Frank Zappa, Parliament Funkadelic and Stanley Clarke and informs the decades of music that followed those groups.
“Right now, we have this groovy Radiohead thing going on,” Godinez said of Good Stew. “It’s a mix of influences and musical styles. We play some old Godinez Brothers stuff … but we’re taking things in a fusion direction with a pop sensibility. It’s not going to be one thing or another. We’re throwing it all in the pot. It’s going to be a good stew.”
Godinez said he and his brother began making music together again when personal circumstances led to them living together.
“It’s as though we were back in Wilkes-Barre when we started those other groups,” he said. “Get up, jam, go to work, jam, go to bed. Eat, sleep, music.”
In addition, the brothers have found players they are excited to create with in guitarists Chris Bohn and John Camilleri and keyboard player Mike Mink.
“We’ve been really lucky to find other musicians in Lancaster who get it,” Godinez said. “They are songwriters as well, and we have their songs in our group too.”
Good Stew entered the studio this week, Godinez said, with a plan to record five songs and shoot a video for a multi-media electronic press kit.
“We’re trying to get our ducks in a row, so we can keep booking gigs into the new year,” he added.
Returning to Wilkes-Barre will be a homecoming of sorts for the Godinez brothers as it’s where they found their first and most welcoming music scene.
“The one thing I really enjoyed about when we were up there … everybody was in the same boat,” Godinez said. “It was a DIY mentality. We’d incorporate everybody. I’d like to get to that point again where we get that community sense.”
Hearing Terpak’s comment that Bottom was comprised of “musicians’ musicians” during their tenure in NEPA, Godinez expressed gratitude.
“I’ve heard that before, from people back in the day. Then and now, I still feel like that’s very humbling,” Godinez said. “That’s a huge compliment. I’m still taken aback when somebody says that. Hopefully we can still have that reputation. I feel the band now has that reputation, and I can’t wait to unveil it on New Years Eve. I had other projects … but I never had anything where I was like, ‘Yes. This is it.’ Now I feel like I’m a warrior on a mission.”