BRIGANTINE - Most singer-songwriters use their life experience to make their lyrics feel real.
Alex Siniari's unusual life so far - being homeless followed by working for Covenant House and now the Atlantic City Rescue Mission - has led the self-taught singer and guitarist to create his own niche and music for his group, ARGO, that is unlike anyone else's.
"The overarching theme is connectedness, how the relationship of everybody is connected. I tell that story through many different ideas. There are songs about individual people that I've worked with on the streets, songs that cover the topic of abuse of a power dynamic in relationships, such as domestic violence, or songs that cover unrequited love, or the feeling of being melancholy, or being disconnected from other people," said Siniari, 33, who lives here.
Siniari avoids the somber, super-serious, singer-songwriter cliche with the help of his fellow members of ARGO, drummer Jeremy Senior and mandolinist Jeff Caraway.
The out-of-the-norm music made by the trio matches Siniari's atypical lyrics.
"Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillaz) and Tom Waits, my favorite artists, have this very eclectic sound. When I set out to write, or we write as a group, we write things that are worlds apart and genres apart. We're not saying we want to be this band and sound like that, so there are songs that are closer to bluegrass, and songs that are closer to jazz, baroque rock, songs that are closer to rhythm and blues, songs that are closer to Americana or folk. We're like a multi-genre kind of a show," Siniari said.
In this bastion of cover bands in southern New Jersey, Siniari only knows how to play one other song by another artist, the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood."
The lack of covers and the eclecticism of ARGO's music limits where the band can play, but Siniari has used some of his live appearances to give back. Siniari raised money for the Anti-Trafficking Task Force of Atlantic City with benefit performances at the Showboat Casino Hotel and The Chelsea Hotel, both in Atlantic City, and for autism awareness with the Elephants for Autism festival.
Siniari even helped organize an event that raised money for his former organization, Covenant House, and his current one, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.
A photo display of portraits of Atlantic City's homeless population by photographer Magi Kernan of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and a silent auction were combined last month at the Melting Pot in Atlantic City to raise $2,700 for the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Covenant House. Siniari wants to organize more charitable performances.
"I will play for anyone. Art is cathartic, something that heals," Siniari said.
These developments with Siniari and his music come as a pleasant surprise for Christian Glomb, 31, of Egg Harbor Township. Glomb, the singer and guitarist for the group Ill Rendition, was probably the first person to hear Siniari's music and lyrics when they were neighbors here in 2007. Glomb encouraged a shy Siniari to play his music in public.
"It's absolutely incredible to see how far he has branched out and expanded. My band is a party band. We're writing about drinking, girls, this and that. Here comes Alex with these deep, touching lyrics, and it was like, 'Dude, your words are beautiful. You really should be playing out,'" said Glomb, who added he told Siniari he feels a sense of pride when it comes to Siniari's music. "If I hadn't kicked you in the butt, you might not have ever done it."
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If you go
ARGO performs 1 to 3 p.m. today as part of the afternoon acoustics series at The Noyes Museum of Art of Stockton College, 733 Lily Lake Road, Galloway Township. Admission $5 for adults, $4 for seniors 60 and older and students with ID and free for members, children age 6 and younger and Stockton students, faculty and staff with ID. For more information, call 609-652-8848 or visit noyesmuseum.org