When it comes to bringing the funk, rock, soul and rap to the juke joints, bars and honky tonks around the Glass City, journeymen musicians such as Nep Sindel have long strutted the stages, entertaining the locals without receiving their proper due.
Sindel is an institution in Toledo rock, having been a member of familiar area groups including Avenger, VXN (later known as Edwin Dare), Angola Road and The Gypsies. Playing alongside those that rocked with the greats, his story is one of “almosts”— time after time, he almost got ahold of that elusive magic needed to explode into the Stratocaster stratosphere. And yet, for reasons known only to the gods of rock ’n’ roll, Sindel never achieved global orbit. But he keeps rocking. Whether or not he reaches the summit is incidental; for Sindel, it’s all about making sweet music for the hometown crowd, people who appreciate the bass guitarist and his immense body of work.
Starting out on the violin as a fourth grader in Monroe, Michigan, Sindel played with the Toledo Youth Orchestra and continued the string instrument tradition, jumping over to the bass guitar during his senior year in high school. From there, it was an easy transition into the rock scene, and Sindel never looked back. From winning a Battle of the Bands (think ’84-’85) with Avenger while wearing a full, red Spandex bodysuit, to recording with Wolf Gang, who opened for Ratt, Quiet Riot and Alice in Chains, the bassist has reveled in the rock-and-roll lifestyle.
So what does it take to be a successful musician in Toledo? “It depends on your definition of success,” Sindel warned. “Back in 2003-2006, I had lost my day job and I decided I wanted to play music full-time. I joined a cover band (Government Honey). We played Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm-2am at top clubs in Toledo and southeast Michigan. But I also had a Spanish Latin group. And I would play that every Thursday and Friday and Saturday, from 6-8pm. So I would play Spanish Latin instrumentals and then go play my cover gig and do three sets with that. And then on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night, I had a two-man acoustic duo that would play John Cougar, Jimmy Buffett, that type of stuff. I played anywhere from six to 10 gigs a week.”
The next Seattle
When Sindel talks rock, he isn’t talking about the boiled-down stuff you hear today, he’s talking about the rock of yesteryear, when hair was big and swaggers were bigger. “I remember reading an article in Time magazine, in the early nineties,” Sindel reminisced, “about how Toledo could be the next Seattle (musically). We had a lot of great bands back then.”
So what happened?
“Grunge took over. The indie labels and the internet kind of took away from going out to see bands and their live shows,” Sindel explained, and you could almost hear the “whattayagonnado” shrug through his words. “Prior to grunge— and nothing against grunge,
t’s music, it’s an art form, you’d go to see a band. People would be waiting outside a pub, and you’d walk in and see a light show and there’d be stage presence. And I think grunge took away from that live aspect. Back in the late ’70s and into the ’80s and early ’90s, Toledo was a very happening music city.”
The new stuff
Working to ensure he can keep playing his bass, Sindel had to take on a side job in sales to pay the bills. It’s a hard reality that plagues many musicians and artists. And though it hasn’t deterred him from auditioning members for a new group— possibly the step he needs to reach the next level— or playing with The Gypsies, it has cut down on the free time that could be better spent practicing, booking gigs and doing necessary promotional work.
That just means, of course, that he’s gotta rock that much harder when he can. If you’re a lead vocalist or a guitarist interested in auditioning for Sindel’s new band, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The new group is going to be “Bad Company meets Black Stone Cherry”— melodic hard rock. Hopefully, it’s the very thing that has critics calling Toledo the next Seattle, again.
And it might just be the step that finally puts Nep Sindel over the top.