Hedging bets and Chasing Dreams

Opening ‘The Vault’ to the Riches of Live Music

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 705   By: Robert 'Bo' White

10th June, 2010     0

I recently sat down with Carl Abila, the venerable guitarist/back-up vocalist for Silverspork one of the most talented and durable rock bands in Saginaw’s wild and woolly musical history. After eleven years and three CDs with Silverspork and a run as a restaurateur while attending college and working a second job, Abila joined forces with his cousin Rich Abila to take over management of Indian Barry’s  in Bay City.

He also took the opportunity of re-imagining the club with a new name - The Vault. Carl has an intimate knowledge of the venue having played there dozens of times in the past few years. He always believed the venue as a great place for music, it just needed to find its niche, a focus. After all, at 505 E. Midland Street, The Vault anchors the main downtown corridor for Bay City’s nightlife and music. Carl’s excitement was palpable as he described his vision for the Vault and his attempts to enliven Mid-Michigan’s music scene.


Review: When did the idea of owning a business first reveal itself to you?                 

Carl: I believe that I wanted my own business back when I was a manager at Tony’s restaurant. I just thought it would be nice to have my own schedule and do things the way I see them. When Rich approached me about going into business together he simply said he wanted his own business with his own ideas. He wanted to do something that he enjoyed and so did I. We have to start as management/operators while all the final details are finalized


Review: Didn’t you own/manage a local restaurant? What was that like for you? What were the lessons you learned from that experience?                                                          

Carl: Yes. I used to own, manage and operate Antonios of Freeland. When I first started managing restaurants I could not go any farther up. It was either buy one or find a different career. Right when I was about to try something else the restaurant opportunity came to me and I bought my own. After a while it just got to be too much. A good friend once asked me if it was “opportunity or dream?” That line sticks with me to this day. There is such a big difference between the two that many people don’t realize. I learned so much from that experience. Being your own boss can be good and bad. You have to love what you do and do what you love or else you cannot give it 100 percent. I started to hate it. With that being said, I got out of the ownership of the restaurant. 


Review: What does entrepreneurship mean to you?                            

Carl: Without risk there is no reward. Many people that know me know that I am really not a big fan of the “comfort zone” so to speak. If I see the potential in something or I see a decent payoff, chances are I’m probably going to try it. Now does this mean I will succeed every time? Absolutely not. People make mistakes. People fail. But people can also learn from these things to achieve higher goals in the long run. The only way to fail is to not try at all.


Review: When did you first discover your love for music?  

Carl: All my parents listened to when I was growing up was oldies while I listened to The Police, Van Halen, 80’s hair metal, etc. I was around the age of 11 when I really started to listen a lot more. Believe it or not I heard oldies so much around then that it started to grow on me. I never admitted to them (until now) that I liked oldies just as much. I guess at that age I just didn’t want to admit that I was listening to my parent’s music! Listening to the talents of Chuck Berry, The Four Tops, The Temptations, and countless others made me start to listen to so many different styles of music because of the open mind it gave me.


Review: Any formal training? Did you take guitar lessons?

Carl: I did take guitar lessons for a couple of years. I actually took lessons from Dean Vanston, which is another great local musician in the area. I would like to take vocal lessons at some point.


Review: Who inspired your guitar style? Your writing?

Carl: It’s a little weird how that happens. We’ve been through a few bass players over the years, which has made my style of play different each time. With Jay Burk in our band, he has definitely inspired me to play on a totally different level. I personally like the imaginative part of writing as opposed to a technical riff or part. With Jay playing bass we get both.


Review: When did Silverspork form? How did you find such a compatible group with a shared musical vision?

Carl: We started back in 1998-99. From day 1 we have had the same musical vision leading all the way up to now. Our musical interests are almost identical. Our writing is always up to 4 of us, not 1. We discuss everything about what we should do and if all 4 of us do not agree on one thing or another, we express it. After that we figure out a resolution amongst us 4. When some bands are together this long, they usually fight, argue, etc. But at the same time some become like family. For whatever reason it is, we don’t really argue. For the most part everything clicks with us. I think that it is a very important piece of chemistry in any band.


Review: Describe your experience as a working musician?

Carl: Very tough, exhausting, frustrating, disappointing and anything else negative you can think of. But the great thing about the negativities at the end of the day is simple…when we’re up on that stage there is nothing better than releasing the music that you’ve created to a hopefully responsive audience. I would not trade it for anything in the world.


Review: You came close to breaking into the big time. What happened?

Carl: Being in any type of entertainment business (especially music) is a tough, tough road. I’m sure I speak for many bands in the area as well. With all of the advancement in technology of being able to download, stream music, etc. it’s only going to get tougher. We’ve been very close quite a few times but it just didn’t pan out that way. Everyone in a band that tries to make it in this business knows that there is risk involved. Just depends on far you want to take it and for how long.


Review: Your new CD is about to be released, the third time could be the charm. This one is on Revolution Music Records.  Has this record company been supportive? Were you able to control the direction of your music and which songs made the cut?

Carl: Revolution Music Records has been very supportive. Once the album is released they are going to help us distribute it just about everywhere. We’ve always done everything on our own. Now that we have the support of an Indie label backing this album who knows….third time could be the charm. They are very good about letting us control the direction of our music. They’re excited about the new album as well.


Review: What is the title and release date?

Carl: The Title of the new album is “Triad.” Kind of fitting seeing how this is our 3rd album. It looks like it will be released by mid-summer.


Review: What is your take on the current stasis in mid-Michigan’s current music scene?

Carl: I think it needs a lot of work. Not too many places are doing original music any more with the exception of Whites Bar, Bemos, and occasionally Hamilton St. Pub. There are so many good original bands out there that work so hard but are very limited to where they can play. Again, I do understand it’s a risk for some of these establishments but like I said before….the reward can be great.


Review: What can be done?

Carl: If some of these establishments could work together instead of against each other would be a great start. Wouldn’t it be great to have a national band play in Bay City one night and Saginaw the next? Then put our local original bands to open? If we could create a circuit throughout the tri-cities, imagine how good the music scene could possibly be. Imagine what it could do for the bar business. Nobody says you have to stick with it but what the heck is wrong with trying it a few times to see where it can possibly go.


Review: Back to the Vault. It has such great potential and its 300 plus seating capacity offers opportunity to book well known touring acts. What is your vision for The Vault?

Carl: We are going to push this as far as we can go. With myself, my cousin Rich, Pat Kuhn and Brian Gretzinger also on board, we have a good team to start. We are also going to be working with Z-93 as well. Many good acts are already lined up for this summer. My vision is to try to give the music scene a little boost so that we can continue to have great shows in our own backyard.


Review: Best of Luck Carl…any parting words?

Carl: Over the years we have met a lot of people that support the music scene. We have gained a ton of support from bands, friends, family, businesses, radio stations and the list goes on. You have no idea what this means to us to have this much support on this. From the bottom of my heart I say thank you so very much.


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