Rock for all ages

  • 2008-10-22
  • By Jana Belugina

Payback: Singin' the Blues

TALLINN - It's normal for students to form a band but in Tallinn it's the academics that are rocking on.
"Payback" is a rock n' roll and blues band that formed about eight years ago, born from the idea of foreign professors at Tallinn's International University to put on a concert for their students.
"We were playing music with another professor just for fun and then we decided to do a concert for students, which we did in the Savannah club. It was a tiny, dark bar, and we got up there, played 10 to 15 songs and that was it," the founder of the group John Sullivan recalls.

 Now this very special project by a former judge and one of Montana's best law professors, William Burns, business management professor Sullivan from Texas and Italian businessman Stefano Ferrari has grown into a real success. Any concert by the band is full of positive emotions and charged with energy.
Their famously rhythmic lyrics make it impossible for audiences to sit in one place at their concerts; the dance floor is always packed with people dancing and singing along. The band itself explains it very simply.
"We play real rock n' roll….. It's not techno, it's not alternative 's it's the real deal. It is just a basic rock and roll and people love it," Sullivan said.

And people do enjoy it very much, what started as an idea for student parties has grown into a real commercial project. Payback is giving concerts at least three-four times a month; it is invited to play in different clubs and festivals, has its performance videos on YouTube and already has a radio contract.
Payback also does many charity and fundraising concerts, all the while not forgetting about their students, who never miss a concert and come to listen to them even a long time after graduation.
"If I hear that Payback is having a concert, I will do my best not to miss it, this is loads of fun," claims a law student who graduated few years ago.

"We play for ourselves, for fun and we play for the students, so they have fun," mentions Burns.
 Their concerts are not only great to listen and dance to; they are also enormous fun to watch. The guys really know how to put on a show 's all three wear black suits and hats, and standing up there on stage they never miss a chance to interact or make some jokes with the crowd in front.

"It's probably the reason people like us, because we put on a show, it is not just three guys up there wearing jeans and playing rock and roll, we are all dressed in blues outfits and enjoy talking to people and entertaining them. We are interactive. We were searching for ourselves for quite a while, [we] tried dressing up like hippies, and then 90's, 80's, 50's and then we came up with this blues man's outfit and we kind of stuck with it. It is our signature," explains Sullivan.
But to arrive at this, Payback went through a long period of constant learning and experimenting with sound, costumes and styles and even members.

"There were times when we had five people in the band. We had a couple of guitarists, we had singers, you know, new professors were coming and joining," remembers Sullivan.
"There is a movie about fake rock bands whose drummers keep exploding, so in the beginning we were like that and then Stefano joined us about a year and a half ago and since then we are a real band," laughs Sullivan. 

Stefano Ferrari used to play in a professional Italian rock n' roll band for many years and he was what the band was in need of, so after that concert he asked to play with the band; he was accepted right away and became the finishing stitch to Payback.
"Let me tell you, when Stefano came and started to play with us it was like coming from beneath a dark rock into the sunlight, because he sings so well and we all have the same kind of attitude towards the music, that's really great," said Burns.