TOTEM is a 6 piece rock band hailing from Norwell, MA.
Gary Alex: Guitar/Voice/Words
Dave Kaslauskas: Voice/Words
Lee Alex: Bass
Mark Matta: Guitar
Ed Currant: Drums
Kevin Abdullah: Keys
• “I’ve been a follower of the South Shore-based Totem since I went to see one their shows on a whim a couple of years ago. It’s an impulsive decision that I’m very, very glad I made. Right off the bat, I was hooked on their energetic live performances and diverse songs, and I try to catch their shows as often as I can.
Totem’s music has an array of sounds in its arsenal which really demonstrate the versatility of this band. Songs like “Carried Away” punch through the crowd with intense guitar and bass work and percussion that has every feet moving. “Grateful” takes on a lighter tone for a quieter, but no less impassioned, performance. This band always get a huge response from the audience, which shows the love by packing the house for all of their shows.
But along with a passion for the music, the members of Totem have a great appreciation for the fans. I often see them chatting with the audience in between sets, and they always greet me with a handshake when I arrive at the club. Totem books a lot of their own shows, and the bands they bring in blow me away every time. Clearly, these guys understand what it takes to put together a great show.” – Max Bowen : Citywide Blackout
• “Top Ten Best Local Albums of 2010” – The Patriot Ledger
• “Prospect Hill” starts with a feel that would almost seem ambivalent were it not so full of gravitas. The minor-to-major chord progression provides looks at both sides of the coin, both light and dark. Part of the charm of this song lies simply in following it to see where it’s going to land. It’s not some annoying “What are you trying to say here, spit it out, dude!” frustration, it’s as if Totem is weaving us some sort of story here that we can’t help but lean ever inward just to hear the next line.
“Prospect Hill” is a musical page-turner of sorts. Even though we don’t need to take any actual action to have the story continue, we probably would if they asked us anyway. This song’s stats (I am looking at you, six-and-a-half-minute track time) seem daunting at first, but the pacing and arrangement is such that you barely notice the time passing. If anything, you hope that there’s enough time in the song to hear more of the song. Even though all things must end sometime, “Prospect Hill” sounds like a complete piece; one that neither outstays its welcome or jarringly disappears.
The pieces between vocal sections are, in contrast to the usual situation, the major part of this song’s magic. The song, as a composition, slowly unfolds in each interstitial, giving the “major” part (read: vocal part) a slightly new look each time around. The “A” sections don’t simply stagger with the “B” sections, instead they inform each others’ progress through the track until the final major chord and extended outro. Was that actually just under seven minutes? You betcha. And – don’t lie – you just started it again, didn’t you. It’s OK – “Prospect Hill” is that engaging.” – Boston Band Crush
• “Like a totem pole should, each of the five songs on Totem’s self-titled EP bear a multitude of expressions and tend to spread their wings while approaching the summit. On “Some Things Missing,” the percussion alone acts out a sort of narrative: a humble, mid-paced groove takes turns for the funky and, at one point, shaves its head and joins the army before busting out and rocking harder than ever. With its gradual progression from jaded to jubilant, the song would be a perfect fit for ’90s alternative radio.
On “Black Sheep,” an herbivorous mix takes the edge off of what’s essentially a heavy metal song. With guitars as grim as anything in corpse paint, an ominous-as-fuck intro heralds a storm on the high seas of choppy rhythms. Rather than batten down any hatches, the jam that ensues would suggest that the crew decided to shoot up and stare at the lightning instead.” – The Weekly Dig
• “Digging the Totem vibe here. Time shifting alterna-acoustic song structuring with harmonized vocals. Kinda moody, AM-radio processing on the vocals which for some reason remind me of a lighter Roger Waters-type storytelling penchant. Not in the timbre, but the insistence. Or maybe Alan Parsons Project vocals. It’s possible that the guys in this band never heard of either of those, so I’ll stop my comparisons and just say that this is an enjoyable listen. Also, there’s one surprise heavy metal track that throws you for a loop, rocking!” – The Noise
• “A GOOD SIGN – It’s not often that, as a reviewer, I go into one of these promotional pieces having listened to the subject album numerous times before going to press. Generally there just isn’t enough time. There’s always a stack of unopened music coming through my email inbox and laid on my front door by the Postman. What I do have time for is good music and creativity. Boston’s TOTEM will release their new five-song EP this evening and there’s not a bad song on this curious, varied and ambitious little album. It’s a powerfully creative series of varied tracks capable of challenging and delighting listeners. And most importantly, it’s an album of material that sets this band apart from their peers. The sky is the limit and New England may not be big enough to hold them down.
TOTEM – The first thing that’s going to strike you, as it did me, listening to these tracks is their diversity. I was left puzzled by how polished each was but how different each can sound when compared to the next. A few minutes later you come to realize the mix is more of the band flexing their creative muscle, exploring the space and letting each other shine at different points on the album. And shine it does. The band; Gary Alex: Guitar & Vocals, David Kaslauskas – Vocals, Lee Alex on Bass & Vocals, Mark Matta: Guitar & Vocals, and Doug Reilly on Drums — have succeeded in make a soft, melodic pop album, with indie rock underpinnings, hard-rock epiphanies and melancholy memories. ”
– Ryan’s Smashing Life
• “Psychedelic five-piece modern rock band with a decidedly global beat” is a hell of a concept to type out, much less to actually process. But Norwell, Mass.’ Totem borrows a thing or two from their namesake and creates a layered tower of sound that flows effortlessly from quasi-folk anthems to a papercraft Jefferson Airplane. The band returns to its frequent chanting grounds of Church to celebrate the arcane rites of the EP release, including the Mystic Gathering of Somewhat Similar Local Talent and the Ancient Invocation of How Great Our Fans Are, Seriously, You Guys Are Why We Do It.”
– The Weekly Dig
• “TOTEM’s “Grateful” doesn’t come barging in like the cops on a drug raid, all bashing down the door and shouting at you. On the other hand, it doesn’t worm its way into your foyer or front hallway or what-have-you with the empty, false smile of someone who is selling something. “Grateful” is, instead, a charismatically honest piece of musicry that has actual substance to it.
That’s right, this song is like a nice refreshing Snapple on a hot day. There is bona fide Stuff in this song, that ingratiates itself to the palate. The principle ingredient in TOTEM’s sonic concoction is a fresh and full-sounding chord progression on the acoustic guitar. It is this pleasingly chunky sound that ushers us through “Grateful.”
The chord progression is the principle motif of the song; everything falls into step behind its lead. The warmly humming of the lead electric guitar provide a single-note translation of the motif, while the vocal line gives a de-chunkified performance of the same theme. All in all, “Grateful” seems to be an appropriately-named track, as its sheer goodness conquers all, like sunshine or graham crackers or something else that is just nice and good. Like Snapple.” – C.D. On Songs (Boston Band Crush)
• “Okay, TOTEM is different and very cool. The track “Song For George” is this anthemic instrumental that reminds me of the sonic grandeur of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”. Really great track. Stylistically the music is all over the place, but it works. There are Russian rhythms, and well placed flutes, strings and piano lines mixed throughout a dark blend of bluesy, folkish rock. It can get pretty sublime at times, like a campfire sing along, but it also builds and spirals to great peaks too. The track “Wish” ends with a really creepy musical box intro/outro and some odd three part harmony singing between the boys. You can’t help but shiver when you hear it.” – The Noise
• “TOTEM, a Norwell based, five piece band, might have been one of those cool underground attractions in late ‘60s Los Angeles or San Francisco. The local band’s trippy, eclectic brand of modern rock owes more than a passing nod to the legendary psychedelic California club scene of that era. Echoes from the early Grateful Dead and Steve Miller Band, L.A.’s Spirit and the Jefferson Airplane’s notoriously freaky “After Bathing at Baxter’s” album to early, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd abound. But in keeping with rock’s current nature, TOTEM just as fervently applies modern rock’s DIY (Do It Yourself) ethic to these influences, in recording, production and word of mouth promotion.” – The South Look
• “When we think of totem poles, we think of vertical structures with multiple levels. The totem pole tells a vertical story, and “Some Things Missing” is a musical story of sorts, built on a rising chord progression that builds up systematically: I. II. III. IV. Repeat as desired. “Some Things Missing” is not a simple repetition of four chords. The real trick to TOTEM’s “Some Things Missing” is the build-up. The song begins rising directly at the onset, never straying away from the step-up chord progression. The beginning of the song is very subdued; the bass “announced” the progression and the scratchy vocals pop up in the right speaker like a dormouse popping out of a teapot with a tiny megaphone in his hand. A mid-level guitar joins in, rattling off the chords an octave up and the climb continues. Each layer of sound in “Some Things Missing” is given its own introductory measure or two, and the construction continues on and on with the first palpable explosion coming around the 2:02 mark, when the song finds its crescendo, the vocals hitting the high tonic of the key and finally exploding for a glorious finale. Is Something actually Missing? Not from this track.” – Boston Band Crush