-Creative Fires Burn Hot in the Pop Belly of Local Rockers -Trip-

By Lee Abraham


There's nothing new under the sun. Regardless of how unique these media bombarded times may seem, there's always an age-old cliche to sum up the situation. Take for example, "The harder you work, the luckier you get." On first glance, local pop-groove-rock quintet Trip, is one of the luckiest bands around. Look a little closer and you'll find they're also one of the hardest working groups in Las Vegas.

"This band is ambitious, extremely aggressive and on fire right now," says Mike Shapiro, guitar player, lead vocalist and Trip's founding member. Indications are he's right. On all three counts.

Make no mistake, each of Trip's five members has the burning desire to "make it" in the music biz. Individually, they're talented. As a group they've got a shot at the big time.

That shot obviously starts with good music and artistic creativity. Showing up to gigs -on time and ready to rock- are also important to a successful spin in the old circle game. Trip's got that stuff covered. The last piece to the puzzle is knowing how to network and make things happen.

"I met a lady named Lisa Moeller when I auditioned for a movie she was doing," says Shapiro. "I didn't get the part but I gave her my music and she liked it. I didn't know it at the time but she has a gig each year on the VH-1 tour. She got the music to the right people and VH-1 invited us to be on four stops of the tour."

"VH-1 has been the biggest thing and it's opened lots of doors," says Mary Ellis, Trip's young and slinky singer. "All of those shows were great, but the Portland show was just totally amazing. We got to play with Cheap Trick, Corey Glover, Edwin McCain and Richie Sambora… it was a packed outdoor venue with about 10,000 people. Plus, we had our own trailer!"

Right now things -are- going well for Trip. In addition to being invited back for next year's VH-1 tour, they have a new CD in the works, and are excited about the new material they've been working on.

For Shapiro, Trip's current state of affairs are particularly gratifying. Five years ago, he was in Flipside, a band that originally set out to do covers but were soon playing originals also. After two years or so of playing local bars, Flipside recorded their debut CD, and in the process found that the name -Flipside- was already protected by another band. Enter -Trip-. From there, the proverbial -creative differences- and disagreements about the band's direction resulted in a revolving door of musicians. Of the original Trip, only Shapiro remains.

As founding member, Shapiro is the group's visionary and primary creative force. Onstage, he's a charismatic frontman, combining a playfully irreverent rock and roll attitude with the guile of a heartbreaker's charm.

Offstage, he can be just as animated. In some circles of the music community, Shapiro has been tagged as creative but hotheaded. Talented but difficult to work with. Some of the comments have been justified. Other times they sound more like jealousy. To his credit, Shapiro readily admits that his passion for the music and the band's success, has at times outweighed his, shall we say, diplomacy skills. Now in his late-twenties and growing wiser with the years, Shapiro is beginning to mellow.

"I really do love people, sometimes I just get a little intense and -miss it- once in awhile," says Shapiro good naturedly. "My attitude is that I have somewhere to go and I know what I want… but I've also learned that I have to be more responsible to people's feelings."

"To collaborate with somebody you have to respect them," continues Shapiro. "I'm learning to be a little more laid back and open. The situation with this band is very upfront. We get along great, partly because we're all very goal oriented…"

And also very talented. Chris Nichol's bass snarls with a funky sneer as it locks in with Dennis "I'm the musical slut of the band" Osinski's edgy and syncopated drumbeats. On keyboards, Scott Shippee floats in and around the rhythm, like a drifting cloud at sunset, capturing textures and giving shape to colors. In addition to being a gifted singer, Mary Ellis' boundless enthusiasm onstage adds a compelling and entertaining dimension to Trip's live show. As a guitar player, Shapiro is solid, playing leads or rhythm as each song dictates. Together as a musical unit, Trip combines elements of U2 and Dave Matthews, with a dose of Springsteen and of course, their own unique personalities thrown in.

"It takes chemistry," says Shapiro, "as well as talent, material, a certain spirituality as well as that ugly word, money."

Once again, Shapiro knows what he is talking about. He's among the rare breed of musicians that in addition to having an ear for chord changes and time signatures, he has an understanding of the cold, hard world of business. "I've always had the dream of making music, but for a while my goal was making money," says Shapiro. Citing both his father and grandfather as mentors, he's worked over the past seven years to build up a carpet cleaning company as well as a couple of other business ventures to the point where he can now concentrate on his first passion, music.

"When you sign on with a record label, they're a bank to you... and my business has enabled us to cut through a lot of the B.S.," says Shapiro. His bandmates agree. There is a decided sense of enthusiasm around the band that Trip is positioned to "get to the next level."

"We're all positive about this," says bassman Nichols. "When we get onstage I think people feed off that confidence and they feel that positive energy and they want to unite with that."

Shippee puts it this way, "One thing we never worry about is going up there and thinkin' 'I wonder if they're gonna like it.' We just go up there to play and have fun and people -do- like it. We can only hope that people get out of it, what we get out of it."

It's easy to see what Trip gets out of it. They're having a great time, making original music and pursuing their dream. What's not so easy to see is what they put -into- it. Including rehearsing several nights a week, with time painstakingly dedicated each practice to sharpen individual vocals and four-part harmonies. New songs are being written -as a group- on a daily basis, and the music is their best yet, reflecting a vibrant, collective energy.

Trip has also benefited recently on the management side from the "front office" work of Mary's mom, Pat Ellis. Helping with travel arrangements, gig bookings and general baby-sitting for the band as needed, Pat has taken some of the day to day stuff off Shapiro, enabling him to focus on the music. If things go well, Trip will soon be in need of even more help to stay on top of their affairs. They've been working with Tom Fletcher, one-time Las Vegan and studio guru extraordinare. Fletcher has engineered, produced, or mixed almost 300 albums, and has worked with a slew of major artists including: Don Henley, Toto, Yes, Alice Cooper, and Ozzy Osbourn to name a few.

Next year, Trip plans to travel even more than usual. Gigs in Europe a few other exotic locations are on the drawing board. First comes the album though. As Shapiro and the other Tripsters write together, they find that one common theme keeps popping up in the lyrics.

"Life is basically a script that you write," says Shapiro, "so a lot of these songs center around 'this is your life and you can do whatever you want.' There's nothing you can't obtain if you put your mind to it."

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