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Never mind the amp. This e-mail rocks.

With help from the Internet, high-tech group covers the distance

Joe Madera, Bert Brown, and Richard 'Chip' Means Jr. (from left) of Red Abbott, a band that uses e-mail to collaborate on songs. Joe Madera, Bert Brown, and Richard "Chip" Means Jr. (from left) of Red Abbott, a band that uses e-mail to collaborate on songs.
Email|Print| Text size + By David Rattigan
Globe Correspondent / February 17, 2008

In their formative years, when Bert Brown, Richard "Chip" Means Jr., and Joe Madera met as students at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School, the musicians would get together in someone's basement, plug in their amps, and enrich the lives of those in the neighborhood.

Some years later, the 20-somethings have found a new way to create, despite the fact that one lives in Portland, Maine; one in Providence; and the third in Queens, N.Y.

From first riff to postproduction, they do it by e-mail.

The longtime friends are members of Red Abbott, a band that has a CD, sells music over the Internet, and has a video that's been passed around in cyberspace and played on MTV2 UK (United Kingdom). With all of that, the band has played just one gig - a house party in Somerville.

Plenty of bands are covered in Spin magazine; Red Abbott got its story in Popular Mechanics. The January 2008 issue features a story about how the band made the CD, including a breakdown of their gear and other technologies.

All three band members sing, all play multiple instruments, and all had Macintosh computers with GarageBand audio-mixing software. They had played in cover bands, including a junior prom gig as The Suburbans. They also had careers that had taken them far apart.

"We were all making music on our own, and would trade our own stuff back and forth, and thought, 'Hey, what if we could add to each other's stuff,"' said Madera, 27, of Providence, a therapist who works with autistic children.

"It was really a teamwork process," he added. "It wasn't that one of us would write a song and the other two would add ideas. It was really a whole songwriting process."

One member would start a song and send the music to another, who would add his piece and pass it to the third. The song would continue to move from one to another, with each adding ideas.

"I remember knowing for the first song, 'This is going to work,"' said Means, 25, of Portland, a Web editor for a healthcare journal. "Eighteen months and a lot of hurdles later, we had 12 tracks and a CD."

The CD, "Having Fun Without You," was completed in 2007.

"It's a rock album, but made with an electronic sound," said Brown, 27, an Astoria, Queens-based computer animator who also created the band's videos.

An electropop band called the Postal Service had done something similar using snail mail in 2003, but e-mail made the process more immediate.

"You'd open your e-mail in the morning and there'd be a new song there for you to work on and be inspired on," said Madera, who noted that they all worked at different times of the day. "You'd have a lot of time to perfect what you wanted to do, and then send it off."

The CD has floated around the virtual world. Not surprisingly, the band's exposure to the public has come primarily from the Web. The band has a website (redabbott.com) and MySpace page, and can be found on CD Baby, iTunes, Napster, and other download sites. In addition to YouTube, the videos have been passed around on video-sharing sites such as Crackle.com and TheDailyReel.com.

"Bert makes some pretty impressive videos," said Madera, 27. "Through that, a lot of people have gotten into it. The video has shown up on numerous sites. There's another version there, where people have heard our music through the video."

The band (the name is taken from a private joke that dates to junior high school) has sold about 100 CDs, as well as downloads of songs; roughly half have been to people who discovered the band online. Videos have played on a local TV station in Portland, but the band has had no radio play because, Brown said, "We just haven't explored that yet."

There is also a plan to play more gigs in Boston and Portland.

"We're hoping to break out in the spring," Brown said.

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