fb-pixel Skip to main content

The Pinstripes: Jamaican roots, served Cincinnati style

The Pinstripes (from left): (front) Leonardo Murcia, Chris Grannen; (middle) Sam White, Matt Kursmark; (back) Mike Sarason, and John Bertke.
The Pinstripes (from left): (front) Leonardo Murcia, Chris Grannen; (middle) Sam White, Matt Kursmark; (back) Mike Sarason, and John Bertke. Paul Schroder

Back home in Cincinnati, a city with a thriving live music scene, the Pinstripes have a following that makes them one of the hottest bands around. Their unique combination of Jamaican-influenced sounds is embraced by an eclectic audience who pack often sold-out venues to enjoy – and dance to – the talented and energetic sextet’s infectious tunes.

The Pinstripes, a veritable who’s who of “Queen City” musicians, will bring their inimitable sound to Boston Saturday when they open for the Selecter at the Paradise Rock Club.

“The recording studio process is one thing, but what we love most is playing for a live audience. That visceral experience is hard to describe,” said lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Sarason in a phone interview from Cincinnati. “A live show is not a one-way thing. There’s a reciprocal energy. . . . We give it out, the audience gives it back, and it spirals to the next level.”

When asked to describe his band’s sound and what makes it so different, Sarason, 26, hesitated.


“That’s difficult because it’s so varied and not limited to one genre,” he said. “I guess I would say our music is rooted in Jamaican style – reggae, ska, rock steady, and dub. But in terms of presentation and song form, I would say it’s classic American pop, R&B, and soul. If you take Motown or Ray Charles or the Beatles singing over Jamaican rhythms, then you’re halfway there.”

The band, whose members are all in their mid-20s, has been performing live since 2003. It has released three albums and recently put out a 7-inch single, “Overthinking.” The upbeat, witty song about how a man and a woman might look at the same situation quite differently, includes the refrain “While you were over thinking/ I was hardly thinking at all.”

“Where I get my inspiration for songwriting really varies from song to song,” said Sarason. “Sometimes it’s from conversations I’ve had with people, from books I’ve read. . . . It’s hard to pin down.”


Bob Marley and the Wailers is one of Sarason’s greatest inspirations.

“And I’m not just talking about the ‘Legend’ album,” he noted. “There is a massive catalog of awesome work spanning 10 or more years before that album was released [in 1984].”

He also cited Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, and the Beatles as influences, as well as the Selecter, the band for whom the Pinstripes are opening on this leg of their current tour.

“They had hits from before I was born,” Sarason said. “We’re really, really excited to be opening for them.”

While some members of the Pinstripes have come and gone over the years, Sarason said the current lineup is the best it’s ever been.

In addition to Sarason, there’s Leonardo Murcia on vocals and trombone, Matt Kursmark on guitar, Luke Turner on bass (replacing Chris Grannen), John Bertke on drums, and Sam White on trumpet.

And while all of the members are excited about the current tour, which includes stops in Ontario and New York before landing in Boston this weekend, Kursmark, 26, is especially enthusiastic, since he is from Reading.

“This is pretty special,” said Kursmark by phone from Cincinnati. “I left Reading [Mass.] for Ohio with my family when I was 9 years old, but when I was 18 and in college, my parents moved back to Reading, so they’re here and I have lots of other family and friends in the area.”


Kursmark and Sarason, the only original band members, started playing music together in high school. And even though they went to separate colleges – Ohio State University for Kursmark and DePaul University for Sarason – they kept the Pinstripes alive, rehearsing, recording, and playing live shows as frequently as possible.

In 2010, Kursmark had an opportunity to work as a user experience designer at Adobe in San Francisco. He took it, but only lasted out West for two years.

“I missed the band so much and needed to get back to it,” said Kursmark, who still works for Adobe – only he telecommutes from Cincinnati. “We have something that’s very unique. It’s something I needed to be a part of.”

Kursmark, who attended J. Warren Killam Elementary School in Reading, said he enjoys playing in the Boston area because in addition to family and friends coming to his shows, there are always surprise visitors. “It’s really cool because I’ll see someone I haven’t seen since first or second grade. It just blows me away.”

The Reading native said that he and his bandmates are “all about having fun on stage” and he’s looking forward to bringing that enjoyment to Boston audiences – that and hopefully catching a Sox game at Fenway.

Juliet Pennington can be reached at writeonjuliet@comcast.net.