Many traveling musicians gripe and whine about the hard work that goes into building fan bases, but Patrick O'Neill, co-founder of Aminal, is all about celebrating the life.

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Not that the Chapel Hill, N.C., trio's music hasn't always been upbeat, as evidenced by the praise it has received from local and regional critics -- especially since "The Fight EPs" started gaining buzz. Credit a mutual love of the Band and early Faces for some of its sound and a mutual joy of bringing music to audiences for keeping it going, said O'Neill. "The music I am working on now for the new album -- "Call to Arms" -- is sort of a celebration of being a musician in a band," he said. "It's about doing this for a long time and traveling all over the country ... with very minimal success. [It's about] all musicians relating to each other and then people relating to each other, connecting to each other in general."

Reaching out to others via music is something O'Neill started to do when he was just 16. He found that the best way to express his ideas -- other than by playing drums -- was to write them down as songs.

"I don't know why I do it or why people do it," said O'Neill, the Aminal front man who now handles guitar duties for the band. "I just kind of have to. It's fun and can be daunting but it really is a labor of love."

Think of Aminals music as sort of a musical diary or even a type of social networking and you have the idea of what O'Neill does.

"A lot of music comes from the place of being in a position and moving toward something," O'Neill said. "It can be that you never really arrive and the struggle that most people across the human race can relate to is continuing to strive and move toward the goal. ... That's what's good about life; it's about getting your hands dirty and really committing to something."

But don't think that Aminals' live show is a study in introspection.

The members reach back to the first bands they followed -- think Grateful Dead and other experimental musical pioneers of the '60s -- in developing live shows that are full of energy and improvisation.

"Those shows were live shows and never really repeated themselves," he said. "One of the elements of those improvised sections is that they keep the shows fresh every night. ... We pride ourselves first and foremost on loving to play live. I think that naturally translates to the audiences. See us live and it's not hard to get up and dance. "