How'd you get started in music?
RJ - I got started in music, rock music that is, when a high school friend of mine lent me his old bass guitar and a small amp. I started learning everything on my own by listening to Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Peter Frampton. Those were all albums that my older brothers had. I would sit there and play for hours. I learned all the bass lines to Dark Side of the Moon and Frampton Comes Alive albums as well as many, many Beatles songs. I used to jam with friends but nothing ever developed from that. I really started to feel like a musician when I met Spike and we formed The Shrubs.
Who are your inspirations or influences?
I had a lot of inspirations, but the first three I already stated above. I got into the Police and Rush right about the time I started jamming with Spike. I also used to listen to Jaco Pastorious when he was with Weather Report and Stanley Clarke when he was with Return to Forever, but they were way above my pay grade as far as playing. I still feel that they influenced me a lot. The other guys have different influences and that really helps us gel as musicians and makes us more unique as we don't try to imitate any particular band.
What advice would offer aspiring performers?
It's so much easier to get your music out than it was when we started writing our own stuff. We originally started recording on a 4-track cassette. We had some outboard equipment like compressors and effects, but it took a lot of work. We were lucky if we could get people from the next town over to hear our stuff and forget about radio. We would have never gotten our music on the radio back then. Nowadays, there are so many software programs that can give you everything in one package to record and master your own music (though I don't suggest mastering your own music). Now we have friends and followers that listen to our music worldwide and online radio stations that have our stuff in rotation. Keep recording and getting your stuff out there. Keep producing and building buzz. The down side of easily getting your music out there is that there are so many bands putting stuff out that it's tough to get noticed. I run our social media for Twitter and Instagram as well as sharing the administration of our Facebook page with Spike. It's hard work. I work full time, but running social media is almost like having a second full time job. Start out building followers, reach out to online radio stations, befriend other bands and share the glory with them. They know the pain and we help lift each other up. Some of our earliest band friends now have record deals. We are also in the running for a record deal. Be kind, be sympathetic. I actually drew some song writing inspiration from reading other follower's trials and tribulations. Use the on line promotion tools that you can afford. Some are better than others. Find a band that is similar to yours and follow some of their followers. Sometimes you'll get really energetic followers by doing that.
How do you set yourselves apart from other bands or singers?
We had written three albums of original music way back and we had many that were not on the albums. Our music was always upbeat and fast moving with a couple of exceptions. Our first album was basically updated versions of our old music. We never really took ourselves seriously and were always joking around. That in itself managed to draw in some dedicated followers. Our sound draws from many influences, but as stated above, the core is really unique. One time I tweeted out a question about what our stuff sounded like and got back many different band names, no two answers were the same.
Any new gigs or albums in the future
Unfortunately, I moved out to San Diego sometime back and the band went on hiatus for a while. The rest of the band stayed in the upstate New York Ithaca-Cortland area. That and the current situation has made it impossible to play out for now. We did make a Zoom call video playing our song What You Do to Me acoustically. That's the closest we've come to playing live in a long time. We currently have 3 songs in production at various stages. One called Equation of Love is getting ready to have the final guitars and vocals recorded. Another we just started to record that is still a work in progress. The third has most of the words written and needs some music to go along with it.
Special thanks to them for doing this interview & lots of luck & love to them on their music. So until then I'll catch you on The Flipside! Stay awesome & rock n roll!