Interview by: Surf Rock Music
There is one certain somebody here at Surf Rock Music who knows Brooklyn, New York - not only is his family from there, some are still there. Someone else is from Brooklyn - SugarBad, an up and coming funk/rock/soul band, makes their home there. What you're thinking right about now is "What?"
"What?" is right! "What" is a city of gargantuan and uncommon things. "What" is the Cyclone roller coaster that has been making eyes pop out of heads and rush through space like hurricane winds since 1927. "What" is the Brooklyn Bowl, a bowling alley that serves bourbon milkshakes alongside Rock and Roll Fries dripping with gravy, Cajun spice, provolone and cheddar cheese. From Patty and Cathy Lane of The Patty Duke Show to Vinnie Barbarino and the other Sweathogs hollering, "Mistah Kotter, Oh, Oh, Mistah Kotter," Brooklyn is home to nearly three million people and is revered for its majestic Brooklyn Bridge and the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers. To be unique in a place like that is a "What"-"What"!
"What" we mean is ... and this doesn't begin to cover it ... we loved talking to SugarBad. They're gargantuan. They're unique. Whether it's being as incandescent as the soul-filled coolness of Miles Davis on trumpet, as dynamite as a saxophone in the hands of John Coltrane, or as passionate as a guitar being caressed by Buddy Guy, SugarBad is so damn good they can do it all. "What" they are is the hippest, rockingest, coolest cats in town.
Lisa Ramey (Vocals), Nicholas Myers (Saxophone), Aaron Rockers (Trumpet), Frank Cogliano (Guitar), David Mainella (Organ and Keyboards), Isaac Jaffe (Bass)
The day the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, 150,300 people crossed it. If our resident Brooklynite is correct, you can realistically expect more than that to show up for future SugarBad performances. All these dynamic dudes and dudette need is a venue big enough to hold their huge musical sound.
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SRM: How did it all begin for SugarBad, from back when you were an instrumental house band through becoming what you are today?
SB: All the boys were students and met at NYU. They later met Lisa after seeing her singing backup in another band. The boys didn't like all that, and asked Lisa if she wanted to sing front and center with them. She said yes and immediately our style and music started changing/evolving. We started out more of a jazz night club band. But after two Italian tours, two drummers and all of us evolving individually, our sound became more on the funk/soul/rock side of life.
SRM: We love the name SugarBad! It rocks in oh-so-many ways. How did you decide on it and does it have some special meaning? Were there any other names you chose not to use for one reason or another?
SB: Thank you!! We are proud of the new name. The band used to go by Juicebox, but due to copyright issues, we decided to change the name. Aaron Rockers (trumpet) gave Lisa a book about famous jazz musicians one evening. While she was reading, she would start playing/placing words with certain words and out came SugarBad. We couldn't believe no one else was using it.
SRM: We were blown away when we listened to you - you really are master musicians. What are the musical backgrounds of the band members?
SB: Wow! That was an awesome compliment! Thank you. The band has spent years hustling every kind of gig under the sun (or at least in the five boroughs). We've played jazz in swanky clubs downtown, indie rock in Williamsburg hipster dives, giant productions in the theaters on Broadway, and merengue in barber shops in Yonkers. One of the best parts of New York is that if you want to explore a new kind of music, you can find someone who has been doing it a while - and chances are they need a trumpet player.
SRM: Have any groups and/or solo artists influenced your sound either as individuals or as a group? Is there a 'feel' or 'style' from any other artists you would like to integrate in the future?
SB: Both! James Brown, Aretha, Janelle Monae, Tower of Power inspires the whole group to write party and dancing music.
SRM: You perform funk/rock/soul with a profusion of instruments and vocal stylings. Can you give us a tour of the arranging process? Where do you find your ideas? How long does it take for an idea to become a fully developed song?
SB: Everyone is involved in the arranging of each song. I think it's important for everyone to play along! Finding ideas happens differently for everyone. Some people hear jingles in their minds that won't stop repeating and others see lyrics on paper and immediately hear the song play in their minds. We have songs that we started years ago ... it can take a minute!
SRM: How do you choose which songs SugarBad plays and records?
SB: Draw straws. Not really. I guess we all usually know which songs are leaning towards making the albums. Usually no arguments there.
SRM: Will you compare your stage act with your recordings for us? Do you play different songs in a different way on stage than you do in the studio?
SB: We LOVE playing live. Don't get us wrong, studio sessions/recording sessions are amazing, but nothing compares to people dancing and screamin' and sweatin' to our music. So cool!
SRM: What instruments and FX do you use to get your sound? Do you have any favorites and are there any pieces of equipment you're coveting right now or that you plan to get?
SB: We really love the sound of classic soul and R&B from the 60's and 70's and the equipment we use reflects that. We would love to have a Hammond organ and a proper Leslie speaker for every show ... but only if it came with an especially large van and several people to carry it!
SRM: How much time and effort do you put into practice and rehearsal for recordings and performances?
SB: We try to rehearse as much as possible for recordings, performances and to keep up the good work! We hope you hear all our hard work in our upcoming EP!
SRM: Take us behind the scenes for one of your rehearsals. What are they like? Do you have any ironclad rules for the band members or other people you work with?
SB: Rehearsals are fun! It's always good to get together and practice or write or rewrite our music. I wouldn't say we have any strict rules. We're all after the same thing and know what we need to do to make that happen. I wouldn't say this is a rule, but there's a special moment before we all start to play where we focus, and sometimes when we're getting ready one of us will focus the band and say, "Don't kill the magic!"
SRM: How do you prepare for gigs, what do you take with you, do you have a road crew? Are there any tricks of the trade you can pass on to beginning bands so they will have an easier time getting it together?
SB: Everyone has responsibilities and does a great job getting all of us from point A to point B. No road crew just yet! As a matter of fact, do you know of any bands that could pass on any tricks of the trade to help us have an easier time getting things together? haha
SRM: A group the size of yours has its own issues on stage. Just finding room for everyone to play their instruments can be problematic. Is any one person in charge of the stage or do each of you have specific jobs to keep it all under control?
SB: I wouldn't say that we had one person in charge but that we have a team of people that do really well with communication when setting up our shows in different, new, weird and small locations.
SRM: Jazz! at Lincoln Center - you were there! What did it feel like to take the stage at a venue so widely acclaimed? Does performing in places like Lincoln Center come with new fears, hopes, ideas and how do you deal with the pressure, if there is any?
SB: Playing at Lincoln Center felt amazing!! I wouldn't say our band gets nervous with performance pressure. Half the time we play, we forget the audience is out there. That's one of the great things about being in a band with all your friends, no matter how many people are in the audience it still feels the same when all seven of us are on stage.
SRM: You could all get t-shirts that say, "Music: Been There, Done That" just for the Italy tour and famous NYC rock clubs you've played. What was your most exciting experience while on tour or playing a one-nighter?
SB: Haha we are looking to get some SugarBad t-shirts soon!! We were in Camerino, Italy for a music festival a few years ago. We didn't have a big crowd hanging around waiting to hear us play one night, so the horn players and our drummer ran to a section of the town where the most people were hanging around. They started playing horns together then added some drum beats to get some attention. As more and more people started gathering around them, the horn players and drummer kept playing but started walking away. They played while walking back to the gig with the whole town dancin' behind em. We got our audience after all! It was incredible.
SRM: When you're hot, you're hot and getting on The Huffington Post's CMJ Music Marathon playlist means you're super hot. How does it feel to make that kind of splash?
SB: We had a lot of fun with our three shows this year at CMJ and feel pretty good to finally make some splashes!! The Huffington Post is a huge deal and we felt extremely honored.
SRM: Surf Rock Music is for musicians, as well as fans, who love great music. Our performing friends out there always want to know - do you have any advice for other musicians who want to hit the big time?
SB: Thick skin, hard work, get organized and learn social media from a high school student.
SRM: We caught the video of you writing some new tunes. Give us the latest SugarBad scoop. Is a new tour, recording, video or venue on your horizon? Will you record/perform all original songs or do want to do covers as well?
SB: There are definitely talks of touring! We just finished recording our EP and plan to release it later this winter! We finished recording and are editing our first music video! We are really excited to release that. Check out our social media pages to know when our video drops. Lots of new venues to play this year! We will keep everyone posted especially if you join our mailing list! When we record we try to stick to original songs.
SRM: Our fans insist we ask one really prying, but fun for us to think about, question. Is there any one song you would love to perform or record that you never will do for one reason or another?
SB: The Ocean by Led Zeppelin.
SRM: Most people have more than one interest in life, so we can't wait to get your answers to this question. Have any of you ever thought it would be good to change the path you're taking or is music the only road you can imagine traveling? If you hadn't become musicians, what would each of you be - a magician? Brain surgeon? Astronaut?
SB: I'd like to jump out of planes for a living. Is that a thing people do?
SRM: Last, but absolutely not least, everyone wants to know what surprises you might have coming. What are your future plans, where do you see yourself in another five years? Ten years?
SB: We will be the first band to play on the moon.
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To summarize, SugarBad has dynamic demons of instrumentation, a deliciously decadent perfectly-voiced singer, great tunes, great ... well, great everything. We're buying our tickets to the moon. It might just be big enough to hold everyone who loves this band. Jazz it up, sell it with soul, accept no imitations. SugarBad is in town! Jump out of a plane to see them if you have to, but whatever you do, don't miss 'em!