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InterviewsFrogg Cafe-Come in For Some Tempting Treats!

Posted on Thursday, November 06 2003 @ 17:55:36 CST by Pete Pardo
Progressive Rock New York's own Frogg Cafe have evolved from a humble beginning as a Frank Zappa tribute band to a powerhouse workhorse of a band that expertly combine symphonic prog-rock with intricate jazz-fusion. Sea of Tranquility Editor Pete Pardo caught up with the band during a recent rehearsal day for some insightful conversation on the new CD Creatures, their history, and live plans.

Sea of Tranquility: Before we get into talking about the new CD Creatures, can one of you give a little history behind the formation of the band?

Frank Camiola: (guitars) I guess it started when Andy and I weren't married, happily hangin' out drinking beer and listening to Frank Zappa. Specifically, we were listening to "Mysteries in One Day", which is unreleased early pre-Mothers of Invention Zappa stuff, and we figured it would be fun to start a pre-Mothers Zappa band, because we figured it would be easier to play that stuff…

Andy Sussman: (bass) We were wrong! (laughs)

Frank: I would play guitar and Andy would play bass, and we eventually found Bill and Nick and started doing other stuff besides the early Mothers, all the way through the 1988 Zappa band. It came to a point where it was a lot of fun, but we really wanted to do our own material.

Andy: And here we are. Jim later joined on drums-we found him at the old age home on 25A /Jericho Turnpike! (everyone laughs) He's the only guy who we auditioned who could read music. He can play! Steve Campenella was our original drummer, but he's really a marimba player, and an amazing one at that. He plays some marimba on our new album.

SoT: Good to have one person at least who can read!

Andy: (laughs)

SoT: It's been a few years since the debut CD came out, and listening to the new one it's obvious that you guys have really matured as a band. How did the writing and recording process go on Creatures?

Bill Ayasse: (violin/mandolin) Mostly we present tunes to the band that we have all worked out on our own, and we try to figure out if they will work for the band or not. If we like them, then we will try to fit them on the CD. Our third CD is actually mostly written with the exception of maybe one or two tunes that will be added soon. We've already started performing songs from the yet to be released third CD, which, I don't even know if we have a name for it…

Andy: The working title is The Fortunate Observer of Time

Bill: That's even one of the tunes on the third CD.

Andy: The other working title is Shit, We've Got to Record Again! (laughs)

Frank: Or it could be called Third, but we don't want to get confused with Soft Machine!

James Guarnieri: (drums) When we do the arrangements, Nick Lieto (vocals, keyboards, trumpet) brings in a lot of material. He's a pretty prolific writer, and he'll bring in some tunes and basically all the arrangements are Frogg Café. We have one great tune on the latest CD, "Waterfall Carnival", and that was a great thing to put on the album to change things up a bit. Nick's writing falls into a certain category and Frank's goes into an opposite direction.

SoT: "Waterfall Carnival" has all sorts of influences going on, and at 21 minutes you guys manage to cram a lot into it.

James: Well, that's Frankie! But it turned out to be a great piece that I really like a lot.

Bill: It took a long time to pull that song together…

Andy: Frank doesn't know how to use the music software we use called Finale, so everything came on like manuscript paper and on the back of McDonalds napkins, toilet paper, stuff like that! (laughs)

SoT: The band seems to have really evolved a bit from the debut to the new CD in terms of style. Are you going to continue that trend with the next release?

Andy: It's starting to sound a little different actually. Even from NEARfest 2003, just hearing some of those bands like Magma, or Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, our new music has elements and influences from some of these bands and the many others we have come in contact with. It's sounding different, but done up in the Frogg Café way. So we are definitely influenced by what we hear. Frank had a bachelor party recently, where we ended up in Brooklyn with 20 other guys, and we happened to see Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (this was around a week after NEARfest) and we were around five feet from the stage, and it was great to see them up close, and really hear how different they are.

SoT: Absolutely. I mean, on your first album, you can hear bits of Gentle Giant, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs, Frank Zappa, very fusion oriented. The second album is much more symphonic, with a slight nod to some of the classic prog bands of the 70's.

Andy: Nick's writing is really evolving, but what's interesting is that he's really not that into progressive rock.

SoT: Nick's vocals actually sound much better on the latest CD.

Andy: That's really thanks to Bill I think, as he got some new microphones and did a better job recording the vocals. The funny thing is we've heard that a lot, but Nick's voice is just as good live, and has always been that strong.

SoT: So essentially Creatures is much more representative of Frogg Café?

James: We tried to take the album and really make one whole album, or actually one whole theme.

Frank: We'll be writing an epic or a mini epic on the next one, so be on the lookout for that. We'd also like to include some of the great improvisations that we always seem to get into on stage, and somehow capture that magic in the studio to include on the next album.

SoT: What about recording some of your gigs and putting out a live CD?

Frank: I think if the performance is right and the recording & sound is there that would be an excellent idea, but I don't think all those things have fallen into place at the same time as of yet.

SoT: Who came up with the "Celestial Metal Can" song?

Bill: That starting off actually as a jam, and it had all these different ideas and sound effects layered. It kind of evolved as a kind of improv with drums and things.

SoT: How did the weed whacker come into play?

Frank: (laughs) Our really good buddy Tim Roach, who is very supportive of our band and really wanted to be on the album, and we of course would love to have him on it. So I said "Come on over…and bring toys", and he brings a Toro weed whacker! It ended up briefly on the song and just kind of stands out amongst everything else that is going on there.

SoT: On the opposite end of the spectrum you have a song like "All This Time", one of the more beautiful songs the band has done, real symphonic and classic prog sounding, kind of like Kansas meets Frank Zappa.

Andrew: It's interesting…I have a lot of friends who pick that as their favorite tune, although it came out a little muddier than we really wanted it. We see that as kind of our "black and white" song.

SoT: Any chance you guys will join the prog festival circuit?

Frank: We definitely want to play at any of them. We attended ProgDay and NEARfest this year, and are sending out feelers to the promoters, so we shall see what happens!

Andrew: We do have a bunch of gigs scheduled over the next 6 months or so, so make sure everyone checks out our website to see what we have on tap.

SoT: What is the time frame for the next CD?

Bill: When it's finished! (laughs)

Frank: We'd like to have it done by NEARfest 2004, but we shall see how it goes!

SoT: Well, best of luck with it, and thanks for spending time with us!

Click here for the Frogg Cafe Website.

Click here to see Sea Of Tranquility's review of Creatures, and click here for our review of Frogg Cafe.

Frogg Cafe Live in 2004!

Thursday, February 19th The Playloft Located in: The Lowell Brewery 201 Cabot Street, Lowell, Massachusetts (978) 937-2690

Frogg Café is honored to be performing at Brothers Al and Eric's progressive rock showcase. They have amazing shows here all year round, check out the site above and support their wonderful efforts.

New NYC Show – Just Added: Friday, March 12th The Downtime 10pm-Midnight 251 W. 30th between 7th and 8th Ave. (212) 695-2747 All shows are $10 or less at the door ------------------------------ ------------------------------ ------------------------------ --------------------------- We would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy 2004, especially our beloved Frankie Camiola who had to leave Frogg Café recently because of severe Tinnitus of the ears, he will be missed. The band is very lucky to have an old friend and amazing musician step in and take over Frank's guitar duties. Our boy's name is Stevie Uh and he knows his way around the guitar, violin and keyboards. It's not easy to learn 10 Frogg charts in a month, but he has done it…come check him out! We are happy to have him and glad that Frogg Café can move forward in the wake of Frank's unfortunate illness. Best of luck Frankie, we love you bro! ------------------------------ ------------------------------ ------------------------------ -------------------------- Frogg Café would like to give a huge thank you to our good friend Adam Berlin for creating our new website: WWW.FROGGCAFE.COM Where you can find…. Online secure ordering! ------------------------------ ------------------------------ ------ Need some wacky Fun in your life? Join The frogg café mail group FroggCafe/

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