Frogs Gone Fishin’ is working its way into the business
Hooked on music
November 21, 2008
At 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, the four recent college graduates who make up Denver funk rock band Frogs Gone Fishin’ are gathered around their kitchen table – or, as the band calls it, the “hub of operations.”
Coming off a 12-state tour through Colorado, up to the Midwest, down to New Orleans and into the Southeast, Frogs Gone Fishin’ is keeping busy by playing regional gigs, using a rental home in north Denver as a base. The band will move to New Orleans right before Mardi Gras in 2009, and stay through the city’s Jazz Fest in an effort to absorb some of the nation’s richest musical heritage.
After playing in various bands at the same high school, the members of Frogs Gone Fishin’ – Trevor Jones and Andrew Portwood on guitar, Steve Rogers on bass and Mark Levy on drums – went to schools in Boston, Nashville, Tenn., New Orleans and Colorado, using local music scenes to inform the songs they wrote. Frogs Gone Fishin’ plays Saturday at Mahogany Ridge.
Jones, Portwood, Rogers and Levy talked with 4 Points about their first big tour, their upcoming move to the Crescent City, and their kitchen table version of the music business.
4 POINTS: Did you run into any difficulties on the tour you recently finished?
ANDREW PORTWOOD: It’s definitely trying. : But it’s really fortunate for us to be able to do this in this time period. : To know that we’re fortunate enough to go down to New Orleans and be able to play there and see the greatest music there. We saw Papa Grows Funk; we saw The Funky Meters.
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STEVE ROGERS: Definitely the worst part about being on the road is just the days in between the shows, because you don’t necessarily have anywhere to go, and you’re kind of lost on what to do. Now that it’s getting cold, sometimes we find ourselves basically doing hostile takeovers in small town coffee shops and staying there until they kick us out.
4 POINTS: What inspired you to move to New Orleans?
TJ: From my perspective, after living in New Orleans, I think it would be beneficial for any band to move down there just to absorb the day-to-day musicianship that goes on in that city. It’s a different vibe from Denver or Nashville. Even if you have people like The Meters walking around, the ego factor is lower, and people are there just to serve the music down there. : That tradition is something in American music that you just want to go experience as a band.
ML: We’re really interested in the social aspect of what music does to us as human beings, and it’s definitely a universal language that will transcend creed and culture and background. New Orleans I feel is really a hotbed of that; it’s the birthplace of jazz.
The cultural aspect of music there is so fundamental to what they do, and as a band we always try to live music. I think moving to New Orleans is another step along that path.
4 POINTS: How long have you guys been playing together?
SR: We’ve been playing seriously since about summer of 2006; that’s when we began small tours and recording our album. We were all still in different schools at the time. We all actually went to the same high school and we were in different bands then. : We’ve kind of been playing together for about a decade, but at the same time, 2006.
ML: I was in school in Boston; Trevor was in school in New Orleans; Steve had just gotten kicked out of school in Colorado. We were all in four very different, but in some ways very prominent, musical scenes. When we came back for winter breaks and summer breaks, we would play and we would tour, and that’s how we recorded our first album.
4 POINTS: How did it work to be in different parts of the country for school?
SR: It really worked out well for us, because we were in four pretty different music scenes. So we would write a tune and show it to each other, and Trevor would get to try it out in the New Orleans funk and jazz scene, and then Mark would take it to the conservatory. So we had all these new ideas affecting our songs that we wouldn’t have had if we’d been in the same spot.
And we really got to think about the business aspect of it. We’ve been able to have at least 10 shows a month since June.
4 POINTS: How do you handle the business aspect of being in a band?
SR: A lot of it came through Internet research, and looking at bands that we had heard of that maybe were a couple of years ahead of what we were doing, and saying, ‘OK, these guys are good. What do we like that they’re doing for advertisement and publicity, and what are they lacking.’
ML: We’re looking at what bands are doing and taking a little bit of a Frankenstein approach to touring, by going to a band’s MySpace and seeing what they’ve got lined up for touring and seeing how that might complement ours and how that might work for us.
TJ: I think since the Internet has exploded, the whole landscape of the music industry has changed, and our aspirations as a band have changed with it.
4 POINTS: How have you acted on what you want to do as a band?
SR: As we go along, we’re trying to get professional with it. And in that sense, Mark has become in charge of media. Andrew takes charge of publishing, trying to get our songs out there. Trevor is in charge of promotions, so he makes sure we’ve got posters out and we’re getting articles and interviews. And then I handle most of the booking aspects.
We’re trying to keep it sort of normal, so while we’re doing this crazy thing and waking up at 2 p.m., we’re all doing normal tasks.
TJ: Performing is about 10 percent, in terms of time, of what we do as a band. Performing is the most important part of it, but that’s only part of what we do.
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