This month, once again, our readers selected our New Groove of the Month via a Jambands 250 poll. Bugg Juice Bugg Juice took the honors. The New York City-based band consists of Marc Pincus (Guitar & Vocals), Dave Cohen (Keyboards & Vocals), Nick Sullivan (Fretted/Fretless Bass) and Chaim Tolwin (Drums & Backing Vocals). The four musicians are familiar figures in the tri-state area as they are alumni of numerous other groups, including: Raisinhill, Head Monkey, Throwback, the Asiko Afrobeat Orchastra, Ma Skillet and The Funky Fritters, Mama Roux and The Greasy Skillets, The One Tree Reggae Band, Djibouti and The Kind.
Here Bugg Juice collectively answered our questions regarding their development, future plans and just how they rose to victory in 250…
Bugg Juice is certainly still developing its fan base, so were you surprised that the band won our New Groove poll?
Bugg Juice- Yes. We were really surprised and excited. You know, we’ve all spent a lot of time playing in other bands, all have our own little networks, and MySpace has been great to connect with people. It felt really good to be recognized and supported. Thank you to everyone who voted for us!
You must have some rather fervid supporters, any thoughts on your connection to your fans?
Bugg Juice- We love them. A lot. We’ve got a ton of great fans, friends, and family who’ve followed us through our previous projects and supported us in every way possible. It seems like Bugg Juice brought them all together to form something of a community. To tell you the truth, it made us feel great. We were blown away.
It seem as if the four of you have appeared in many other bands, can you talk about how the group came together?
Bugg Juice- Marc (guitar and vocals) has always written songs, in previous bands, etcetera. About two years ago he and Chaim (drums) got together and started jamming informally, for fun, using Marc’s songs as a springboard for lengthy improvisation, stuff like blending world rhythms and rock. And the chemistry developed from there. We spent a long time searching for the right bassist, someone who was rhythmic as hell, yet melodic. When we finally found Nick, he was that steady, solid backbone that was needed, and yet very creative. The three of us played as a trio for a while. Dave (keyboards and vocals) recently moved to Brooklyn, and was playing in a different band with Chaim. Dave sat in at a couple of Bugg Juice rehearsals, and the four of us really clicked. He was exactly what the band needed. We all come from different musical backgrounds and bring different styles to the table, so the common ground we’ve found between the four of us has been something special.
How often do the four of you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together for rehearsal?
Bugg Juice- We rehearse at least three times a week in one form or another. Even though we’re kind of spread out throughout the NYC area, we like to play as often as possible. Even if someone can’t make it, the rest of us will still get together and jam. At some rehearsals we focus on vocals and harmonies, others we’ll do rhythmic exercises, and other we’ll just jam for hours and run tunes. There are no set rules.
Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group and how does it then come together?
Bugg Juice- Again, it started with Marc and Chaim. This goes back to two years ago when the two of them got together and started working on songs. Marc would bring his originals to the table, mostly chords, arrangements, vocal melodies, and lyrics, and then Chaim would add his flavor, lay down a beat, suggest different rhythms. With the additions of Nick and Dave, the songs were able to come to life with a fuller rhythm section and more layers.
We all throw our suggestions in. Autonomy is important to us, so when a tune first comes to the table, we try not to dictate each other’s parts. We let each other find our own individual sound within whatever is written. Since Dave’s joined, he’s brought his catalogue of originals to the table, as well, and we’re just getting started with those. There’s a lot of material and a lot of work to do. We’re just getting the ball rolling.
The songs are really an ongoing evolution. We don’t like to be tied down with static tunes. Change is an important aspect to all of us. We want to stay fluid.
How does Bugg Juice approach its original songs in the live setting?
Bugg Juice- This is a perfect example of what we mean by fluidity. During live shows, we really open the songs up, letting them take shape in the moment. One night we’ll play our songs one way and the next night a different way. Our songs are like a basic framework: we know where we start and know where we want to end, but we never get there the same way twice. Actually, sometimes we don’t even know where we want to end sometimes we’ll flow into a new song without even intending to do so. Like with "Father Time," sometimes we’ll take it slow, sometimes fast, sometimes there’ll be a jazzy beat, sometimes a house beat. It’s really about what we’re feeling that night. We want to keep our shows interesting and as exciting and high energy as possible, both for us and for our listeners. We find that our audience enjoys our shows more when we are feeling good and having a good time. It’s reciprocity.
What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time to time? Who selects them?
Bugg Juice- Having been in tons of other bands, we’ve played a lot of covers before. One thing that’s unique about this project is that we’ve really concentrated on our originals. We’ve only been a solidified, unified, four-member band for six months. We think it’s important that people get to know our sound before we start in with too many covers. While we love to pay homage to our influences, we’re focusing on our own sound. We want people to like Bugg Juice for Bugg Juice. When we do cover a song, we pick one we feel we can put our own spin on, something that will reflect our sound and style.
In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and failures?
Bugg Juice- We’ve had a lot of fun with "Fire Eater" because it’s such an open tune and really allows us to do what we want with it. Also, Dave’s got a nasty version of "Inspector Gadget" he likes to mix in every now and then.
The band’s name seems to reference summer camp? Is this true? At any rate how did you guys land on Bugg Juice?
Bugg Juice- In all honesty, we were just putting sets of words together. We came up with a million that didn’t stick. When we paired those, it was like, “That’s cool; kinda gross, kinda fun – and with a drinking reference, ha ha!” And then we finally said, “Remember bug juice from camp?” It sounded like a great name for summer festivals. We already had the tune “In the Summatime,” so it felt right. We had our friend Charlie draw up a logo, and it was awesome. So it all fell together.
Can you talk about some of your performance highlights thus far? Is there a gig or gigs that stand out? Why?
Bugg Juice- Yeah, a month or so ago we played a late-night set at HoboFest in upstate New York and had a kick ass time. The scene was nuts, the crowd was wild, and we really fed off of that energy. We can’t wait til next year to play it again.
Also, our friend has a great loft space. Every few months we round up our friends, set up as the house band, and play for hours until people drop from dancing too much. There’s no structure, no time slots, no strings attached.
In looking at your site, it appears that you’re gigging infrequently. Can you talk about you’re strategy and efforts in that regard?
Bugg Juice- Well, like we’ve said, although we’ve all been playing for a while, we’re new as a group. We’ve taken our time to make sure we’re working well as a whole. Some of the music is complex, and takes a while to flesh out properly. But it seems to have worked out. Also, we’ve really made an effort to write and learn new arrangements and segues between gigs to try to make each show unique. Now that we’ve really found our rhythm, not just musically but as a cohesive group, and have an established yet variable repertoire we’re looking to step up the booking. Recognition like this really helps.
What about a studio or live release, where do things stand there?
Bugg Juice- We’re all set to go into the studio and record on November 4th. We’re really excited to get our tracks down, as we’ve spent a lot of time and energy evolving them. So keep an eye out. And of course we’ll be putting some live stuff out as well.
Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about Bugg Juice for the first time from this piece?
Bugg Juice- Yes. Thanks for reading this! Definitely check out our MySpace page for upcoming shows, plenty of new tunes, news, etc. We plan on making it out to all sorts of place, so keep us on the radar, and come see us. We’ve also got a website in progress: www.buggjuice.net. It’s not up yet, but we’re looking forward to it.