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New Groove

Published: 2009/05/26

Turtle Soup

“Turtle Soup”:http://www.myspace.com/turtlesoupband, our latest New Groove of the Month, not only placed first in a Jambands 250 poll but also (we just learned) first connected through the Jambands.com Message Boards. Here is our interview with the groups Jeff ‘Mudd’ Mahajan. *We just learned that the original members of the band met via the
jambands.com message board some time ago. Can you talk a bit about that?*
Thanks for the great honor! The jambands.com board was pretty
popular a couple years ago, and I posted about finding a drummer.
Literally, about 10 seconds after I posted online, my phone rings, and
it was drummer Andy Meyer inquiring about the position. Freaky! He has a
very musical background, writes songs, and is a ton of fun to be around,
so we hit it off right away. We also found our first guitarist, Danny
Coury, on the jambands.com forum, and then a year later, we found
bassist Mike McDermott through his friend who surfed on there… so it’s
a very cool honor to be named New Groove of the Month by jambands.com
since the site was so important in helping to get the band together. *Can you outline the development of the band? How did the current line-up
solidify? *
I was playing in a band called Bugg at the time, but it was creatively
stale for me, so I started Turtle Soup to become a fun, creative outlet
for my songs and to jam with fun people who I shared a musical vision
with. Basically, I wanted to have fun playing all the different styles
of music that I liked. It takes a long time for an original band to make
it, so I wanted to have fun on the ride, regardless if we were
successful financially or not. The great thing about music is, that if
you’re having fun, killing your show, and honing your craft, success
will find you eventually. We are true examples of that.
We started as a quartet of bass, drums and 2 guitars. We were good, but
we didn’t hit our stride until we became a quintet. Most of us met via
the jambands.com message board, and I had known bassist Nick Paolise
through a friend. Our first gig ever was a 4-hour non-stop set at the
New Jersey Marathon. Keyboardist/singer Ben Feld joined the band after a
year of gigging. Ben’s a true entertainer and an all-around talented guy
who we met at a local jam session. He can also play his keyboard behind
his back! That fall, both Nick and Danny left the band on good terms to
pursue other things. It was a blessing in disguise because we found Mike
McDermott via jambands.com. Mike absolutely kills it. It’s pretty much
impossible not to move when you hear his bass lines. So, now we were a
quartet again (guitar, keys, bass, drums), and instead of adding another
guitar, we started looking for percussionists. We found the Shaman Al
Romao via craigslist, and his energy and spirit took the band to a new
level.
With the quintet formed, we found our groove and it started catching on
immediately, packing bars and winning awards. We headed to to find a
bigger audience than our local bars, so we began playing festivals like
Phanphest, Strangecreek and Stonehenge. This got us a regional
following, and soon enough, we were playing with bands like Blues
Traveler, Dark Star Orchestra, Marshall Tucker Band, etc, and people
started traveling from out of state to see us.
Eventually, Al had to leave the band due to Rheumatoid Arthritis, so we
added Mark Nettlingham on percussion. Mark is the definition of a drum
junkie. He even drinks beer in rhythm, I kid you not. The rapport that
he and Andy have is awesome, and they create some intense rhythms
together.
The band is completely on fire right now, and it’s very inspiring to
have such great support throughout the entire jamband community. It
makes us want to play even harder. *On your MySpace list you list numerous "Extended Family" members. Have
those
musicians all put in regular stints with Turtle Soup? Sit in for a show
or
two?*
We love off-the-cuff collaborations, and we always try to give people
credit where it’s due. The musicians listed there have all played with
us on our original songs. Most of the time, we prefer that they don’t
have any knowledge or rehearsal of the song prior to the performance. We
want something completely new, a stream of consciousness, if you will.
It’s very special to create art with someone talented and enthusiastic
and some real amazing moments have come from some of those jams. *How would you describe the vitality and support of your local New
Jersey/New
York music scene?*
In our home area, the Central Jersey Shore, we’re really lucky to have
such a vital original music scene. We receive a huge amount of support
from our fans and the places we play, namely The Saint in Asbury Park.
The local festival scene has also been great to us and extremely
supportive of anything we do.
Because we live in such a busy area, (we’re equidistant from NYC,
Philly, and Atlantic City), there’s always something interesting going
on any given night of the week. You have to work and play harder just to
get noticed above the everyday chatter. Every year we hold our own
events, like our holiday show, Seasoned Greetings, and our brand new
Souper Groove Funkstival, which was a great success this year. They’re a
lot of work to put together, but they’re also that much more fun and
rewarding.
Speaking of local gigs, we have a great show coming up at the Stone
Pony, a legendary rock venue in Asbury Park… we’re playing with moe.
on the 4th of July. It will be insane! *Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group
and
how does it then come together?*
I guess if you had to tally it up, I wrote most of the songs that we
play… but Andy and Ben have contributed some incredible songs as well,
and we’re constantly writing new stuff together. Really, everyone brings
great ideas to the table that make their way into our show somehow.
As for the song origin, sometimes we’ll just start playing a groove and
see where it goes. Other times, a song or arrangement will be worked out
in advance and presented to the group as a cohesive idea to work
towards. Everyone has different strengths, so we try to play on those…
but we don’t force anything, it’s got to be natural. I think songwriting
is like a relationship, it works best when it doesn’t feel like work at
all.
How do you approach original songs in the live setting?
A live show is intended to be a unique experience, so we always try to
have fun and get creative. Sometimes, we’ll try to sandwich songs inside
of other songs, extend sections, or add impromptu jamming. Other times,
we’ll play our songs as straight as they are on the album. We like to
keep people guessing, including ourselves! *What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time
to
time? Who selects them?*
Turtle Soup is mostly an original band. It’s where our strength lies.
Covers, on the other hand, are our Kryptonite. We seriously might be the
worst cover band ever so we just stick with what we’re good at. The best
way we can pay tribute to our musical influences is to do what they did,
and be original. *In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and
failures?*
Oh, we have some spectacular crash-and-burn moments with covers! It’s
too easy to talk about those, so we’ll talk about the good ones. Most of
our successful cover songs have been in true jam band fashion… learned
on the spot, and played without a rehearsal… like "Feelin’ Allright"
by Joe Cocker or laying down a TRON version of the Top Gun Theme by Joe
Satriani. Really, that’s the only time when the enthusiasm is high.
After we play a cover song 2-3 times, it feels less like jamming, more
like a gimmick. It’s more interesting and creative to play something
new.
The funny thing is, sometimes people hear our original songs and think
that we’re covering someone like Santana or Zappa. It’s also great
because other bands cover our tunes. We’ve had three of our songs
covered by three different bands in our scene so far. Our songs are
purposely written to be a lot of fun to play. *How often do you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together
for
rehearsal?*
We rehearse about twice a week at my studio, splitting the time into
developing new material and tightening up for upcoming shows. We always
try to have fun at practice. Sometimes we just turn the lights out and
jam in the darkness. *Can you talk about some of your performance highlights thus far. Is
there a
gig (or gigs) that stand out? Why?*
There have been so many performance highlights so far that it would take
a second interview! We are truly lucky, for our gigging history has been
a clear blue sky with very few clouds. Every show we’ve played at the
Old Bay has stuck out, we’ve had dueling triangles and horn solos by the
clown brigade. We opened for Blues Traveler and John Popper came out and
raved about us, which was cool. When we collaborate with great musicians
like Bon Lozaga (Gongzilla) or Tim Palmieri (The Breakfast) it’s always
a highlight.
Others: NYE at the Donegal Saloon, the post Phil Lesh party on Halloween
in Times Square, 4am sunrise slot at Strangecreek, post Dark Star
Orchestra party at the Stone Pony, Wingstock at Blue Claws Arena, 4th of
July with moe. and many, many more. *You just put your first studio disc. Can you talk about the experience
and
also the challenges of bringing your live energy into the studio for the
debut?*
There is no way to recreate the live Turtle Soup experience. The only
true way to "get" the band is to experience it live, in the flesh.
So, we didn’t want our album to be identical to the live show. We just
wanted to make a great album that would stand on its own. The idea of it
was to capture the essence of our songs. We kept them pretty short and
to the point so people could learn the lyrics and so there was room to
get creative with them when we played them live.
We tried a couple of different production techniques. We played a few
songs the old school way… everybody live in the studio, one take, with
mono drums. We even sang vocals all at the same time through the same
microphone and kept the first takes. Other songs were done with more
modern production techniques like a click track, multi-tracking,
multiple layers for texture, and overdubs. We used the utmost quality
during the recording, and we had 7-time Grammy winner Tom Ruff master
it.
It’s currently available on iTunes and amazon.mp3, and at our show.
Download it and let us know how you like it! *Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about
you
for the first time from this piece? *
Thanks for reading this interview and for your incredible support.
Hopefully we’ll see you in person, rocking out to the Soup. Please
listen to the music, come to a show, or many shows… join the fun,
you’re all welcome. It’s always a party!
P.S. We are also currently seeking management, so please contact us if
you’re interested. Thanks!

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