Local group gains Stone Pony contest win, club dates with major acts
By josh davidson
Sprout rocks the crowd on stage at Asbury Park’s Stone Pony. The band won the club’s June 15 house band search and recently finished a four-song demo CD.
BRICK — Though together barely a year, the local band Sprout continues to gain momentum on the music scene.
After winning the June 15 house band search at Asbury Park’s Stone Pony, the band now wants to take its music to the next level.
The house band search put numerous local bands, including Matt Witte’s New Blood Revival, the Danny White Band and Red Engine Nine, in competition to decide the winner.
Sprout recently played the Stone Pony as the opener for New Jersey-based and nationally-known Skid Row. Other acts they have opened for at the Pony include Joan Jett and Fishbone.
"We want to make it (playing) our one and only job; we want to make a living out of it," lead singer Rory Fream, 23, of Brick said.
The band finished its four-song demo Oct. 24 at Long Branch’s Shore Fire Studios and will press 1,000 copies, drummer Nick Marini, 21, of Point Pleasant said. About 200 will be saved for music industry distribution, while the rest will be sold to fans, he said.
Since winning the Stone Pony house band search, they received major label interest and have continued playing the local circuit. The band has played strictly original numbers at places like the Stone Pony, Asbury Park’s the Saint and Long Branch’s Brighton Bar, to name a few. Covers and originals were played by the band at venues such as Toms River’s Mugsy’s and the Saw Mill and Aztec Bar and Grill, both in Seaside Heights.
"Hopefully, we’ll start touring soon," Marini said. "That’s what I am looking to do, as are the other guys."
The amount of early success they have had has been surprising to the band.
"At the marquee at the Stone Pony it says, ‘Vanilla Fudge, Sprout,’ and then it says, ‘Leslie West, from Mountain,’ and that just blows my mind," bassist Chris Gunderud, 28, of Manchester, said.
Sprout looks to expand on its list of places played and is looking to break into venues like New York and Philadelphia, Marini said.
"From now on, we’re just shooting for original venues," he said.
The band played the cover circuit last summer to help buy equipment. Sprout’s rehearsal space is set up behind Marini’s house on Maxson Avenue, Point Pleasant.
The band said it continues to progress as time goes on.
"When you see people out in the audience humming, (you know) it’s getting much better," Fream said.
The band began to really find its niche this summer, learning to further interact with the audience, he said.
Word of mouth has caused the band to develop a solid following, Gunderud said. People will go to a Sprout show and tell their friends about what they saw, he said. Plus, the band has its own local following, made up of personal friends.
"All of our friends that have been coming to every one of our shows, we’re not going to forget them," Gunderud said.
When they opened for Jett, people came up to the stage front who never heard of Sprout, he said.
"My stomach was in knots," Gunderud said. However, they got a good response from the audience, band members reported.
The band had a positive reaction when opening for Fishbone as well, Fream said. They get a good feeling when they open up for a national act and are able to please a crowd that isn’t even there to see them, he said.
The group’s music is ska-based, with classic, blues, rock and jazz flavorings. They try to please themselves before anyone else when writing and want the feeling to spread through the crowd, Fream said.
"The whole thing is, we got into it to have fun, and lately it has been fun," he said. "There’s nothing like having fun and being successful. There’s nothing like being able to get a bunch of free beer and still being able to play and people still not booing you off the stage."
They agreed that it’s beneficial to establish themselves locally first before making it to mainstream radio.
Selling out their sound in favor of popularity is not an option, the band said.
"Everyone knows our sound now," Marini said. "They know what we’re about. If we come out with something that sounds like Sum 41, they’re going to be like, ‘What?’"
The band doesn’t write for a certain type of people; if something they create moves them, hopefully it will move others, Fream said.
The writing process usually comes from a member playing a musical part or riff and another member adding to it, he said. Then come the lyrics, Gunderud said.
The finished product showcases the work of four solid musicians. Guitarist Cory Genthe, 23, of Point Pleasant, provides warm-toned, bluesy licks and evenly strummed chords. Gunderud’s bass work is solid, along with Marini’s swift timing on drums in the rhythm section. Fream provides smooth, even vocals.
Fream describes their sound as incorporating many music genres.
"It might start off with a rock beat and go into a reggae beat, then blues and jazz," Fream said. "When it comes together, it’s all there. We have a tough time going to shows and gigs trying to describe it. We try to touch on blues, hip-hop, jazz, swing — we try not to leave anything out."
The band members came to music through four different paths.
Marini got his start in music through his dad, whom he remembers as playing in bands since as far back as he can remember.
"I would just fall asleep to rock ’n’ roll in my basement. I just picked it up," he said.
"(My start) was somewhat less glamorous," Fream said. "I used to be in musicals in high school. I was also in chorus and all that. I picked up the guitar three years ago. I wanted to play really badly, so I picked it up."
Fream said he has sung his whole life and always sang and listened to different styles. Chorus is where he began his vocal training, he said.
"Chorus kept it going for structure and stuff like that," he said.
Gunderud is a self-taught musician.
"What got me into music mostly was my uncle," he said. "Listening to the Stones, the Doors, the Who, pretty much classic rock, I grew up listening to that. I was just fascinated with music and I decided I wanted a guitar for my eighth-grade graduation. I just taught myself how to play and a few people told me a few chords."
Gunderud said he began playing bass in the tenth grade.
Before Sprout, Genthe and Gunderud played together in a more heavy metal-based band called Uncle Stanley. The others knew each other from living in the same area.
More information about the band is available at the group’s Web site www.thesprout.com.