Sometimes the greatest risks in life are the ones that produce the greatest payoffs. Since music, good music at least, often reflects life, than the same words of wisdom could apply to those trying to
build a career under the bright lights.
North Jersey band Slinker formed in the late 1990s working the local cover scene, gaining local recognition with a series of popular shows, local concerts and corporate events. Anyone who follows live
music in New Jersey know that the outlets for cover bands to promote their sound and make money on a regular basis are far more numerous than those striking out with an original sound.
But the band was struggling with the success that it had as a cover act versus a desire to make original music and pursue a career with their own identity. Unfortunately, the cover and original music
scenes are highly polarized, and pursuing one usually excludes a band from the other. Trying to build on their regular gigs playing to the cover crowds and using that as a springboard for their original
music was virtually a guarantee that both goals would fail.
So, time for a leap of faith. In the early part of 2003, the band played their final set as a cover band at the Rock Bottom in West Orange, New Jersey, to begin the long, hard road of establishing themselves
in a more difficult arena. While New Jersey bands can benefit from their vicinity to Philadelphia, New York and the legendary status of the Jersey Shore, they can also get lost in the mix and become another
"should have been." Slinker may have the drive and work ethic, to go along with the chops and the talent, to make a success of it, and clearly have a strong vision of where they need to go, and the steps
to take getting there.
Describing their sound as "Fuel, Our Lady Peace, if Johnny Reznick really stomped a distortion pedal," Slinker currently consists of Jason DeRuggiero on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion, Brian
Wagner on bass and vocals, Anthony Gimignani on guitar and vocals and Chris Pelesky on drums on vocals.
Chorus and Verse spoke to DeRuggiero about the band's first months with a new direction, and received a lesson in exactly how a new band should be working to promote itself, get the word out about its
sound and lay the groundwork for bigger and better things ahead.
In July, the band put behind their cover band past to focus on pushing your original music. Can you give us an overview of what 2003 was like for Slinker, and what went into the
decision to stop playing cover sets in a scene that’s often more welcoming to bands who do so?
2003 was a humbling year for SLINKER. We had decided to bury the cover band entity once and for all while attempting to make an original music impact on the New Jersey scene. It’s been freeing and frightening
at the same time. Basically, the band’s focus was becoming more and more blurry when it came to our original goals. There is a famous Chinese proverb that says: “He who chases two rabbits at once catches
Step back a little further and give us the band’s background. When and where did everyone start playing music, and how was the band originally put together?
Brian and I started playing over 10 years ago while in college. We had an acoustic three-piece and performed in Asbury Park at T-Birds Cafe and a few gigs in and around Monmouth College. After graduation
in the early 90s, I put music down and tried to do the “9-5” thing. I’ve been fortunate that there has always been a balance between an ability to pay the rent and write music. Brian never put down his
bass. I got a call from him to jam again and the rest, as they say, is history.
The current line-up has been together going on two years. Time flies when you're having fun.
The band is known for having a very diverse set list, incorporating a number of different styles. When the band was playing covers, how were new songs selected and did you always
choose songs that showed your influences, or what you thought the crowd would respond to?
All cover bands have to remember is that kids want to drink, dance and maybe head-bang now and then. Our sets would reflect the popular, mainstream tunes and we would throw in a few curves to keep people
Give us a look into your own songwriting process. Who are the main songwriters in the band, and how does a song usually progress from inception to something that you’ll play live?
Do you feel that having played so many other people’s songs in the past gives you a different view of the songwriting process than bands that only developed original material?
I’m a melody guy, so I carry around a $49.95 mini-cassette recorder everywhere and when inspiration strikes, it’s on tape. I come up with the majority of the lyrics for SLINKER tunes.
Usually a blueprint (music and vocal melody) is then brought to the rest of the band so they can rip it apart! Anthony, our guitar player writes tunes all the time and as of late has presented completed
tunes that would be potential material the band can make happen. Brian and Chris are great at arrangements. I can’t write bridges to save my life so whoever has the best idea, we go with. I’m a firm believer
that one or two guys in a band make the stew and other ingredients are added along the way. As long as band members are happy with their roles and understand their abilities, songs will come out of the
oven fresh and piping hot!
I feel playing in a cover band is a great crash course in songwriting 101. Listen to the radio. Learn why structure works in tunes and apply it to your own catalog. You have to understand the rules before
you can break them.
Your website mentions something about an upcoming live Slinker album. Can you fill us in on the story behind this project, and when fans will be able to get their hands on it?
We always wanted to chronicle our growth as a band live and over the last few months played some shows at The Whiskey Bar in Hoboken, NJ. The sound guy there is really cool and provides a great live
mix. The band felt it would be a great way to capture our latest material in a loose, live setting. Hey, it’s not KISS Alive, but you got to start somewhere.
In the coming weeks, check out www.slinker.net for info on some “ALIVE AND KICKING” tunes!
You currently have a five-song EP, Fun For A Girl And A Boy that you’re promoting. What are the band’s current plans for a follow-up studio recordings or a full-length album?
Do you have new material ready to go, or do you prefer to write when the pressure is on and you’re in the studio?
Check our www.cdbaby.com and look up SLINKER to buy this disc! It’s only $8.00! Write a review on the page! This is an awesome site for independent bands looking for distribution. We’re entertaining
a few studios right now to either do a quick three-or-five-song EP or a full-length record. You have to put out material constantly as an unknown baby band like us so I’m a fan of less is more.
We have about 15 tunes ready to go and the intention is to keep on writing, test marketing and recording to see what songs make the cut. I hate writing under pressure. Elvis Costello said you have 20
years to write your first record and three months to write your follow-up record. I think that pretty much sums it up for us, hopefully.
Slinker is based in Hoboken, and has played in Morristown and other cities in the Northern New Jersey area. That’s a scene that sometimes gets forgotten with New York to the North,
Philadelphia to the West and the Jersey Shore scene down South. How would you describe the state of the North Jersey scene; where are some of the best places to perform at these days and have you found
that fans are interested in coming out to the live shows and being supportive?
Like anything else, you have to be motivated to find original music anywhere! There are artists in Jersey that are as passionate about their craft as there are fans that support it. You are always in
the shadow of NYC, which I think works to bands' advantage. You can cut your teeth, get your sound together in the studio, prepare a kick-ass live show and make your presence felt.
Maxwell’s, Love Sexy, Mexicali Blues, Rodeo Ristra and The Loop are all venues that embrace original music. Go out and support these places. Before they are on K-Rock radio or MTV, they are here!
Have you founds that the bands in your area are supportive of each other? Are there any other bands you’ve played with that have caught your ear, or you feel have potential to break
out of the local circuit?
It’s a crapshoot when it comes to bands supporting each other. My take is if you do your homework as a band and write great songs, have a catchy live show, create press and a buzz, you deserve what you
I’m humbled all the time seeing bands. That’s powerful 'cause you get checked on where you are individually as a musician and as a band. I’ve seen great NJ bands: The Fiends, Darby Jones. Thursday got
signed to a major. The list goes on and on.
Slinker has gotten mentions in the local scene magazines, such as East Coast Rocker and Steppin’ Out, along with some local press. What are the challenges in getting
the word out about the band and your music, and what have you found are the keys to getting coverage for your band and trying to stand out from so many other groups trying to do the same thing?
Be different in the e-mails you send or the calls you make. Why should you have the industry’s time? That’s the $100,000 question, right? Be short and sweet and manage your time. When I’m not writing
songs, I’m e-mailing our webmaster to update our site, or contacting local papers/magazines with press releases, or thanking our fans for coming out to a show. Check out www.starpolish.com for great articles
on how to create your empire!
What are the band’s goals for 2004, and where do you hope that your career will progress from here?
Our goals are to get in the studio and record the latest bunch of tunes, garner some significant local college and commercial radio airplay. Sponsorship would be nice! Management would be ideal 'cause
I can’t keep doing all the work. My focus is to get songs into film, TV, video games and/or commercials. There is money to be made in these areas and it’s a great way for the buying public to hear
[ Website: www.slinker.net ]