Reaping The Rewards Of The Cover Scene

There's no mistaking that cover bands dominate the New Jersey music scene. A band that plays others' music proficiently stands a better chance of playing out on a regular basis and being compensated for its efforts.

Bands like Big Orange Cone, the Nerds, Dog Voices and the Benjamins continue to dominate, while a newer crop like Big Bang Baby and Daddy Pop have carved their own niches in the last year or so.

The success of these bands is no fluke. Any successful cover band must devote time and effort into rehearsing, traveling to separate regions of NJ and surrounding states, promoting, and keeping a standing relationship with fans. If a band keeps its focus on this hard work, many will find the actual playing part to be rewarding.

Mugshot are musicians who have persisted through the competitive cover scene, piecing itself together into one unit that keeps its eye on the many aspects needed to keep a cover band alive.

Chorus and Verse recently asked the band for its story and how it has managed to keep busy over the last few years playing the music of bands including Godsmack, Rick Springfield, Journey, the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World.

How and when did the band form? What were the circumstances behind it?

Mike Saraco (guitar): Mugshot was born from a band called Mr. Sparkle, which disbanded in November of 2000. We played our first show in April of 2001, and the current lineup of the band has been together for six months. Mugshot was gradually pieced together with musicians who not only had chops, but also work and play as a unit.

Certain things fell into place where key roles were filled over time. The band is now comprised of five friends. That friendship will outlast the band and makes us a stronger family.

Did any other bands or the success of the cover scene in NJ play a role in this?

All the members of the band are pretty much veterans of the cover scene, playing in various bands over the years. Professional experience ranges from three to 15 years. Of course, the success of many other cover bands added to the excitement of playing and being a part of the music circuit.

What was your goal as a band when you first started?

Our goal was to be different. Not necessarily with a shtick or gimmick, but to get the utmost out of our musicianship. We have a combined 80 years of playing our instruments and everyone in the band loves to perform.

How have your goals changed and have your original ones been met? What has been the key to meeting those goals?

We are constantly challenging each other. There are no outrageous egos in the band and we are all good friends. Constructive criticism is taken as just that because we all know the goal is to be unique and musically tight.

Our goal for 2003 is to continue what we are doing and building on it to get to the next level on the cover scene.

What type of music do you play? Which songs do you like to play the most?

Our style can go from party rock to all out nu-metal. We'll do the rock radio standards, but we also like to take older, fun songs and make them our own by doing them a little differently.

We try to tailor our music to the audience because giving them a good time is the job at hand.

We never want people to walk away from our shows feeling they were gypped out of their money and feeling like they should have gone to see someone else.

How does playing out on a regular basis keep your chops up?

It's very important. Lulls in the schedule build rust. Everyone has their own practice routine and everyone is expected to always be on their game. For this band, the more we play, the better we get.

How important is practicing to a cover band?

Practicing is very important to us. At every rehearsal, we not only work on new tunes, but we also review old stuff to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If there is a song we haven't done in months, we'll run through it as a refresher even though it might not get played for another few months.

How important are your fans and how do they play a role in the music you decide to play and the actual performance of it?

The people who come to see us regularly are the best! They are just as devoted to the band as we are, which flatters us all. We appreciate their time and they make us work harder to keep things interesting.

They have become friends whom we always listen to for suggestions. There is no doubt that a band feeds off the energy coming from the crowd and if we finish the night completely exhausted, the crowd was certainly pushing us along.

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Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.