Band Name: Bongo Surf
Genre: Traditional Surf / Instrumental
Geographical Area: New Jersey / NYC
Interview with: Chris Poppe by email on 4/1/2014
Last Interview date: September 2007
Band formed: 1996
NESMA member since: 2007
1. What is the current line-up of your band?
Dane Johnson – Lead guitar
Chris Sokolewicz – Guitar
Mark Stellmach – Percussion
Chris Edelson – Drums
Chris Poppe - Bass
2. Has your line-up changed since your last interview? If so, how?
Yes. Original lead guitarist Tom Virzi had to drop out in 2008 to pursue his Ph.D. and then Dave moved to Hawaii in 2012 (he’s livin’ the dream!)
2a. If so, what process did you use to deal with the change in the line-up (ex. get a replacement, move to a smaller band, etc.)?
Dave had been jamming with Dane for awhile and convinced him to join us as our new lead guitarist. When Dave left Chris E. brought us his friend Chris S. who has fit right in. We’re very fortunate to have these guys on board.
2b. Did the change in line-up affect your sound or the or the direction the band was moving in?
We definitely wanted to continue as a five piece. The sound is pretty much the same, maybe a little more raucous. Tom was a great lead player, but Dane really takes things to a whole other level. His playing will make your head spin.
3. Since your last interview has your music taken on new or different directions? If so, how?
We’re still playing all the same classic tunes along with some great new ones. Hopefully we’ll get some more originals worked out.
4. What NESMA bands have you had an opportunity to perform with, or share a show with?
Mister Neutron, The Octomen, TarantinosNYC, The Supertones, The Clams, 9th Wave, The Chillers, Coffin Daggers, Tsunami of Sound, Thee Icepicks, Strange But Surf, Howlin’ Thurstons, El Muchacho, Commercial Interruption, Hang Daddy, Blue Wave Theory, Sea Devils.
5. What bands of any genre have you played with or networked with?
We usually play with other surf bands, but have also booked gigs with others like the Lonesome Prairie Dogs (rockabilly/country), The Stuntcocks (punk/pop), The Milwaukees (rock), The Swaii Boys (tropical), Quincy Mumford (rock/soul).
6. What is the break down of cover vs. original material in your live shows and/or recordings? Has this changed since your last interview? If so, how?
We do mostly covers, though we just started to work out some originals. We still really love playing all the classic surf and instrumental covers from the 60’s. That’s what brought us together.
7. What recording have you done since your last interview?
Nothing other than a handful of tunes for demo/promo purposes. Maybe we’ll make that a goal for the coming year.
8. Where does your band typically practice?
Dane has a rehearsal space in Jersey City, NJ.
9. What does your band typically wear for a performance?
Clothes usually...yeah clothes.
10. Do you ever have additional performers on stage with you?
Does Disco Mike count? (ed. note - yes!)
11. How do you continue to get gigs?
We are pretty lazy when it comes to looking for gigs. Luckily Unsteady Freddie continues to book us for his Shindig Shows. Those are always a blast. But believe it or not, most of the other recent shows we booked were because promoters or other bands contacted us, not the other way around.
12. Approximately how often do you perform out?
Right now only about once every other month or so. Maybe a little more in the summer.
13. What have you found to be the single most effective promotional tool you’ve used to further your band’s musical path?
Originally, Myspace was a great way to connect with other surf bands in the area, but that is pretty much dead now. So I guess Facebook is the way to go, though we are not as active on there as we could be.
14. What’s the most interesting performance experience you’ve had since your last interview?
We got to play with Carlos Alomar (David Bowie’s former long time guitarist) when he filled in for Tom for a couple gigs. That was bananas.
15. What have you gotten out of being a NESMA member so far?
We continue to meet other great NESMA bands and have been invited to share gigs with the Supertones (in Puerto Rico!), TarantinosNYC, and Bill Moffat from the Fin-Dicators – they’ve all been great to us. And we are honored to be invited by new NESMA members The Brigantines to join them for a gig in Asbury Park his summer.