This week, Makin Waves chats with Black Flamingos, reviews and streams Sally Draper, features video briefs of Cook Thugless and this curse., as well as briefs on the Jersey Beat 35th anniversary concert and the latest New Hope Takeover.
If ever a band was Makin Waves, it’s Black Flamingos.
After an East Coast tour in mid-May, guitarist Robbie Butkowski, drummer Vincent Minervino and bassist Declan O’Connell will release their full-length debut, Neon Boneyard, on May 19 as a joint venture between their own Hi-Tide Recordings and initial label, Little Dickman Records. The Asbury Park-based instrumental surf-rock trio then will celebrate their follow-up to a 2015 self-titled LP with an in-store performance at Jack’s Music Shoppe in Red Bank.
Now, I’ve heard of gig swamps, but theirs with Lorenzo “Surfer Joe” Valdambrini of Livorno, Italy, is intercontinental. From June 19 to 27, they’ll tour Italy with Surfer Joe; shows will include his beloved surf music festival, the world’s largest.
In early 2018, Black Flamingos will return the favor by setting Surfer Joe up with shows on the East Coast. But first the trio will trek to Vegas for the Viva East Rockabilly Weekender in mid-July. Upon their return home, they’ll start gearing up for their annual Asbury Park Surf Music Festival, which this year will feature Los Straitjackets, The Fathoms, Aqualads and more on Aug. 26 at Convention Hall and its Anchor’s Bend beach bar. Several other aspects of the festival will be announced soon.
After the surf fest, the trio will tour in October on the West Coast, where instrumental surf music was born in 1960s with the bass as the wave, the drum as the crash of the wave, and the guitar as the surfer who navigates between the two. The next time you can check that out Black Flamingos-style will be April 21 at Roxy & Dukes in Dunellen at the Makin Waves Rock Circus, also with the indie duo Yawn Mower, the power-pop quintet The Paper Jets, and the roadhouse chic five-piece Lowlight. Adding to the circus fun will be the aerial troupe Vertical Fixation and burlesque dancer Vivi Noir, who has been commissioned to choreograph and dance in collaboration with Black Flamingos on Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme.” The Rock Circus kicks off the Makin Waves 30th Anniversary Concert Series, which will continue through spring 2018.
Black Flamingos also play first Fridays at the Anchor’s Bend either inside Asbury Park’s Convention Hall or outside at its north beach bar if the weather cooperates. Their Aloha Fridays are an absolute blast with folks wearing Hawaiian shirts and leis even in the dead of winter. Now that the weather is getting friendlier, the fun really will heat up, while the Flamingos play a couple of sets that mix tasty covers with inspired originals to the visual accompaniment of classic surf clips. Between sets, DJ Hide Tide, aka Minervino and Magdalena O’Connell, his wife and Declan’s sister, spin surf and other instro nuggets.
On behalf of their bassist, who plays a mean solo on The Shadows’ “Stingray,” Butkowski and Minervino had the following chat about all the waves Black Flamingos be makin.
Q: How did each of you get turned onto surf rock?
A: Butkowski: The radio! All three of us grew up listening to the classics! My dad used to listen to CBS FM in the car and I suppose my ﬁrst introduction to surf music would of been “Walk Don’t Run” by The Ventures or “Surﬁn’ Bird” by the Trashmen. I know Vincent grew up listening to the Beach Boys’ records at home. Declan’s parents also have great tastes in music so I’d assume Declan’s vast knowledge of 1960’s music began at home as well.
Q: How and when did the three of you come together?
A: Butkowski: The whole thing was was plotted by Vincent in the spring of 2014. Vincent’s band, The Brigantines, used to play gigs with my other band, Plato Zorba. One day he got in touch with me and wanted to jam some surf music with himself on drums. I had heard him sing and play guitar in The Brigantines, but I had no idea that he was an excellent drummer as well. He told me that he knew a great bass player and we set up a day to jam. The first band practice was the first time I met Declan, and our trio hit it off immediately. The writing process was easy and we banged out three tunes on the spot. Writing with this band has always been super fun and quick!
Minervino: When I heard D play in one of his other bands, I had to get he and Robbie in the same room to see what would happen. It was magical!
Q: Who or what is the surf-rock influence that you most have in common and how did they influence each of you?
A: Butkowski: There are so many great surf and instrumental musicians that have influenced BF, but I think the most important one of all is Dick Dale. You’d probably get the same answer from any surf band. I personally think the world of rock ‘n’ roll owes so much to that man. His innovations span from modern guitar technique to the many developments in Fender guitar equipment. Black Flamingos opened up for him at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park in 2015. I remember watching Vincent and Declan’s faces while Dale was performing. We were all in shock. Here was this guy onstage in his late 70s, still rocking way harder that anybody we’d ever seen. Since then, we have been striving for the same ‘give-’em-hell’ live show.
Q: How has the band grown from the release of the self-titled EP on Little Dickman to releasing the full-length Neon Boneyard LP on May 19 as a joint venture on your own Hi-Tide Recordings?
A: Butkowski: I feel like the songwriting has grown more complex in some ways. Tunes like “Showdown at Lasso Canyon” and “Neon Boneyard” develop a story for the listener to follow. We have also captured more of the aggressive side of surf with tunes like “Flamingo Twist” and “Devil’s Punchbowl.” The production side of record making has improved this time around as well. This album experiments with layering instruments like the harpsichord and vibraslap. Elements like this fill in the sound and give it an authentic spin.
Q: What do you like most about Neon Boneyard and why?
A: Butkowski: ‘Boneyard’ has a natural feel that progresses from song to song. Each vibe may be a little different, but there is a taste of the past that lingers throughout the whole album. It sounds great on vinyl too. Spinning it on your turntable is a sure way to transport back in time to the beaches of California or the Las Vegas strip.
Q: You have so many great events coming up. Let’s get a comment about each one. What do you think of Makin Waves Rock Circus and what are you looking forward to most about it?
A: Butkowski: The Circus is certainly gonna make some waves! The audience should expect to hear great music from a variety of genres at one of New Jersey’s coolest venues! The beer will be affordable and great times are always had at Roxy’s! The staff and entourage are always so friendly and inviting! I am looking forward to playing that stage again and sharing it with the talented Vivi Noir this time as well.
Q: Were you able to hook up with Vivi to perform “The Peter Gunn Theme” with her live?
A: Butkowski: We have been in touch in with her. We all know the tune like the back of our necks! You might even see her dance to some of our originals as well!
Q: Now I have heard of gig swaps in my day, but what you guys have going on with Lorenzo “Surfer Joe” Valdambri in the Northeast next year and Italy in June is intercontinental. How did you hook up with Surfer Joe and what are you looking forward to most about touring two continents with him and his band?
A: Butkowski: I met Lorenzo a few years ago when Plato Zorba was opening up for him at The Brighton Bar. He educated me on his festival, and I was instantly intrigued. I had been playing surf music for only a few years and I had never realized that there was such a hip scene for surf music happening out in Europe! Those cats rock hard too! Since then, I have been diving into the discographies of Surfer Joe, Messer Chups and the Bradipos IV.
A few months ago, Vincent informed me that he had been in touch with Lorenzo as well and that there was possibility that Black Flamingos would get a chance to perform in Italy at The Surfer Joe fest. The level of excitement has been increasing the closer we get to the event. Unfortunately, there were some issues with Lorenzo’s visa and his trip here in May is postponed, but there are definitely plans to get him here within the next year. He is a great guitarist and I can’t wait for the surf music community in the U.S. to finally see his killer live show!
Q: The tour with Surfer Joe includes a headlining spot at his festival in Livorno, what’s been said is the largest surf-rock festival in the world. What are you looking forward to most about that?
A: Butkowski: Like I mentioned before, I am big fan of all the new surf music being released overseas. I already listen to a lot of the bands we are performing with, but I have never seen any of them live. I am eager to meet all of them and do my best to talk shop with them. I am also totally blown away with the fact that we get to play with The 5,6,7,8’s from the movie “Kill Bill”!
Q: Have you ever played Viva East Rockabilly Weekender before and what are you most looking forward to about that?
A: Butkowski: We haven’t played this event yet, but this is another one that I have been following for years and I am so pumped to finally get there and meet all of the artists we are performing with. Plus, we are performing at the event’s pool party so I’d assume there will be a vicious game of sharks and minnows!
Q: To what extent did these opportunities develop for you because of the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival?
A: Butkowski: We’ve been trying our best to get people hip to surf music in Asbury Park for a while now. Vincent and his wife, Magda, more than anyone else have been fueling this resurgence of surf by booking the genre’s very best at venues in Asbury and the tristate area. They have built relationships that have allowed us the opportunities to travel to other areas of the country and world that share our enthusiasm for retro rock ‘n’ roll.
Q: How has the festival grown and helped Black Flamingos grow?
A: Butkowski: Our first gig was opening up the first festival in 2014. The band had only been practicing for three months prior to the festival. Our performance was filled with an energy that seemed to last all day as each surf band entered and left the stage. It was an exciting day getting to watch and meet so many cool surf bands.
As the festival’s continental reach grew, so did ours. We have had the great pleasure of supporting international acts, like Igor and the Red Elvises and Messer Chups, who headlined the fest last year.
Q: What new features can we expect at the festival this year?
A: Minervino: First of all, we could not be more excited to host every single band on this lineup! It was a goal of ours from the beginning to one day host Los Straitjackets. The Fathoms were set to headline year two, and had to cancel last minute, so we are stoked to welcome them finally.
Aqualads are one of our all-time favorites, Great White Caps are reuniting, and The Surfrajettes are sure to be a crowd pleaser!
The stages, sponsors and drinks will be bigger and better. We are also really excited about the vendor lineup. This year will be hard to top!
Q: How is Aloha Fridays building up into a scene of folks who, like us, enjoy wearing Hawaiian shirts even in the dead of winter?
A: Minervino: This is our second year doing Aloha Friday at The Anchor’s Bend. This is the first monthly surf/tiki night in the area, and we are seeing a lot of early interest this season as the weather gets warmer. You can’t help but be in a good mood when you’re wearing an Aloha shirt, and people seem to really connect with sharing a Friday evening among friends over tiki drinks!
Q: Vincent, how do you like working with your wife, Magdalena, on Hi-Tide and why?
Minervino: People always ask me, “How do you have time to do all these projects and still keep a healthy marriage?” Simple. We do it all together. It’s not a matter of finding time for each other outside of our hobbies. Our hobbies involve each other. Works out well!
Q: Are there any other upcoming plans or anything else you would like to discuss?
A: Minervino: We are launching the record with an in-store performance at Jack’s Music in Red Bank on May 21. We’re playing the record start to finish and will have vinyl and CDs to sell. A great family-friendly time to catch some surf music.
Keep an eye out for special tour announcements coming soon. Can’t quite discuss it yet, but let’s just say it is a dream come true. We are also planning on releasing music for Halloween and for the holidays this year.
Sally Draper: Does Too
Central Jersey’s Sally Draper is an energetic punk duo who have released their debut album, “Does Too,” for free. The standout track is the ragged mourn of “Walk in the Woods,” featuring a guest vocal appearance by Grace Phipps, a star of the 2013 Disney film “Teen Beach,” who also graces the LP’s cover. The anti-religious rant “When You Found God, You Lost Yourself” also is interesting.
While their vocals aren’t always in the right place, Sally Draper’s hearts are, having created the series of Bigly Benefit shows, the proceeds of which all go to charities threatened by the Trump administration. The next Bigly Benefit will be April 15 at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn with proceeds going to Meals on Wheels, a food assistance program for struggling senior citizens on a fixed income. Sharing the bill will be CUTTERS, Girlfriend, Polari and Answering Machine.
Sally Draper also can be seen April 22 at the Behr Office in Edison, where they recorded part of Does Too. Dubbed The Last Waltz, the show is a sendoff to California for a friend and will feature reunions of several acts also friends of the duo, which apparently plays out as a four-piece.
The jazz-adelic hip-hop outfit Cook Thugless will celebrate the release of their third studio LP, “Money,” on April 14 at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. The midnight show also will feature Red Giant and Danny De La Vie. The album doesn’t official drop until April 20, which is when it will be reviewed here, but will be available for sale at the show. In the meantime, enjoy the stream above of the band’s latest video for “New Release,” one of several clips directed and by co-frontman Jean-Louis Droulers.
The seminal “Jersey Beat” will celebrate 35 years of exceptional music coverage on April 14 at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. The celebration will feature performances by some of publisher-editor-writer Jim Testa’s favorite acts, including Richard Barone of The Bongos, Glenn Morrow of Cry for Help and Bar/None Records, Mod Fun, Tammy Faye Starlight, members of Gutbank and Sexpod, Paul Richard of Adrenalin OD, Tris McCall and more. Proceeds from will be donated to The Project Matters, a terrific New Jersey charity that supports and mentors young musicians. “I couldn’t think of anything that would better fit Jersey Beat’s mission over all these years,” Testa said on Facebook.
The next New Hope Takeover by Red Pants Productions will be a co-promotion with “The Great Albums Podcast.” Performing on April 15 at John & Peter’s will be The Paper Jets, Lowlight, Jesse Elliot & the Falconaires, The Vaughns and Brian Rothenbeck.
After spending a few years making a name for themselves by performing and touring in the eastern U.S. and releasing three EPs (most recently 2016’s Emergence), fast-rising New Jersey metalcore five-piece this curse. found it was time for rebirth and a fresh name. Formerly called The Blessing of This Curse, the band saw room for improvement and development in sound and style and plan to unveil their full progression on their upcoming full-length album. The new and improved this curse. can be seen and heard above in the new video for the “Emergence” track “Quicksand, as well as on April 13 at Dingbatz in Clifton.
Bob Makin is the reporter for mycentraljersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of but still a contributor to The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988.