I have a particular fondness for New Jersey because I lived there for five years while I attended college at Rutgers. Not even the stench of industry or the obnoxious presence of Yankees and (especially) Giants fans could stop my heart from keeping a special little corner for the Dirty. One of the things I love most about New Jersey is its unfailing ability to churn out quality music.
Recently I was contacted by Brandon Broderick of the New Jersey-based band, Cotton. The band had heard of my column through Hunter & Wolfe, the first band to be featured here, and also from New Jersey. Unfortunately we were unable to meet in person to conduct our interview, mostly because Hurricane Sandy just wouldn’t allow it. But we managed to pull off a really excellent exchange via email.
The four-piece rock band from Jersey got their official start while in college at Rutgers University, but they have all known each other since high school. After making the rounds through New Brunswick, New Jersey’s infamous basement scene (known most notably for that good old Jersey punk) they hit the bar and small venue circuits, where they have begun to build up a loyal fan base.
Their most recent album, In the Basement, is a great representation of their sound. As the band states so eloquently in their interview, they thrive on the live the performance and they have gigs all the time. If you like what you hear of them here (and I certainly hope you do!), then go see them perform!
And now, as always, and with great Scarlet Knight pride, I give you, dear readers, the band Cotton. Enjoy.
Who are the members of your band? What do each of you play?
Members of the band: 4 piece.
Brandon Broderick – singer/songwriter and guitar player, lead vocalist
Leo Kalik – lead guitar, backing vocals
Andrew Saunders – Drums, songwriter
John Aponte – Bass
How do you guys know each other?
Brandon Broderick (Vocals/Guitar), Leo Kalik (Lead Guitar/Vocals) and John Aponte (Bass) all grew up in the same hometown of Hightstown, NJ. We all went to Hightstown High School together. Brandon entered Rutgers University in 2007 where we auditioned drummers by looking up their credentials on Facebook. Andrew Saunders (Drums), then a Rutgers undergrad, came to an audition one day, and we really liked his style. He ended up joining and has been with us ever since. So we’re all very close friends. Some of us for years.
How did the band get its start?
The band started out as an Acoustic duo in 2005 with Brandon Broderick and former member Chris Moran. Originally, the project never intended to become anything serious, although with seasoned performing and hard work, the duo decided to take it more seriously and actually start a full band. So in 2007, a band was formed with the duo and also included former keyboard player Eitan Levine, former bass player Bill Dripps and multiple different drummers. The band went through 3 drummers before finding Andrew Saunders in the Fall of 2008. Soon after Saunders’ inception into Cotton, old highschool friend Leo Kalik was brought into the band to add another dimension–a good lead guitarist.
In the summer of 2009, Bill Dripps left the band and was replaced by old high school friend John Aponte who had spent the last year in California. Once he moved back, we knew we wanted him in the band. The band continued like that until Summer of 2010 when Chris Moran decided to leave the group. Cotton decided to not replace him, and so the band continued as a 5 piece. After working for a year straight on the band’s first studio album, “In The Basement”, Eitan Levine decided to also leave in the group in August of 2011. Since then, the band has remained a four piece and plans to continue to remain that way for good. So Cotton’s current members consist of founder Brandon Broderick (Guitar/Vocals), Leo Kalik (Lead Guitar/Vocals), John Aponte (Bass) and Andrew Saunders (Drums).
Did you guys also emerge from the New Brunswick basement scene? Did you go to Rutgers?
Cotton did come out of the New Brunswick music scene, but not quite from the basements. Although we’ve played our fair share of basement shows, we never really seemed to catch onto that audience. We spent a lot of time playing the bar circuit like Old Bay and others in the area as well as Rutgers events. However, our most recent material is more driving and in your face rock, so we’re trying to get back into the basements and give them another shot.
What kind of background do each of you have in music?
Every member is very skilled in music and all of us have had lots of experience performing in groups before. Brandon Broderick was a drummer for ten years before picking up guitar and vocals. He performed in Jazz Band in High School and was a drummer and manager of his high school rock band. Broderick was also a music major at Rutgers University as well as a seasoned songwriter and acoustic performer. Andrew Saunders grew up in Singapore playing in different groups and then played in a death metal band in Florida, as well as some other projects before joining Cotton. He was a music minor at Rutgers also. John Aponte played in a ska band when he lived in California and also played in school jazz band. Leo Kalik was in several groups throughout his life including death metal groups. He avidly practices all the time and is really knowledgeable about guitar gear—pedals, amps, guitars and everything else.
THE SOUND: Influences and Genre.
Let’s talk influences: First, does the band collectively draw any influence from other musicians/bands/albums? If so, who?
There is no one band or artist/album that our entire band draws influence from directly. In fact, all of us listen to very different music from each other for the most part, although we do agree on some artists. We all like Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, RHCP, Rolling Stones, but who doesn’t? We all love music and we all appreciate lots of different genres, but there’s no one band we all cling to as a whole.
If each of you had to name only 3 artists/bands that have influenced you the most on an individual level, who would they be?
While it’s hard to name only three artists, we’ve done our best.
Brandon: Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Tom Waits.
Andrew: Incubus, Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters.
John: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, Rodrigo Y Gabriela.
Leo: Steve Vai, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Johnson.
How would you classify your sound in terms of genre? Would you use genre classifications to describe your sound?
We are rock band that combines elements of Progressive, Classic and Alternative rock into a listenable and accessible pop format. Sounds like a bunch of jargon, and we usually dislike classifying ourselves. However, we realize that it is essential for people to be able to know what to expect. And also it’s really the only real way to describe your music to someone honestly. To be more simple, we are a rock band with many influences and sometimes our songs can cross genre lines–some songs have elements of latin, reggae, jazz, progressive, folk but at the end of the day it’s definitely rock music.
WHAT’S COMING UP.
Do you have any upcoming shows? If so, when and where?
Yes, we have tons of upcoming shows and we’re always touring. It’s been a big part of our band since we started. We always stressed playing as often as we can and so we always try to have tons of dates booked. Rather than listing all of them, you can check out where we are playing at our website www.cottonband.com on the “Tour Dates” page. We also have the next few upcoming ones listed on the homepage. Right now, we’re playing mainly in NJ and PA with a focus on Eastern PA, Princeton, New Brunswick, North Jersey (Hoboken, Jersey City, NYC) and Asbury Park.
You had said in earlier correspondence that you have about 17 songs ready to go, but aren’t in a hurry to release a whole new album, that the EP and singles route has become a more popular way of putting out music. Do you intend to release any of your new material any time soon? If so, when?
Yes, we are intending to release new material very shortly. The current plan is that we are going to put out a new single roughly every 6 weeks. We are hoping that we can put out the first single by beginning of February. Once we have released about 11 or 12 of these singles, we will put them out altogether on an album. So we are planning on releasing a second album, but promoting it one song at a time.
The industry is certainly in a single format right now, with people more interested in adding that one particular song to their Spotify playlists or iPod, rather than an entire album. I have a blog I also write about my experience with the music industry found at www.bbrods.tumblr.com.
Although bands are putting out EPs we still want to stand out more from other bands, and we think going this route of releasing singles will help us do that. It gives us a chance to promote one song at a time and keep our focus much simpler. If people listen and like one particular song, they’ll be more willing to come check out the rest of our stuff. To me it seems much easier and less time consuming for someone to listen to one song rather than trying to shove an album in their face.
EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES.
Can you talk about experiences you’ve had playing live? For example, describe a show you played that went extremely well; describe a show you played that didn’t go so well/go as planned.
So many experiences to tell. We’ve had a bunch of shows go really well, a few in particular that come to mind. One show was the June 17 2011 show at The Saint in Asbury Park. I (Brandon) pitched the whole show idea to Scott Stamper at the Saint and billed it myself. We released our first studio single ever “Now And Then” at the show and we promoted the hell out of it. All of our friends came out and really supported us. I (Brandon) felt very accomplished as a band and manager to be able to put the whole show together from scratch and make it a great night.
Too many awesome shows to write about. We’ve had great times at The Old Bay in New Brunswick where the place was so packed you couldn’t walk. We also just came off one of our most fun shows at The Ivy Inn In Princeton, NJ…place was crowded, people were going nuts and it was our drummer (Andrew Saunders) birthday party. Good times. I might be tempted to say that the Ivy Inn show was my favorite show I’ve ever played.
On the flip side, there have been also TONS of terrible performances. Not just shows where we thought we played badly, but shows where nothing seemed to go our way. One time we played at The Blockley Pourhouse in Philly and during our first song, right when we were about to kick into the heavy part– the power to the entire venue went out. Power was out for close to an hour. Then our set got cut short and we had to keep the energy high. Awkward performance to say the least. That’s something you don’t really plan for when you’re thinking about worst case scenarios. Out of all the things we practice to avoid, that’s something that is just plain bad luck.
Do all of you do music full-time, or do you work otherwise? If you do work otherwise, then could you talk a little bit about the challenges of working and maintaining a music project? What will it take for music to be a sustainable source of income? What sort of obstacles does the band face in making music into a viable income?
Right now Brandon is the only one in the band doing music full time. He is a guitar teacher and full time performer. The other members all have daytime jobs. It’s hard to keep everyone motivated and on task when music offers so much less of an income than working a normal job. However we all love music enough to continue.
The biggest challenge is scheduling. Booking consistent gigs and practices are difficult when everyone has different work schedules–not to mention each member in our band has a slightly different schedule every week. It’s kind of a catch 22. We need to play as often as we can to get our music and name out there, but at the same time the members need to make enough money to live. So it’s not easy. Luckily, we can also play good cover songs in addition to our original material. We’ve been very lucky to get consistently paying gigs at many venues which helps us book more often than the typical band can.
To make music a viable income in this day and age comes down to touring. The amount of people that still buy and pay for music on a CD or digital download I believe will continue to decrease. There’s a big debate over whether people view music as something of value and worth money. It’s so easy to stream or get access to recordings for free these days that making money on it is difficult.
However, most people still value the experience of a live performance and are willing to pay for that. That’s what we need to focus on. If our live show is great, unique and different we can make a sustaining career off of touring and selling merchandise. Artists like Phish, Dave Matthews, Wilco, Pretty Lights are all examples of artists who do this very well. Even though some of them make millions off of album sales, they don’t even need them to survive. Pretty Lights gives all his music away for free. They make plenty touring and selling merchandise. So if we can play often and get people to come out to see us and support us, we can make this a viable career. It’s great if our recordings are awesome and people want to pay for them. I hope people will. But, in the long run we hope the recordings will spark people’s interest and get them to come see us live, because that is where we are at our best.
**If you know a band you think would be great for this column, then send their music to Matia Guardabascio at firstname.lastname@example.org.**
Written by Matia A. Guardabascio.↓
Matia Guardabascio is a proud citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in both English and French Literature. As the daughter of a musician and a school teacher, Matia grew up in a musical household with parents who made a concerted effort to instill in her the value and importance of the arts. She is a music enthusiast, an avid reader, a writer of prose and poetry, a traveler, and an enthusiastic imbiber of red wine. The piano is her favorite instrument, followed by the drums, and she loves Impressionist artwork, especially because she doesn’t need to wear her glasses to see what’s going on. That’s right, the glasses are not for show. She wears tri-focals because she reads too much, or as her good friends might say, she actually 80-years-old.