Feature for May 2017
Band Name: Men in Gray Suits
Genre: Classic Instrumental Surf Rock
Geographical Area: Montreal Quebec and eastern Canada
Interview with: Jim Johnson by email on 5/1/17
Band Formed in 2012
NESMA member since 2014
1. What is the current line-up of your band?
Jim Johnson - lead/rhythm guitar
Mick Decosse - lead/rhythm guitar
Pat Vojtech – drums
Martin Oligny – bass
Josh Furhman - saxophone
2. How and when did you get started with your band?
Pat: It started in late 2012 when I realized the surf scene in MTL had dried up. There were a lot of good bands here in the 90s and early 00s but they all just disappeared. Being a fan of surf I always tended to incorporate some in my drumming style anyway so I figured why not put something together. Mick and Josh were friends of mine and once they were on board, we put out an ad on Craigslist and found Jim (who had coincidentally also put an ad on Craigslist looking for surf musicians) and Martin. We are incredibly happy to have found them, as they have become some of our best friends in life!
What bands or music have influenced you most?
4. What is the break down of cover vs. original material in your live shows and/or recordings?
At the beginning, like many bands, we were strictly a cover band. Over the past year or so, we've pushed towards original material (our ultimate goal) which now accounts for about 50% of what we play live.
What recording have you done?
We recently went into the studio and recorded our first all-original album, which will be coming out this summer.
6. What kind of gear do you use?
Guitars: Fender Stratocaster/Jazzmaster / DiPinto Galaixe IV
Amps: Silverface Fender Twin Reverb / Fender Bassman / Fender Reverb Tanks
Bass: Fender Jazz Bass/ Fender rumble 500 V3 bass amp /Ampeg Cab 410HLF & Ampeg Head B500DR
Drums: 1964 Slingerland “Stageband” 4 piece including a 1961 Slingerland “Hollywood ace” snare.
7. What is your band’s favorite food/beverage?
Beer, Tiki cocktails, pizza, pulled pork, steak, poutine, Piri-Piri chicken.
8. How do you get gigs?
For the most part, we get in touch with the bookers of bars/pubs/clubs ourselves. Every now and then, a promoter will contact us for vintage car shows or festivals, etc.
What are the difficulties you
find playing your kind of music in your area?
The biggest difficulties in our area is the small surf scene. When there aren't a lot of people into the music you play, it's hard to draw a crowd. Friends that bring friends usually account for the biggest numbers at our shows. The biggest growth to our fan base has been attributed to playing gigs outside of Montreal. There are a few more surf bands that have sprung up in the last few years, but mostly we put together shows with rockabilly, psychobilly, and punk bands. Effectively promoting helps out a lot as well to bring people out.
10. What positive attributes does your band have that sets you apart from other bands (of any genre)?
We have a purist approach when it comes to surf: when choosing covers, we try to find obscure tunes and even if the version we find is not the original, we do our best to make it as close as possible. We take the same approach when composing: we let the influence of classic surf guide us in keeping true to the style.
What have you found to be the
single most effective promotional tool you’ve used to further your band’s
Facebook has been the most effective way for us to advertise, promote and grow our band's audience. Playing out-of-town gigs has helped grow our audience tremendously as well.
12. What’s the most interesting performance experience you’ve had?
Probably the most interesting performance was when we played the Ukrainian festival here in Montreal. It’s a large annual 3 day event outdoors in a park. We were the only non-Ukrainian band invited to play and were supposed to start at 8pm on a Sunday but the organizers only paid the sound crew until 8pm, so they wanted to go home. On top of that, many people were waiting for the headlining act that were scheduled to play after us. After some delays and technical difficulties, the MC introduced us to the crowd about 5 times. Then we played for about 30 minutes before they kicked us off the stage. We played well and many people including kids were digging it, but the headliners had to go on despite the disgruntled sound techs. It was surreal to say the least!
13. What do you hope to get out of being a NESMA member?
We hope to get to know more like-minded surf musicians who see the importance of networking and keeping the scene alive no matter where you are or play.
14. Anything else?
We would just like to thanks NESMA for adding us to the group. A big shout out to 9th Wave, The Primitive Finks, The Coffin Daggers, and The Montreal and Toronto surf scene! Surf music lives on and we are proud to be a part of it!