Electo-Funkadelic-Hip-Rock. Ok, I can get into that! River Vale, NJ’s Fikus is the official host band for all of the official Catskill Chill pre-parties for 2012, and that’s no short order to fill, so expect a wild time if you get to check them out. The 5 piece’s meshing of acoustic and electronic instrumentation in their songs exemplifies a strong desire to forge a bond between the two mediums, and their performances take fans on a wild ride full of energy and sonic bursts.
Together since 2008, Fikus is a great act if you are a fan of bands like Dopapod, Umphry’s McGee, and Conspirator, who they’ll be sharing a stage with in Hancock, NY from September 7-9th. Currently performing all over NYC and NJ in preparation for the Chill, Fikus is doing whatever they can to get their style out to the crowds.
For you who need proof, if you’d like a taste test before you commit to having fun, you can grab a copy of their “Plus +” release right now for FREE at their website, so go get yourself some new tunes and see what all the rage is about. I spoke with bass player Travis Paparoski to discuss their appearance at the Chill, the NJ music scene, and future plans for the group.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! How are you guys doing? If you could, please introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone and what does everyone play?
T- Thanks for chatting with us!
Jon Schmarak – Keys/Horns/ Vocals
Pete Kozak – Percussion/Vocals
Steve Malone – Guitar/Vocals
Kito Bovenschulte – Drums/Vocals
Travis Paparoski – Bass/ Vocals
G- So you guys got together in 2008… How did you all meet up and when did you guys play your first show?
T- Pete and Steve met each other in Marching Band in high school. At the time, Steve played snare drum and Pete approached him about playing drums in a band with his friend Travis. They began jamming with some other musicians and happened to link up with Jon through mutual friends. We began FiKus with a different drummer and things did not really work out. Kito happened to be a fan of ours and came to a bunch of our shows because he was friends with Pete’s brother. One day, he sat in on a practice and has yet to leave. Our first show together was at this bar called Underground in Philadelphia when Kito still had to have his parents take him into bars.
G- Haha nice! I was the underage drummer for a few years myself! So, FiKus is the official pre-party band for the Catskill Chill this year! Tell us a bit about the shows and venues you will be playing prior to the festival. You guys pumped to be performing the Chill this year?!
T- Yes we are so excited for this residency! The first week was unreal. We had DVS*, DJ Logic, and Steve Molitz and Ben Combe from Particle in the house. All great guys and killer musicians… We can’t wait for the next four weeks we have left.
This summer has treated us well. A great highlight for us was to play at Camp Bisco this year. It was a great time and we had a good turn out, so it couldn’t have gone better. We held our first headlining boat cruise along the Hudson River that we hope can be a regular occurrence. It was just a ridiculous floating party with all our friends and some of our favorite DJs, Speakerbot and Horizon Wireless. We are definitely excited to be back at the Catskill Chill this year. Camp Minglewood is one of the best festival sites that we have been to from an artist and fan perspective.
G- Yea I’m told the camp grounds are a great spot, and I can’t wait to see all the artists performing this year. Should be a blast! And I dig the boat cruise thing happening right about now, too. I hope you guys can keep that going!
Anyways, FiKus incorporates acoustic instruments and electronics into your recordings and live shows, and how has that enabled you to expand your creative horizons? Can you tell us a bit about your tunes?
T- It basically allows us to do just that. We have this great pallette of sounds at our disposal at all times. It gives us a chance to add a human element to the electronic side of things. We pride ourselves in touching a wide variety of genres and changing styles from tune to tune…our equipment really allows us to do this.
G- Right on. So, has Fikus been able to get on the road a lot since your inception? How extensive has your touring schedule been to date? What can you tell us about the touring experience and being on the road with each other? How do you spend your time when you aren’t onstage to keep yourself sane?
T- We have been really expanding our reach lately since we just got a van. We’ve been as far north as Buffalo, NY and as far south as Baltimore, MD. We are looking to expand our reach. We are always having a good time together on stage and off stage. There aren’t big egos in the band so we’re all easy to get along with.
G- That definitely helps 🙂 What should your fans, both old and new, expect from FiKus performances when you guys hit the stage? Should we expect any new material or special appearances this year at Catskill Chill, and what should some of the first time listeners expect?
T- First time listeners should expect a high energy, dance till you drop rock show. More familiar listeners should expect new material and revamped older material. We’re excited to show everyone what we have been working on. Regarding the Chill….let’s just say if you’re wandering around the campsite just before sunrise looking to dance ~~~ ask the Chillfam about the cabin jam.
G- Cabin Jam at sunrise, eh? I’ll make sure to keep an eye out/open for it if I make it that long.
Who do you look to for inspiration when writing and performing songs with FiKus? Who do you typically like to listen to, and are there any acts you think we should know about?
T- Inspiration always comes to us from many different places, experiences and artists. The five of us have an eclectic background. You may find us listening to Peter Brotzmann, Explosions in the Sky, Rush, Radiohead, Herbie Hancock, Lettuce, Tycho, Ke$ha and Wilco, among many others.
G- Ke$ha and Wilco in the same breath… That’s something I didn’t quite expect to hear, but let’s run with it. With influences as broad as that, can you tell us about the craziest or most memorable show that FiKus has played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
T- It’s tough to pick just one. Our boat cruise this past June was just great. We had all our friends all together on board this boat going around the Statue of Liberty while getting rowdy and just having a great time. Also last week at Sullivan Hall for the first week of the residency was an amazing time. We had Steve Molitz and DVS* sit in with us and we had a great jam. Later that night we all got on stage and played with DJ Logic, DVS*, Steve Molitz and Ben Combe for the headlining jam. Everything clicked and the crowd was feeling it and they could tell we all were too. We can’t wait to see what happens next week. You got to love the jams when you meet someone for the first time just as they get on stage and play with your band.
G- For sure, especially if there is a good chemistry and attitude bouncing off the players. I hope to see some of that at the Chill!
To finish up, there are a lot of kids out there who have the rock star dream and want to make it in music and on the road, but most do not realize how difficult it is to break through and forge an audience of fans. To wrap up today, could you give some of the young, up and coming artists some advice on the music industry, being in a band, and touring? What do you think is most important to remember if you want to be a full time musician?
T- I think the best advice for new artists is that you should just play all the time. Take every show at the beginning and keep going. Even when it seems bleak, just keep pushing it and playing and also have a lot of fun. If you’re not in it to make music and have fun, you have picked the wrong career. We all have day jobs still; we rush around to make our lives work, the best part of our day is when down beat hits. We all truly care about the music and fans, and that’s all that matters.