“To travel far and wide, make as many friends as possible, to be well-respected in the scene, to help inspire bands to take the power back, and to show you Americans how to rock,” laughs Tommy Gittens, vocalist for The Culprit, about his goals for the group. The band actually hails from Stratford, England, but have another homestead in Dallas Fort Worth, and a home base in New Jersey, where their management has a strong local foothold.
Joining Tommy in the group are Luke Hicks on guitar and vocals, Scotty Garrett on drums, and Russ Carlin on bass. “The band was put together in secrecy to start,” recalls Tommy. “We all knew each other from other outfits and wanted to put this project together anonymously to start with. Until we put on the first show no one knew who the members were and we built the suspense with that in mind. Think of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds initial campaign! We’re showing there is more to Stratford than just Shakespeare.”
Together they have spent most of their time touring the U.S., including appearances the last couple of years at the SXSW Festival. This summer they are including shows in Jackson, NJ, on July 23 at Six Flags, at The Cherrywood Lounge on the 24, at Public Assembly in Brooklyn on the 25, and at The Greenhouse in Manhattan on the 26.
The Culprit is a diverse mix of rock, dance, drum and bass, metal, electronica, and programming. They also introduce multimedia technology to their live domain. “It’s ‘Sevenstring vs. Sinewave’,” says Tommy. “An alt-rock band at heart, colliding head on with modern electro technology and a tip of the hat to the ‘80s synth scene. Catchy as hell. Most would assume we grew up on a staple diet of heavy metal, but more so the route travels through the electro side of the ‘80s. An early upbringing of the Beatles, then classic big rock bands, a large helping of Depeche Mode and Tears For Fears sent us hurtling towards an appreciation of Nine Inch Nails’ ability to make heavy electronica, the mid-‘90s Nu Metal scene got a boot in there too. A meander into the UK dance and drum and bass pot, but a British punk attitude brought us here now. And a lot of film input.”
The group has gotten extensive attention from a remake of a classic ‘80s song. “Well, talking of the ‘80s influence, the album contains a cover of 1983 synth pop tune ‘What Is Love’ by seminal UK artist Howard Jones,” relates Tommy. “This appears to have been very well-received, even by Howard himself. He started tweeting that people should check it out, so that was quite an endorsement! The song ‘Blackball’ is a big live fave with the fans too. Both tracks are available free to download off our site or to hear on our iPhone app.”
One major aspect of the gradual rise of the band through the ranks is their DIY attitude. “All done ourselves,” Tommy says. “We pride ourselves on being the hardest working band in the scene at the moment. We all cover various areas of the product. Audio production, video, graphics, websites, etc. You can get the album direct from our site or from any of the major download sites as we now have international distribution.”
The name of the band harkens back to the secrecy which was a part of the initial launch of the group. “It was based on a series of experiences involving wrongly apportioned blame, hence we are ’The Culprit’,” Tommy explains. “As we said, when the band first came out, the project was promoted anonymously, no-one knew who was in it, the whole theme was secrecy. The first recorded tracks were circulated, but the band name was the only information divulged, and it was the best marketing we’ve ever done. The first show was a packed house!”
Word has spread quickly, however, especially on the hotel circuit. “Pranks are at the heart of a regular day with the Culprit, so if you come on tour with us you gotta have pretty thick skin,” chuckles Tommy. “Our last trip out to Austin for the SXSW festival involved our roadie being gaffer taped naked to a swivel chair and sent down in the lift to reception in a very swanky hotel. Needless to say we are now banished to the cockroach motels for the next tour!” Other road experiences include various disasters, both natural and otherwise. “Planes nearly falling out of the sky, hurricanes, earthquakes, road accidents due to our ‘fearless’ van driver, firearms at point blank, bizarre and often obscene requests from fans, the list goes on—we have the evidence!”