Interview with Lou Montesano of Status Green: The Underdogs

Those who pay even the slightest bit of attention to the Central Jersey scene know Status Green isn’t some secret Homeland Security codeword; it’s one of the area’s hardest working acts. A quartet that calls Asbury Park their home, the group has graced stages across the state and the country—even sharing one with Christian rock behemoths Creed (winning a SonicBids contest for the slot) and securing side stage appearances on bills with Nickelback and blink-182—but thus far, wider acceptance has eluded them.

Until now. Hopefully.

It’s a tough scene out there, and it gets more difficult to stand out in the sea of upcoming bands every day. But the men of Status Green, Lou Montesano, Chris Marino, Mike Montalto and Russell Tolas, have scored punches in the music world even after receiving blows that could knock out any great Jersey hope. Their stick-to-itiveness and belief in their work have made them a fixture.

Oh, and their really catchy songs, excellent stage presence and naturally entertaining personalities. Those have all helped.

Montesano checked in with us, and before the conversation wandered off to video games (because we’re grown-ups, and we can talk about video games if we want), we took some time to talk about their upcoming LP Cheap Sunglasses, tour routing, and the stiff upper lip needed to get your music out there.

You had originally planned to be on tour at this time?

We were supposed to be on tour—we had a show in Philly the day before our record release, then we had the record release, then the next day we were supposed to be in Baltimore. We had a whole tour lined up. Then we got involved with this contest called Break ‘N Through. It was a show that was affiliated with VH1 Save The Music, and it’s basically a contest with all different genres of music. You compete, and the ultimate prize is to grab a musical guest slot on a late night show.

So, we made the finals, and they said March 5 is going to be the final, and it’s going to be at Radio City. We tell our manager and she changes our whole tour because we were supposed to be on the road then. We had to come back up to New York for that. Then the Break ‘N Through people tell us, ‘No, that’s not happening, it’s in late April.’ (laughs) Droppin’ bombs on me, man.

It’s not such a bad thing. You made the finals. You guys have a knack for winning contests.

(laughs) I know. That’s why we said, ‘Whatever it does to this tour, we have to do this contest.’ If we can get a musical guest spot on a late night show, that could really do some serious things for us. Who knows who’s watching? People might be interested working with the band.

Have you done a national tour so far?

Yes. We’ve done one national tour before. This would basically be our first well-routed, well-thought out national tour (laughs). We went across the country after we did our last album, and it was hit-or-miss. Playing for no money in front of no people at times. So this would be our first national tour so far. All colleges, all universities, all paying gigs. This is how we’d much rather do it. Our last tour, we came up $4,000 in debt, just trying to promote ourselves. It was a nightmare (laughs).

It was fun though, don’t get me wrong. We had some good stories. We played SXSW. All kinds of crazy stuff happened. We broke down, got stuck in Amarillo for three days. It was a typical On The Road, like Jack Kerouac wrote our tour last time we went on the road. It was a mess.

Typical. Everything goes wrong.

Yeah, suffering (laughs). The suffering is good because it’s inspiring, but I hope there’s a little less suffering this time. But I know this time around we have 32 schools confirmed from here to California. It should work out just fine.

Are you done with the record yet?

I am done with the record. The record is going to be done being mastered tomorrow. We are so excited. I’ve been working my ass off. I’ve been in the studio, between 20 and 30 hours a week, just [doing] final tweaks. I’m so relieved. It’s a really good record. It’s gonna be awesome.

We actually put a few songs that we’ve previously released as an EP on, songs like ‘Fire Bomb’ and ‘Heaven I Think.’ I never really released them the way I wanted to, I always felt those songs were good enough; they should get their due cut and get released properly at a big CD release party. Put on a record, instead of some crappy EP that I made on my computer. We remastered those tracks, so we’ve got five or six tracks that haven’t been released on anything official, and then we’ve got seven new ones that came out really cool.

It seems that there’s a little more of a new wave-y pop aspect that you’re emphasizing, but you guys have always been a little all over the map.

It is all over the map. There’s the old guitar rock; some songs have a classic feel, some songs have an almost like a shoegaze quality, I don’t know. I try to stay in one direction, to try to make an album seem cohesive when I write it, but it never ever happens that way. I write a song and I say, ‘Okay, I like this one, let’s just go with this.’ I usually throw staying cohesive out the window pretty early on (laughs).

We go through a lot of songs that are short-lived, but the ones that make it to the record are pretty cool. They’re well-received at our shows. I’m confident in the stuff that we put on the record.

‘Denver After Dawn’ I get a real Cardigans feel out of.

Yeah, so did I. That’s why I wrote that part (laughs). I swear, I based it right off of ‘Lovefool.’ We started playing the song, when we recorded it, we were getting guitar sounds, and I said, ‘You know what, let’s go for that Cardigans sound.’ That’s such an infectious groove. Just that guitar sound. They actually double it with an organ, but we just stayed just with the guitar, but it does its job, you get that feel. Hey, that song sold how many millions of records, maybe people will like my song too (laughs).

After you won that contest to open for Creed, or opening for blink-182, have you tried to get on a support tour for anything large? Has that just not panned out?

I’ve tried everything. We’ve reached out to agents. I do everything I can on a regular basis to try to really get to the next level, try to get where we can be on the road. Whatever we can do. I don’t know what it is; I can’t get through to anyone. No one wants to hear it. If you don’t have a huge management company, if you don’t have a record deal, if you don’t have an agent, they don’t want to talk to you. That’s kind of the vibe I got. I guess you can’t blame them. There are a lot of people with bands out there.

But we’re doing big things as an unsigned band, just getting on these shows. I don’t think an unsigned band has opened up for a major act at the Arts Center before, at least from around here, so it makes you proud to say that you’re doing stuff, but at the same time, it’s frustrating, because it’s like, ‘What do I have to do to get someone’s attention?’ We’re proving ourselves on big stages; the crowd likes it. People at a Creed show liked our music, and it’s like, ‘God.’ That’s kind of a stretch man, because we’re nothing like Creed. The music does transcend to a variety of people.

The one person who did see that was Kevin Lyman from the Warped Tour. We played the Warped Tour, and he heard us playing. He was going back to a meeting, canceled the meeting and said, ‘I’m going to check this band out,’ after he heard us playing and saw our whole set. He came up on stage, introduced himself, and said he wanted us to play the afterparty and meet with him after the show. So we were all excited, ‘Kevin Lyman wants to talk with us, that’s pretty cool.’

After that, we went back, partied with all the Warped Tour people, hung out on Lyman’s bus and he said, ‘I really like your band, and I’d like to stay in touch with you guys. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but I own a record label and stuff, and send me new music when you get it. Keep in touch.’ So we did, I kept in touch, and nothing. Nothing ever happened. That was really heartbreaking, because when you meet the guy, he’s such a sincere dude. After that just completely fell through, it was back to the drawing board. It was really depressing.

So now are you still routing this tour around that contest?

No, we should be back before that. We should be back by mid-April. It was supposed to be eight weeks on the road, we were supposed to leave right after our CD release, so we’re going to see what happens. We might book right up until mid-April, I think we’d leave early March I think. I don’t know. We’ll do that until mid-April, do this thing, I think we might have some festivals lined up for May and June, so we’re kind of waiting to see where the chips fall, basically.

Status Green’s CD release show for Cheap Sunglasses is at the Stone Pony (where else?) in Asbury Park, Feb. 20.