Forming in late 2013 after the split of a project which spanned the better half of a decade, Bergen County alt rock band Frogg Party has become one of the busiest in the scene, playing a tightly-packed lineup of shows throughout the Northeast as well as releasing their first EP, Fashionably Late, in October. Their charismatic stage show is what sets them apart from many acts who are currently making the rounds in the New York and New Jersey area, with bassist Nik Katebian and guitarist Jon Peterson switching instruments throughout their set and frontman Jimmy Ordonez captivating audiences with a high-energy performance that heavily involves crowd interaction along with the use of masks and props. Kateian, Peterson, Ordonez and drummer Nick Rose sat down to talk about the debut, what exactly is a “frog party,” and butter pockets…whatever that means.
Nick, Jon, and Nik—how did you guys meet?
Jon Peterson: Nick Rose and I met in high school, but we didn’t like each other at first because I was too metal and he was too punk. I formed a band with a mutual friend of ours which quickly disbanded. That friend was also working on a band called Shoshanna The Waitress with Nick and some other people, and they needed a bassist, so I stepped in. Eventually I made my way to the second guitarist and we went through a number of bass players until Nik came along. He and I are cousins, so by the time our fourth bassist left without a word, I thought he’d be a great addition, and we all clicked for many moons.
How is this band different musically from Shoshanna?
Peterson: Shoshanna The Waitress was a metal band, and we weren’t the caliber of writers that we are today. We didn’t do much of the writing for the band, because most of it was done by the vocalist and Nick Rose.
Nik Katebian: As for Frogg Party, it’s a totally different animal. We don’t really know how to describe our sound; there’s some rock, there’s some dance, and I think there’s some punk. We just have fun and it seems to be working out
Jimmy, how did you get involved with Frogg Party?
Jimmy Ordonez: I met Nik and Jon at a party actually, and the three of us just started talking out of the blue; I actually can’t really remember what we talked about, but it led into a conversation about music. I’m pretty sure I expressed interest in the tunes right off the bat. We exchanged numbers and about a week later, they hit me up to hang out. When I came over they were jamming, and I really dug what they were doing so I made up a little melody in my head and told them about it. The next day, Jon gave me a call asking if I wanted to try out for the Frogg Party, and I had always wanted to be in a band so I jumped at the chance.
Where did the name “Frogg Party” come from?
Katebian: The name was made by Nick and I when we were hanging out at a lake house and just talking about all the different parties we could have. I said, “We should have a frog party,” and Nick chimed in saying, “That’s a band name, but it needs a second ‘G'” and so Frogg Party was born. Pretty much, we wanted to have an actual frog party, but we couldn’t get the frogs, so we started a band instead.
What is, as a band, the writing process behind creating music?
Nick Rose: We give each other complete creative freedom, so anybody can bring anything to the table and we don’t shut them down. Sometimes things don’t work out, but we respect that each one of us has different ideas and tastes so we work along that. We don’t like the idea of having one songwriter. Our band is a four-piece, so the four of us work together until we have a finished product.
Jimmy, where do you get the ideas for lyrics?
Ordonez: It’s funny, I was just making a list the other day of what the songs are about. Most of them aren’t happy topics, but that’s only because music and writing lyrics specifically is an outlet for me; a way to relieve stress. So everything I write is some sort of personal experience and a way to let people into my world. I think everyone has their problems and issues, and they need someone to vent to. So my lyrics are the way I vent, and the people who hear them are the witnesses to my life. The best part is that, as a band, we write pretty upbeat music so I can write anything sad and it’ll be masked.
How did you get the idea to don masks and use props on stage?
Ordonez: The mask idea was inspired by a band called The Sound Of Animals Fighting, but I didn’t just want to steal an idea, I wanted to make it my own little piece of fun. My friend Alex suggested that I beat them up a little, so with each mask I’ll tear them up, as a portrayal of how the real world beats us up emotionally and mentally. Some of the masks are also personified versions of the song titles. Also, it might sound strange, but everything I sing about is important to me, so my vulnerability and my insecurities are exposed and the masks are a way to hide.
I think visual art is important to combine with music because it’s just another facet. Music videos, photography, merch, posters—this stuff is all visual art and it’s always been a part of music, so shouldn’t a performance have some art as well? I want to give people two different experiences as a band: one from recordings, and one from our shows.
Why choose to go with an animal theme for the songs?
Peterson: It started off with the songs “Gentleman Gecko” and “Hot Dolphin.” We thought it was funny at first and wanted to make an EP, but they kept coming. Some of them are inside jokes and others are references, or just fun to say. We kind of just did what we want because they’re our songs, so we could name them anything that makes us smile.
Katebian: The names were based on a loose concept that these were the animals attending a “frog party,” but we ventured away from that idea. We still have other song names that are based off animals but we don’t force them—we’re not cruel to our animal song names.
Talk about your first EP, Fashionably Late.
Katbian: It was a lot of fun to make. We did it at Backroom Studios with Jon Maisto, and he was awesome to work with. There was a bunch of material, so it was kind of hard to decide what we wanted to record, but we ended up going with a lot of our earlier stuff.
Rose: We decided to call it Fashionably Late because we had previous attempts to release an EP and were actually halfway through recording one but an unfortunate series of events led our sound engineer to Texas never to return, but that’s a story for another interview. But we were very happy and proud with the outcome of the EP.
Any plans for a full-length album?
Peterson: We have no immediate plans for a full-length, but we are putting out another EP at the end of spring and we can’t wait! The working project name at the moment is Butter Pocket.
“Butter Pocket?” Why “Butter Pocket?”
Katebian: Uh, just because. Why is Android called Jelly Bean?
Frogg Party will be performing at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ, on Feb. 5. Check out froggparty.bandcamp.com to download their first EP, Fashionably Late.