Makin Waves Scene Report With Mint 400 Records, A Tribute To George Theiss, & Etherius

This week’s Scene Report includes the latest news from North Jersey indie Mint 400 Records, the sad news of the passing of George Thiess, the leader of Bruce Springsteen’s first band, plus wassup with the instrumental metal band Etherius.

  I am happy to report that the North Jersey indie Mint 400 Records has signed another great band, The Vice Rags, whose debut EP, now entitled Hope the Neighbors Are Lookin’, will be re-released on July 27 with a new live favorite, “Reject.” A band with roots in Asbury Park, New Brunswick and Jersey City, The Vice Rags are a local super group featuring members of Kid with Man Head, Mars Needs Women, Mercy Circle, Acid, The Blakes and Readymade Breakup. Their EP recalls Little Richard, The Stones, New York Dolls, Aerosmith and The Clash.

  Another new signing for Mint 400 are Brooklyn-based Ultra Major, whose self-titled label debut will out in August. New releases for Mint 400 include New Brunswick faves Sink Tapes’ cryptic Playground of Verses, which was recorded on a four-track as a three-piece; Florida-based Thoughts’ The Tide, and California-based Tiegan’s All in Me Is Sound. All were released on July 13.

  “The Tide” follows Thoughts’ spot at the three-day SunFest 2018 with Nick Jonas, 311 and 47 other bands and will be followed by a fall EP. The band was signed through the label’s A&R search on ReverbNation, which has elicited 10,000 entries thus far.

  Tiegan is mellow indie jazz-folk. She is re-releasing her catalog with Mint 400 Records. In June, her album Gold was re-released.

  Coming Aug. 31 from Mint 400 will be At the Movies, a compilation of songs written for movie soundtracks or songs featured prominently in a feature film. Label acts Yawn Mower, The Brixton Riot, The Clydes, Fairmont, Young Legs, The Bitter Chills, Defend the Rhino, The Duke Of Norfolk, Ancient Babies, aBIRD, The Limbos, etti/etta and many more will mine the music of Ghostbusters, Back To The Future, The Virgin Suicides, The Graduate, Pretty In Pink, The Wizard of Oz, M*A*S*H*, Cool Hand Luke and more. Jersey writer Jim Testa will make a guest appearance. The compilation harkens back to the days when labels got their rosters involved in fun, interesting projects to generate creative new visions of classic songs.

  Speaking of Defend the Rhino, the instrumental band will release Fabricated, a collaboration with four label mates, Fairmont, Tiegan, Young Legs and aBIRD. Fairmont lend vocals and guitar to The Cure-sounding “Winter Sweater.” Tiegan steps out of her comfort zone with her vocals added to the electro song “In The Meantime.” Coming off his acclaimed “The Petal and the Page,” Young Legs provides vocals on the single “Blue Dog.” And former Those Mockingbirds front man Adam Bird sings on “Afterlife” as aBIRD and gives a good sense of what’s to come with his debut release scheduled for the fall.  The Rhino album consists of eight tracks, the first four include vocals from the featured artists and the remaining are instrumental versions.

  George Theiss, the leader of Bruce Springsteen’s first band, The Castiles, recently died after a two-year battle with lung cancer. He was 68. Like Springsteen, Theiss grew up in Freehold. He was a veteran of Sounds of Asbury Park bands Rusty Chain, Doo-Dah, The Cahoots and George Theiss Band.

  A 16-year-old Springsteen wrote his first two songs, “That’s What You Get” and “Baby I,” with Theiss in May 1966 while en route to Mr. Music, the Toms River studio where they recorded them. Theiss was vocalist and Springsteen lead guitarist. At the time, Theiss was dating Springsteen’s sister, Virginia.

  The July 21 show at The Stone Pony with Jake Clemons and Eddie Testa Band will be dedicated to Theiss.

  Instrumental metal band Etherius were formed by guitarist Jay Tarantino in 2017. After gaining experience as a touring rhythm guitarist for guitar great Angel Vivaldi, Tarantino decided to branch out on his own with the goal of making music unlike the styling of the current instrumental guitar scene. As a result, Etherius are a Jersey Fresh take on neoclassical shred incorporating the stylings of classic thrash bands, such as Megadeth, Testament, and Iced Earth.

  The band is set to release their debut EP, Thread of Life, on Aug. 24. Tarantino, drummer Zaki Ali, bassist Chris Targia, and second guitarist John Kiernan recorded Thread of Life with Vivaldi as co-producer – along with Tarantino and Ali — at Backroom Studios in Rockaway, as well as Vivaldi’s home studio.

  The five-track offering is available for pre-order via Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. You can also stream select tracks now via Spotify. You can watch Etherius’ latest single, “The Inevitable End,” in an action-packed new music video directed by Eric DiCarlo of SquareUp Studios. The clip follows one for their first single, “The Soothsayer.” You can see the band live July 21 at Dingbatz in Clifton opening for Vivaldi and Aug. 4 at The Loft at The Chance Theatre in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with Within the Ruins.

Bob Makin is the reporter for and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at And like Makin Waves at