Shoreworld – Doug Mikula: Just Beneath the Surface

  Just Beneath the Surface is a collection of 11 songs, and it is the first solo acoustic album that Doug has ever released. Up until now, Doug has been known exclusively for his guitar-playing prowess. This album shows us a different side of Doug Mikula, as it reveals his vocal and lyrical style. These songs are personal, raw and real.

  Doug Mikula is a force to be reckoned with in the New Jersey music community. His virtuosic guitar style utilizes a unique blend of musical elements that transcends genre. He has performed with bands like Woodfish, Domino Effect, That’s How They Get Ya, Jody Joseph, Corey Wagar, and Drive. In 2010, Doug was honored by receiving an Asbury Music Award for Top Guitarist. Doug’s style is a combination of many influences. From jazz to rock ‘n’ roll, Mikula weaves special magic when it comes to his playing. Never leaning on the crutch of conformity, Doug blends his many influences into a cohesive and likable sound throughout his recorded and live presentations.

  Dog was promoted for his 2006 instrumental contribution for the Emmys through three songs that he contributed. One of the songs was “As the Tide Breaks,” an outstanding composition that has been featured on Doug’s releases and live shows and has become a fan favorite.  When it comes to his side projects and alternative band projects, Mikula has scored well. He has done exceptionally well with The Backbeat.

  The Backbeat is rock band from central New Jersey recapturing the sounds of the 60’s along with modern influences, which creates a style all their own. They are all seasoned musicians with the capacity to give you that sweet, melodic, catchy rock ‘n’ roll sound you’ve been searching for your whole life. Their charm and banter during their performances make any audience member feel as though they are right on stage with the group.

  The band was formed by Vinny Rugnetta and EJ Green in the Fall of 2006 with the central idea of bringing the classic rock sound back to the younger generation. In the Fall of 2007, the group was nominated for Best Pop/Rock Band at the Asbury Park Music Awards after only playing on the scene for less than a year. Their original song, “Girl from Montreal,” has been featured on numerous favorite radio stations in the city of Montreal, while other songs of theirs have been played on multiple college radio stations, podcasts, and internet radio stations. Vinny and EJ performed together for sixteen years forming a real bond and love of music.

  The Backbeat has played many different rock clubs, bars, restaurants, and fairs in New Jersey and New York City.

  The band currently consists of Vinny Rugnetta at the helm on lead vocals and rhythm acoustic and electric guitars as the core member of the group. Ken Masson on percussion and drums has been an official recurring member of the band since 2007.  Ken has performed with the likes of Joss Stone and Gavin DeGraw as well as opened for Pete Townshend of The Who’s brother, Simon Townsend. The band also features Doug Mikula on lead guitar and backing vocals.

  Doug has predominately been showcased performing alongside his bandmates. His vocal and guitar style almost naturally blends with the tone of the band. Doug has been a friend and a fan of The Backbeat since 2006 when they first met performing on the Jersey Shore circuit. As well, the band will showcase Ryan “Bones” Hackett of Hackett Custom Guitars on bass guitar, Joe Braverman on saxophone, Chris Sabol on keyboards and backing vocals, Erez Lirov on trumpet, and still sometimes EJ Green on lead guitar and vocals. 

  Doug’s recent momentary absence from the local music scene was vital to the process of reinventing himself. During this time, he has been developing new music and creating projects that offer a fresh, new creative outlook. His latest album, Just Beneath the Surface, is almost available for download on iTunes.

  So, let’s take a listen to some of Doug’s latest songs off Just Beneath the Surface and see what he’s been up to with this latest offering.

  First up is a song Doug sent me, called, “The Other Side of The Storm.” Featuring Doug on guitar, piano, and vocals, he is joined by Brett Smith on drums and Greg Dillow on bass. Mikula blends ballad magic with enormous backing vocals and harmony sensibility. The composition mixes interesting verse work with solid bridges and addictive choruses. It kind of reminds me of 1970s Yes. Blending the sensibilities of pop and progressive theory, Mikula goes lyrically deep when it comes to describing life’s circumstances.  His voice is powerful and full, reminding me of Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran fame and Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses.  His guitar work is fluent and melodic, coming into the area of Steve Howe or Ben Walker. Acoustic work is both intricate and skilled, and he works well within the context of the song. Brett Smith is great as usual. Brett is someone I’ve known for some time, and he always fits his playing style to the artist he’s working with. Dillow is right in the groove and compliments Smith like very few can. Doug couldn’t have picked better players for this hooky pop-rock ballad.

  Another outstanding song is called “Relapse.” Doug tells his story of rehab and the battle he recently fought against addiction, and it comes across strong. Doug tells me that this song is particularly strong and of a personal nature and it takes guts to tell a story about own failure in a public setting such as this. In the song, he tells us all about the ridiculous excuses he came up with to get high, and it’s raw. Doug relays his story through guitar and piano, and it’s a force to be reckoned with. Not sure who plays drums and bass (sounds like Smith and Dillow), but the musicianship is substantial and compelling. Mikula tells his tale as the band drops into complete and utter rhythmic delight.

  While the song is sad in nature, the musicians take it to a level that acts as a vehicle for Mikula to tell his story while delivering excellent sound. Mikula’s acoustic magic runs deep and flows as naturally as anything I’ve ever heard from him. Ringing bell-clear acoustics strum throughout and provide a masterfully delivered melody and harmonic brilliance seldom heard in acoustic-based music. As a composition, this song ranks high, and I played it several times while writing this piece. Telling the tale of addiction and delivering it in this style means its real and sounds fantastic.

  “When the Time Is Right” was written for Doug’s son and his another extremely personal tune aimed at the confessionary and all that it abides. Combining acoustic melody and strumming patterns like Tommy Emmanuel, Mikula takes us on an instrumental journey of beautiful sound.  Doug doesn’t rely on overdone effects or trickery when it comes to his playing, and it’s a bare-bones original style that shines brightly on “When the Time Is Right.” His combination of finger-picking and chord/lead fluidity is impressive here. There are very few guitarists of Doug Mikula’s caliber, and it’s a pleasant and fulfilling experience to hear him play. Utilizing a combination of two-handed tapping, rhythmic smacking, and chord flourishes, Mikula churns out a brilliant piece of music dedicated to his son like no one else. The composition rings from start to finish, realizing all aspects of a song from verse to bridge to the chorus and it’s a perfect example of a real New Jersey talent.

  Doug Mikula’s Just Beneath the Surface should be done sometime soon and released this year. From what I’ve heard so far it looks like Doug will have a very robust set of songs on the near horizon and I can’t wait to listen to the entire record and see him play this material live.

  You might just have the opportunity to hear Doug play some of these songs when he plays Rory’s in Sea Bright on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. For more information on Doug Mikula and his new music, head over to and get the info!