Jack Leary

Makin Waves with San Tropez: Time Travelers

Members of some of the best bands ever to call New Brunswick home (such as Wreaths, Aviso Hara, kiaro skuro, Stuntcocks, Urchins, and Duochrome) make up the local supergroup San Tropez. With an awesome full-length debut, Maybe Tomorrow, on the esteemed Mint 400 Records, which followed two self-released EPs, the four veteran musicians are the epitome of why artists never should give up on their art. 

Their inspiring story began when vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist Ralph Nicastro (Wreaths, Aviso Hara, Sparks Fly from a Kiss) started making demos for a new project in 2016, recruiting a variety of friends along the way to round out the sounds he was looking for. From this effort came several songs that were circulated to friends through Soundcloud.

Fast forward to January 20, 2018; Frank Bridges (Magic Mountain, Duochrome, kiaro skuro) posted an image of his newly acquired black Newark St. Edition Guild Starfire bass on Facebook, asking, “Who wants to start a shoegaze band?” Within a few hours, he formed a band with Ralph, and long-time friend Albie Connelly (Angular Brothers, Stuntcocks, Urchins) on additional guitars and backing vocals.

The new band not only drew from Ralph’s growing songbook, but they took on his working title of the project – San Tropez. After a few false starts with drummers, Frank suggested longtime friend and band mate Andy Fountas (Magic Mountain, The Border States, Duochrome) in late 2018. San Tropez now was solidified as a band.

The 10-song Maybe Tomorrow converges the band’s musical roots in 1990s shoegaze, dream pop, and indie rock, signifying nearly five years of creative effort across four recording sessions with creative support from many friends along the way. To commemorate the album release, the band has made a run of 50 limited-edition lathe-cut 7” singles of “Valley and the Shore,” backed with the new non-album track “Stacks of Windows.” (The single is available at santropez.bandcamp.com/releases.)

You can hear it all live when San Tropez play at Franklin School House in Metuchen with Renee Maskin & the Mysterious Wilds on March 25, April 15 at Berlin in NYC with Scoville Unit, My Son the Doctor, and Loveseat Pete; on April 22 at Stosh’s, Fair Lawn, with Reese Van Riper; and on April 28 at Pino’s in Highland Park alongside Sacred Lawns and The Bottom. In the meantime, though, enjoy this chat with Ralph & Frank:

Why is a band from New Brunswick, NJ called San Tropez? Is the name inspired by the Pink Floyd song?

Ralph: It’s a working title that went too far.

Frank: I’ve never listened to that song. 

What is the greatest common ground among the bandmates’ influences and why?

Ralph: Moderate Marxism – and don’t you tell me there’s no such thing. Equal rights, equal dreams.

Frank: We’re actually time travelers – we could have made this band in the early nineties and been playing these songs.

What are the best-known bands each of the members have been?

Ralph: I was in Sparks Fly from a Kiss and Aviso Hara. And then, later on, Wreaths. Albie was in The Urchins, and The Stuntcocks.

Frank: I was in kiaro skuro, and then in Duochrome with Andy, and then in Magic Mountain with Andy again before San Tropez. Andy was also in The Boarder States and American Medicine. 

How and why did San Tropez come together?

Ralph: ‘How’ is how everything is connected these days: social media. ‘Why’ is hard. Why is anyone ready to start a four-to-five-person relationship outside of already complicated interpersonal relationships?

Frank: To that point, I posted a pic on Facebook five years ago of a bass I just got – a Guild Starfire – with a caption asking who wanted to start a shoegaze band. A few hours later Ralph, Albie, and I were planning our first practice.

Wwhy are San Tropez an excellent example of why veteran musicians never should give up on their art? 

Frank: We all have been making music for most of our lives at this point. It’s just in us.

Ralph: We are the dreamers that need to dream. And we have generous partners.

How did you hook up with Mint 400 Records?

Frank: For the first two EPs, we did everything ourselves from recording, to making some CDs, to getting the songs on Bandcamp and streaming services, but we did nearly zero promotion for the releases. After doing that for the first four years, we really wanted to work with someone that could get the music out there. We all liked what Mint 400 was doing, and we knew some of the bands on the label, so we asked… and that was kind of that.

Is Maybe Tomorrow your first release with them?

Frank: Yes, it’s our debut record with Mint 400.

What do you like most about working with them and why?

Ralph: The promotion.

Frank: Totally the promotion. We can make a good record on our own, but they are getting the word out.

What do you like most about the results of Maybe Tomorrow?

Frank: Again, it’s being promoted by a label. Debuting at No. 135 on the NACC 200 Radio Chart might be the high point so far.

Ralph: And moving up to No. 133!

What surprised you most about the results of Maybe Tomorrow?

Ralph: The NACC chart – we could have never done that on our own.

Frank: We also got a real nice review in a UK magazine – Rodeo. It came with some nice shoegaze/dream pop references.

What is the remainder San Tropez’s discography?

Frank: Just the album through Mint 400 and we did a limited-edition 7” with an unavailable B-side. That’s through our Bandcamp page.

Where will you be performing throughout the year?

Ralph: At this point, Berlin in New York City, Old Franklin Schoolhouse in Metuchen, John and Peter’s in New Hope, and Record Store Day at Stosh’s in Fair Lawn.

Frank: Several Pino’s shows sprinkled throughout spring and summer.

What impact does Pino’s have on the New Brunswick music scene? Why?

Frank: I think Pino’s is a nice steppingstone for New Brunswick bands, because it’s larger venue than a basement or coffee house, and they don’t have to deal with any legal situations that come with putting on a basement show. There’s also a broader audience you can reach by playing at Pino’s.

Frank, how long had you been hosting ‘Overnight Sensations’?

Frank: I stepped down as the host of ‘Overnight Sensations’ last May. I had been doing it for six years, and it felt like it was time to hand the reigns over to someone who had their pulse on what was going on in New Brunswick proper – basically, someone younger.

What did you enjoy most about hosting ‘Overnight Sensations’ and why?

Frank: It would have to be having the bands up and talking with them about their music and what they were up to. It was like I was hanging out at one of their practices. We did around 115 shows with a live band or musician up. I even won an Intercollegiate Broadcasting System award for Best Live Music Broadcast in 2020 when we had The Holy Smokes up.

Are there still as many New Brunswick bands, especially new bands, to cover as when you first started hosting ‘Overnight Sensations’?

Frank: Definitely. That’s one of the reasons I needed to retire – no one wants to see a 52-year-old man standing in the corner of a basement show – including myself. Some of the bands aren’t even recording and putting out releases now; you have to physically go see them to experience their art. For example, Heathmonger, who are amazing, only have printed artwork up on their Bandcamp page. Totally punk rock!

How and why are you involved in Rutgers’ New Brunswick Music Scene Archive?

Frank: I had the idea for the archive when I started work on my PhD dissertation. I knew I was going to be interviewing former New Brunswick record label owners and I thought that maybe I could ask for some of their releases and, at the end of my dissertation work, I would have a nice collection of stuff and that could be the start of an archive somewhere. I ended up meeting Christie Lutz, who’s the NJ Regional Studies Librarian in the Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers University, and she thought it was a worthy collection to start and made it so. I just help out wherever I can in a voluntary capacity.

What impact has the archive had on the music scene, and how does that make you feel?

Frank: A lot of what the archive is about is not really seen, because it’s not a museum with things on display for folks to come to the library and see. It’s a bunch of stuff in bunch of boxes that is categorized so that a researcher might use it for whatever their project is about. It could be something as specific as, ‘How did bands advertise their music in New Brunswick in the 1990s?’ to something much wider, like, ‘How did different music scenes make their show flyers?’ As someone who took a long time to finish a media studies PhD, I am very happy to see where the archive is today.

Is anyone else within the band involved in the local music scene or music industry outside of the band?

Frank: No, just me. I think we would all be involved more if there were places for us to play in New Brunswick, but that’s a whole other story.

Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?

Frank: Whew, I don’t think so.

Ralph: You can’t destroy the master’s house with the master’s tools.