One of the most enjoyable parts of being a local New Jersey music writer for the past 43 years has been to watch Colossal Street Jam turn the buzz that they enjoyed in the 1990s into the sheer joy of making music later in life. If life were fair, Colossal would have had a record deal in 1991. Life’s not fair, but guess what? The most persistent and persevering band I’ve ever known finally have their record deal.
Last year, Colossal Street Jam – vocalist Gene Potts, guitarist Sal Marra, bassist Tony Flora, keyboardist Eric Safka, and drummer David Halpern – signed with Chicago-based Fretbar Records, whose owner, Jimmy Warren, also signed the band to a management deal.
In November, Fretbar released a single of the title track of the band’s No Way to Live LP, which the label will reissue this summer following two more singles (he next of which will be “Seconds” on February 23). Then Colossal will open select dates on the international Icons of Classic Rock Tour, which kicks off in March in the U.S. with Dave Evans of AC/DC, Fran Cosmo of Boston, Dave Bickler of Survivor, Johnny Edwards of Foreigner, Wally Palmar of The Romantics, Alex Ligertwood of Santana, and Paul Shortimo of Quiet Riot.
First Colossal will play on January 19 at Mercury Lounge in New York City. On the eve of that gig, I chatted with Gene about the January Makin Waves Artist of the Month’s newfound success and the hard knocks they endured to get there.
Good things come to those who wait. Comment on the adversity the band overcame in light of the success you now are enjoying.
There’s so much to say here, and some things might ruffle some feathers for lack of a better term. Two members of the band getting sick and out of commission for a while, and also the COVID thing really threw a wrench into writing and recording a new release – that was really difficult to navigate.
We were always a band that played everything live extensively before we would record. This album was written in the studio. We had never done that before without trying things out in front of a live audience. I’m just happy all are healthy, and we are getting some attention for a very important album to all of us. We touch on some really good and serious subject matter.
How and why did you hook up with Fretbar Records?
We have been using TAG Publicity out of Iowa for all our publicity and promotions. They started up a relationship with Fretbar and JW Artist Management. The owner, Jimmy Warren, heard us and contacted us about starting a relationship and working on moving our band forward. The second we spoke to Jimmy, we knew he was right for us.
What do you like most about Fretbar?
We all like a lot of things about Fretbar. The owner of the label is hands-on, yet completely bought into what we are looking to do. He has all the connections we need and is very up front and honest about the steps he thinks we need to take to get to the next level. He is also an unbelievable guitarist – has played with some heavy hitters throughout his career, including touring with Buddy Miles. The main thing? He believes in our music.
What impact has Fretbar had on the band, and what impact will it continue to have?
I think the immediate impact is we have a solid direction. Singles properly planned and pushed through all avenues, including radio, interviews, podcasts. We have been added to stations on iHeart Radio, SiriusXM, and over 300 stations in total in the last month. We also are looking at tour dates with national acts and getting out of Jersey for a while.
Is Fretbar owner Jimmy Warren also managing the band?
Yes, along with Fretbar he owns JW Artist Management. JW manages a few great bands, including Crashing Wayward from Las Vegas and Tyler Tisdale from Mississippi, and also exclusively books a few bands, including Doug Pinnick’s Grinder Blues and Eric Sardinas.
The label will reissue “Seconds” as a single on February 23, meaning it will have a wider release to radio and perhaps its video will get more play. When will the label reissue the NoWay to Live LP?
We are working that time frame right now. The plan now is to release one more single after “Seconds,” before summer, and then put the album out. We are also writing the next record right now as we work on our sets for the upcoming tours.
What other plans does the label have for the band and when?
The label and management have us going out on the road, getting out of the area. We will be opening select dates on the Icons of Classic Rock Tour starting in March in the US. The tour also goes to South America, Europe, and Japan. Not sure yet if we will be part of those dates but definitely the US. We will also be doing our own dates out of state in between those tour runs to support both singles.
Any plans to return to Europe? If so, when?
We will return to Europe in the Fall of 2024. We may also hit Europe with the ‘Icons’ tour, but not quite sure on that yet.
No Way to Live features several special guests, including Des Spinks from the Swagmatics and the Mad Men Horns of the Netherlands. One of the guests, Anthony Krizan, also has a relationship with Fretbar. Does the label have any plans for Colossal and Anthony to continue to work together in any way?
The label is helping Anthony release his newest single. He has had a friendship with Jimmy for a while. Nice coincidence when Jimmy started with us – he found out that we knew Anthony and he had recorded on our new album.
I am sure down the road we will do some shows together as Anthony is a very good friend of our band and an unbelievable talent. We love that guy!
Now that you have a label and management, what would Colossal Street Jam most like to accomplish that it hasn’t yet and why?
We would like to get out on the road consistently; whether that means a couple weeks a month or a couple days a month on the road, we want to play our music to anyone and everyone and enjoy the traveling together, see our country as a musician – not a tourist. We genuinely like hanging together and doing and seeing things we normally wouldn’t do around here. It would be great to get on a nice size tour with a band we love.
We will work with Jimmy and the label on some new music for the end of this year and continue to push singles and videos better than we have ever done before. It’s nice having a label, management, and booking 100% behind us. It took a hell of a long time to get to this point and we aren’t going to waste any of this opportunity.
Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?
We have a show coming up this month – The Mercury Lounge on Friday, January 19 in NYC. That will be the kick off of some shows over the next few months. We will be announcing all tour dates within the next few weeks, and be sure to check out the single and video for “Seconds” on February 23 through Fretbar Records. Also, the next single sometime around late April/early May.
Thank you, Bob, Makin Waves, New Jersey Stage, and The Aquarian for always supporting us. It’s nice to have a few hometown writers and publishers that are still in our corner.
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