I spent a weekend in Vegas visiting with old friends and ended up helping out our editor clear out a storage unit she had (and walked off with some cool memorabilia she didn't want anymore!); and we started talking about Las Vegas band Wicked Garden and how they have been doing with the record they put out last year.
As long as I was in town, I figured what the hell, what is Wicked Garden really up to now? So we called up Dominick Muzio, the band's lead singer to come grab some boxes since his van is bigger than Sylvia's little Hyundai. Once here, I tried doing that Cali charm thing, which annoyed the Brooklyn born singer more than anything as far as trying to get him to talk about the band on record - so- how do you get to an Italian from NYC to open up? Food!
Dominick agreed to discuss what is up with the band over some Sal's Pizza ( good NYC style pizza by the way out in Green Valley- check em out) and a couple of beers as I told him I haven't seen him say much about what is going on lately and Sylvia had said they are starting to look outside Sin City to book some shows regionally.
Wicked Garden's first full length releasePost Dystopian Leisure Music on the Vanity Music Group label "Shock Records" was released nearly one year ago and has racked up positive reviews, impressive streaming numbers and even caught the attention of legendary NJ band the Smithereens.
Dominick spoke with me between slices of pepperoni about the this record, the next one, and everything else that has been going on with the band lately.
It looks like the record has done well. How has it been going for you guys?
Yeah, it's done pretty good. We hit over 250,000 streams on Spotify a few weeks ago. If you add all the major streaming sites like Apple, Tidal and those in it's close to half a million. I know Amazon has restocked three times since the CD came out in June, and our distributor has sent out copies all over the world. So I guess it's good. Nobody really buys music any more which is sad, but at least we know people are listening.
Your first single, "Already Gone", hit #1 on a couple of charts internationally. Is the market for new rock better overseas than in the US?
Honestly, I have no fucking idea! I think European and Asian markets are more open to new music. The U.S market is pretty much recycled pop garbage.
You said in another interview that you get more airplay overseas than in America.
Yeah. Most U.S Radio stations won't play anything from a new rock band these days. It's kinda stupid, but they are all in bed with the 3 major labels, so they lock out indie guys like us.
I mean, we can't even get airplay in our home fucking town! Our manager calls these stations trying to get us some airplay and they are like "We don't play local music". Really? What about Imagine Dragons and The Killers? "Oh, we only played them after they broke nationally." Well, what great game plan you got there dumbass. Now you know why no one listens to radio anymore.
I remember being in bands years ago and if you had even a good demo, local stations would put it in rotation and that's how labels found you. Now, you can have an internationally released album and Las Vegas radio won't play it until you hit big in Singapore. It's stupid.
That doesn't seem very supportive of local acts. Is this something you see a lot? Is it more likely they have their favorites and fuck everyone else?
No one supports local acts past the band's fan level. You've got people that come to shows- all of them- and they support. But everyone after that-bookers, promoters, venues, they don't care. They all have some sort of motive I can't figure out after being in this band for 6 years.
We can play a venue and pack it, and then they won't even return our calls to come back. Outside of Vegas? Shit. We can drive up to Pahrump and play in a bar the size of my bathroom, have 50 people show up and they will call us once a week to try to rebook us.
That seems counterproductive to doing business as a promoter...
You think? Don't get me wrong, we have turned down gigs because they didn't want to pay us. Or, they call our manager and say "Hey, we want Wicked Garden to play here, but can you ask them to do a set of 80's covers?" Nope. We made our name in Vegas by avoiding doing what everyone else does, and we won't stoop to that level. We shouldn't have to sing for our supper anymore, we've proven ourselves.
So, out of town gigs seem to be a better target?
Yes and no. We tried to tour behind this record. Even that's a nightmare. We had offers to tour with some bands, ones that play theaters and bigger clubs, and they want us to go out on our own dime and not pay us at all, or even want us to buy on to tour with them.
"Oh, it's a great opportunity to promote your album guys! We will take you out on the road with us for 10 shows, you pay us $2,500. And you have to pay your own travel and lodging and food. There's no pay for you guys but you can sell merch!" Really? No thanks. We have families and houses and jobs. We aren't paying to go on the road. It's like what the L.A. clubs do to us. Call us on a Sunday and say "Can you guys play Wednesday night? You'll have to sell 40 tickets at $30 each and you go on at 6:30 and play 20 minutes."
Well, you guys had some great reviews for Post Dystopian Leisure Music. Is there pressure for a follow up?
None more than what we put on ourselves. Out of all the reviews done for the record only 2 were negative, and even those were decent. They basically said "They are good, but they are out of place with today's music". That's not wrong.
We pride ourselves in being different. We already have the next record written. It's just a matter of recording it and then figuring out when and how it will be released.
One of the recurring statements about the last record was how every song sounded different. "Already Gone" was a hard rock song. "Hey, Bitch" was almost Gothic. "Ask Me If I Care" was pop/punk, and "I-15 South" was almost Country Rock. Was that on purpose? Is that something you're going for with the new record?
I would say it was accidentally on purpose. We all have different influences. And Shawn (Trojahn- lead guitarist) definitely said he wanted every song to be unique. So, there was some conscious decisions to make them sound different from each other. But, it's what we wrote at the time.
The new record is darker. I wouldn't say heavier, but thematically it's a bit more emotional. And, I think that stems from things that happened to the band since the record came out. Not necessarily bad things, but there are some frustrating things that have crept into the music.
Do you feel you haven't been taken seriously as a band? Is it because of your status as a cover band first?
Well, we were never taken seriously as a cover band either. All we ever heard was "You guys won't get work in town with your music." We worked plenty.
It's dependent on what you consider work. If it means playing 7 nights a week, but we have to put on spandex and sing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" for 15,000th time, then no we don't. When we do play, we know we are being true to ourselves. We won "Best Cover Band" 4 years in a row. Guess how many gigs that got us? Zero. No one cares. I don't even care , honestly.
We started playing original music because people said we couldn't. It took us exactly two songs and one show to have record labels reaching out to us. We got signed less than a year after we debuted original music.Then we charted songs and got amazing reviews and people still won't give us any credit. Fine.
I don't need accolades. I know that people around the world play our songs daily. That's good enough for me. I think the other guys care even less than I do, and they don't get the credit they deserve. Jay (Dardano, drums) is probably one of the best drummers around, hands down. Troy (Spriggs, bass and vocals) could front any band in town as a lead singer and kill it. He's got some great stuff he wrote for this next record; it's gonna shock people. And Shawn works on his playing all the time. Dude's a top notch guitarist, and writer as well.
You've released 2 videos so far, and both were not your typical performance videos. How did the concepts come about? Will you do more videos?
There's a place for performance videos. I'm not against them, but I think it's very important for a band, especially a new band, to present their music visually so people get what they are about.
I wrote and directed our two videos. I knew what story I wanted to tell, and also what side of the band I wanted to show. For "Already Gone", having the girl, who happens to be my daughter, looking for new music in the record and store and then stealing the record really tells you about the state of the music business. She sees Wicked Garden when she sneaks into the back room and becomes a fan. Then she steals the record. So, it's a double edge sword. You want folks to get into the music but then, more often than not, it's not paid for.
"Ask Me If I Care" is actually based on real experiences, mostly from my younger days, of having these record execs come out and and claim they love the band, but they really don't give a shit. They just wanna sell you. I liked having our personalities come through in that video, to show we aren't always so serious. We had plans to make a video for "Hey, Bitch", but we are kind of holding off on that right now until we get a clearer picture or what kind of future, if any, this record has as far as marketing. We may make a performance video for one of the other songs for shits and giggles. Video is still a very important medium for rock music.
What are some common misconceptions people have of you, the band, or the music business in general?
Well, it depends on where we are speaking from. People in Vegas know me, know us. They know who we are and what kind of people we are. I get messages from people who don't know me but like the band and some of them think we are making tons of money and have mansions.
It's stupid. I remember when we hit number one in Australia, I got a message from some random person who said "What kind of car are you gonna buy now?" Car? Ha! I've made a total of like $50 from publishing and shit last year! I can't even buy a bike!
Or they say "You should tour with xxxxx Band!" Yeah sure. I'd love to call up Dave Grohl and say "Hey man! We are a indie band signed to a small label and we are all middle aged dudes with dad bods and bad backs! Can we open for you at Wembley?!"
What is the band's approach to writing? Is it a full band collaboration?
Well, we all add to whatever has been brought in. Usually, I come in with a song that's about 95% complete, and the guys add their parts.
Shawn will bring in a song that's either complete with lyrics, or he has the music done and I'll add the lyric and melody. Troy has been bringing in complete songs too.
There's a couple songs that we all wrote together with each person coming up with a part, much like how "Second Hand" came about on the first record. Everyone has strengths that adds to other peoples ideas. Jay is great at arrangement, and he has this knack for creating an off time beat that changes a song dynamic. Shawn can take a simple idea that someone has and run with it and create something totally different from the original idea, but it works. Troy attaches bass lines to melodies that creates great moods, and being a singer, he knows how to add a harmony to bring a song to the next level.
What do you hope to accomplish with the next Wicked Garden record?
We just want to make music that people enjoy. No one is under the delusion that we are going to be huge rock stars and play stadiums. It would be nice to just grow our fan base and play some cool shows.
The live music scene is dying. Kids these days don't know that you have to work to make a band great. It's too easy for them. They buy a computer, create a drum beat, vomit words over it, and within an hour they have it uploaded to Spotify and Bandcamp along with a million other shitty songs; and they spend the rest of their time growing their Instagram accounts.
People don't go to shows anymore, and the ones that do want it to be like the old days. I've heard people say "I wont see such and such in a club! They used to play arenas!" Yeah, 30 fucking years ago, now these guys are trying make their rent. Or, the people going to shows go only to be seen at the gig. They won't give a new band the time of day. It's beneath them to support a new local band because back in 1986 Autograph ran a train on them and their cousin or some shit.
It's not about you, it's about the music. Enjoy it, and for fucks sake BUY IT!
So, what's next for Wicked Garden?
Wicked Garden will return to Count's Vampd on March 18 in support of another local Vegas singer, Josh Alan, in the benefit Jam for Josh to help a fellow musician with medical bills that have piled up a bit.
Dominick also said recording will start soon and they will be venturing out to CA, AZ, OR and possibly WA for some shows over the next few months as well as playing select Vegas dates and he is also doing some solo acoustic shows by himself and sometimes with Stephy Hayward who is also a great vocalist (and you thought she just took photos...)
You can get a copy of Post Dystopian Leisure Music at www.wickedgardenlv.com, Amazon, and your local record stores as well as stream the album on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon and soon the album will be available on all Touch Tunes Jukeboxes as bars and pizza joints near you! Grab a slice and a beer and Support Local Music!
And definitely check out Wicked Garden!
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PHOTO CREDIT: All photos of Dominick Muzio and Wicked Garden courtesy and ©Stephy Hayward - Live Wire Photography for ZRockR Magazine use. All Rights Reserved.