Cougars Interview

Cougars have just released their debut album on Go Kart records entitled Nice, Nice. The band is next set to release a EP on Thick Records entitled, Manhandler. The band formed from the ashes of Hot Stove Jimmy who rocked with two albums before their demise. The band has created a wall of technical sound that echoes the last Hot Stove Jimmy album, Theme For A Major Hit. Interview with Matt (vocals) and Bryan (bass). Live shots by Kevin Corazza at The Beat Kitchen.

When Hot Stove Jimmy broke up, there was a lot of talk about your new band, Cougars. How did you form your lineup?

Matt: Cougars evolved out of Hot Stove Jimmy. After both the drummer, the bass player and one of the guitarists left, it didn’t make any sense to go on using Hot Stove Jimmy as a name anymore which we all began to realize. We really loved Hot Stove Jimmy, but it had run its course and we wanted to bring someone new and fresh, while keeping a lot of the elements of that band the same for all the fans. Also, our interest and direction in music had been changing for quite some time. With the addition of Bryan Bienias, John McClurg, and Brian Wnukowski to the band, Cougars solidified what has become the rock band you hear today.

Bryan: That’s when drummer Wnukowski and I joined the band. We added the second guitar attack (John) about a year and a half ago, I think. We're still working on the organization part, it's a lot of work to get us all together in one room sometimes.

You have eight members. Can you give me a list of everybody, what they do, and how they contribute?

Matt: Cougars is:

Sam Ambrosini - Keyboards
Mark Beening - Trumpet
Bryan Bienias - Bass Guitar
Matt Irie - Vocals
John McClurg - Guitar
Brett Meingasner - Guitar
Jeff Vidmont - Saxophone
Brian Wnukowski - Drums

We all contribute to the band as mentioned above.

I always wondered how you guys create your "wall of sound" both in The Cougars and Hot Stove Jimmy. Can you tell me any technical things regarding your songwriting that makes everything flow together?

Matt: I imagine the "wall of sound" that Cougars create comes from having eight people in the band. As far as any technical things are concerned, I suppose we all have different tastes and since we all write the songs, what comes out is Cougars. We also practice frequently.

Bryan: I can't speak for Hot Stove, but as far as Cougars goes, it always starts with the rhythmic foundation. We'll pound away at something until it starts to slightly resemble rock n' roll, everybody contributing their ideas or lack thereof. By the time we pretty much have the structure figured out Matt usually has a good idea of  what he wants to go for vocally as do Mark and Jeff with the horns. That's when they usually get together and fine tune what they're going to do.

You recorded various demos before the album. How did you pick what versions of songs were to appear on 'Nice, Nice'?

Matt: We recorded a three song demo to send out to labels. It included Moracca, Kelly Has Sweater Breasts, and Michigan Sharky. After little response we decided to go ahead and record a full length album, which after a few mixes, became Nice, Nice. We re-recorded Moracca, Kelly Has Sweater Breasts, and Michigan Sharky for Nice, Nice.

Bryan: There's slight changes in the songs from what's on the demo to how they are on Nice, Nice. I know in Moracca we started playing the ending differently, so that's how it appears on the album. We also took a little time to do stupid crap like the cacophony in the middle of Michigan and that bad sounding piano at the end of Kelly's.

Matt: Hot Stove Jimmy recorded a 7" with Steve that was never released. We recorded Theme For A Major Hit ourselves. Cougars Nice, Nice and the forthcoming Manhandler were also done ourselves. Working with Steve was great. We are planning to work with him again for the second Cougars full length.

I haven’t heard too much of Big’n. Who were they, and what members are now in Cougars?

Matt: Big’n was a great rock band. I believe you can get some information and possibly their second record off of Brian Wnukowski was in Big’n. He is now our drummer.

Is it true that Pabst Blue Ribbon is the official beverage of the band?

Matt: No, it is not true that Pabst Blue Ribbon is the official beverage of the band. Though we have had no contact with the G. Heileman Brewing Co., if such interest arose we would, however, be happy to be supported by Old Style.

Bryan: No offense to PBR, of course. But seriously now - Old Style.

We are big supporters of Go Kart Records and their anti-RIAA stance. What do you guys feel when it comes to that organization?

Bryan: The RIAA dropped the ball years ago by not jumping on web-based retail and the fact that file sharing was quickly going to be a widely popular reality. I have and still believe that it should be the band's decision whether or not they want to have their copyrighted music available for downloading. For a band like us and many others, it's a huge benefit. Now for band's that sell their asses to a label that frowns upon file sharing, their loss really. Less exposure for them. But as far as the copyright holders' legal right to prevent their work from becoming available, they do have a case. The whole thing comes down to artists being in control of their art and being able to do with it what they please. There's a whole money thing though that seems to fuck everything up.

We hear there's and EP coming out pretty soon on Thick. Are you guys still on Go Kart?

Matt: Yes, there is an EP titled Manhandler coming out on Thick records. It should be out in April or possibly early May. We are also still on Go Kart.

How are these songs different that your material on Nice, Nice?

Matt: They are newer and maybe a bit heavier.

Bryan: That is definitely correct. We used different notes in different sequences and named them differently as well. I think they're a little more straight forward than some of the stuff on Nice, Nice.

Matt: I am not sure of a specific number for the amount of times we have played the Knights of Columbus and the Bottle. Probably a handful at each. I think the closer we are (physically as well as mentally) to the audience, the better the experience is for the both of us.

Bryan: We've played those shows where there's a barricade ten feet in front of the stage and the "drinking section" is fifty feet straight back and, yeah, that's lame. I want somebody to be able to walk a beer up to me on demand. That's when the intimacy of "in your face performances" becomes truly special.

Looking to one year from now or anytime in the eventual future....where do you see your band?

Matt: Hopefully on the road supporting our next album.

Bryan: Working and busy. Together would be nice too.

Final comments?

Matt: Everyone should buy Cougars Manhandler EP coming soon.

Bryan: And Nice, Nice if you haven't, yet. If you want to see a live rock show, I suggest doing that as well. A Cougars show especially.


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