In the little more than a year that has passed since MODE first spoke with the Lancaster-based Nothing But Oregano, quite a bit has happened — the band found success with their single, "Sweet Season," the five members became four, and their new album,Up To Here, was released just this month. Recently, MODE Weekly had the opportunity to sit down with NBO’s lead guitarist, Sam Gorgone, and catch up with the band.
MODE:Since the release of your last album,See The Future Tonight, the band has gone through some line-up changes — drummer Dave Skinner left the band when he moved from the area. How has that affected the group both personally and professionally?
Sam Gorgone:That was tough for us. He was a really good friend and just losing him as a friend was a hard part — not only that, but also adjusting our music and filling that void that he left.
MODE:Did his departure affect your sound? What kind of changes did you have to make to adjust to that?
Gorgone:We obviously didn’t add anybody — we kind of threw that idea around, but nothing ever serious came about from it. I think we’ve definitely compensated for him not being there, like with Jeff [Bowman, lead vocals/guitar] and I on guitars, making them a little more prominent. We always sort of had that percussion/world beat kind of groove going on and when he left we didn’t have any bit of that. So Jeff and I, I think try to make up, try to — I don’t even know if we even consciously did it, we just unconsciously sort of knew we needed something, we knew it was missing … I don’t think we had any plans of getting harder or getting louder or anything, even though the room was there for it.
MODE:Let’s talk about your last album,See The Future Tonight— what were your feelings about its outcome? By all accounts it was pretty successful.
Gorgone:That was great for us. That definitely put us on a new level. We had a couple albums that were cool and we were happy with, but I think the last album definitely showed a new level of us, showed our musicianship had gotten better and that our song writing had gotten better.
MODE:And its single, "Sweet Season," received quite a bit of airplay.
Gorgone:And "Sweet Season" also took us to a new level. That wasn’t getting spun until probably 3 – 4 months after the album was released [on April 1, 1999]. And then [WLAN] FM 97 picked it up in probably mid-July. We ended up selling a lot of records because of that.
MODE:What was it like to hear yourselves on the radio?
Gorgone:Oh, it’s a great feeling … But you sort of get numb to it, believe it or not, after awhile. I remember hearing "Sweet Season" for the first time. I was talking to the program director at FM 97, and he said, ‘yeah, I’ve got you on the rotation for this time,’ and it was around midnight, it was going to be the first time they’d spin it, and here I am getting ready to go to bed and I’m setting my alarm and I’m like, ‘wait a second, it’s right around that time,’ and I turned it on and it was right at the beginning of the song. I didn’t get much sleep that night.
MODE:You just released a new album,Up To Here, what made you decide it was time to record another?
Gorgone:Well, we sort of went on a writing spree, and we had a lot of new material together so we figured ‘what the heck.’
MODE:For this album, you worked with producer Bob Welsh at The Green Room in Harrisburg. Was this the first project you’ve worked on together?
Gorgone:This is our first time working at The Green Room and they came with a lot of recommendations. We weren’t looking and I’m not going to dis the guys we worked with on our last three projects because those guys were great, but I think we were ready for a new experience.
MODE:And it worked out well for you?
Gorgone:Oh, yeah. We are already having a lot of people coming up to us and saying, ‘you guys finally have something that really sounds like the real deal, that any CD that you’re going to pick up in any record store by any band is just as well produced.’ … It jumps out of the speakers a little bit better.
MODE:What’s the significance of the title? I see that it fits with the cover photo, which is a shot of the band from the neck down —
Gorgone:It has a lot of meanings. I think part of the meaning — and I don’t think you can say this in a nice way — is that we’ve sort of had it up to here, almost kind of feeling our frustration for not getting to the next level. We feel like we’ve really paid our dues, we’ve gathered fans, and we’ve done the things that we’ve needed to do to jump to the next level, and we’ve sort of had it up to here at not getting that shot. It’s not like we’re going to not keep trying, but I think we’ve sort of had it up to here with that sort of thing. Also, part of it was since we’ve recorded some old stuff and put it on this album — "Last Smile" was on our first project about four to five years ago and "I Wanna Die And Be Left Alone" was on our last record — we kind of wanted to say, ‘this is like us up to here,’ not just because we recorded those songs, but because we’ve been through a lot. We started with seven members six years ago — three of those members we ended up losing over the years and the four core members are still here. Basically we’re saying, ‘this is us up to here.’
MODE:Having it ‘up to here’ — is that frustration something that just as easily pushes you forward and drives you to work harder to reach that next level?
Gorgone:Partly. I think a lot of is just experiencing different things and figuring out the right way to do things. There’s no perfect formula to get a record deal, there’s no perfect formula to get a successful tour with a major band. I think it’s just a matter of doing the right things to put yourself in the position to get that opportunity.
MODE:With the new album, you’ve kind of taken a different direction on some of the songs — "Uncatch My Fall" is a little harder than what you’ve previously done — how would you describe the sound of Nothing But Oregano now as compared to 1999?
Gorgone:Well, we’ve gone more pop. And I think we like it. Clayton [Mars, bass/vocals] and Jeff have both just really gotten so much better at getting the frame work for a song together … and those guys have just gotten so much better at songwriting, too. Clayton just shows up with song after song that are easy to work with and he’s really easy to work with, and they’re good melodies, too. Clayton comes up with good stuff, and he’s a good lyric writer. It’s a really nice process.
MODE:Do you have specific goals in mind for this album or do you have a specific song on the album that you have hopes of being the next "Sweet Season"?
Gorgone:It’s actually kind of interesting. I did the order of the songs on the CD and part of the reason was I wanted to get some of the songs that had the potential to be another "Sweet Season" near the front. At first I thought "I Thought I Saw Your Car Today" was going to be that one, because you get to the hook pretty quick, it’s a short song, it’s catchy, it’s got pretty easily remembered lyrics, and then "Transistor, A Stone, and Her Necklace" came along. When that came out of production and I listened to it, I was like, ‘that’s got to be it.’ I think, I hope, that three of the first four songs have the potential that "Sweet Season" had, maybe even more potential, but I’m just wondering if they have the right radio formula to do that.
MODE:What are some of the band’s current goals? What’s in the immediate future for Nothing But Oregano?
Gorgone:I think we want to go out and we want to sell a lot records and I think we want to do that by hitting as many areas as possible. We’re doing Lancaster this month, we’re doing Harrisburg this month, we’re doing the Philadelphia CD release party this month, we’re doing Millersville University this month, so September, at least — if you want to go that short term — is basically designed to support the album, and to sell a bunch of them, and to make sure our fan base knows we’re still around. When you take three or four months off like we did I think sometimes people can start to forget about you. We want to come back with a bang and let everyone know we’re still around.