Asbury Surf Music Interview: Plato Zorba (2015)

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Pop-Break.com is proud to be an official sponsor of the second annual Asbury Park Surf Music Festival which takes place on Saturday, July 11th at The Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Last year we had the distinct pleasure of discovering Plato Zorba. The band is a mainstay in the Asbury scene, and for a great reason. Plato Zorba embodies the spirit of creativity that the city-by-the-sea has inspired in countless artists for the past 50 years or so.

Recently we caught up with our old pal Rob Butkowski to talk about The Asbury Park Surf Music Festival, all things surf music, and a mummy invading one of their shows. No, we didn’t make that up.

Plato Zorba Is (Members & Instruments They Play): John Fortunato on drums, Joey Garofalo on bass guitar, Ryan Gregg on keys and myself (Rob Butkowski) on guitar.

We Formed In: Johnny’s basement.

We’re Based Out Of: Hazlet, NJ.

The Story Behind Our Name: We got our name from the William Castle classic horror film, 13 Ghosts. I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t allready!

Our Sound Has Been Likened To: Wait. Somebody likes our sound? Who said that?!!!!

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You recently had a pretty scary show in Asbury – a MUMMY showed up at one of your gigs. Should we be worried? Are you taking measures to prevent this happening again? Which member of the band disturbed this mummy’s tomb? Has anyone contacted Brendan Fraiser?

It was certainly an experience! One moment I was playing guitar and attempting to entertain the good people of Langosta Lounge and the next moment I was getting attacked by an ancient mummy! That’s life I guess.

I would assume the Mummy attacks were in no way spurred on by the fact that we were performing the song Mummy From America written by Adam Finchler. We do have plans to perform with Adam again but I’ll assume we have killed off all of the Mummies. He has performed it many times already. I highly suggest you check out more of his music as well! He is one of my favorite songwriters!

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Earlier this year you were a part of the When Scenes Collide show at The Stone Pony, which featured the best of the AP and New Brunswick scenes. How did it feel to be one of the bands tapped to represent Asbury?

It felt like any other night…. in a good way. We are lucky to be surrounded by an abundance of great talent here in AP. Every show we play, we are repping Asbury Park and we are certainly not the only ones!

What do you love about being in Plato Zorba?

There are so many things I love about being in Plato Zorba! I love how everyone in the band brings a different vibe to our collective sound. Our song writing process has always been super collaborative. Not every band works that way. Our practices have always been fun and our shows have been rather adventurous! Being in Plato Zorba is great because I get to hang with some of the coolest dudes (John, Joey and Ryan) and play some unique music at the same time.

There’s an endless sea of surf bands, and bands influenced by the surf sound — what separates you guys from everyone else?

Plato Zorba draws material from a large catalog of influences but our relationship with Jazz has always been brought up when people are describing our “different” sound. I have always been intrigued by the music composed for films in the 1950’s and 60’s. Composers like Henry Mancini and John Barry used some serious jazz vocabulary while employing the twangy guitars of the day as well. It’s my belief that a twangy, reverbed out guitar is the perfect vessel for Jazz harmony! I know we are not the only ones fusing jazz and surf but our end result usually sounds unique and new to me!

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You’ll be performing at The Asbury Surf Music Festival this year, which will be your second year doing so. Can you talk about the experience of performing at the very first ever, and why did you want to come back?

Last year was so much fun! Tons of great performances and an all around great hang session. We were overwhelmed by the crowd’s enthusiasm for surf rock and we are anticipating the same vibes this year.

What is it about surf music that inspired you to form a band and play this type of music?

Joey and I started the band shortly after he moved back to New Jersey from Hawaii. He was the one who asked me to start a surf band and I gladly said yes! I had allready been listening to surf music but the two of us got really into it at the same time and things just fell into place. We enlisted the help of Johnny Fortunato on drums and our journey took off from there.

I love surf music for many reasons. I mentioned previously the connection between surf and jazz. I love the texture of melodies being performed by surf guitar. Many early surf tunes were popular jazz standards being played by the youth of the 50’s and 60’s. I also feel that surf music has an element of punk rock as well. It can be a great stress reliever to crank my guitar and just rock out for a short period of time. The tones from the garage/surf records are not too far off from early punk music.

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What is the ultimate surf rock anthem of all-time, and why?

Almost anyone familiar with the genre will tell you that the ultimate surf rock anthem is ‘Miserlou’ as performed by Dick Dale. That song has been rubbed in my face from the moment I joined a surf rock band and I am not complaining about it at all.

What is your ultimate go-to surf-inspired/beachy style drink (e.g. Mai-Tai, Zombie, Margarita, a specific beer, etc.)?

We mostly just drink beer and all of the rum buckets at Anchor’s Bend. I’ll probably be drinking Southern Tier at the fest all day and save the fruitty drinks for the after party.

What are you most excited about for the band for the rest of 2015?

We are excited about the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival! Get yer butts there folks!

For tickets to the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival, click here.

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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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