Every band has an origin story. Most involve a garage located in a metropolitan suburb, a group of childhood friends and that one gig where everything came together. Not so for Santa Cruz’s newest entree into the eclectic regional music scene, The Frogman Experience.
Hot off an electric set at the Santa Cruz Music Festival, The Frogman Experience, embraces the theatrical, performing, rather than playing, a mix of funk, folk, punk and rock opera while wearing vibrant costumes and masks. Led by frontman, The Frogman, the band’s cast of characters, Andrew the Wizard, Bushman, Birdman, Fishman, Papaya Pete, The Elephant King and The Bear Knight lead the audience on a trip down the great fantastic, incorporating dancing, acting and even play fighting into their live shows.
If you love us you’re laughing, if you hate us, you’re laughing. Either way, laugh all you want, because you can’t see who I am.
Wearing a colorful, psychedelic frog mask adorned with feathers and beads, The Frogman got his start playing funk and folk jams on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. Back then he went by “Moses the Frog” and spent his days entertaining passersby with his acoustic bass guitar.
“I guess I just wanted to become The Frogman,” he says, chuckling. “People got a little worried that I was going off the deep end – wearing a sequin cape didn’t help.”
But, he says, all that started to change when he got his rock band together and started booking shows.
“People were like, ‘oh, this is really cool, maybe he isn’t losing his mind after all.’”
Within months of forming, the eight-piece were playing packed shows at The Blue Lagoon and The Catalyst and had snagged a coveted spot at the downtown music festival.
Their next local show on October 30 at The Blue Lagoon takes on a spooky, carnival theme, just in time for Halloween.
“We’re going to do a really dark and twisted haunted carnival, but not too scary, like our own [version of] ‘Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror,’” says The Frogman. “Wear a costume,” he adds.
Unlike most bands who play from a standard set list, The Frogman Experience puts in a lot of creativity and effort beforehand to make each show unique.
The Frogman says for each show they write a script, a general skeleton of what is going to take place on stage. Band members, in full character, then play and act out the scenes for the audience.
Intriguing right? Well, how about this. The stories or scenes acted out on stage are all based on Buddhist principles.
“No matter what the story is, we approach it from the mindset that everything you perceive outside of you is all within you. The colors you see aren’t out there. If you are seeing all this negativity and hatred in the world, it’s all something within you that you are not fixing. And once you fix and work through these things, you will be on a new path and disconnected from the patterns that brought you down in the past – it’s almost like self-help,” says The Frogman.
“We’ve done shows about struggling with alcohol, depression, drug abuse and other things you wouldn’t normally expect to confront during a concert,” he adds.
Approaching these weighty issues in character help open up the band and the audience to new avenues of thought, The Frogman explains.
Sometimes audience members come up to the band during a show and ask if they can be a character too. “Sure -what do you want to be,” is The Frogman’s typical response. But, there is a catch.
“Be honest with us – tell us what is going on in your life right now,” he says. “And how would you work through it – as a giraffe?”