Local Sublime Cover Band “Wrong Way” has had a big year. After parting ways with their former front man and switching to a new lead singer, the band decided to take the show on the road for a regional tour and record a DVD. July 5th marks their triumphant return to the Athens music scene with a live show at the Georgia Theater. Bassist Doug Gross took some time out to answer some questions.
Jas: What is it about Sublime that made you become a fan in the first place?
Doug: Sublime is such an eclectic mix of styles. In any
given song you might hear traces of reggae, ska, punk,
rock, or even hip-hop. I think that when a band can
so successfully combine such a wide range of
styles/influences, the final product is almost always
fresh and original. I guess that is what drew me to
Sublime in the first place. I just love the fact that
they took all these different styles of music and
threw them into a melting pot and came out with
something that is undeniably their own "Sublime"
Jas: You just embarked on a regional tour. How would you describe the reaction on the road?
Doug: I am always amazed at how well our band is
received when we are out on the road. I guess it
comes from years of playing original music in front of
no one, but I usually go into a gig thinking "OK, this
is a new town, no one here has ever heard of us and
chances are it's going to be dead tonight." 9 times
out of 10 I am proven wrong though. I keep forgetting
that whether or not people know us, they most
definitely know Sublime! It's pretty cool to go into
a new town and have a few hundred people come out and
know every word to every song that you play.
Jas: Your website says that Wrong Way started out as a fun side project. When did you know that it was a big enough deal to take on the road and play at larger venues?
Doug: Honestly, yeah, we did start this as a fun side
project, but I mean even at our very first show, there
were probably two hundred people or so. After years
of trying to "build crowds" with our respective
original groups, we were blown away by how big a crowd
we had without any work. We didn't necessarily think
that we needed to get on the road immediately, but we
realized there was probably some potential there.
Within a few months, we were playing Athens regularly
and certainly the crowds were growing every time we
played. I guess it was probably about 3 months into
it that we started to branch out and play in Atlanta
and some other close places like Chattanooga and
Jas: What is the significance in the title "Wrong Way" ?
Doug: There's not much significance to the name really.
It's just the name of one of their popular songs. We
actually played a few shows under the name Badfish in
the beginning, but one of our band members went to
Asheville or someplace like that and came back with a
picture of a tour poster for another Sublime tribute
band that was already called Badfish. We had no idea
that they even existed but we certainly didn't want to
step on their toes so we changed it!
Jas: Do you have a favorite song to perform? Why?
Doug: I really do love to play them all but i think my
favorite is probably Smoke 2 Joints. It just rocks.
During the intro/outro we get to thrash around a bit
and the verses/choruses just have this driving rhythm
that the whole band accents with these hits every time
we switch back from one chord to the next. It's funny
I guess since that isn't even really a Sublime song.
It's actually a cover of a song by a band called the
Toyes (a lot of people think it's Bob Marley but it
isn't). Still, Sublime's version of it is awesome and
I love to play it.
Jas: The site says that your mission is to perform the music of sublime as closely to the original band as possible. Still, do you ever add in something of your own- musically speaking?
Doug: We have been playing together for over two years.
When you play with the same group for that long, I
think you can't help but develop your own sound, even
if you're playing covers. We definitely throw in some
new elements to the music, albeit unintentionally. I
know that personally, I don't always play the bass
line of a song exactly like you would hear it on the
album, but neither did Eric Wilson (Sublime's bass
player). I love the fact that the music is free form
enough for me to try to come up with new ideas on the
spot and as long as they groove and fit well with the
song, most people will never even notice.
I think what it ultimately comes down to is this:
there are certain parts that NEED to be in each song
for it to sound right and true to form. You know, the
really recognizable guitar solo during every chorus in
What I Got, or the guitar/bass riff at the beginning
of April 29, etc. But only rarely does every
instrument in the band have one of those parts at the
same time. So, while Geoff may be playing a keyboard
part that everyone immediately recognizes, I get the
freedom to mess around a bit with the bass line and
they won't really notice that it's not the same one
from the album because they will have already latched
on to the part that was instantly recognizable.
Jas: Your former lead singer, JT, recently parted ways with Wrong Way and was replaced by new front-man Mike Sparrow. I hear he has been very well received. How has this recent addition affected the band? Has anything about the live performance changed because of this?
Doug: Yeah, JT wanted to pursue his career in his
original band Sounds of Silence, so we auditioned
quite a few people and ended up going with Mike.
Since then, he has certainly been well received. We
were somewhat worried that regardless of how good he
was, people would be too put off by the fact that
simply wasn't JT, but so far that hasn't really been
the case. Since Mike wasn't there from the beginning
and we had kind of just developed this stage show over
two years of playing shows, we did need to work out a
few kinks early on. Mike is an incredibly hard worker
though and was very receptive to the constructive
criticisms that we were giving him in the beginning
and I think that he has turned out to be a fantastic
Jas: Do you ever feel that there is a competition or comparison to Wrong Way and the other major Sublime cover bands that currently perform such as Sublemon and Badfish?
Doug: Yeah, I am sure that there is plenty of comparison
between bands like Badfish, Sublemon, and ourselves.
I have never seen Sublemon actually, but I have seen
Badfish and I think they're awesome. I talk to people
all the time at our shows who have seen at least one
of those bands. I think it's probably impossible for
them not to do a little comparing but I'm not too
worried about it. From what I have seen so far, true
Sublime fans will come out to any Sublime tribute band
and if they're good, they'll probably be back again!
As far as competition though, I don't know. I don't
even know if those bands know we exist and if they do,
I have no idea how they feel about us. We certainly
don't attempt to compete with any of them. I think
there's room for all of us.
Jas: Are there any future plans for a larger tour? I can't help but would be awesome if Wrong Way played a show in birthplace of Sublime in Long Beach.
Doug: Yes, there is definitely talk of a large tour, but
there is nothing concrete as of yet. It's all mostly
just talk right now. We're thinking of probably
trying to line something up for next summer. There
are so many cool places that we'd love to play and
yes, I do think it would be awesome to make it out to
Long Beach. That would be killer. We've even talked
about trying to make it over to Europe one day...we'll
see if that ever happens. For now, we're just happy
to be playing as much as we are!
Wrong Way will be playing at the Georgia Theater on July 5th. Tickets are $5 and the show begins at 10:00 pm.