VIDEO: The Groove Orient on Off the Avenue



The Groove Orient has long been one of Orlando's slickest bands, with book-smart musicians who all studied music at Rollins College. The guys occasionally gigged together but never mindfully considered forming into a band until David Vanegas (percussion, bass, vocals) and Chuck Magid (guitar, vocals) became mildly obsessed with performing at WPRK's Fox Fest in spring 2013. Both DJs for WPRK, the Rollins college radio station, Magid and Vanegas hounded the powers that be at regular Fox Fest planning meetings until the committee agreed to book the band - which had not yet actually formed.

Luckily, they just had to look around at their fellow classmates (Tommy Shugart - keys; Harry Ong - vocals, bass; Derek Engstrom - original drummer, you know him from Leisure Chief), and the Groove Orient was conceived. And, yes, they debuted at that year's Fox Fest. Since then, they've parted ways with a guitarist and then quickly recruited current drummer Paul Terry after landing a free recording opportunity at Full Sail University the very next week following Fox Fest because Engstrom couldn't make the session. Two years later, the cohesive unit skillfully harmonizes with just about any scene you could drop them into, whether that's a jam session at Tanqueray's or to a packed crowd at House of Blues. 

Expanding their horizons further, the Groove Orient is heading out on a Southeast tour supporting their 2015 release, Generation Y, in July, going to South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. As a bonus to those cities, they get a double-dose of some of Orlando's finest with the Groove's tour-mate Kaleigh Baker. They're also playing at Suwannee Music Park's concert and camping series with Roosevelt Collier's Trio this weekend, June 26-27. With the uptick in activity and visibility, we sent them into the studio with North Avenue Studios to lay down two live tracks, "Generation Y" (above) and "David T. Walker Jam" (below). Listen now, and keep reading to learn more about this essential Orlando act that regularly schools our scene with an eclectic range of grade-A influences.

Orlando Weekly: What music are you listening to/loving most right now?
Shugart: The Isley Brothers have provided me with a lot of smiles and good vibes over the years.
Vanegas: Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of pop music. But I like to listen to Tower of Power, bebop and Latin music. Paul Simon, Richard Bona, Motorhead.
Magid: I have been listening to rock & roll music. I have always been attracted to more guitar-based music. I love the tone, feeling and emotion you can get out of the instrument. Lately, I’ve been listening to Tedeschi Trucks Band, Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and always Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.
Terry: I've been playing drums and percussion since middle school, so I think it's closing in on 12 years right now of playing my instrument. I'm a big fan of music that grooves, while I'm also a fan of popular music, jazz and classical. I'd say some of my favorite artists are Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Eat World and Eminem. Currently, I've been listening to a good deal of drummers, like Larnell Lewis, Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. I'm a huge fan of Thelonius Monk.
Ong: Miles Davis, Tom Waits.

Do you have any gear that helps you achieve your sound? 
Magid: I like to think that my Gibson guitar with my Fender Amp, along with two Ibanez Tube Screamers, does the trick.
Shugart: I got into playing keys through a curiosity surrounding the Hammond. It led me to a couple other vintage keyboards that I really dig. If it weren’t for these things, I probably wouldn’t even play keyboards very seriously. So we bring all these old keyboards and stuff with us to the gigs because I’m such a fool for them.
Ong: I like my Low End Jazz Bass.
Terry: From a drumming standpoint, my cymbals are definitely the most crucial to creating a sound on my set. As a drummer, it's up to you to make your own sound with what you have, but I have found that the right cymbals help to create a tone that you can set. I typically go for darker-sounding cymbals, as they seem to have the flexibility to sound good over a wide range of styles.

Who is the best band you’ve ever seen live?
Magid: I have seen more live performances in my 25 years than probably most people see their whole lives. But I would have to go with the Roots. They are all amazing musicians, as well as great performers.
Shugart: Maybe Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood. I don’t know. I am probably just in the mood to say that right now. I’ve been to a lot of kick-ass shows with Harry and Chuck.
Terry: For me personally, I'd have to go with seeing a Blast performance when I was younger. So much percussion and brass. I really enjoy seeing the local guys Leisure Chief. Their style is something I am a huge fan of.
Vanegas: Bootsy Collins and the Funk University.
Ong: Bootsy Collins, Wolfmother, Questlove Superjam.
  • Photo courtesy of North Avenue Studios
  • The Groove Orient
What do you think is important in a live performance?
Magid: Good sound is hands-down the most important thing. When was the last time you went to an amazing show that had shitty sound?
Terry: There are many important things in a live performance and while you don't need all of them to happen, the special shows probably capture a little of everything. I think energy is extremely important ... capturing the hearts of the audience. That may not always be a physical energy displayed on stage, though I think when a group is clearly having fun, that does make a performance more enjoyable. Having your act together is extremely important. Nobody wants to go to a performance and say "Those guys weren't ready." From a performer's perspective, preparation and consistency are extremely important. I never want to play a show just for the sake of playing it. I always hope that there is at least one person in the audience that takes something away from it. That drives me to play at my best at all times, because you never know who is really listening.
Shugart: Getting lost in the tunes.
Vanegas: Performers.
Ong: Connecting with the crowd.

What’s the best story you’ve got about a piece of gear you play with?
Shugart: I got to carry my organ across a stage with George Porter Jr. once.
Vanegas: It turned on!
Terry: My drum set is the first one I've ever had (and the only one), so it's very cool to be able to travel places with it and carry memories that have spanned a little less than half of my life. It's beaten up, weathered and pretty grimy, but it still has a nasty punch!
Magid: My uncle acquired my amp because it flew out of a truck on a bridge and shattered into thousands of splintered pieces. The owner was going to sell the amp to pay my uncle for his business services, but my uncle asked for the amp instead. He then gave it to me, and I got it refurbished. Now it screams.

Explain the meaning behind one of your songs.
Ong: "Dead Dog Blues," shooting yourself in the foot.
Shugart: "The David T. Walker Jam" is based on this live recording of David T. Walker in Japan. Just a really big groove, with a lot of space. I sent it to Paul, cause I almost couldn’t believe how big the groove was. And then we started playing it, and it morphed into something much different.
Vanegas: “The Radio Draft” ... evil music producers and genetically engineered products/artists.
Terry: I came to the band with an idea for a song called "Bad Man," and it ultimately became something that is our song. I'd always wanted to write a song that captured a jarring change in emotion, but had an underlying aggression to it. I'm a big fan of the AMC show Breaking Bad. Anyone that knows the show, knows that the main character goes through a wild transformation from a brilliant mind, into a brilliant mind with major issues in self-control and a blown-up ego. So I brought this song to the guys and we really made it into something fun. I also wanted to write a song for my mom, and this character was her favorite. It was cool being able to say, “Mom, we played that song at the House of Blues!”
Magid: I wrote this song that is on our first EP titled "Butterfly."  It is about this girl Keeley Imel, who I grew to know because her sister was my roommate at the time. Keeley passed away while I was living with her sister, and it was one of the craziest experiences I have been through. Her mom told me to watch out for butterflies and single dimes (coins) because that means that someone is watching over you. All of a sudden, butterflies would be around me all day everyday. So I wrote a song about her.
  • Photo courtesy of North Avenue Studios
  • The Groove Orient
Which comes first: the lyrics or the music?
Shugart: I think writing a song is like taking a crap. Sometimes it comes out easy. Other times you sit there focusing and it takes a long time to pass.
Magid: This can go either way. Sometimes you write a catchy chorus or other times you write a catchy riff that melts faces. Different times = different musical outcomes.
Ong: Music.
Vanegas: Music.
Terry: There is no set order or plan when I write music. It flows very naturally, and they often come at the same time for me. I don't think that inspiration can be planned out ... that would take away from it and make it seem forced.

What’s the first album you remember really treasuring?
Shugart: Pearl Jam, Vitology.
Magid: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are you Experienced?
Vanegas: Either Chumbawumba’s Tubthumper or Spice World.
Terry: The first album that I ever bought. It was titled Enema of the State by Blink 182. I didn't have any drums yet, just sticks and a practice pad. I would sit around all day, just drumming along with what Travis Barker was doing, building a grasp of musicality, how to be creative and how to listen to other musicians play and not only feed off of them, but actually support their individual needs. I feel like he captured that on that album and it has shaped how I play music.
Ong: Green Day's Nimrod.

What album have you listened to more than any other album? What keeps you coming back?
Magid: I think I’ve listened to more Led Zeppelin than anything else.
Vanegas: Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady. I keep going back because of Charlie Mariano.
Shugart: Stevie Wonder's Talking Book. Stevie just knows how to put it best.
Terry: 'Futures' by Jimmy Eat World. Simply put, it is my favorite album. It captures my emotions, really hits me in a deep place. The musicianship is superb, just very crisp and natural at the same time. I think there is a nostalgic element for me, as well. That album came out at a time that I needed it.
  • Photo courtesy of North Avenue Studios
  • The Groove Orient
Which band would you most want to tour with, past or present?
Shugart: Spice Girls. Have you seen Spice World? That bus would be so rad.
Magid: Gov’t Mule, the London Souls, the Revivalists or the String Cheese Incident would all be cool.
Vanegas: Primus.
Terry: I'd definitely enjoy touring with Incubus. From a musical standpoint, I think we would fit in enough with them to make shows very fluid and fun. I'm a big fan of their sound. Very groovy and intelligent, with a popular element.
Ong: London Souls would be cool.

What label do you think your music fits best on?
Shugart: Not sure about that.
Terry: Any label that preaches quality and diversity. I don't think we fit just one label, to be honest. Maybe because we are still discovering our own sound, which is an exciting thing to me.
Magid: I personally would like to be on SCI Fidelity, which is the String Cheese Incident's label, because I really respect artists that chase their dreams and build something themselves. But someday, hopefully we can have our own label. Also Eric Krasno just made his own label, Feel, and they just released the London Souls' new record, so that would be cool too.

What the fuck is wrong with the music industry?
Shugart: Is there really a need for that profanity?
Vanegas: Television.
Ong: Long story.
Terry: The same thing that is wrong with humanity ... we all want what we feel we deserve; we all want ours. Asking what's wrong with the music industry is just again asking what's wrong with people. And we need to figure it out, because working together for a positive cause is the only way we can do anything.
Magid: The music industry or the record industry? Because nothing's wrong with the music industry, but now that records aren’t selling because of music piracy, the record companies are tapping into the live performances now, trying to get their $$$ fix from other means. Which is not cool.
  • Photo courtesy of North Avenue Studios
  • The Groove Orient
What’s your favorite city to play in?
Shugart: We always have a good time in New Orleans. Who wouldn’t?
Vanegas: New Orleans.
Ong: Asheville.
Terry: So far, I'd have to say here in Orlando. It can be tough for sure, being in a town where the music scene is still rising, as opposed to a town where music is the emphasis. But I truly enjoy being a part of something that is growing and challenging. Plus, Florida is my home. There is truly no place like home, where you can give back to the people that helped bring you up.
Magid: Orlando. I like the hometown vibes. Getting all the friends and family out to the big shows is always a blast.

What’s your favorite Orlando venue to perform in?
Shugart: The Plaza Live.
Vanegas: The Plaza.
Terry: So far, House of Blues here in Orlando has been the most fun for me. Just a fun crowd, good sound and a cool space.
Ong: All about the crowd: HOB, Tanq's is always fun.
Magid: That’s tough because I love all the local venues, but I like the ones that play hard to get, so I’m going to have to go with the Plaza Live.

What local Orlando band deserves more attention?
Shugart: The New Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra.
Vanegas: The New Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra.
Magid: I think all of the bands that I used to go and watch when I just turned 21 such as Thomas Wynn & the Believers, Junkie Rush, the Absinthe Trio, Shak Nasti, Kaleigh Baker, are all the cream of the crop. The world should fall in love with all of these bands/artists.
Terry: I previously stated that Leisure Chief is one of the best bands I have ever seen live. So they certainly deserve the attention of the people. I'm a huge fan of their creativity and their desire to create good music.

What upcoming Orlando shows are you looking forward to?
Shugart: I’m gonna go see Leisure Chief at Tanqueray’s tonight. I’m looking forward to it. (Thursdays, Tanqueray's)
Vanegas: Zappa Plays Zappa. (Sept. 12, the Plaza Live)
Ong: Valient Thorr. (Aug. 19, Will's Pub)
Magid: Umphrey’s McGee at House of Blues (Aug. 21). But honestly I’d like to see more bands tour through Orlando. More bands pass right on by and hit St. Pete or Jacksonville, Pensacola or Miami and just pass right through us. I don’t get it, but I’m eager to learn why.

What’s the best live music video you’ve seen?
Vanegas: Anything performed by Zainichi Funk.
Magid: The Michael Jackson videos are amazing. Its more than just a music video it’s a short film that delivers so much more than just a music video.
Terry: I'd say anything by Snarky Puppy.
Shugart: I always enjoy the Stevie Ray Vaughn show recorded at Austin City Limits in 1989.

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