‘The Following’ Leads Reggae Scene at The Gateway

Aug 08, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

It’s not uncommon to hear an LBI cover band throw a Sublime hit or two into a set. “What I Got” and “Santeria” never fail to appease suntanned visitors sipping Coronas and nursing their beach buzzes. It’s rare, however, to come across a band that not only delivers reggae rock classics, but also doles out originals that equal and rival those legendary covers. At The Gateway in Ship Bottom last Friday night, we saw one of those bands.

The Following is a reggae, rock, hip-hop hybrid, comparable to contemporary acts like Sublime and Slightly Stoopid. The band members proudly attribute their beach-inspired stylings to their Long Beach Island roots, while they humorously assign the origins of their band’s name, “The Following,” to a bad decision made years earlier.

“We really needed a name for an ad, so we just picked a song,” said Dan Sansig, guitarist for The Following. “We had a song called ‘The Following.’ We really don’t like the name; it sounds kind of serious.

“It’s probably the biggest mistake of my life,” he joked, accepting full responsibility for the blunder.

The five members of The Following are a likeable bunch. Taking humble to the highest degree, they teeter on the line of self-deprecation, teasing themselves and one another in a lighthearted, sarcastic vernacular. Speaking among them is both electrifying and wistful, as you find yourself entertained but filled with a hungry yearning to be in on the joke. It’s like trying to get a word in with a band of brothers who have grown out of bickering and into banter, inflicting their nonsensical, humorous dialogue onto anyone lucky enough to pass within earshot.

“We’ve been a band for too long is the problem,” joked Ryan Bott, vocalist and keys man of the group. Along with Bott and Sansig, the group’s members include Dan Brown on guitar and vocals, Nick Miller on drums and Zak Bryant on bass and vocals. The band has been together for nearly a decade, but their history dates all the way back to adolescence.

Sansig and Bott had attended Southern Regional High School at the same time. “We were in art class together. We didn’t like each other,” Bott said.

“It’s true,” said Sansig, then, “Well, I wouldn’t say we didn’t like each other.”

“We were indifferent,” Bott corrected, comparing their initial, colorless relationship to the televised interactions between President Trump and North Korea’s leader.

“Strangely enough, we all have the same musical taste, even though we didn’t grow up together,” Bott said before citing Paul Simon, Sublime and other popular reggae artists amongst their musical inspirations.

The group’s first set is usually top-heavy with cover songs to entertain the patrons finishing up their meals, while originals, though sprinkled throughout the first 10 or so songs, are reserved for the later sets.

“No one’s coming to LBI to hear your mind-blowing originals,” said Bott. “Keep your ego in check. They’re here to have a good time with their kids.” But the modest band’s own work is just as lively and enjoyable as the covers it performs.

They kicked off their performance with a slightly upbeat rendition of Bob Marley’s mellow “I’m Still Waiting.” Bott’s melodic, smooth voice took the lead, followed by a bluesy, skilled guitar riff from Brown that elicited the following commentary from Bott: “That’s a man who knows how to make love right there.”

Brown and Bott alternated vocals for the remainder of the first set, Bott sounding a bit like Jack Johnson and Brown like the indie folk singer Passenger. A favorite original was their “Abyssinian Lion,” a bouncy tune driven by cadenced percussion and lyrics that stay in your head and at the tip of your tongue days later. The band’s strengths lie in their technical skills, amplified perhaps by their laidback, easygoing body language. Nodding, eyes shut, swaying and bobbing like buoys in a lilting bay, the artists execute their tunes expertly in what appears to be an effortless ease.

They have what they’ve dubbed a “cool writing process,” made possible by cell phones, which have streamlined songwriting into a faster, more collaborative process. The band can work remotely, yet together. Sansig said he’ll use the voice memo feature on his smartphone to record a basic guitar riff, then he’ll text the recorded memo to Bott, who will add to it. Sansig and Bott will pass the recording along to Brown, Miller and Bryant, who will flesh out the new tune. And just like that, a song is made without having to pass a burnt CD back and forth in a fraying envelope. Now, when inspiration strikes, the members can act instantaneously.

But technology stops there for The Following. They don’t have much of an active internet presence, a refreshing characteristic in the digital age. Their indifference to self-promotion and social media is founded in their wholesome goal, which is to play and perform for the fun of it. This kind of authenticity is evident in their buoyant, cheery sets. Clad in T-shirts, cargo pants, boardshorts, beachy beards and surf brand hats, the band rolls on stage atop a wave of you’re-about-to-have-a-good-time messaging. The bassist, Bryant, had even opted out of shoes for the evening, navigating the stage barefoot as if it were a shoreline.

“We like to get together and just play music. I think at this point, after 10 years, we don’t really worry about the social media stuff,” said Bott.

“We don’t even play off the Island anymore. We used to play all over, but now we’re only island,” said Brown. When asked why, his answer was simple: “Because we love it.”

They don’t have any lofty goals lingering on the horizon.

“The band kind of serves as an exercise of getting us together and being creative,” said Bott.

“I think it’s mostly just about keeping it going,” said Sansig. “If I didn’t have this band, life would suck. It would be so boring.”

Perhaps the next time The Following takes the stage, they will have changed their name. “I wanted to change it to Bomb Sniffing Dog,” said Sansig. “There’s really nothing more bad*** than a bomb sniffing dog.”

To get more information on the band, visit its Facebook page facebook.com/The-Following-55715047393/.

— Sarah Hodgson

 

 

Set list snippet:

“Badfish,” Sublime

“New Marley,” The Following

“I’m Still Waiting,” Bob Marley

“Up on Cripple Creek,” The Band

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” The Beatles

“Shame and Scandal in the Family,” Sir Lancelot

“Abyssinian Lion,” The Following

“Animal,” Miike Snow

“Daughter,” Pearl Jam

“Everything,” The Following

“Find Our Way,” The Following

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