A few Tuesdays ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dugan Cruz, the lead singer of Madus (Dugan Cruz, Kirby Shaw, Lenny Barahona, and Sam Sobo). We discussed Los Angeles, music, ambition, but mostly we covered their upcoming EP, All The Way, due out next Tuesday May 19th.
Dugan, with a sugar skull necklace and cool, albeit slightly oversized, black leather jacket, sat across from me inside a Starbucks on the corner of Ventura and Van Nuys. A true valley kid based out of Sherman Oaks. He was warm, welcoming, and very present.
I asked him about growing up just north of the City of Angels and Dugan relents the familiar tones of not fitting in, mostly due to his New York family background. In a classic New York fashion, Dugan thinks that the culture in Los Angeles could stand to be more straight forward. He never related to the idea of impressing people that you don’t know with things that you don’t want and uses that displacement to drive his writing style, “I felt like I never fit in over here, that makes me become the person I want to be.”
I was surprised to learn that Dugan had not begun vocal training until he was nineteen. He had joined the choir in college to help him learn to read music. Two or three semesters in, thanks to some patient professors, Dugan decided that this was something he wanted to pursue. It was not a perfect road… “You can go back and hear some horrible attempts.” “You’re only hearing the highlight reel.”
That dedication pushed Dugan, Kirby, Lenny, and Sam to form Madus, originally titled Tangent Transmission, and spend the next few years finding their sound; formulating the alt-meets-grunge hard rock that we hear today. Dugan recognizes that it’s a process, “Being a musician; it takes a while to learn the whole spectrum, and then realize who you’re going to be as an artist. I highly doubt Bruno Mars was like, ‘Yea I’m gonna be a Michael Jackson-type dude up on stage who can dance real hard.’ Maybe he wanted to be something different, but he developed into that guy up there.”
Madus and it’s members paid their dues. Dugan clarifies: they are in a place where finding support locally is a viable option because of the time that they spent finding a sound in which they believe in. “If someone had given us tons of money when we were nineteen, writing for our band Tangent Transmission, we probably wouldn’t be a band today. We probably wouldn’t be able to work with a lot of people because we blew tons of money on an idea that wasn’t ready yet. Because we kind of were forced to work within the means we had, we got to the point where we were confident enough to ask people for money.”
In that sense Dugan alludes to a contradictory philosophy of the music industry post y2k. To get money you must have the content, but to have the content you must have the money. This is trending towards hit singles and artist/producer solo acts. However, the demand for thought provoking, emotional, and consistent music hasn’t faded; those consumers are the key. A new movement of self financing through crowd funding is giving indie acts the attention they deserve. High traffic sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and PledgeMusic create a haven for artists with talent and purpose while sites like Bandcamp, Youtube, and Facebook stand together to form a distribution platform with infinite reach. So, while big business pays for and lives off of one-hit-wonder, short-attention-span, club music the indie scene is thriving on the internet and Madus is no exception. Turning to PledgeMusic because of it’s one-on-one services built specifically for musicians in their position Madus found the money they need.
Dugan understands that successfully completing their campaign and recording their EP is only the first step of the journey. I asked Dugan what his plans are for publishing All The Way and he was hesitant to relay that they’ve turned to Big Picture Media to help them with the release. He has nothing but good things to say about the company, but he realizes it might not be the “indie” thing to do. “Maybe it’s something that destroys the veneer of whatever success we get, because people are like, ‘Oh they’re working with people.’”
“At the end of the day all you really want to do is make music and play shows. We didn’t want to make any of the wrong moves,” I can’t imagine anyone holding this against them. Dugan, Kirby, Lenny, and Sam have done nothing but work hard, release consistently quality music, tour, and generate genuine interest all over the pacific southwest. Their most recent Spring tour was wildly successful, drawing crowds in towns that they didn’t even know they had fans in. A road to success punctuated by their commitment, classic riffs, and kind nature.
Full interview transcript will be available here.
Check out the music video for the new single“All the Way” by MADUS!