This summer, the North Country of New York State plays host to the 9th annual Backwoods Pondfest, taking place at Twin Ponds Campground in the town of Peru. One of the most authentic music festival experiences in terms of size, music, atmosphere and community, the festival has grown steadily since inception and boasts a stellar lineup once again, highlighted by the first performance of a new supergroup, Ex-Presidents.
This supergroup’s name is tongue-in-cheek in origins, given that Todd Stoops, formerly of Kung Fu, brought together friends who are former members of bands. “It a play on words, making light of situations that have happened. I’ve played with all these guys separately for a while. I’ve known Eric for 15 years at least with RAQ and Particle. Block and I played with Stratospheric Allstars this past spring at Brooklyn Bowl and he’s an amazing guitar player. Fro I have known from playing shows with Dopapod in the past and it was all one of those flashes of ‘Hey, let get together and play some serious heavy metal space funk dance music,’ explained Stoops. “It was a spark of ‘let’s do something awesome.’”
The lineup of Ex-Presidents, a reference to Point Break, a cinematic masterpiece as Stoops will readily argue, includes Todd Stoops (RAQ, Kung Fu) on keys, Eric Gould (Particle) on bass, Andrew Block (Gramatik) on guitar and Neal ‘Fro’ Evans (Dopapod) on drums. The bands that these members originate from reflect distinct genres that will mesh together when the band comes together on August 9. Funk (Stoops), Soul (Block), EDM (Gould) and jam/prog (Evans), but that is not to say the four musicians are pigeonholed in this new outfit. Rather, the group will find cohesion among the idea of wanting to make people dance with a non-familiar edge, with Stoops hoping fans realize “I didn’t expect this sound, but I’m moving to it.” That sound is explained by Stoops as “White Zombie meets LCD Soundsystem,” the latter of which he has performed “Home” during the Stratosphere Allstars show at Brooklyn Bowl this past May.
Each member of Ex-Presidents brings to the band something different, shaped around Stoops’ concept of putting together something new and with an edge. “Fro is that drummer and he beats the shit out of the drums and one of the best. When I met Dopapod back in the day and became friends, one night they were crushing a Tool cover and I considered him for this project based on that. Eric has been crushing on bass and we’ve known each other so long it was a natural choice. Andrew has just a soaring guitar and this is a chance for fans to see him outside of Gramatik and hear something different. Plus, he is super, super talented and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”
When asked if there will be more shows, Stoops doesn’t rule it out. “There is definitely some potential for this project.” Fans in attendance at Pondfest will get first crack at the Ex-Presidents when they perform August 9 at the festival in what will hopefully be their first of many performances.
The sound of Ex-Presidents could be a breakout set at Backwoods Pondfest, and that’s just the tip of the lineup. With more updates on Pondfest to come, stay tuned for what will surely be a banner year for the festival.