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La Crosse, Wisconsin, United States | SELF

La Crosse, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Reggae




"T.U.G.G. Works With Renowned Reggae Producer"

When you love reggae, you'll go to the ends of the earth for it.

OK, maybe not the ends of the earth. But you will pursue a producer who lives in London and you will blast him with e-mails for months to convince him that taking a flight to Wisconsin in January is the smart thing to do.

And that's how Neil 'Mad Professor' Fraser, ended up in a basement recording studio in La Crosse recently, working with hometown band TUGG on their song "Revolution".

"They're like friends of mine. They've listened to my stuff a long, long time"? Fraser said, which is why he was willing to detour to La Crosse on his way to Argentina.

That's right, he left La Crosse's subzero cold and snow for tropical climates, and not a moment too soon from Fraser's point of view.

"They told me it was snowing. But the way it was snowing, I probably would not have come"? he said with a laugh.

"We travel the world, it doesn't matter"? he said. "The world is our oyster. The whole idea is, you go where it takes you. It would have been nice if they could have come (to London) because I have a studio there and it is pretty much well-equipped"?

But Fraser said it was impractical to get the band to London, so he came to them.

"If the songs are good, then it's a green light"? he said, and "Revolution"? is a good song.

"How can I put it? It just creeps up over you. It's a very warm song, very nice."

Fraser has never warmed up to the new-fangled technology most producers use. He's an analog guy who would rather everybody gather in one place and play their parts together, as musicians were intended to play.

"I was lucky enough to see the '70s when a band had to play together, really had to play with each other and interact. Technology at every point is a double-edged sword. Look right now, the computer has made life so much easier. But in my studio, I have reel-to-reel tape machines. I collect a lot of old stuff. I like old stuff."

For Andy Hughes of TUGG, the recording session with the Mad Professor was an unbelievable coup.

"I have grown up listening to his music" Hughes said. "He is very influential in the history of reggae music."

TUGG was hoping to get as many as six songs produced, but ended up with only one because Fraser spent less than a week here. But even that one song is a gift, Hughes said, and he's just glad they got the opportunity to finally work with Fraser.
- La Crosse Tribune

"Review: TUGG – Home Brew EP"

Release Date: December 17th, 2011
Record Label: Last Call Records
Official Website: TUGG Website

Group Background:
As one of the Midwest’s finest staples to the reggae-rock community, T.U.G.G. is notorious for their tropical vibes, breezy melodies, and living-the-life message. Their holiday gift to reggae devotees across the nation is Homebrew EP, a five-song expansion upon their acoustic and reggae inclinations.

Originally planned as an acoustic release, T.U.G.G. couldn’t help but develop a number of these songs into rhythmic feel-good anthems. The EP debuts five tracks that were written and recorded by T.U.G.G amidst their stomping grounds in western Wisconsin. Furthermore, Homebrew EP was mastered at the ever-so-popular 17th street recording studio in Costa Mesa, California.

Album Review:
Having a hard work ethic and superior musicianship can only take you so far; to gain a loyal following, musicians must discover what it is that fans admire and expand. With that the Cheese heads TUGG found their calling awhile ago, meshing their talents into an acoustically-driven reggae style, accompanied by feelings of good hope, love, and about returning to paradise.

Amongst the five songs on Home Brew EP, two of them have purely acoustic progressions fueled by the bongos. In So Good, TUGG reminisces about the spicy weather of summer, as the music induces a warm feeling as well. I liked the smooth brass melodies in this song, but this is the only song they grace Home Brew EP’s musical presence.

“Moonlight” is another favorite on Home Brew EP. In the song, they sing about taking it slow, even in anticipation for something. “My feelings take control, cuz they will if you let them”. I enjoy the back-up vocals in the song, always rebutting against nearly every line lead singer Andy Hughes sings. Tugg even outsourced the voices of Midwestern friend Josh Heinrichs and Simeon, lead-singer for Outlaw Nation in the song titled “Babylon Bred”. It was pretty neat when they were all singing together by the end of the song, inspired by Rastafarian ideals and metaphors.

Overall, Tugg has pieced together another solid collection with Home Brew EP. As any good EP does, it makes me wonder what is in store for the Wisconsin natives. Is this a taste of something bigger? If so, reggae fans won’t be upset given the positivity and feel-good harmonies Tugg flashed with their Christmas-time EP, that hit #2 on iTunes’s reggae charts within days of its release. - The Pier

"T.U.G.G. Finds It's Groove"

The west coast of Wisconsin isn’t typically thought of as a hotbed of alternative reggae music, but T.U.G.G. has done an admirable job of channeling tropical grooves and breezy melodies coming straight outta La Crosse. Its latest album Slow Chill, is one of the most polished CDs dropped by a Coulee Region band in years. The album would sound perfectly natural pumping from the boombox of a Southern California skateboarder or the deck of a Caribbean cruise liner, which makes it all the more impressive that it was recorded in downtown La Crosse during one of the coldest Januaries on record.

When the four members of T.U.G.G. gathered for beers and reminiscence at the Bodega last Friday night, they were candid and in good spirits, as this particular lineup was about to celebrate its one-year anniversary.

“Is it hard to get inspiration for reggae music when it’s 20 below zero with two feet of snow on the ground?” a visitor asked.

“It’s easier,” responded lead singer Andy Hughes, eliciting laughs around the table as the group fantasized about the beach. “You can tell we were thinking about it, man.”

Although T.U.G.G. today is defined by dub strokes on the guitar and occasional ska flourishes, the first incarnation of the band was a jamier group as indicated by its unfortunate acronym: The Under Ground Groovement. Founded in 2001 as a quintet of local musicians, Hughes refers to that first incarnation as “your typical college party band.” Exploratory solos were the norm, and early recordings reveal a much less polished group than the one currently trekking around the Midwest.

Over eight years of touring, gigging, and recording, many T.U.G.G. members have come and gone and the band swung between three-piece, four-piece and five-piece lineups as it developed its alt-reggae sound (a term Hughes prefers to “white boy reggae”).

The current lineup came together in November 2008, shortly before the recording of Slow Chill. By then, Hughes and original bassist Jake McLees had become the driving force in the band, responsible for much of the songwriting and its Sublime-influenced sound. When their original drummer couldn’t make a gig last year, they invited Ben Rohde — a veteran of several La Crosse bands, most notably Hooch — to sit in behind the kit. They needed a substitute guitarist the following night, so Rhode phoned up another of his former Hooch bandmates, guitarist Joe Gantzer, and the lineup has been set ever since.

“The bottom line is we all love to play, and if we don’t have a band we become miserable bastards because that demon isn’t fed,” said Gantzer, earning nods all around. “I’ve done a handful of groups, but when we came in and did this recording I know I personally looked back at it and said ‘Whoa, I guess this is worth quitting other bands.’”

Although Hooch was one of the most popular bands in western Wisconsin a few years ago, the energy surrounding T.U.G.G. seems similar, Rhode said. “I feel that every band after that, up until T.U.G.G. was just a filler until I found the right band, which happened to be this one.”

That gives T.U.G.G. an interesting dynamic. Although the lineup has been together for less than a year, half of its members have played together for most of their adult lives. When they came together, everything just seemed to click.

"It’s awesome. There is no drama. We’re all very honest and open with each other. It’s a really cool group to be a part of,” said McLees.

Shortly after coalescing last fall, the band began work on the album that would become Slow Chill. They spent a month rehearsing in Hughes’ basement and then one week in the booth at Natural Recordings, a Fifth Avenue recording studio owned by Brandon Schockmel and Lorenzo Trudeau.

Five of the six tracks on the CD were self-produced, but they brought in some heavy hitters for their single “Revolution.” Mad Professor — the English studio wizard who collaborated with Lee "Scratch" Perry, Sly and Robbie, Pato Banton and hundreds of other reggae artists — executive produced the song.

"It was one of those things where I hit him up on MySpace, said I was a big fan and that the band was looking to record and we were wondering if you’d want to work with us,” Hughes remembered. “Lo and behold I got in contact with some of the people in his studio and got on the phone with him one day. That was a crazy trip for me.”

T.U.G.G. also got Banton to rhyme on the track when he came into town for a concert last winter. Considering Mad Professor introduced Banton to the world when he produced his debut album in 1984, T.U.G.G. and La Crosse now occupy an interesting intersection in the world of international reggae.

After spending a week in the studio laying down tracks, T.U.G.G. then spent the next two months mixing. “We listened to it on a lot of stereos,” Hughes admited. But the final result shows dividends. Slow Chill is one of the best-sounding local recordings this reviewer has ever heard. The vocals are full, the harmonies are rich, the drums are on-point, and the lyrics are yearning.

The album has already received radio play on Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock in La Crosse, as well as on stations in Madison, Eau Claire, Stevens Point, and Decorah, Iowa. But the quality of the tracks can stand alongside any alt-reggae song in the country.

Fittingly, Slow Chill has been a Top 10 seller on CDBaby.com’s reggae charts since its release in mid-July. It can also be purchased on iTunes, tuggmusic.com, or locally at Deaf Ear Records, Dave’s Guitar Shop and the Helm.

“I don’t think anyone knew if this was going to be a full-on band, so really Slow Chill and that process and the end product we came up with really put this lineup together,” Hughes said of the recording session. “Because we were so proud of it and knew that we had something special, and that sort of propelled us into the year as a full-on band.”

In the months ahead, T.U.G.G. hopes to continue touring to get Slow Chill into as many hands as possible. On Friday evening, they’re scheduled to perform a benefit for the Hunger Task Force at The Cellar in Cartwright Center on the UW-La Crosse campus. Later that night, they will cruise up to Winona’s Club 151 to open for Natty Nation, a reunited Madison reggae band.

And on Saturday they will drive to Milwaukee to play a side stage at the Rave before a show by Slightly Stoopid — one of the nation’s premier alt-reggae acts, for whom T.U.G.G. has opened in the past — but they aren’t going alone. The band rented a bus and will take around 60 La Crosse fans with them to the show.

In the upcoming year T.U.G.G. hopes to get back in the studio, record another CD and try to break into the Chicago and Minneapolis scenes. Given its noticeable bump in local popularity since the release of Slow Chill four months ago, the band seems poised and ready to grow.

“It’s weird to have two different versions of starting the band, because Jake and I started so long ago, but we really feel like this is T.U.G.G. now,” said Hughes, looking around the table at his bandmates. “This is T.U.G.G., finally, what we always thought it could be.” - The Second Supper

"T.U.G.G. "Slow Chill""

Tropical feelings pervade when these warm reggae vibrations envelope the melodies and happily bounce along with the wise minded values expressed. Featuring guest musician Pato Banton their jams continue to expand. Hard to believe they are from Wisconsin. - Maximum Ink Magazine


Fill The Tank-2005
"Gang of Fools" Demo-2006
The Stash-2008
Slow Chill- 2009
Come Sunrise- 2010
Home Brew EP- 2011/12



The west coast of Wisconsin is not typically thought of as a hotbed of alternative reggae music. However, TUGG, hailing from La Crosse, WI has done an amazing job channeling tropical grooves and breezy melodies and has quickly become a top draw in the Midwest and beyond. Coming from a state known more for the Green Bay Packers, cold weather, and cheese, they boast an impressive resume of rubbing shoulders with reggae heavyweights. From shows with Barrington Levy and Slightly Stoopid to recording tracks with the likes of Pato Banton, Josh Heinrichs, and Outlaw Nation, TUGG continues to prove why they are a fast rising star in the alternative reggae scene. All of the bands last 3 albums have debuted in the Top 50 of the iTunes Reggae Chart. Their most recent album, Home Brew EP went to #2 and spent 3 weeks in the Hot 100 iTunes Reggae Album Chart. Last Spring TUGG was asked by The Dirty Heads (EMG) to provide support for a string of shows in the Midwest on their first ever headlining tour, which included a sold out show at the House of Blues-Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day. The band has been fortunate to share the stage with: Slightly Stoopid, The Dirty Heads, Cage the Elephant, SOJA, Barrington Levy, Pepper, The Aggrolites, Tribal Seeds, Ballyhoo!, Iration, The Movement, Mad Professor, Karl Denson, Rusted Root, Pato Banton, The Ziggens, Josh Heinrichs, New Politics, Pacific Dub, Tech Nine and many more.