bill bodkin enjoys a good muffin…
They may have a fun and fluffy name, but make no bones about it, there’s a lot of gravity to the band Dangermuffin. They’re a band that paints wonderful images with their music yet really engage you with their lyrical content.
The three piece band out of the beaches of the Carolinas are a group that truly embrace the DIY spirit. They’re a band that likes to keep it local with the production of their music, but are willing to hoof it on their own in a van and travel the country playing outdoor festivals and clubs.
And this DIY spirit combined their attention to musical and lyrical detail, has afforded them success ranging from topping the HomeGrown Radio Network’s Charts over the likes of jam and roots bands like Ben Harper, Old Crow Medicine Show and Keller Williams to gaining lifelong fans — like the time a Gulf War vet told them that their music was the soundtrack to keeping his spirits up during his service to our country.
Recently, Pop-Break caught up with the band to talk about their music, spiritual influences and beards.
Pop-Break: I’m going to start with the most over-asked question you probably get — please talk about the meaning and evolution of the band’s name?
Dan Lotti: Dangermuffin, more than anything, we felt back in 2007 when we were naming the band would be a name that would stick. Really Mike Sivilli, the guitarist, came up with the terminology of the name. I always like to say that the name reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously — obviously it’s a silly name and we know that. But it also has to do with the dichotomy of what we are as a band. It’s really two guitars that are driving the band. I play an acoustic guitar that’s a very minimalist approach, so maybe that could be the muffin. Mike plays an electric guitar with a myriad of pedals for tone and he’s very meticulous about what he’s doing and he’s very involved so that’s maybe the dangerous side, the rock ‘n’ roll side. Maybe there’s some other stories out there, but we leave it up to the imagination.
PB: It kinda reminded me of the cartoon Danger Mouse that I used to watch when I was a kid.
DL: Yeah man!
PB: Thank you for acknowledging the existence of the show. When I mention it most people just give me blank stares…
DL: Of course man.
PB: You guys get lumped into the jam band category. Is that something you guys embrace or is it a case of “Thanks, but that’s not what we’re about.”
DL: Well…I think yes and no. The first thing I would want to say about the jam band community is that it’s synonymous with festivals and the like and there are awesome music fans in that community. They’re some of the most rabid music fans leftover from the Grateful Dead-era. I think that festivals are an extension of that Grateful Dead movement.
We’re happy, honored and privileged to be a part of that. The eclecticism of what Dangermuffin is doing — playing the reggae, the bluegrass, the rock, the little bit of funk, I think that plays a little bit into the jam band kind of moniker.
We do feel the songs that we are a little bit more folk-driven, a little more roots rock, beachy a little bit. So we don’t feel it’s really a jam band thing, they may not be lyricists. We put a lot of emphasis on the songs, that probably differentiates us from the jam band scene. Again, great music fans and great bands to be associated with.
PB: You’ve won some awards for your writing, can you talk about where you drew your writing inspirations for this record?
DL: We live out here in our little beach town of Folly Beach, South Carolina outside of Charleston. I feel like there’s a lot of natural, I like to use the word “Gaeaian” energy, from the ocean. In particular moonscapes [also the name of the album they released in 2010] which influence the tides of the ocean, the winds, the massive tidal fluctuation out here. That’s unavoidable because we live out here and those Gaeaian energies tie into the songs we’re writing.
The past couple years as we were writing for Olly Oxen Free we had a lot of experiences on the road since we’ve been touring the country. There’s songs on there I think like Lonely Highway that’s about that we drove from Eugene, Oregon we cut down through Mount Shasta and then went through Nevada on Route 50. We felt wanted to drive and get to Denver in one night, so that inspired “Loneliest Highway.” You’re in the middle of the desert, there’s nothing out there, it’s the middle of nowhere. It’s not the ocean but you experience these [same] energies. Obviously in the desert you can feel that — I think that plays a role in what I’m writing about.
Then I think also, I spend a lot of time researching some of the conspiracy culture. I think that, at the very least, it’s extremely interesting to imagine the conspiracy theories and potentially other worldly energies that kind of exist. Some of it resonates with me, some of it makes sense to me. It’s inspirational and I like to write about it.
PB: The name of the album, Olly Oxen Free, evokes this whimsical nature. Is that something that’s inherent on the record? Explain why you choose this as name of the album.
DL: I think so..it’s whimsical and it’s about freedom…I think there are certain things that are truthful and can resonate with people. When that truth is revealed to people it can be liberating. And I think with music, [it’s] supposed to be fun and uplifting. Sure, you can have songs that can be ballad-y and I’m sure we at least have one of those on [our album] but it is really about liberating through the music and through the lyrics. Music itself is a common vibration and it’s better than words most of the time and it’s my hope that I can take some of the things that I’ve learned and I’ve felt that resonated with me and put them into song.
I did feel Olly Oxen Free which was just a line in the first song “Slumber” is very childlike. Too often in our society we go down these roads and want to be an adult and take on this much debt and day jobs and accumulate this much material wealth. What I find with people who are well off they seem to be the most miserable people I know. I think it has to do with them loosing their youth, their inner-child, whatever you want to call it. In society we forget, we’re always youthful within us, the artist within us, the soul within us is youthful and you have to nurture that. So that’s where the name came from — to love and enjoy life like a child would.
PB: Which do you guys enjoy performing at more — clubs or festivals?
DL: I really love to play outside. All things being equal, being outdoors plays a big role in what we’re doing. I think when you put the walls around anything it can limit some of the experiences people can have. I think when you’re outdoors, which is kind of the way it should be, you’re open to this whole other energy that everyone connects with in their own way. We’re down here in South Carolina, so we’re used to sweating. At outdoor festivals people seem to come in with open mind and we’re looking for those people because we’re always looking to grow.
PB: If someone’s just discovering you guys for the first time, what’s a song or album from your catalog that you recommend they start out with?
DL: I have to say that Olly Oxen Free is our baby, it’s our most recent work. We’ve been traveling a lot, honing our in our sound. We feel like with each successive record we’ve released our sound is more defined. If folks want to know what we’re about, check out latest record.
PB: Here’s more of a silly question for you guys. As the proud owner of a beard, I saw you are all owners of beards, who do you think has the best one?
DL: Who has the best? (laughs). Maybe Steven does. Mike and I have to do a lot of trimming and shaping but Steven doesn’t do much trimming. Maybe it’s the best because it’s been around the longest. He’s got a little gray patch, he just turned 37, so we tease him about his gray patch beard. So he may take the trophy home.
PB: What are your future plans, not just in terms of touring, but what you guys want to accomplish with this band?
DL: I would probably start to answer this by saying our goals have always been, since we began, have been very humble. The only things we care about are sustenance and creation. If we’re playing music a year from now with all of our bills paid and we can support ourselves off the music and the wealth of the freedom it allots — we don’t have to work a day job. That’s been the goal with it. We look back on 2012 with joy because of our records’ success. And our record was all local, we’re happy to have it locally done. We’re already in the black on this record. I think the goals that we have as a business have already been met. So many bands get in so much debt and that’s been our biggest fear. We try and keep our overhead low and sustain what we’re doing, thus the net result is growth.