Published on December 27th, 2012 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Dangermuffin Close the Year With a Blast at the Pour House
With a confident sense of diligence, Charleston-based roots-rock trio Dangermuffin made great things happen in 2012. Singer/guitarist Dan Lotti, drummer/bassist Steven Sandifer, and lead guitarist/singer Mike Sivilli recorded a solid 13-song studio album titled Olly Oxen Free with local engineer Majeed Fick at Truphonic Recording last January. They independently released it in the spring and then toured extensively across the U.S. through the rest of the year, regularly sneaking back into the Lowcountry for intimate acoustic shows and small club gigs under the name “AcousticMuffin.”
With it’s groove-based blend of blues, rock, ska, calypso, and reggae, Olly Oxen Free earned positive reviews from critics and favorable reactions of old and newer fans. It reached the top of the Homegrown Music Network’s playlists and enjoyed coverage on the SiriusXM JamOn! show.
This week, Lotti, Sandifer, and Sivilli are eager to wrap up the hustle and bustle of the year with an amplified “full-band” show at the Pour House on Sat. Dec. 29 (their last major club show in Charleston until next April). Metronome sat down with all three bandmates last week for holiday beer and a healthy year-end conversation.
Metronome: This weekend’s performance isn’t quite an official New Year’s Eve show, but it seems to be in similar spirit. Maybe it counts as homecoming concert or family reunion, too.
Dan Lotti: Well, it’s been since August that we’ve done a big full-band show in Charleston. We’ve been touring a good bit and adding little twists to the new material, so we want to bring a solid show to the Pour House and play for all of our friends. Some venues have soul and a sense of community, and the Pour House is one of those places in town. This week’s a great time to play because we’ll have a lot of family and friends in town.
Metronome: After releasing the recent studio album, you spent months on the road playing the new tunes on stage. Has the sound of the music evolved or adjusted along the way?
Dan Lotti: It seems like the more we play them live, the more doors open in the songs where you extend little parts of the songs. But we got a lot of the arrangements done before we recorded, so most of the parts are well set. With the recording of the record, we tried to focus on the main instruments — the guitars, bass, and drums. We went in and added a little bit of extra percussion and bass, but it was pretty true to what we sound like live.
Steven Sandifer: I think a lot of the tunes have a little bit different energy live on stage because we’ve been playing them live for a long time now. We hadn’t played them out much before we hit the studio. I think there’s some energy and basic groove things that have worked into the songs. They feel a little more seasoned now, but the song [arrangement] is the priority for the bulk of the tunes.
Mike Sivilli: I just try to be one with the song, whatever it is, whether it’s slow and laid-back in one setting or more upbeat when people are hootin’ and hollerin’ in another. I try to play accordingly.
Metronome: Dan, your singing on some of the more soulful and reggae-styled tunes sounds more confident than on some of the band’s early recordings. Have you sort of become the type of vocalist you hope to be?
Dan Lotti: I think I really started finding my voice about the time we made Beermuda [the band’s 2007 debut]. That’s when I first started recording my vocals. Because of all the gigs in smoky bars over the years, I’ve grown and changed as a singer.
Metronome: With Dan and Mike handling the guitar and vocal roles, Steven is solidly placed as the trio’s rhythm section, one way or another — whether it’s on drums, percussion, or stand-up bass.
Dan Lotti: Steven sings, too, you know? He actually has a pretty voice.
Steven Sandifer: Yeah, well one day I’ll sing lead on a song … maybe I’ll put the bass down and become the frontman for an AcousticMuffin song.
Metronome: Earlier this year, you started hinting that Dangermuffin was going to emphasize its acoustic side, exploring various AcousticMuffin experiments. What’s the plan for 2013 with AcousticMuffin?
Mike Sivilli: We don’t really have a time table or anything, but we would like to record an AcousticMuffin album early in the year. We just really like that side of the music. Ultimately, I think we’re probably doing what we like to do more than making a sound business product, you know? We’re not trying to put on anything; we’re simply just doing what we want to do in the true artistic sense. We’re not looking for a niche in a market. We’re just looking for a niche in our artistic brains.
Steven Sandifer: With the acoustic thing, we can still get pretty heavy, especially with a rowdy, ready-to-dance party crowd. It’s versatile.
Metronome: Local AcousticMuffin shows like the ones at the Southern Bar, Awendaw Green, and other small venues tend to be intimate, casual affairs while Dangermuffin shows on the road are usually plugged in events at bigger halls and on festival stages. Do you prefer the big shows or the intimate gigs?
Dan Lotti: I like them both, personally. A balance between both is what we’ve been after for a while. To be able to tour and then come home and play small gigs around town is great. It’s great to play on a bigger stage and then be able to come home and play small gigs around town. We’ve enjoyed a lot of growth this year, playing festivals and big venues up in the Northeast. They’re catching on quicker than the South is, it seems.
Metronome: When you head out of town and deal with new folks in new places, how do you describe the band the style of music?
Mike Sivilli: We sometimes call it “sand-blasted roots-rock with a sweet jam spread.” Sometimes that works. It is hard to define it, but we don’t really have an interest in defining it for ourselves or anything. But it’s nice to give people something to go with.
Steven Sandifer: How about Jam’ericana?
Metronome: Personally, what are your musical and/or non-musical goals for 2013?
Mike Sivilli: I’m definitely taking on more non-musical projects. I’ve had phases where I was into painting, drawing, and visual art. I’m doing some woodworking stuff that involves refurbishing a guitar. There are all these things that I’m interested in — projects where you can have a finished product that is something to be really proud of.
Dan Lotti: Well, I’m getting married in 2013.
Steven Sandifer: I resolve to write more music. I’ve been a sideman for much of my musical life, but as far as creating things out of my head, for better or worse — that’s something I want to do. I do want to record some Appalachian-inspired music using folk percussion instruments like bones, and skins, and stringed instruments. It’s very preliminary. It’ll be like a bluegrass percussion album, which means I’ll probably sell like two copies.
Dangermuffin shares the Pour House stage with N.C.’s American Aquarium on Sat. Dec. 29 at 10 p.m. Admission is $12 ($10 in advance). Check out dangermuffinmusic.com for more info.
Top photo by Ballard Lesemann.
Dangermuffin performing “Homestead” at Deep Roots Festival:
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