|Interview With Voo Doo Daddy|
The Band From Swingers
Interview With Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Here is the interview as it will appear in the next Grip Magazine, a music monthly in Charlottesville. I don't know what headline they'll give it but I'm going to strongly discourage the tempting "Big Bad Interview".
Two and a half years ago, most of the guys in the neo-swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy had day jobs. The kind with benefits. The kind you could make a career of. But this band thing seemed like it might really take off, so they ditched the stability to see what would happen. Happily, Swingers happened. The surprise hit indie film featured Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in scenes filmed at the Derby, a Los Angeles club where the band had a standing weekly gig. Since then, things have been swinging along nicely for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
The band is currently touring the east coast in support of their new album, the self-titled Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. The twelve track album, available on EMI-Capitol's Coolsville label, contains two songs from the Swingers soundtrack, two songs from the band's first independent release, and a cover of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher."
Horn player Andy Rowley fills in some details for Grip from his hotel in Orlando:
The swing scene
We're a swing band but it's not swing like your grandfather listened to... it's our interpretation of it. The scene's definitely going to come and go in its course of time. Who knows how long that's gonna go, but I think that the music we're doing is not gonna go by the wayside when that scene ends. I think it transcends the scene. Hence the people coming out to the shows, it's not just the swing kids that dance to swing music and swing bands doing standards and that kind of stuff.
It's to the point now, where before [the swing dancers] were at the forefront, up in front of the stage. Actually it's pretty cool that it still happens, there will be a big pit right in front of the stage. People clear it open and the swing kids and the people dancing can go in there and really show off. But a lot of times now it's so crowded that they, we see them way on the fringes, like up in the balcony or in the back of the crowd or in the hallway. Like last night, outside on the patio, that's where they ended up swinging because they didn't have the room for it up close to the stage, it was so packed.
It's definitely brought more people to the attention of what's going on and the music that we're doing. Before we did it, it was kind of a hidden underground thing that people were into and there was room to dance at the Derby. And pretty much at the places we played it was the hardcore dancers that were usually the majority of the crowd. But since the movie came out it's everybody...it's the corporate people it's the fraternity brothers it's the skinheads. Everyone's coming out to the shows now, it's not just the swing dancers, it's everyone that just wants to have a good time. It's definitely opened a lot of doors for us as far as attendance for sure. On this tour it's been sold out every night. We played Gainesville last night and Jacksonville the night before that and it was packed. Places that we had never played. We had no idea that they've heard of us out here.
Glenn Miller and the Dorsey Brothers were [my dad's] boys. I used to see him and my mom dancing to that stuff all the time, so there'd be all those records laying around all the time and my grandmother, she played piano. Her job was at a five and dime she...and her job was to play the music so I've been around all that ragtime, honky tonk piano and stuff.
But I have four brothers and their records Zepplin and Credence Clearwater, and everything between. Hendrix. I had all that influence going on too. So I think that's a big part of where our music's coming from because we have a core of - our backgrounds are so latent in rock and punk rock and stuff too, as well as having the influence of growing up with the big band and jazz...so we kind of merged the two. Pulling back from history people that we admired and respect in the jazz world and then pulling into it the attitude and the energy that we find in contemporary music.
We've got eight guys in the band so between the eight of us I think someone's played in a band, probably except for Celtic or choir music, we've probably done pretty much everything. We've got punk bands, we've got R&B bands, like Stevie Ray Vaughn kind of stuff, funk bands, 50's rock and roll kind of stuff, various jazz combinations, marching band, drum corps, all that stuff, everything.
Scott [Morris] is the main tune writer, he comes in with a tune, with a skeleton, sometimes he comes in with a full tune written out, but for the most part he comes in with the tunes, brings them to the band, and then the band gets a hold of it and puts the vibe on the tune. And we throw things back and forth and the horn section will get together and we'll work on our parts and we'll get together with Josh, the piano player, and voice things out and try to make the arrangement us.
Everything's worked out great...from the initial inception of the band. All the additions we've had, everyone just stayed. We tried them out and everyone's worked out perfect first time. We haven't had to go through five trumpet players or five tenor saxophone players. Everyone was friends of friends. That's how it worked out and it just clicked. It's really cool because we're like brothers. If anyone's down or grouchy, they get just hammered, everyone just pounds on them and picks on them and tells them to shut up. Just roll with it, there's nothing you can do man you're stuck, you just gotta deal. So everyone is pretty good about that.
Working with a major label
It took a long time for us to go with a major label, cause no one really got it what we were doing. They were trying to shove us into the lounge scene. And we said, look man, if you don't see what we're about and really come to a show and find out what we're doing, you don't really know why we're doing it you're missing the whole point. The people that finally got it are the people we're working with now. It's Brad Benedict who did Ultra Lounge. At first he didn't know what to expect and we told him to come to an all ages show and he was blown away. We had little kids there, we had their parents, we had their grandparents, you know. It's been really great working with all these guys. The push behind us. The support for the record. We're getting things that don't normally happen with a major deal. The reason we were so reluctant at first was we ran everything ourselves. Everyone had a function in the band. We did all the presswork, all the artwork, all the managing, the booking, the bookkeeping, the accounting, all the inventory. Everything. Everyone had a function and it worked as a whole tight knight unit. All our sales, our CDs on the road, paid for all our road expenses so nothing came out of our pockets. We wanted to keep that same sort of thing because we knew it worked. When we got to this deal we threw a lot of things out there that worked for us that weren't necessarily the norm and...they said, well, why not give it a try.'
We find them thrifting. Shopping. Wherever we can. When we go into a city we always ask people at the shows where the stores are and we try to hit them up the next day before we head out. We've picked things up in Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle's got some cool stuff. Detroit. I just picked up a pair [of two-tones] in LA just a couple of weeks ago. We've got so many guys in the band that if we find a pair, someone can fit em. They don't go to waste. Same with the suits and all the clothes and ties too. A few of the guys have them made because you can't find big suits. They're really hard to find, so if anyone out there knows a big stash of vintage suits, big ones, let us know because we can't find them. Everyone snatches those things up. They're not too available out there.
After the tour
I think we might have a little time off and then probably head out to Europe. We're going to be touring. This is just the first leg of it. We don't have anything scheduled but there's a lot of talk about what's going on. If we're not happy with the choices [we will] continue doing what we're doing. Playing the smaller venues like we are the thousand seaters, and just keep having great shows like that until something else comes up. We figure this years gonna be just a working year to work this album and, hopefully, by this time next year, we'll have another one ready.
--Laura Stark for Grip
Check out Bill Lehman's reviews of BBVD in the Record Review Archives
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