Drinking Stellas with DangermuffinA PBR-labeled hat. A worn-in bandana. Beards identifiable for miles.
The guys of Dangermuffin are as eclectic as their music. Hailing from Folly Beach, S.C., they’ve graced many a festivals with their “no-frills” roots music. Taking most of their influence from driving through the desert, Dangermuffin creates music that begs to be played to bring a community together, making them a perfect fit for Deep Roots. I, along with Leisure Editor, Marilyn Ferrell, claimed a curb backstage and shared a Stella Artois “Tallboy” with the guys of Dangermuffin. The conversation delved into their newest album, playing for crowds of different sizes and, of course, their trademark beards.
Q: Is there anything specific that influenced your new album “Olly Oxen Free?”
Mike Sivilli (guitar & vocals) : The touring we’ve been doing over the past few years influenced the record. A lot of the vibes came from driving through the desert and going out west. The kind of stuff out there is very inspirational. We met a bunch of cool people and brought that back. The record is a lot about coming back home. It’s kind of influenced by our touring.
Q: How did it feel getting to the #1 spot on the Home Grown Music Network Radio Chart?
Mike: We’ve had some radio success in the past, not commercial, but more college radio – some of the more cool stations. We were 14 weeks at their chart and beating bands like Dave Matthews and Mumford. But then Mumford just beat us.
Dan Lotti (lead vocals & guitar) : We still had number one when [Mumford] debuted.
Mike : Legends like Jerry Douglas was on there. Bob Dylan had a new record, and we were beating that. It’s a grouping of 100 stations that they cover.
Q: So would you say that you mostly appeal to the college crowd or is it a good mix of everyone?
Dan: We’ve been described as jam-band friendly, but it’s roots music – no frills music. We’re really eclectic. We found as we travel around that it’s all different kinds of people [we appeal to].
Mike: Little kids love us. I think they love any music on some level, but we do a lot of day festivals and family-friendly stuff. It’s really neat to see the kids just glowing and running around in circles. Their parents will come up to us and say “Our kids have been making us play your record over and over again, singing the words to this song.” That’s cool. That’s a cool litmus test because kids have no sort of bias.
Q: What was the process of getting you to play at Deep Roots?
Dan: I think Jimmy sought us out and contacted the agency to see if we were available.
Mike: We’ve been travelling and touring about for a good solid three years, and just the word gets out and someone hears about your band and say they want to book them for a future festival. It’s not about us. We’re not sending them care packages or anything.
Dan: It doesn’t work. We’ve tried it.
Q: Had you hard of Milledgeville before you were asked to play here?
Mike: We hadn’t. We played Macon, Athens, Atlanta and Augusta before.
Dan: We like the smaller towns, and when the whole town gets involved it’s just so cool.
Q: Are there any bands that influence you?
Dan: I think we all have different influences, and that’s what makes the music what it is. We all bring different vibrations to the band. It comes from all sorts of angles. We do different rehearsals – some for getting ready for a gig – or sometimes we sit down and write. Anyone will bring in an idea, sometimes a map of an entire song, sometimes a rough a map, and we’ll take that idea and try different types of options. And Mike might throw something on top of that. It’s a process of throwing it through the ringer.
Steven Sandifer (drums & vocals) : It’s a very collaborative process for sure.
Q: What other festivals and shows have you played at, and do you have any favorites?
Dan: We’ve done Gathering of the Vibes, Wakarusa and Taos Mountain in New Mexico. Last summer we played [Taos Mountain], and that was one of my favorites. We did this after-hour thing, and it was at this campsite on the top of the mountain, and there was this bonfire. It was a lot of fun. We did Wanee too. We played the 9:30 Club in D.C., which is the nicest rock n’ roll venue in the country. That was a treat.
Mike: We do this acoustic side project thing where Steven plays upright bass and me and Dan play acoustic guitars. We’ve done a couple shows like that at theaters. We did some shows opening for Hot Tuna. Those were memorable for me – 500 people, whisper quiet, listening to you. It’s kind of
this discerning audience, and we sit down and play this folky version of our songs. People really like it. That’s cool getting a standing ovation for this acoustic thing. It’s very different than playing a rock n’ roll show at a bar. It’s a nice dichotomy.
Q: Do you ever have shows where there isn’t a very large audience?
Mike: That’s one of the only challenges of touring. You can go somewhere where you have hundreds of fans, but it’s about getting those hundreds of fans to come out and see you.
Dan: That’s one of the biggest tests as a band. You don’t really learn anything from some of the shows that really go well. It’s only when you have to get your ass kicked. You go somewhere and learn what’s important. You want to get to a place where you get on stage and play for yourself. When you do that and it brings you joy and fulfillment, it kind of resonates out to people. And while people may be dancing and enjoying it, maybe they can get more from it depending on how you look at the music versus how it’s being received.
Mike: Sometimes it’s more rewarding playing for 10 people who are more engulfed in what you’re doing than playing for thousands of people who are like “Party timeeee.” It just totally depends.
Q: What’s with your beards?
Dan: We are going to be ZZ Top for Halloween if that’s what you’re asking.
Mike: The first time we went to Colorado, I think it was four years ago, we said we should grow out our beards. I don’t think I’ve shaved since then.
Q: What’s the short story behind how y’all got together?
Dan: Mike and I have been playing together since 2005 – we played acoustic as a duo around Charleston. We supported ourselves like that, writing original songs. We met Steven in 2008 and started touring in 2010.
Q: What’s up next for Dangermuffin?
Dan: We’ve got a three-week run coming up in two days, going to Boone and Pittsburgh and Vermont and coming down through Charlottesville.