Today, I was able to interview the alternative/rock/reggae band Ballyhoo!. The Baltimore, MD band consist of Howi Spangler (guitarist/vocals), Donald "Big D" Spangler (bass), JR Gregory (bass) and Scott Vandrey (aka DJ Blaze) (keyboards and turntables). The band, who embodies the "soul of the party lifestyle", released their latest album "Daydreams" in August 2011 and played the House of marley stage for the entire summer on the Vans Warped Tour 2012. Starting August 31st, you can catch them on tour with Tribal Seeds on the "Night and Day" Tour 2012.
How quickly into your career did you realize that touring relentlessly was going to be the “status quo” for Ballyhoo!
Howi: Donald and I had always wanted to be in a band. Our dad used to take us to see all the "Hair Bands" when we were around 5 and 6. We knew from the first show we ever played that this is how we wanted to live our lives. You really have to bust your ass and go get it though. Even if you're selling out theatre shows at home, A&R guys aren't coming to you with million dollar contracts like they used to. The game has changed. I've seen a lot of great bands break up because things weren't taking off for them and it's depressing for me. I knew we had to get out of town and make it happen. There was no way in hell we were gonna play in Baltimore 20 times a month until we're in our late 40's.
Did “Say I’m Wrong” come from a specific relationship experience or is it just a general observation on screwing up?
Howi: It comes from those feelings of "I'm not sure if she's into me as much as I'm into her". I think a lot of people have felt that way at one time or another. You feel like you've got something good going on and it makes you insecure. Ended up turning into a pretty song though.
How did you come to start a working relationship with 311?
Howi: A friend had introduced me to Chad Sexton back in 2006. We emailed back and forth about him doing some mixing work for us. We got him on "The Friend Zone", the opening track to our 3rd album "Cheers!". He did a great job. The producer for that album was Scotch Ralston, who actually produced some 311 albums, and he's also their live engineer. So all those things worked together and 311 asked us to do some shows in 2008. Their fans started talking about us more and they ended putting us on some more shows in 2010, as well as their 2011 Pow Wow Festival and 2012 Caribbean Cruise. We have huge respect for that band and their "familia".
With being on the Warped Tour for all of the dates, what was the best/worst city and why?
Scott (aka DJ Blaze): Minnesota was probably the worst. Only because we had never been there before. Hoping to go back and rip it there. The best city, other than Maryland, was probably West Palm Beach. It was so hot and gross, but the crowd stuck around all day to see us. And they went wild when we walked on stage. Florida is just a really great market for us. Stoked for our fall dates there.
With artist such as Soja, Dirty Heads and The Aggrolites having success, do you feel that you had any part in laying the groundwork for their success?
Howi: Those are all great bands that did their own hard work. I wouldn't say we paved the way for any of them. We all started pushing around the same time in our hometowns and built outward. I think the fact that each of us have been putting out records and touring endlessly has made the scene stronger for sure. There are a lot more people listening and a lot more bands coming out with this sound. All the bands you mentioned here have different sounds, all in the realm of reggae, but with a unique spin. SOJA with the Roots Rock Reggae, Dirty Heads have the acoustic, hip hop thing, and The Aggrolites have that dirty, rocksteady sound. We have a more pop-punk rock approach to it. There is a nice, broad spectrum across the heavy-hitters of the genre and we're happy to be a part of the movement.
Every band has a “Spinal Tap” moment. What was that moment for you?
J.R.: We played at Webster Hall in NYC last year and after the show I couldn't find my way out of the venue. I somehow ended up wearing pink sunglasses at a Dubstep Party in the basement. It got weird.
Besides the obvious (touring, meet and greets), what do you feel is the best thing that you can do, as a band, to keep the connection with your fans as well as continuing your personal success?
Howi: I answer most, if not all of the tweets and Facebook posts to us. That's where the music lovers are these days. Bands have to embrace the technology and get on top of it. Kids go apeshit when we retweet them. I also believe that it's all about the little things. And people don't even think about it until you do it. If a fan is waving from the other side of the fence, I'll run over there and say hi. If someone emails and says they lost their Ballyhoo! shirt in the pit that night, we'll mail them another one. Stuff like that is important. It can really make someone's day.
Do you have a favorite town to play in?
Scott (aka DJ Blaze): I think Denver is probably my favorite city to play, for many reasons. Colorado is pretty boring driving west from Kansas, but once you get to Denver and the Rockies, it's absolutely beautiful. Denver has a ton of awesome venues to play (Ogden, Fillmore, Bluebird, etc). We have a very solid fan base with a lot of very dedicated fans that take excellent care of us: putting us up overnight, feeding us, and hooking us up with copious amounts of amazing pot and edibles. Oh yeah, did I mention how good and abundant the pot is?
What is it like to play in your hometown (Baltimore, Md) after experiencing the level of success that you have experienced?
Scott (aka DJ Blaze): Playing in the hometown area has been pretty mind blowing lately. The most recent example was our trip through Columbia, MD on Vans Warped Tour. The show was about 3/4 of the way through the tour, so it was something we'd all been thinking about and looking forward to for many weeks. We'd had a bunch of good shows in other strong markets, and even some not-so-strong markets, so we were expecting something big. Of course there was also a little nervousness and hesitation...I know at least I downplayed it a little and was maybe even a little worried that it wasn't going to go off like we were expecting. But that all disappeared as soon as we walked out on stage and saw what was the biggest crowd the House of Marley Stage has seen on this year's tour as far as I know. Not only that, but probably the biggest crowd we've ever pulled ourselves. We've played for more at festivals and opening for other acts, but this one was all us, and it felt GREAT! Actually had a minute or two of nervousness for the first time in a very long time. Can't wait for Charm City Music Festival!
Does the use of marijuana add to your songwriting?
Donald: Yes.....what was the question?
After releasing “Daydreams” last August, are you guys planning to tour on that material or are you writing for the next album?
Howi: Before all support stuff we've been doing, we did a few tours on that material. We love playing the Daydreams songs. It still feels new to us. We try to mix it up with old stuff as well for the crowds. We know they still want to hear "Cali Girl" and "Cerveza". As for new material, I'm always writing. Trying to get myself outside the box, challenge myself. Can't wait to hear what it's going to sound like. Always an exciting time. No plans at the moment for recording though. Just going to keep writing for now.
How did the upcoming “Night and Day” Tour with Tribal Seeds come about?
Howi: We have the same booking agent and he thought it would be a great team up. We're both doing our thing and the shows are going to be great. We've never played with those guys, so it'll be nice to hang with some new friends.
What should fans expect when coming to the “Night and Day” tour?
Howi: Lots and lots of fun! Tribal Seeds is going to bring the roots reggae and we're going to be in your face. I love that it's called "Night and Day" too. Really communicates the difference in sound. But we share the love for reggae music. I think the audience will be rocked in both ways. Get those tickets, people!!
"Night and Day" Tour 2012 w/Tribal Seeds and Ballyhoo!