By: Keiana Smith-McDowell, DC Music Live
Ballyhoo! the punk-rock-reggae band who hails from Aberdeen, Maryland, welcomed the month of March with an electrifying performance Saturday night at Looney’s Pub in College Park,Md. The house was packed with fans – old and new – who waited a year to see the band perform again at this venue. We got the chance to catch up with lead vocalist Howi Spangler and keyboardist Scott Vandrey before the show to talk about the band’s record label, relationships, and of course, the music.
DC Music Live: How long have you guys known each other?
Howi Spangler: Uhh, 20 years
Scott Vandrey: 22.
Howi: 22, maybe.
DCML: How old were you when you met?
Scott: We were probably like 12… 11 or 12.
DCML: What’s everyone’s individual role in the group?
Howi: I sing and play guitar and a bunch of other shit (laughs)
Scott: I play keys and turntable and a bunch of other shit.
DCML: Who came up with the name Ballyhoo!? And what exactly does it mean?
Howi: That was Michelle Heller, a good friend of ours when we were kids. She just kind of threw it to us, sounded cool to me – it could be big and colorful, it means like loud noise, crazy event – like all the ballyhoo, like just shitt happening, organized chaos… and uhhh yea it also means penis fish (laughs)… yea, I think we’re going with that now… I’ve been called out on it like three times in other interviews so we’re totally doing it (laughs).
DCML: Give me three words that you guys think describes your music?
Howi: Did you say 40 words?
DCML: Three (laughs).
Howie: Figured it was three but it sounded like 40, I just wanted to clarify (laughs). Alright, how much time you got? Three words that describes the band? Umm…
DCML: Well, what’s your vibe when you go into the studio?
Howi: Fun, sexy… energy.
DCML: Who would you say you make your music for? Because I have an idea of who you guys make your music for.
Howi: Ok… I make it for myself first, and then once we recorded it’s for everyone else, for anyone who wants it. It’s like… for the people who feel down and they maybe want to feel better, or maybe they want to feel down and they want to relate to a shitty vibe, you know.
Scott: There’s no specific demographic, just whoever likes it, whoever wants to hear it, we make it for them.
Howi: You know how like when you’re sad, but you still listen to sad songs?
Howie: It’s that kind of thing, it’s like I should probably listen to something that’s going to really make me uppity but the sad just really is like, let’s just go with it, let’s go with that.
DCML: Ok, I was reading that you guys have your own record label now, how difficult is it to own your own record label and be artists at the same time?
Scott: We don’t have any other bands on the record label so it’s pretty easy right now (laughs).
Howi: That first couple months was pretty crazy, getting it all together, but right now we’re just chillin. But the potential is there, we are going to keep releasing our own stuff, but we want to release other bands too that we feel like are hard workers and obviously have good music. I’m really excited for that whenever that goes down.
Scott: It’ll be extra work but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
DCML: Do you guys plan to scout talent and kind of play the A&R role?
Howi: Yea we are always looking around anyways, we play with a lot of bands all the time so always seeing other bands play and they’ll give us CD’s or whatever, and we try to listen whenever possible.
DCML: I was listening to some of the music, and I feel like a lot of the songs are about relationships, so who’s the guy in the group that’s in his feelings, and kind of like “we have to write this song right now!”
Howi: The brooding guy? Yea that’s me, that’s me… I write all the lyrics and, yea, I don’t know it’s not necessarily anything that happens in that moment. Its thing that are in my life that have happened, or things that maybe are going to happen, you know. I just kind of write about heartbreak, or thinking you’re going to lose someone like kind of like, maybe you’re… feel like you’re in over your head and can’t hold on to it kind of thing, so yea it’s a lot of that going around.
DCML: Is it more like a brainstorming session? Could you be feeling some way and he’s [Scott] kind of like, I don’t feel that way so you end up having to rewrite the lyrics?
Howi: Never really happens like that, I just kind of write the lyrics like by myself or my producer at the time we get together. The band is never like “This song should be about this” and it kind of is what it is… usually the music itself dictates what the song is going to be about, you get a vibe from it, you’ll feel like this is kind of sad or this is really punk rock, in your face, you know.
DCML: Ok, last question… what’s next for you guys?
Howi: 311 day. We’re really excited for that. They’re one of our favorite bands. We’re not doing that 311 day event; we’re playing the night before at the fan party, which is a huge thing every time they do it. So, it’s just going to be a shit show, just crazy packed out, we get a lot of love from that community and we’re going down to New Orleans for it… what else are we doing… we’re doing a tour for the Spring, and then coming back and we’re going to do a Summer tour, just keep doing what we do
Scott: Keep touring, and making music
Howi: Just kind of stay the course