By Heather Sweeney
Dangermuffin: it’s not a word you come by often nor does it define a single person, place or thing; rather, it roots rock band out of Folly Beach, South Carolina. Just as unique as their name, Dangermuffin’s sound is quite exclusive to the Southeast. The trio—Dan Lotti, Mike Sivilli, and Steven Sandifer—utilize a genre-bending approach to Americana roots music which in return yields rich and innovative tunes. Their career began in 2007 with the release of Beermuda. And seven years and four albums later, Dangermuffin is at it again.
The boys will be releasing their new album Songs for the Universe on November 11. Similar to their previous full-length (2012’s independently-released Olly Oxen Free), Dangermuffin takes the listener on a graceful journey from melody to melody while keeping true to their Southern roots. The way they segue coupled with Lotti’s seductive vocals amplifies the veracity and Dangermuffin philosophy of their lyrics. Album opener “Ancient Golden Star” is riddled with ska beats and soft rock riffs, helping the listener unwind. And then, slyly, the Dangermuffin boys let loose. They explore the leisurely sounds of blues in “Swells,” American folk in “Western Sky” and soft reggae pulse in “Amendureye.” Songs for the Universe is Dangermuffin’s best album thus far. It accentuates their talents both musically and lyrically and it is also their lengthiest album to date. The entire album is simply euphonic.
I had the chance to interview the Dangermuffin boys to talk about the new album and what the band is all about. If you are interested in hearing Dangermuffin in the raw, I recommend checking out their side project Acoustic Muffin. They exchange the percussion for upright bass, amplifying their Southern heritage.
This question is almost inevitable to ask but what is the meaning behind the band name? How did you guys decide that Dangermuffin was it—the ultimate band name?
Well, it’s the Dangermuffin. Mike came up with it. It’s Shamanic, it’s tasty. I can’t say what it is but I can describe it: it’s duality, yin and yang, acoustic/electric, two worlds colliding. Plus, it sticks in the head. People either love it or hate it, but they always remember it.
What inspired you guys to compile Songs for the Universe; what does Songs for the Universe stand for?
Songs for the Universe stands for many things. Universal grooves, a feeling of oneness, and connecting in all ways. But mostly, the universe is frequency and these are musical vibrations of healing songs. Specifically, we focused on different frequencies, older pitches; to geek out just a bit, the standard tuning is A=440 Hz. This is somewhat recent and was controversial. We experimented and resonated where A=432 Hz and A=444 Hz, both of which seemingly feel different than the standard ways. Some of these frequencies are known as the “Solfeggio Tones” and they are ancient. You find many mathematical harmonies with these tones; the universe operates on frequencies electromagnetically. We are all frequency, vibrating with each thought. With the right music, folks can be harmonizing and healing, and again, this is the goal with Songs for the Universe.
In comparison to your previous albums, what message do you hope your fans receive from Songs for the Universe?
Many folks have shared that our past albums have sort of given them hope and that it helped them through dark times. This is the greatest compliment an artist can receive. We hope to build upon that with this new album.
As I was previewing your new album, I was attracted to one particular song, “Outside My Window.” The melody is very catchy and Dan’s slight southern rasp brings an entirely new dimension to the song. What’s the story behind “Outside My Window?”
Of all the other songs I wish you’d ask about! “Window” is simple, and an explanation of it might be heavy, but I would say it’s about the externalization of evil. Like, it’s out there, outside, and not in here, but really, it’s all in our own heads; we’re doing this and we have to learn to be truly responsible for every thought and understand our complicity in all outwardly evil and learn true responsibility. Like I said, it’s heavy!
You have come a long way since Beermuda. I enjoy how you have developed into a reggae/funk rock sound with a little touch of Southern class. How have you managed to produce such an eclectic sound?
Thank you. Beermuda was awhile back! All three members of this band bring their own voice and energy, and somehow, we have landed in a comfortable place where we can be free to experiment in any way we choose, so we try to let the songs find their own voice and sort of stay out of the way the best we can. The end result is an eclectic, albeit challenging, classification of music.
In regards to your music style, where has the inspiration been drawn from? How do you continue to draw inspiration for new music?
This answer may be different for each band member, but I can say this: Much of our inspiration comes from the ocean and our experiences as a band traveling. But at the root of it all is the amazing energy within the earth, the mountains and oceans. Nothing new there – artists have always been inspired by this. On a more personal level, new music comes for me from within, where a melody will sort of make itself known by popping into my head. From there, the process is sort of sheer joy at times, so it’s very easy to continue. It feels like abundance.
What changes in your music have you personally witnessed since the release of Beermuda? Considering Dangermuffin is now seven years in the making, how do you all personally feel about your success and the overall journey?
Since Beermuda we have become full-time original songwriters and musicians, so that’s cool! It ties in like this – when we set out, we had two goals- subsistence and creation. We have sustained this for all this time, having life-changing experiences and again, seeming abundance around every corner. I think about all of the people I never would have met had I not played music, and it makes me feel like whatever this is, whatever we’re doing, however big or small, it’s where we’re supposed to be and we are grateful.
What are your future hopes for Dangermuffin?
Sustenance and creation… to stay balanced, to connect with this global community, to help be a part of it, to help heal and be a non-political agent for change, to align with our highest will, to continue to learn about ourselves and our expression and be the example of living independently, apart from any kind of system or constraints.
I know in the past that you guys have done various charity work (i.e. Jama Benefit). Are there any future charity events panned?
Recently we were a part of a benefit song for the Phillipines’ recent tragedies, but no other charities lined up.
I was born and raised in the South, and to be quite honest, I never thought I’d see the day when not only one vegan but three vegans roam the streets of the Southeast. What persuaded you guys to become vegan, considering you live in the BBQ pit of America? And I have got to ask, what about bacon?! Isn’t that a southern staple?
Let the food be thy medicine. Here’s an exclusive for you, though: I (Dan) am no longer 100% vegan. We’re all learning as we go here. Vegans eat too much wheat and soy, and that is no bueno. Plus, they need B vitamins from a naturally occurring source. So I eat eggs and rarely some fish. It’s more about how these things are sourced. Everything you eat has an energy and frequency – here it is, we have to take responsibility for where our food comes from and we can’t continue to treat animals this way. It is extremely negligent and way out of balance. If you want to eat meat, which is totally fine, get it from a balanced, local source where the animal had a good life and was loved. There is, in fact, an interconnected energy that runs through all of us, we are not, by any means, separate and alone in this universe. What we do to animals, the planet and to each other has a lasting and significant impact on us in ways we cannot even begin to understand. Love is the rule, people. Honor your food for true health. Oh, and tempehcon is really good. So is coconut bacon. You mostly crave the seasonings. [Check out Dangermuffin’s vegan recipes via their website]
When touring America, how do you folk get your vegan fix?
We have vegan favorites across the country! It’s tough in Texas and Mississippi, we’ve found. But they’re out there and the communities around them are beautiful and growing.
What do you guys enjoy most when touring/driving around America? Isn’t it such a great feeling to simply stare out the car window and watch the world pass you by?
Man, sometimes it’s great. Sometimes the road is brutal! But always, it’s you learning, you experiencing the vastly changing landscapes and people; yet there are so many commonalities too. Each place, it’s like you find another part of yourself, as cheesy as that sounds.
Dangermuffin comes to The Evening Muse on Nov. 14th.
Listen to songs from the new Dangermuffin album Songs for the Universe.