Backstage: A Ballyhoo! Story
SETTING THE STAGE:
Ballyhoo! is the four-piece rock-reggae-punk band from the right coast of Aberdeen, Maryland. They came together in 1995, started touring in 2006 and haven’t slowed since—playing over 150 shows a year from coast-to-coast. In the summer of 2013 Ballyhoo! released their sixth full-length album and their first under their own label, Right Coast Records. “Pineapple Grenade” is the band’s most ambitious release to date. The album features a wide mix of genres and layered sounds. In June 2013 The Pier was fortunate to sit-down with Ballyhoo! backstage at the Marquis Theatre in Denver, CO to discuss the making of the new album, collaborators and touring.
NEW ALBUM: Pineapple Grenade:
Every band has their own processes for writing and recording. Some bands take years to record an album, while others have done it in a matter of hours. Some bands set aside time to write and record, while others write on the road and show up at the studio with a handful of semi-finished songs. And, then there is Ballyhoo!. Pineapple Grenade was recorded in three weeks at Sound Lounge Studios in Florida.
“It was very stressful. We were so busy that we hadn’t written new songs. So, we wrote most of the songs and put them together in the studio,” reflects lead singer and front man Howi Spangler. Ballyhoo! went into the studio with 30 ideas, and quickly knocked it down to 25 tracks, then to 19 tracks. Going into the studio the guys had decided they wanted to create a 12-track album, but after listening decided to keep a few more.
“…we were like ‘what about this song? What about that song?’ So, we decided to use some as bonus tracks. We made it so that all 19-tracks would be heard is some way—either on iTunes or through the Hardcore Hooligans package,” says Spangler.
They album almost ended up with 20-tracks because of the involvement of Producer Rome Rameriz of Sublime with Rome. The song “No Good” was recorded, mixed and ready to go when Rameriz requested to remix the song. “We produced that version as well. But, there is a whole different version of that song that is not on the album,” says keys player Scott Vandrey. While no decisions have been made about the fate of the first version, it may end up on as a b-side track on a future release. “We don’t know, but we’ll figure it out,” says Spangler.
Lyrically, the album includes themes about life as a musician—the struggles, small successes and the daily grind. “I wrote a lot about the struggle to obtain success, being a father on the road, the struggle of doing this (touring) the whole time and working really, really hard. It’s great that we are seeing a lot of great things, but it’s tough and frustrating at times,” shares Spangler.
Musically, Ballyhoo! incorporated many new and refreshing sounds on the tracks. Picking-up where 2011’s “Daydreams” left off, the band continued to incorporate more keys and organ sounds. “I have double the keys. The Logic synthesizers are very powerful and fun, with a lot of cool shit in ‘em. I also got the Nord, which produces the organ and piano sounds,” says Vandrey. Along with the keys, other new sounds that fans will hear include 1950’s style doo-whop, folk-country and island sounds.
The incorporation of the news sounds were all part of Ballyhoo!’s master plan, and is even reflected in the album’s name. While visiting a friend in Denver, CO, Spangler discovered a small jar of medicinal marijuana called pineapple grenade. “….I thought to myself ‘I bet this packs a punch. All of the sudden a light bulb went off…album title! The idea is that ‘Pineapple Grenade’ illustrates an explosion of sounds, like the album,” says Spangler.
PINEAPPLE GRENADE: Collaborators
“Pineapple Grenade” features two impressive collaborators. Echo Movement’s Dan Gugger plays mandolin on “When They Told Me” and Rome Rameriz, of Sublime With Rome, produced “No Good.” Ballyhoo! sent Dan a track and a couple days later they had several bars to work with. “He did a great job! It sounded cool, so we said ‘let’s use it all!’” shares Spangler. The collaboration with Rameriz was a bit more involved.
In the Spring of 2013 the band flew to Bakersfield, CA to do a radio gig that also featured Ramirez. The group was hanging out backstage listening to the new tracks and several caught Ramirez ear. After the 311 Cruise, Ballyhoo! sent Ramirez several tracks. “He hit us back and was like ‘this is the track’—referring to ‘No Good’—which was originally called ‘I Don’t Want to See Your Face.’ He was like ‘you got to let me get on this and produce the track’ and… ‘you gotta change the name,” laughs Spangler.
The band flew out to work with Rameriz in April 2013. “He was awesome. He really knows his shit and gets into the production. I sang for six hours, the same shit over and over again. Rome would be like, ‘dude… that was perfect. Give me five more of those!’ He wanted to make sure everything was right,” says Spangler.
The album cover was designed by Shaun Logan. Spangler said how he had this image in his head of the cover art, called Logan with the idea for the cover and Logan responded with “Gimme 2 weeks”. Within 2 weeks, he sent back a sketch that Ballyhoo! loved and resulted in the cover you see today.
PINEAPPLE GRENADE: The Hardcore Hooligans Help Make it Happen
Pineapple Grenade may not have happened at all without the help of the band’s loyal fans. The Hardcore Hooligans were instrumental in funding part of the album. “The Hooligans were there for us. We put the (Hardcore Hooligans) package out there to help fund part of the record. It was kind of our little Crowd Sourcing project, and it was really successful,” says Spangler. The “Hardcore Hooligans Package” included a deluxe physical copy of a new song, an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the band and early release of the song “Marijuana Laws.”
Touring is hard—period. The years on the road and the daily grind of touring wears down, and wears out, most bands. The grueling toll can lead to conflict, changes in a band’s line-up and wavering feeling about a band’s ultimate vision and direction. Ballyhoo! has been able to withstand many of these challenges, even after being on the road for the last seven years. The band’s line-up hasn’t changed in a decade and the foursome continues to share a common vision.
How is this possible after 10 years? “We give each other really good massages. Ha!” laughs bassist J.R. Gregory. But, in all seriousness the band credits their strong relationships and common goals as the glue. “The cool thing is that we have known each other forever, since like elementary school. We used to go J.R. parent’s garage. It was just the coolest thing—full set-up, drums, bass and guitars. That was the place to go. Everyone loved to jam over there!” reflects Spangler. “Everyone sees the big picture.”
So, what is next for Ballyhoo!? The band is currently on the road in support of Pineapple Grenade, touring alongside Authority Zero on the Summer Sickness Tour until the end of July. Ballyhoo! also plans to release the video for “No Good” later in the summer. The video was directed by Wuz Good and shot in Los Angeles in the spring/summer of 2013.
You can pick up your physical copy of Pineapple Grenade at Ballyhoorocks.com.
Watch: Ballyhoo! – “Say I’m Wrong”
Watch: Ballyhoo! – “Last Night”