MILLHEIM - In anticipation of the band's Saturday show at Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., Frog Holler recently spoke with the Sun Gazette via email. The six-piece band elevates contemporary country with its clever lyrics and whispers of bluegrass and classic rock in its sound.
The members of Frog Holler are Todd Bartolo on electric guitar, lap-steel guitar, mandolin, and vocals; Daniel Bower on drums and vocals; Johnny Kilgore on electric and acoustic guitars and organ; Mike Lavdanski on banjo and harmony vocals; Josh Sceurman on bass; Darren Schlappich on acoustic guitar and lead vocals.
APRIL LINE: How long has Frog Holler been playing together?
DARREN SCHLAPPICH: In some form since the summer of '96. With this lineup for the past nine years.
AL: I think the sound is a better country-and-rock fusion than I've typically heard. Can you talk about the process of developing that sound?
DS: It's evolved over time -from strictly acoustic in the beginning to expanding to both acoustic and electric instruments. We basically just let it rip, try to make the song the focal point, and the end result usually ends up sounding like Frog Holler. After all this time, I'm trying not to overthink it too much and just play the songs. We play together every Tuesday night, and we work very hard at it.
AL: What are some of your favorite bands?
DS: We're music fans, too, so we like lots and lots of bands: old and new, known and unknown.
AL: Do you view the role of a band as an influence and a band you like to listen to differently?
DS: I know what you're asking here, but I can't really point to any bands that really influence us at this point. I know you can always find things that might remind you of something else, but I actually try not to listen to too much when I'm writing. We do like to play covers and we play anything from Neil Young and Willie Nelson to the Smiths and Stone Roses.
AL: The lyrics to the Frog Holler songs lack a lot of the self-pity that's rampant in contemporary country music. Can you talk a bit about the process of building the lyrics?
DS: I write the lyrics. Generally, I write while I'm driving around at my day job. I own a business cleaning beer systems in bars. I spend my day in-and-out of bars, driving from place to place, and that's where I come up with most of the words. When I get home, I try to set them to music. I try to get the thoughts out of my head - just whatever is on my mind - and then once I have an idea of what I'm talking about, I try to play with the words. I write in spurts and, again, try not to think too much about it - just let it happen. I think I find the most success that way. I just got an iPhone and the voice memo feature is great for quickly capturing something that gets in my head, 'cause I can lose it pretty quickly when I'm first onto something. I find inspiration in my surroundings and in my day-to-day life.
AL: You have made six albums - is that correct? Can you talk about the process of making the albums?
DS: Six full-lengths and an EP. We've tried to do different things, different approaches, worked with different producers, produced some of them ourselves, and I think we're to the point now where we'd like to record in our own practice space: do things our own way on our schedule and just try to capture the band honestly playing its songs. I do enjoy really fleshing out the songs and spending a lot of time in the practice room, working on arrangements and harmonies. Making albums is hard work - hopefully