The Royal American in Charleston, SC, has been a mainstay bar that’s consistently booked high quality bands still grinding the small venue scene. This past weekend, the Blackfoot Gypsies rolled through delivering a crowd pleasing set. Their rock sound is a well-orchestrated mish mash of Black Crowes and Rolling Stones with personal touches of their own in that of Ollie Dogg’s vibrant harmonica, and lead singer, Matt Paige’s unique vocals, which at times remind me of a wailing blues song you’d hear over a 1940s radio. And then clicking over to their YouTube videos, the picture comes full circle with a well-dressed, foursome band that is all about delivering a live experience that’s loud, hard, and fun.
After a fuzzy night with lots of dancing, adult beverages, and meeting great people, the band was gracious enough to meet for breakfast the next morning to give a brief state of the union over some smothered hash browns, waffles, and coffee. There’s plenty to talk about with their new album they’ve just finished recording, their month tour in Europe that included stops in Spain, France, Germany, Holland, and Scandinavia, and groupies. And where else is there to meet but the Waffle House where country legends Sturgill Simpson and Charleston, SC native, Stephen Colbert, just recorded their music video, “Waffle House,” weeks before?
(From left to right: Lead Singer Matthew Paige, Harmonicist Ollie Dogg, Bassist Dylan Whitlow, Drummer Zack Murphy)
When we first sat down, the band and I were talking about the Colbert video when the waitress walked up and said we were sitting in the exact same booth they did, and she was in fact their waitress. An awkward silence ensued since we didn’t really know what to make of that and clearly we were not giving much of an excited reaction she was expecting. Matt Paige broke the silence with “Well, I certainly feel it,” which was a much needed segway to placing our order.
Writers on the Storm: So you guys are a young band and I can’t help but notice the age gap with the older gentleman at the table in that of the harmonica rock star, Ollie Dogg. How did the addition of Ollie come about?
Matt: The Nashville Marathon. We were playing at a house. Ollie Dogg’s cousin was there and is a very charismatic dancer and told me about him.
Ollie: I met them a couple weeks later at the 5 spot and did a song with them and I’ve been playing with them ever since.
Matt: We meet a lot people that are like “I got thisss coussssin that is reallllly good he’d love to jam some time. I’m glad that he did that and Troy came dancing in the room. He’s in the End of the Road video. Fun guy.
Writers on the Storm: So you guys just got back from a European Tour.
Yea, we just did five weeks. It was awesome. Bergenfest, in Norway, was the most people we’ve performed for. Somewhere between 300 and 500. We played in this little room that was like a carousel. It was like a circus tent almost … covered in mirrors.
Writers on the Storm: How do you book something like that?
Zack: We did that entire tour through a company called Teenage Head. They do a really good job and basically bring American bands over and take them around. Our tour manager probably drove 20 hours just to do it all over again with another band.
Writers on the Storm: Is it tough funding a trip like that?
Zack: It could be but our label covered our plane tickets and that’s all we needed to come up with. Each day you pay for hotels, gas, all that stuff…and all our sales from t-shirts went to fund that. So all you really need is to get over there and not suck.
Matt: Having a tour manager is a game changer. You don’t have to drive or think about anything except playing.
Writers on the Storm: So you’re still with Plowboy Records?
Yes, through the next album which is coming out in February, called “To the Top.”
Writers on the Storm: How many songs will be on it?
We recorded 15 but only 11 fit on vinyl, so the CD will have all of them as well the download. We’ve been playing them at our shows.
Zack: We recorded it at this dude’s house called Electric Kite. It had everything we needed.
Matt: The album has a lot of character. This is the first album that we’ve recorded one place and mixed it another with two different people.
Writers on the Storm: So wait, a bit of sobriety here. The new album is complete but it’s not coming out until February?
Uh huh. To have time to strategically release it with a team of other people. Dylan doesn’t like the idea and is grumpy about it. Most of the songs we played last night were from it.
Writers on the Storm: That seems crazy to me.
Dylan: I was listening to the Rolling Stones Live in Hyde Park two days ago. It’s in ‘69 and they’re playing all these hits that haven’t been released yet and he said we have an album coming out probably in the next decade. I think he’s being sassy for the same reasons you are. Love it. Everyone’s upset about the same things. Nothing new.
Zack: I was listening to an interview with Sturgill Simpson where his latest album came out and he was talking about how much the business side lags behind the music side.
Writers on the Storm: What’s the worst concert experience you guys have had?
Zack: Lombard [Illinois]. (lots of laughing and agreement). This band opened up for us. They’re like a really horrible punk band. Punk is kind of supposed to be horrible, but this was like really bad horrible. The dude tried to strip naked in the middle of his set and be all rebellious but no one is there. The sound guy was like ‘You can’t do the naked thing.’ … and he was like ‘Oh sorry’ and put his clothes back on.
Writers on the Storm: What concerts have you guys been to recently?
Matt: Neil Young and the Alabama Shakes
Dylan: Brian Jonestown Massacre, Eagles of Death Metal. Any of the classic rock guys that are still doing it.
Zack: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
I ended the interview with some fun Either/Or type questions along with what the first albums they purchased were. Any guesses whose was Chumbawamba? Enjoy.
Footage from their show