Live at CMJ: The Sammies

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photo by Doron Gild

interview and review by Miriam Lamey
photos by Doron Gild

Like the morning’s first cup of coffee, Charlotte, NC, The Sammies, who are…put on a bright, refreshing performance. The perky, poppy tracks such as “Falling Out” experiment with jangly guitars while propelling, evocative vocals arch over the light riffs. Yet these lads don’t just stick to one style; with “Treat Her Like A Queen,” they completely switched up their sound, for this retro, growly rock track presented pounding drums and heavy bass and guitar riffs. The Sammies released their first album, The Sammies, in June 06 on their label, MoRisen records and have almost finished their second album, hopefully to be released early next year. The lads are playing a CMJ spot with fellow Southerners Dead Confederate, who certainly impressed yesterday at the Gibson studio.

The Sammies drove straight up from Charlotte last night, but still took a couple of minutes to sit down and talk about their music, inspirations and upcoming album.

Miriam: I’m guessing these aren’t your “real” last names: they seem to be sort of stage names. Are you trying to go for a more theatrical persona? What inspired your name choice?

Frank: Those are our real last names.

Miriam: They really are, ok! You just played a really energetic, upbeat set. Where do you get your energy from and what inspires you to make music?

Bobby: Well, I know when we got here, it was a long drive and we were always excited to come to New York and it’s just like, each one of us has it built inside of us, and when it comes time for showtime it just comes out and this place has so much history that it just made me want to play harder, I guess.

Frank: Seems like there was a little something special going on here and we’ve been looking forward to playing KEXP for a while now, ever since they were so kind and generous to play some of our songs off our first album. I really felt that was uber cool so we’ve been looking forward to it ever since.

Donnie: It’s kind of like how you can build up anger and let it all out at one time. I think we just kinda build up in us when we’re not playing and then we finally get to do it, it just all comes out.

Miriam: What are your main influences?

Frank: I think we run the gamut on that, but I’d say we’ve got a heavy dose of classic rock. We’ve gotten into some of the more obscure classic rock and then of course indie rock: we’ve got a lot of indie rock – but it’s mostly rock and roll. And I like old records now I’ve gotten into some really old records, just listening to the sounds on them.

Miriam: Like what?

Frank: Um, I’d say:

Donnie: The Byrds.

Frank: Yeah, The Byrds, your lot of one-hit wonders from the sixties, just even like Bill Haley and how simple they recorded and then we’re trying to take a little piece of their book.

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Miriam: So how do you think you define yourselves musically?

Bobby: I have to say it, upbeat, energetic. Musically, I don’t know if that’s how you define us. Definitely a little Southern, I think a little bit of punk, a little bit of what’s inside us that comes out when we play because we all grew up in different places. Me and Frank are brothers and we all grew up in smaller towns and think it’s just a little bit of how we grew up coming out too.

Miriam: What part of your backgrounds come into your music?

Bobby: My dad. He used to love music: he has every record underneath the sun. He still makes me go home:

[laughter]

Bobby: Well, no, every time I go home he likes to sit there and listen to records but he doesn’t force us anymore:

Frank: He used to force us! We’d be like, “put on ‘Colour Me Badd’”[laughs] strike that!

Miriam: What kind of stuff did your dad introduce you to?

Frank: He was a huge Clapton fan.

Bobby: Clapton, if you hear this, he’d love to meet you.

[laughter]

Donnie: My dad was a guitarist. He started playing when he was 14 and, just, ever since I remember he’s been playing Grateful Dead and and Allman Brothers and all just, incredible stuff.

Frank: Heavy doses of that stuff. And then we found the other music later, that our parents didn’t shove down our throats we blended that stuff in.

Miriam: You’ve definitely got an eclectic sound. How do you go about writing songs?

Frank: I think everybody kind of has free rein to do what they want in the band and we really just try to have fun first, and that’s how it started. So we’ll just be in the room together, whether it’s all four of us, two, one, person and you get in there and you just play around. Someone might have something that they bring to the table that they think is really cool and say, “Listen to this little riff that I came up with” and somebody else is on bass guitar and is like, “oh really, this sounds good behind it.” And that’s just it.

Bobby: And I’m just there and someone will say, “Man that’s terrible [laughs] play that drum machine again.”

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Miriam: How do you find audiences in the South, where you’re from, versus audiences on the East or the West coasts?

Frank: I’d say that in the South, you still have your indie audiences, that actually pull an indie, kind of rock crowd, and then you have people who just want to go out and have a good time. Uh, and you get those people all about everywhere. Then, occasionally, you’ll stumble across your old Southern joint, and they’re a little more rowdy, it looks more like the Blues Brothers kind of thing,

Donnie: and you have to be that rowdy when you play

Frank: Or they’re gonna throw stuff at you. But we tend to satisfy them pretty well, we change our setup, make sure we give everybody a good time.

Miriam: Nice. So you just mentioned that you’re finishing up your second album. How is that different from the first album, if it is different?

Frank: It’s gonna be really different. I hope we don’t piss people off and they don’t say “The Sammies went mellow” [laughs] Nah, it’s going to have a lot more melodic songs on there. We’re still gonna have the rock and roll like the songs we played today: they were really rocking in, those are gonna be on the CD but there’s also going to be some melodic songs that have more melody than they do drive.

Donnie: I kind of think it’s a little more mature.

Bobby: It’s still rock and roll but we all grew up and just playing and everything and it’s basically just our experiences of just being in a band.

Frank: Our first record, we were all in college still, really, and so it was drinking and sex and everything else that you do in college besides study. And this record is definitely gonna be more, just like we grew up. We don’t stay up as late anymore, we get up earlier. We’re just a little more mature.

Miriam: Excellent. Well, is there anything else you want to add?

Bobby: Y’all are awesome, KEXP.

Frank: We’re the best thing out of North Carolina since tobacco!


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4 Comments

  1. sll
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Awesome. Aren’t Donnie and Frank the brothers?

  2. Posted October 22, 2007 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    yes i am franks brother

  3. saucy
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    those guys are smokin’ hot! go heels!

  4. myriad
    Posted October 25, 2007 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Now I’m confused…which of y’all are brothers?

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