A lot of new bands wanna play dress up and put some twang in their rock because it’s fashionable, but NC’s The Sammies are the genuine article. Hardworking, full-throttle and drawing on influences as diverse as XTC, The Allman Brothers and The Replacements, The Sammies are thrill both live and in the studio. Recently we sat down with singer/guitarist Frank Backgammon for some straight talk on bands that shake it on stage, record label philosophies and why the neck pillow will soon replace the fanny pack on the fashion runways.
1. You guys finished your 2nd full length at the end of last year. What have you learned songwriting wise recently?
we are all better musicians, and keep getting better, so incorporating
that has been fun, and a task. It’s easy to overplay a song or idea
now. That’s the real struggle; with a new bag of tricks, when to sit
back, as much as you want to play, and say it’s OK to fall in the back
somewhere. Oh, and we learned how to slow down a bit, get down in a
beat. It used to be guns blazing!
2. What is the smartest thing your group has ever done?
school. We didn’t, and couldn’t tour when our first album came out as
much as we wanted b/c everyone, but me, was finishing college at UNCC.
I don’t think it killed us in hindsight, and in this job market, and
what little money is in album sales, thank God we have jobs now. The
broke musician idea is cool, but doesn’t work in Charlotte. Ah, years
ago maybe you could find cheap living, no more.
3. What advice can you give for a group looking to improve their live show?
No one likes to see a band just stand there, and especially pay money
to do so, unless your the damn Jonas Brothers or something. People are
there for the music, so sell it man. So you screw up a couple times,
who cares, an honest screw up can sound cool and keeps it real.
4. What advice can you give for a group to build up a buzz?
hard man. You’ve gotta know people, and have people who believe in you,
and believe so much they do favors. Money helps, b/c then you can
outsource a radio campaign and things that take a lot of time, but you
have band members, and each person needs to put in 40 hrs a week, just
like a normal job. Stuff you’ve done at dumb jobs; cold emails and
phone calls, follow ups, hit the streets and clubs, mingle, all while
holding down a paying job, and using vacation days to tour. It’s a
serious damn commitment, and if you don’t want to do AT LEAST what I
said above, stick to open mic nights.
5. In the current climate, bands are always looking for more ways to save money. Any tips on selling more merch?
used to be horrible at this, but, someone needs to be behind the merch
table the whole time, or as much as possible. How do you expect to sell
anything otherwise? Also, have other members take CD’s and walk around
trying to hock them, make a deal, people like that. Got a nice feeling
shirt, get it in someone’s hands, you need gas money.
6. What is something you should bring on tour that most people may not think of?
neck pillow. They are maybe $10, and you need to fall asleep some
awkward places on the road. It’s small, and can clip to your belt. Also
more fashionable than a fanny pack.
7. There is a big backlash
against record labels right now. But what do you feel record labels can
still do better for bands than they can themselves?
It’s like Orbitz
or something. Record companies have all of the pieces, and connections.
Ultimately, you can do it better with some leg work and know-how,
finding the pieces best fit for you and your band, but do you have the
know-how or the time? You sacrifice total control, and money, but it’s
full service. More of a philosophy I guess.
8. On the flip side, what sounds bands do for themselves that labels can’t do as well as they can?
can’t be as personable as the bands. You want to support a band; rarely
do you want to support a label. They are investors too, and don’t be
fooled, they are in it for the money.
9. What is a piece of equipment you can’t live without? And Why?
Boss tuning pedal. If you are out of tune most people think you suck
and can’t play. Or maybe it was the look on your face when you heard
that note. Either way, you get no pass for not being in tune, “I don’t
know what was wrong, it just wouldn’t stay in tune.” Sounds like a
shitty show to me.
10. What is the biggest mistake your group ever made?
wish we had taken more time to ourselves, not playing every show. It
delayed our last album substantially, and we should have been writing
more when we were in that stage. We had an arsenal of songs, still do,
but the more the merrier.