|I met up with
Ruben Dobbs and Joey Mitchell on their UK tour at Bangor on
Dee Blues & Real Ale Festival.
Are you both from Maryland and what are your first
Yes both from
Maryland Joey Mitchell grew up on Kent Island a water town
and Ruben Dobbs grew up on a farm.
Ruben: My first memory of music
was when my mother and I moved away from the farm for a
couple of months when I was 5 and this friend of mine had
pissed his pants; his father was a violent alcoholic and I
heard his father beating him mercilessly while through their
neighbours open window blared Afternoon Delight by
Starland Vocal Band
and to this day that song is very creepy to me.
Growing up I had a next door neighbour who was 3 years older
than me and really into 80's and early 90's metal and hard
rock bands. Him and his brother shared a room and there beds
were across from each other. He would put on bands like Skid
Row, and Alice In Chains and we would jump on the beds
listening to it. From the opposite end of the spectrum I'd
run errands with my mom when I was around 5 or 6 and she
would always listen to soft rock stations. I heard a lot of
Michael Mcdonald, and the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack as a kid.
Did you come from a musical family - is there a long
My Grandmother and Uncle Bill took it seriously. She
preformed with her sisters at the USO during WWII and wrote
all of the school musicals for her children. I owe her
credit for everything.
My grandmother always gave piano lessons and is a music
teacher at a Preschool. I never took advantage of that when
I as younger. That's really about it.
Did you always want to become a musician?
Since age 11 once I found the right instrument.
Music had always been a really important part of my life but
I didn't get my first instrument (electric bass) until I was
16, after that it was all I wanted to do. I found a guitar
in my attic when I was about 12 and went out and bought
strings for it but the neck was so warped it was impossible
to play so I just left it for 4 years.
How did you get started in music?
Grandmother insisted I play an instrument at age 5.
I really loved the sound of the bass. Really it was the
Alice In Chains song "Would?" which opens with a bass riff.
That tone just grabbed me. I went out and bought a squire
p-bass and a song book that had that song in it.
What kind of material were you playing in the early days
and who were your heroes?
Hendrix, Zepplin, Cream, Jane's Addiction, Pink Floyd.
I started playing 90's punk songs, NOFX, Pennywise, Lagwagon
etc. I was also really into Incubus (Dirk Lance), Rush (Geddy
Lee), and Yes (Chris Squire).
You play blues, jazz, old country, bluegrass, gypsy jazz,
folk, rock and everything in between; do you have a
favourite music genre?
is extremely dependent on my mood so the answer is not
I don't know if you could say favourite genre but jazz is
really where I draw a lot of my inspiration from. It's the
one that gets me to that mental state while playing where
everything else drops away and the instrument starts to play
itself. If I could only listen to one artist for the rest of
my life it would be Bill Evans. He always had the most
incredible bassists too, Lafaro, Gomez, Johnson....
What music style influences your creative ability the
1920-30's Mississippi Delta Blues.
Really everything. I feel like the best Swampcandy gigs
happen after I've spent the day practicing, and it doesn't
matter too much what, jazz, classical, pop, whatever.
Tell me a little about your musical journey so far prior to
forming Swampcandy, the bands, gigs and albums along the
first real band (Fungo Bat) I was trying to push boundaries
a lot of linear writing grunge meets Zappa. My second was
(Feed Bag) a more song oriented attempt at a grunge sound.
Then came Dingleberry Dynasty. That was Zappa like comedy
rock skit/opera. Finally (Burn The Fields) commercial hard
rock. It became more about what we looked like than the
songs we wrote. Snoop Dog was looking to sign us. I just lost
my stomach for it and wanted to get back to the real reason
I started playing in the first place so I quit and went head
long into Swampcandy as a solo endeavour until Joey came
along .... now it's a band.
I've done everything I possibly could. I've been a part of
rock bands, acoustic cover duos, jazz groups, pop bands,
country bands, Americana bands, wedding bands. I did
orchestra in college. It all has given me something. The pop
country band for example was one of the best as well as off
the wall decisions I've made. It was never a style I was
personally into but I gained to much from it. I learned a
lot about song form and hearing chord progressions. That
band also introduced me to Brian Forte who I still play with
constantly in another band back home called Mixed Business.
The main songwriter from that band, Jen Van Meter,
introduced me to Ruben which got me started with Swampcandy.
When and where did you first meet and what inspired you to
get together as a band?
went to see Jen play at a local bar after our band
(Eighty1south) split up. She had been doing gigs with Ruben
and he happened to be on this particular one. I had just
started playing bass drum along with my upright bass with
another group and I thought that the direction I was going
in would work well with what he was doing. I approached him
initially just to get some extra gigs but it quickly turned
into something more.
Who has influenced you the most in your music writing and
Everything that catches my ear. I love music and bands for
so many different reasons even stuff I hate I like aspects
of and it all influences me.
My playing has been heavily influenced by John Paul Jones,
Ray Brown, Scott Lafaro, Dave Holland, James Jamerson, and
whoever else I've transcribed. I've never really written
alone, I'm always overly critical of my ideas. When I'm
writing with someone I can't really explain it. Ideas just
Looking back on your career so far, what are your fondest
fist time playing in front of a large audience when I was
13. Writing Producing and Performing a Rock opera. Our first
UK Tour 3 years ago and Recording our last Album.
The festivals have definitely been the most fun shows to
play. Silopanna in Annapolis was a definite high point. It's
been great touring all of these places that I would
otherwise never know or see.
What guitars/bass/drum kit do you play and which is your
Resonator, and Gretsch Synchomatic arch top.
With this band I play a 1944 Kay 5-string upright. Usually I
just run direct with my fishman DI if the system has subs.
If not I have an Aguilar DB 410 cab and a GK MB800 head that
I'm really happy with. My kick drum is a percussion plus.
It's a super cheap drum that I got when I traded my friend a
skateboard ramp for his drum kit. I put some Evans EMAD
heads on it and it sounds great.
Are there any particular songs that you play that have
special meaning to you?
write a lot so those all mean a lot to me but I guess "If
you see my baby" is the one that made us become a band so it
carries a bit more weight in my heart.
"If you see my baby" definitely shows off a lot of our tempo
and groove shifts. It evolved over time into something we're
really proud to perform.
You mainly tour the US with (thankfully) some trips over the
water to the UK, how healthy do you think the blues/music
scene is in the UK compared with the US?
Apples and Oranges. I think it is healthy in both areas but
I think the audiences look for and take away different
experiences from festivals.
It's hard to compare for me. I'm not sure how blues sits
popularity-wise in comparison to other forms of music in the
UK. It's evolved in the US into more of a rock feel, i.e.
White Stripes, Black Keys. From what I've seen it seems that
there has been a little more appreciation for what we do in
the UK. I think that in order to be successful you have to
have a fan base that reaches out beyond fans of blues.
Hopefully we're doing that too.
Tell me about the making of your fourth and latest album
'Midnight Creep/Noonday Stomp": mainly originals with some
covers; where was it made; who produced it; any guest
grew legs and started to run away with us we recorded 1/2 in
a barn and the other half in a Mansion... Honestly it is a
long interesting story and hard to explain there is an
entire documentary made about the making of this album.
will take you to it.
How do you see the future of live music?
People will always seek authenticity I think live music will
be around as long as humans can bang on something and make
I don't think recorded music can ever replace the experience
of being there. If you're putting something out there worth
seeing people will be there.
You are now coming to the end of your UK tour then it's back
to the States, what are your future plans / gigs / tours /
entire East Coast 2 to 3 times a year. Record a new studio
album straight away from June - August. Get as many
festivals as possible.
Get the new album done. Hopefully we can get that recorded
in the next 4 or 5 months. We're just trying to grow right
now. More tours, festivals etc.
When are you coming back to the UK?
only know one thing for sure we will be back at the Bangor
on Dee Real Ale
and Blues Fest. As soon as Pete Evans gives us a date we
will book as many shows as we can in and around it..... we
haven't even left yet and we can't wait to return.
We'll be back next year. This time was 2 weeks, next time
hopefully we can double that. We love it here!