This year’s Artscape, starting Friday and running through Sunday, is sure to be another great event filled with local artisans and crafters selling their labors of love, as well as some big-name musicians taking the stage. This year’s festival features artists like Gov’t Mule, Cold War Kids,Jackie Greene, and Wale.
But, a lot of times, the beauty is in the lesser-known local acts. Damn Right! is an electronica three-piece with members hailing from Baltimore (keyboardist Blake Mobley), Annapolis (drummer Tommy Bradel), and Philadelphia (bassist Johnny Fissinger). The band’s been on the scene for the past three years and I got a chance to chat with Fissinger about what it will be like to play the main stage at this year’s Artscape.
Can you describe the sound of Damn Right! to our readers?
We started out as an improv band. I actually met Tommy on stage at our first show and I went to college with Blake at St. Mary’s. We just started playing songs on the spot. That got a little bit boring, and I’m a producer so I would send out email tracks that I produced. We would load them onto a drum machine and sample stuff and play on top of stuff live. We’re refining this live electronic production performance, so you get kind of a studio performance with more live elements.
It seems like you guys kind of blew up in the past year or so. How does a band today do a lot of its marketing?
I think we mainly rely on our keyboardist, Blake, who’s worked for various production companies in Baltimore, likeWalther Productions. He’s booked a lot of gigs and then the rest is really word-of-mouth. We have a lot of musician friends and they offer us a lot of high-profile gigs. It’s been kind of an organic process, we don’t market ourselves—we don’t have an album out yet. It’s more about playing gigs that are highly publicized through different promoters. This is the first time I’ve ever been able to have that with a band.
You guys must be psyched be playing the main stage at Artscape.
We’re really happy to be a part of the biggest free arts and culture festival in the country. The fact that we’re playing just a few hours before Gov’t Mule is crazy. I saw them when I was a teenager in high school. And I’ve been following the Cold War Kids for years. Shook from Baltimore is, I think, a great young band coming up. Other than that, I’m just excited to be hanging out and listening to new bands out there.
Do you take a different approach to your set list when you’re playing on a big stage?
Our approach is mainly to create a set that’s a little more crowd-friendly at first. We’ll probably start a little more accessible, just bass, piano, and drums. And then we’ll work our way into more progressive stuff using synthesizers and sampling. We’re used to playing hour-long sets, which we like because we can put our best stuff out there.
How do you like the Baltimore arts scene compared to your hometown of Philadelphia?
I think the scene in Baltimore is really communal. There’s the whole Wham City production with Dan Deacon and they have a really tight group. I think the fans really support the artists in Baltimore. And they’re willing to go see a band on Tuesday night. In Philly and New York, it’s tougher to get people to come out. Baltimore seems to have people who really like music and really let loose after a hard day’s work. We always want to thank all of our fans who have supported us in the Baltimore area. I consider it to be my second home because of Damn Right! I love everyone in Baltimore.
What’s next for the band?
That is an interesting question because Blake, our piano player, is moving to Denver in September. So we might be moving to Denver. Tommy and I are definitely going to be working on some sort of project in my studio in Philadelphia. We’re going to come out with some kind of release—whether it’s under Damn Right! or not—hopefully by the end of the year.
Check out Damn Right! at Artscape on the Wachovia Stage at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
[Image (left to right) Johnny, Blake, Tommy: courtesy of Damn Right!]