Hophead Treefrog has spent the last five years hopping around some of Atlantas small venues playing what could perhaps best be described as garage band blues or Vaudevillian rock n roll. Tonight marks their first show with their new bassist Julian Phillips.
I sat down with lead guitarist Greg Kelley, better known as DK -- an abbreviation of Dr. Kelley, referencing his PhD in English -- to talk about Hophead Treefrog and his own war stories from touring around the country over the years.
Piper Hale: So what kind of sound does Hophead Treefrog go for?
DK: Well, our tagline is energetic rock with deep country and blues roots. We got Allen Barksdale, whos a true folkie. We all are really into the blues and are somewhat scholarly about the blues. We really love and play the Chicago-style blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf and Willie Dixon. But theres a lot of blues beside that kind of stuff. Were a rock n roll band. Were an electric, loud, kickass rock n roll band. American rock from California -- San Francisco, is really big in our sound, and the British Invasion. Our tastes tend in the direction of high energy rock n roll with a punkish leaning, and the blues with an electric leaning, and country music with a sort of Appalachian but also Vaudeville leaning. We play a lot of tunes like Alabammy Bound and Hard-Hearted Hannah, and Sweet Georgia Brown, which were Vaudeville tunes, sort of show-biz, ten-pin alley tunes. And, you know, everybody says this, but with me its true: I like all kinds of music, I really do. I was just listening to Beethovens fifth symphony as I was driving home tonight and you know, that third movement, with its minor key dance of death-man, that is some badass shit.
PH: You started the band, right?
DK: Yeah, Allen Barksdale and I started the band. We had been in discussion about forming a band for probably five years. And we didnt know other people to work with. The other members kind of fell into place. Literally, its like one day, three players were like, Youre forming a band with Barksdale? Sure!
PH: So what did your musical career look like before Hophead Treefrog?
DK: Theres one thing you cant be in the popular music field, and that is old. Now, Im in my late thirties (he laughs sarcastically) so without really naming decades, I spent a whole decade playing in rock bands on the road. And we would have week long gigs at clubs and play five sets a night, six nights a week. It became second nature to me to fill a five-hour night about half-and-half with original music and copy music. So I had a lot of original music and then a lot of groovier covers. You know, I never did Top 40. I was in a band that would play one-nighters at clubs and play at fratty parties. And then I moved back to Atlanta, and then I was five or six years without a band. That was horrible. I hadnt been without a band since I was thirteen.
PH: So in all that time you spent playing music and touring, what was your favorite gig?
DK: Best gig I ever played? Thats hard to say. Definitely playing a big show opening for somebody big is a lot of fun, but its almost never musically satisfying. A lot of times when you finish a show and youre like That was great. We were really on it, it might be in some basement club, you know, with a very small audience.
PH: What kind of big acts have you opened for?
DK: When I was touring around, we used to open for acts that were big but had since fallen into obscurity. Cactus, they were big stuff but I doubt anyone remembers who Cactus was. And one time we opened for-- whats his name, the guy who sings When a Man Loves a Woman?-- Percy Sledge. Ive opened for a lot of those guys, who were kind of over the hill. One time, I had a brush with greatness where the guy totally intruded on my show instead of me opening up for him. This guy came into the club we were playing and made a big stir. He came up to the stage, and I recognized him from his picture in Rolling Stone. It was Elvis Costello. He looked to have had a few drinks. He came right up to me, and the stage was only about a foot tall, and he starts screeching into my face with his head thrown back that we were to stop playing and that he was to start playing. And I said, no, I mean, we were working, we had a job. So I guess he left, although the rest of the band, the Attractions, stayed around, and we stayed up very late that evening drinking beers with them and talking about the Beatles. Later on, I became something of a fan of Elvis Costello, but I gather that in the early phase of his career, he was often pretty obnoxious and hard to be around.
PH: Why should people come see Hophead Treefrog?
DK: People should come see our band because were great. And not in the way youd think. Were not particularly virtuosic. Were not amazing flash players, and were not trying to be. What we have is a ton of energy. I cant understand how you can be slack and limp when youre playing music. Music is the most enlivening thing there is. And we have a good personality blend, which really comes out in the music.
PH: If you had to pick one song for people to listen to thats representative of your work, what would it be?
DK: Oh, God-- ah-- nah, I cant do it. I can name three.
DK: Racing to the Redlight, XYZ, Zombie Rock, and Salt Marsh. OK, thats four.
(Photo courtesy Hophead Treefrog)
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Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?
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