Rich Howells

VIDEO PREMIERE: Doghouse Charlie & The Buck Knife ransack new sounds in ‘Bandits’

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With a band name like Doghouse Charlie & The Buck Knife, listeners likely don’t know what to expect. In this case, neither do the musicians themselves, but their sonic experimentation has led to some beautiful psychedelic folk that combines the unmistakable talents of several well-known local artists.

As the group continues exploring new musical territory while recording a full album, NEPA Scene is exclusively premiering the new video for their latest song, “Bandits,” recorded live in Wide Eyed Studios in Wilkes-Barre by Mark Wohl and DJ Tasselmyer, formerly of Mock Sun and currently of the newly formed Mind Choir.

This semi-new/reformed project based in Wilkes-Barre features Charles Davis, Andrew Sgarlat, and Matt Rattigan of Cherokee Red, Chelsea Collins from Pity Party and A Fire With Friends, Todd Kopec of Cabinet, and artist Allison LaRussa, and they will be playing at The Bog in downtown Scranton on Saturday, Sept. 17 as part of the Electric City Music Conference.

“This band is something of a hybrid. Matt, Andrew, and myself were doing our project, Buck Knife, as a bit of an experiment – we were writing minimalist progressions and songs and improvising over them in a very unusual, rhythmically heavy and sonically heavy way. I would define that particular sound as ‘jazz punk,’ for lack of a better way to put it. That version of the band was somewhat fleeting, as the three of us were also very busy with another band, Cherokee Red, who were touring and recording quite a bit as a DIY outfit. Cherokee Red hit some speed bumps late last year, with members in different cities, and I started playing out solo as Doghouse Charlie. I made it my mission to assemble a full band and, as Matt, Andrew, and myself never really stopped playing together, we ran with the Buck Knife concept,” Davis explained.

“Allison LaRussa joined next, who shares vocals with me; we had all been big fans of her artwork for some time and, as a group of painters, she fit in right from the beginning. Our voices ‘match’ in tone and rhythm quite well – as a vocalist, I’ve found this is something very difficult to find. Not long after that, we added Chelsea Collins, who is just an awesome all-around musician. She is a great multi-instrumentalist with excellent timing and, given the rhythmic focus and dynamics of the group, we couldn’t have found someone more ideal. Most recently, we have our friend Todd Kopec, who has been jamming with us off and on for a few years now. Todd is also a very impressive musician, as well as an audial explorer, so it was a natural fit. The most important aspect of this group right now, I believe, is that everyone is easy to get along with and everyone needs art and exploring to be an important part their lives.”

“Bandits” was originally written by Rattigan for his solo album “Painted Songs” in 2014.

“The album as a whole is an homage to the travelling spirit, the wanderer. “Bandits” starts the album off and is lyrically pretty straightforward, about “gathering up all your things” and taking off. I imagined the album as a soundtrack to the nomad who decides to pack up their belongings and adventure off to a new land,” he said.

“I loaded up my van in October 2009 and left for New Mexico. I lived there for three years, and it was one the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. It has had a profound impact on me and was a reminder that maybe what you’re looking for isn’t necessarily a geographical place, but a place inside yourself, so that’s kind of the motivation behind the song. It’s ultimately encouraging people to experience other places, and it’s remembering the places we’ve been. Musically, it’s three simple chords and a simple structure, but it’s the variety of rhythms that intertwine that creates a sound a little more complex. I am really happy to be able to play it live with the band and can honestly say that I like the Doghouse Charlie version more than my own.”

The best word that Davis can find to describe this new combination of sounds is “eclectic.”

“We, as a group, listen to and play a lot of music. Personally, the last few years has found me digging into music from around the world, specifically ‘70s psychedelia from West Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, which has heavily influenced my writing and orchestrating,” he noted.

“Music from other parts of the world can be extremely interesting, as there are people playing styles and making sounds that are nothing at all like what is happening here in the States. As a musician, you have to get creative in trying to figure out what exactly is going on. I think these creative expeditions have been the foundation for our ‘sound.’ We can never really sound like a musician from Mali in the ‘80s, but seeking that sound out can lead you to all sorts of interesting discoveries.”

“Bandits” is a little different from what the band may produce as the new album continues to form but, as Rattigan puts it, they clearly aren’t “afraid of variety and change.”

“We certainly aren’t trying to rewrite the same songs over and over again. We have been exploring all sorts of ideas and its ultimately our wide range of influences that makes us not want to pigeonhole ourselves in any way,” he continued.

“The album is going to be so diverse that I don’t believe any song could really sum it, but I believe it is representative of us as a band. This is, essentially, a live performance in a studio – we may add a few more pieces yet, for the sake of creating the best recording possible,” Davis added.

“Initially, this was going to be a solo album, so naturally I was writing the majority of the material but, from the get-go, I had planned on recording some of my friend’s songs. For example, this song is all Matt; we recorded another song I co-wrote with Brittany Thomas from Cherokee Red and another that is mostly she and Andrew. So it is communal, so to speak.

“One very important aspect of this upcoming album, and something that is at the core of the sound, is Mark Wohl, with whom we have been recording. His style is amazing, and he has been the first person in all my years recording that is completely open to any idea. As musicians who lean toward the experimental, this has been incredibly refreshing for all of us. I’d suggest Wide Eyed Studios to anyone who is looking for quality while also looking to stray from the standard.”

Those who also forge their own path should see the band tomorrow night at The Bog (341 Adams Ave., Scranton) with Tired Army, Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen, Spruce Springsteen, and Bummer’s End and keep a look out for Doghouse Charlie & The Buck Knife as it develops right along with their music.

Doghouse Charlie & The Buck Knife
Location: The Bog (341 Adams Ave., Scranton)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 17
Time: 7 p.m.
Cost: $5

Band schedule:

Tired Army – 7 p.m.– 8 p.m.
Doghouse Charlie – 8:15 p.m.– 9:15 p.m.
Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen – 9:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
Spruce Springsteen – 10:45 p.m.–11:45 p.m.
Bummer’s End – midnight-1:45 a.m.

See a complete schedule of the Electric City Music Conference here.