There’s never a bad time to listen to some funky tunes, and Big Dill and the Boys have got some good ones. Over beers at Der Rathskeller, The Badger Herald talked with them about history, influences and their “psych-a-dill-ic” sound.
The band is made up of University of Wisconsin seniors Will Hansen (guitar/vocals), Kevin McNamara (guitar/vocals), Brendan Andrews (bass guitar) and junior Nick Spiroff (drums). The boys are all from Milwaukee, but they never really grouped up until senior year of high school into their freshman year of college, they said. Jamming became a regular occurrence, and when Spiroff got to UW, they turned it into something official.
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“Fooling around” is how it started, the band said, but it’s grown into something else completely.
They’ve been writing tunes inspired by bands like New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, The Allman Brothers Band and the likes, Hansen said. McNamara threw in The Velvet Underground. They also spoke on behalf of Andrews, who drawn inspiration from Primus and Jaco Pastorius.
“It’d be pretty blasphemous if I didn’t say the Grateful Dead,” Hansen said with a laugh. “Nick, he was mostly into hip-hop. I don’t know how to classify him — he likes hip-hop and Led Zeppelin.”
Their music sounds like a ‘70s dream. They’ve got groovy baselines, some slide guitar (thank you!) and jazzy drums. Then McNamara’s Lou Reed-esque voice tops it off.
Hansen and McNamara are the two who truly build the skeleton of the songs. Their process stems from anything creative, whether it’s right before bed at 3 a.m. or inspiration from poetry, they said. Everyone fills in their own parts, which then leaves room for change.
“They definitely evolve,” Spinoff said. “They’re organic.”
What was once a dream of theirs has become a reality: playing gigs at venues like the High Noon Saloon and The Frequency.
Having talent is obviously a big component, but knowing people helps, too. Madison poet FlowPoetry has been a big help to them in getting shows.
“He’s like the Santa Clause of the jam scene — he just gives out shows to everyone,” Hansen said.
Before the connections started falling in line, it took a lot more work to get their name out there. McNamara was relentlessly emailing venues, Spiroff said. Making music friends in and out of town has also made a huge difference. Having some friends in Colorado helped them land shows in Denver and Boulder, as well.
Now that they’ve surpassed these milestones, the next step is completing their first album. They’ve had a few studio sessions already, and hope to finish it by late spring. Called “Dead on the Run,” there’s that feel of running from the law or doing something worthwhile, Hansen said.
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“There’s a song, ‘Black Widow,’ and one of the lines is ‘woke up to a dancing black widow,’ which is like an in-your-face ‘wake up, you’ve got to do something’ or you’re just gonna die,” Hansen said.
In the end, it’s their love for jamming that drives everything forward. Never playing a song the exact same way twice keeps it interesting for them, they said. Working towards that peak where everyone is improvising and you end up on the same page during a show makes it fun.
“It’s pretty wild cause you don’t know how you got there, but you’re all playing on the same plane,” Hansen said.
While the boys are still in the same place, they’re going to keep playing together for the immediate future.
So, watch out for Big Dill and the Boys if you’re ever in the mood for some groove.