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Q&A: The Bloody Jug Band

Variety Editor

Published: Friday, December 9, 2011

Updated: Sunday, December 18, 2011 22:12

BJB pic

Courtesy John William Kidd

The Bloody Jug Band plays on the Art House stage at the Orlando Calling festival, Nov. 13.

An Orlando music act is reinventing an old American tradition and stirring up a ruckus in the local music scene.

The Bloody Jug Band, or "The Jamboree from Hell" as they call themselves, blends backwater jug band music with gruesome lyrics of road kill, grave robbing and zombies.

Playing to a small, yet tightly packed crowd at the intimate art house stage at the Orlando Calling Festival last month, The Bloody Jug Band was given the chance to showcase their gritty sound and rowdy stage presence at one of the biggest music festivals to hit Orlando in years.

With the likes of Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Los Lonely Boys, The Supervillains, Buddy Guy and Michelle Branch playing on the same bill, it was clear that The Bloody Jug Band fit right in — by not fitting in at all.

After their well-received set on the second day of the festival, the Central Florida Future had the chance to sit with John Theisen, also known as Cragmire Peace, who provides the vocals while scratching his antique washboard, and Stormy Jean Casselman, who also provides vocals while striking her "anarchy cowbell."

Central Florida Future: I think you guys have an awesome sound. What gave you the idea for having a "jamboree from hell" type vibe?

John Theisen: Old school jug bands in the ‘20s and ‘30s were very spooky as well. A lot of that old blues is very spooky. People don't think of it as spooky, because of a lot of the black music in the Chitlin' Circuit. A lot of the ‘20s and ‘30s jug bands had all kinds of dark music, just like a Robert Johnson Down at the Crossroads, but they would have the same kind of vibe. And so I think we took a lot of that from old-school music and applied our modern take on it. We do everything from Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash, or an old-school folk song or a bluegrass song to something like AC/DC and Judas Priest. So for us we represent everything we're influenced by, but to do it under the guise of the jug band is very cool.

CFF: How'd you come to be in the festival?

Theisen: They just called us up and asked us. We're one of the harder working bands in town; we're always playing shows and trying to get out there and get exposure. I guess we got the right person's ear and they called us up.

CFF: How long have you guys been around?

Theisen: We just had our two year anniversary of playing live. We've been together for about two and a half years.

CFF: What venues do you usually play?

Theisen: I think around here locally it's really between Backbooth, Will's Pub, Peacock Room, maybe Copper Rocket. In town it's a very cutthroat music scene, so we try to keep it to a limited place, but we play all over the state. We play everything from Winter Haven to Fort Lauderdale; we play a lot of biker bars, a lot of different small festivals or folk things.

CFF: The place was pretty cramped that you guys played in. Do you usually like playing in intimate settings like that? Do you think that adds to your persona?

Theisen: We found that when we played bigger stages, because a jug band is historically people around a fire in their backyard playing music, we are a lot better musically as a band when we're closer to each other, so we can all hear each other. We love playing intimate settings because, even though we have to step on each other and it's certainly not conducive for an eight-person band, you do get to hear each other. The smaller-stage shows end up becoming inevitably our best shows simply because we're a bigger band on a smaller stage and we can here each other and the energy, we can all feed off each other versus a big stage.

CFF: As far as recording goes, how many albums do you guys have? Are you in the process of making an album?

Stormy Jean Casselman: We currently have a six-track EP; it's out and available for sale. We're also working on a full-length right now with a local producer in town, Justin Beckler.

Theisen: Justin Beckler did everything from Matt Butcher to Kaleigh Baker. He was in Thomas Wynn and the Believers for years as their guitarist. He's produced all of these local albums, and they're absolutely amazing, so we were able to hitch our wagon to him. He's producing our new album called Coffin Up Blood, which will be out in early January 2012. The current six-track EP that we got is kind of our first stab at recording. First Drops is what the album is called, and it's our first six songs that we've had down. The album that we have now is full producer, a lot of money, a lot of energy behind it, so we're hoping that's gonna take us to another level as far as recording goes.

CFF: You were mentioning how you have inspiration from bands like AC/DC and Judas Priest, but then you have inspiration from older ‘20s bands. What did you get into first? Where did you start off at?

Theisen: I think that's a cool thing about having a band with eight people in it. For myself, I was actually more of a punk and classic rock guy. The original one of the founders of the band was into Judas Priest, he was a little older than I was and was into that. Stormy Jean here, Stormy's lived in Central Florida her whole life, is very much into old-school country. Jerm, our black-jug player, has a whole funk/hip-hop kind of thing. Our washtub-bass player who plays a one-string bass, he plays in a funk band called Union Made. Randall Scandal is on the mandolin, Randall is into old bluegrass. He knows everything about old bluegrass. We all go to practice, and we trade albums around with each other.

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