Q&A: Spicy Pickles Jazz Band

Photo cred: Bobby Bonsey

Photo cred: Bobby Bonsey

There’s a new band in town and they’re bringing a funky, jazz sound to the playing field. The Spicy Pickles Jazz Band is currently running a campaign on Indiegogo to crowd source enough money to put out a debut album. Get to know the dudes behind the band name and help them out! I snagged a few minutes with lead man, Joe Smith, who shares on the lack of spicy pickles in his life, what he would have done differently when putting the band together, and why they love playing for swing dancers.

Day Jobs:
William Hatchet (guitar/vocals, 25): New Student Academic Facilitator at Drake University
Josh Luce (trombone/bass/vocals, 31): Customer Service Representative at Nationwide Insurance
Larry Mullica (bass/tenor guitar/vocals, 60): Operations Manager of Carpet Commander
Rod Philp (percussion/vocals,49): Assistant Professor at Des Moines University
Joe Smith (trumpet/vocals, 27): Sales Representative and Office Manager at MC Advantages

Describe your sound in three words that all begin with a P.
Provocative, Potent, Powerful

You’re a new(ish) band to the scene—how has it been so far?
It has been a great learning experience. This is the first band that I have actually led, and I just moved back to the Des Moines area last fall, so I am just trying to build my contacts, and our fan base, which has been a bit of a challenge. We are really trying to get our foot in the door locally, and get people to realize that the jazz we play isn’t relegated to the blue hairs, it is still relevant within today’s society, and a lot of fun. So it has been a challenge to get people to actually give us a chance.

What are your plans for the group? Do you want to stay local or take the act outside of Des Moines?
I started the band to play especially for swing dancers. The music I pick for the band is all songs that I love to dance to, or that I feel like the lyrics are fun and interesting. So our big long-term goal is to play swing dance festivals and events around the Midwest, and in time, around the country. We have actually been really fortunate with this goal so far. Our very first gig was in Lawrence, Kansas in February for a swing event that KU Swing Society was putting on, and since then we have played in Omaha, Iowa City, and Mt. Vernon. We have upcoming gigs in Cedar Rapids and Fort Smith, Arkansas, this summer and fall.

Locally our goal is to play around town on a regular basis, to make great friends, and have a great time playing this fantastic music. We want to spread the joy that traditional jazz music and dance brings to us. We really target lindy hoppers (vintage swing dancers), and I am hoping to get more people interested in learning how to swing dance as well.

After some recent encouragement by a few other musicians we have worked with, and by the swing dance community, we are working on plans currently to record an album this summer as well. There is an Indiegogo campaign happening right now where we are trying to get some assistance from fans in helping to cover the costs associated with producing this. We are really excited to be working with Ryan and Melissa at Sound Farm, we will be going up to hang out with them at the end of July and lay down some tracks. In keeping with the preservation of vintage jazz we will be recording in the same style that was used back in the day. We will be recording in a live room all together with few microphones, and using analog tape. I’m really excited about this project.

What has been the most exciting part of being an active band so far?
We love playing for swing dancers; it is actually why I started the band. It is so great to be able to watch people dance to the music that we are playing, it is the best kind of interaction that you can have between the band and the audience. The people have also been very exciting, making new friends, playing shows with great musicians.

Were any of you in bands previously?
We have all been in bands before. Rod was in a punk rock band in the UK, and has also played most recently with 4th Street Swing. Josh has played jazz, blues and surf rock music, most recently with Josh Luce and the Plan 9 and The Grape Ape Trust. Larry runs the band 4th Street Swing as well, which also plays jazz music around the Des Moines area. William has played in a few combos and big bands in Chicago and the Quad Cities. In the Des Moines area, Joe used to play in a ska band called Moving Mikey, he also has played in Johnson County Landmark at the University of Iowa, and 4th Street Swing.

Where did the band name come from?
I wish I could lie and say I had some fantastic story, but I don’t. When I was just starting to piece the band together I just had a thought one day that Spicy Pickles would be a great name. Here is my dirty little secret; I have never eaten a spicy pickle in my life.

If you have to give listeners one reason to listen to your music, what would it be?
Joy. This music emanates joy, we have a lot of fun playing it, and we always make sure our audience is having a good time as well.

What was your local music scene like growing up?
I grew up just south of Des Moines, so we just had a few cover bands of high school kids. Des Moines was the closest scene that I had. I was really into ska music at the time, and so it was nice to be able to see bands like Slaughterhouse Six play. It has been great to come back to Des Moines after finishing school and see how much the music scene has grown, and is still blossoming.

What’s one thing you would have done differently in starting up a band?
I would have tried to build more local booking contacts before I started booking gigs. Not having contacts has been extremely challenging for us. We want to promote the local Des Moines scene, and find fans and friends in our area, as there is nothing better than getting to play for friends.

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