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Interview: Ross Bogan & John Shields on Live in the Lot at PoHo, Writing w/ Kanika Moore, New Music, & MORE

The Charleston Pour House is moving to the back lot this Saturday, April 16. Live in the Lot will host mainstays Doom Flamingo and Little Stranger. On support are Human Resources as well as SKIP’LO & JARV. We linked up with Doom Flamingo’s Ross Bogan and Little Stranger’s John Shields in preparation for Live in the Lot. 

We talked about Doom’s new music, writing with Kanika Moore, Little Stranger’s most recent touring, Pour House, and much more.

Check out both interviews below & grab your tickets for this Saturday, April 16, in the Pour House Lot. While you’re at it, snag tickets to The Late Night House Party with members of Doom Flamingo, Little Stranger, and Josh Phillips on the Main Stage. 

Interview w/ John Shields (Little Stranger)

Zach: Tell us about this past year of touring and how it’s been different from others?

John: Yeah, man, pretty much since 2017. That’s when we started touring. But at that point, we were just kind of dogging it and taking whatever we could get. Then coming out of 2020, we just hit the gas pedal and did like 125 shows in 2021 and kind of on the same track this year. But now they’re like a lot more proper tours. If it’s a support tour we are playing dope rooms with good bands. And then on our headline run, we have finally built up some markets where it’s like it’s just getting more and more proper, which is wonderful to see.

Zach: What are those markets?

John: Mostly East Coast until this year. We started popping off in the Midwest like Cleveland, Buffalo. We’re now good for like 250 people in those markets, but like Charlotte, Atlanta, Raleigh, we do well. And then up North, like Philly, New York, Asbury Park, we do really well.

Zach: Where do you play at Asbury?

John: We just supported The Movement at The Stone Pony, which was killer. We’ve headlined over at The Wonder Bar a few times.

Zach: So obviously the crew has gotten a little bigger. Tell me about what Mr. Daniel Snell has brought to the table.

John: Mr. Snell, do you know Dan? Oh, man, that’s our big Teddy bear. He came on board. Well, his first tour with us was actually early 2020, like we did this massive tour with Badfish and Tropodelic and he was our merch man. And then everything shut down. So we took that year off the road with him, but then he’s picked back up. We really brought him on the road for merch because now that we’re doing these bigger rooms. Which is a massive priority for us. But he’s been getting more and more into some tour management roles, which has been cool. He does a really good job at time management, advancing shows, and point of contact over there, making sure we’re getting paid. But then he’s still doing merch right now. We just are not at the point that we can afford to pay a TM and a merch person. So he’s kind of doing double duty with us, but he’s killing it. I mean, it’s a perk of the job for us and for him. The first job, he was hilarious. On that 2020 run, we played Chicago House of Blues, like sold out with Badfish. It’s like one of the dopest venues I’ve ever played, I’ve been doing this for ten year, Dan got to play it. So his first performance with us, the Chicago House of Blues, really probably his first performance, like, ever. I’m like, ladies and gentlemen, give it up. We’re calling him Staples on that run because the day we picked him up, he did like an AC staff party the night before and split it open.

Zach: Pour House has pieced a lot of different types of shows throughout the pandemic, what does that mean to the musicians?

John: Yeah, man. For us, Pour House and Royal American are as good as it gets. Especially Pour House. As much as I wish we did Royal more at this point, but I think that size, the Pour House has become our bread and butter and it’s awesome, man. To be able to do a Lot show there is huge. I actually haven’t even been to any live shows there yet we just love them. They’re like such a family.

Zach: Yeah, I’m excited for the Doom Stranger/Little Flamingo, whatever you guys decide to do, collaborations, I can only assume that is all in?

John: Yeah, I think it’s going to be like a full collab. It actually kind of spawned. We both did Holidaze down in Mexico in December. One of the bands couldn’t make it because of COVID. And there was a slot open, the Gazebo Pool Party slot, on Sunday afternoon. Our manager and their manager were just like, can you guys make something happen? We just winged it and it was super fucking dope. We just called it Stranger is Doomed and I think from there we were all pretty amped up to keep working together. That was our first Mexico play.

Zach: What’s the collaborative writing process between you and Kevin?

John: Yeah, so I do the majority of the production. But Kevin and I, having toured and lived together over the last six years, have sort of molded into one brain. So even when I’m doing production, Kevin’s in there, and oftentimes he has the best suggestion of the tune. So we work very hand in hand and all that. A lot of times, though, I’ll kind of, like, make a beat and come up with a hook. I like to gauge Kevin’s reaction. If he’s walking through the studio room and he’s like, oh, shit, what is that? I’m like, yeah, this is a good one. Send it to Kevin. He’ll sit with it for a couple of days, come up with his verse, and then we’re really like, collabing all the way through it. Sometimes, though, that’s kind of the typical one. It’s me making a beat and a hook, giving it to Kevin. But sometimes we’ll have a day in the studio where we’re just, like, fucking around with something and sit there and make a whole song in like a couple of hours, having some beers. Those tend to be the best ones because we’re just having fun and not taking it seriously.

Zach: What’s your stage rig like? 

John: So it’s a pretty consolidated rig at this point. I do live looping with a Boss pedal, but I’ve kind of come up with this system where I have my laptop. I have Logic Pro open in a blank session, but I’ve created a bunch of drum kits that I use over the years with some bass and synths. So I pull all my sounds from Logic with a controller and I loop them all live through the pedal. So it’s kind of cool because I’m not running into issues with CPU and running things on the computer. I’m literally just pulling Midi sounds from it. It was kind of trial and error. The first year we toured, I was beatboxing all the stuff and playing bass with like an octave pedal on my acoustics and just looping it. But at that point we were doing these 4 hour bar gigs for like $200. So fucking beat box for 4 hours and you just couldn’t get a fatty production sound out of it. So I was working in Logic, producing our song, and kind of had a light bulb moment one day. I tried Logic through the loop station and it worked. We often get told for being two people on stage, we create a lot of noise. We literally never practice at home unless we’re working on trying to work out a new song live. We just play so many shows that it is practice. We try to leave no space at all. 

Zach: Last question, if you could recreate any album in the studio what would it be?

John: Oh man. It’s funny because my answer as an individual would probably be different. But as a Little Stranger I think we might try to tackle DANGERDOOM. Danger Mouse and MF Doom is probably like our go to. Maybe Radiohead. Maybe Ok Computer. I think it’s a masterpiece. Yeah. Underground wise. I’ve been down here twelve years so I think I feel a little out of the loop on the up and coming. I mean Kevin is a massive Roots fan. Like Black Thought is his number one for sure. I grew up massively inspired by G Love. That was my thing.

Interview w/ Ross Bogan (Doom Flamingo)

Zach: Coming out of COVID, what were more memorable shows back?

Ross: We did Salvage Station and that was our first sold out show in Asheville, which was obviously such a big deal to us. Asheville feels like a sister city to me, and to have another big family there feels very good. We did Holidaze in Mexico too with Umphrey’s and Disco Biscuits, that was pretty special. I would say the biggest thing that we’ve been up to recently is recording our new album.. We’ve got twelve songs right now for the album, and we’ve got a ton of new demos that we’re probably going to flesh out soon. We’re all just super excited about everything this next year has to bring. We’ve been working on some videos, but yeah, we’re sitting on a pretty solid well of material right now, and I think we’re all just pretty excited to get it out.

Zach: How was the writing process this time around? I know with a few of the earlier songs, you guys would kind of songsmith it and Kanika would get down to writing. Did you guys kind of take the same approach?

Ross: It kind of varies in the album. Some songs were songs that I brought completely to the table musically and vocally and the band jumped in and made it Doom Flamingo. There were some songs where I would bring Kanika a demo, she would write vocals on it, and then we’d get in the studio together and figure it out. TK wrote an incredible guitar screamer too. So it kind of all varies. Ryan also wrote a killer tune dubbed “Porno Jam” (working title), the bass line is very silky. We’re all starting to write a lot more for future work. It’s getting to the point where I would compare it to Phish, they have like a Mike’s song, or a Trey song, or Page song. We got a TK song. We’ve got a Ross song. We’ve got a Kanika song and a Ryan song. It’s really cool.

Zach: It seems like the band is really working together…

Ross: Yeah, I think so. It depends on the tune. Some tunes are just, like, already written, and we just fill in the pieces. Some tunes we write together. Doom and Flamingo were pretty boxed in conceptually to their theme. I think on this new album, we kind of blew that whole thing wide open. And there are obviously elements of both of those in the album, there’s some party songs, there’s some heartfelt songs, there’s some anthems. It’s kind of all over the place. I love where the band is going. Where we’re just kind of letting everything happen as it may. Kanika has been kind of writing some stuff just based on a narrative she’s telling in her mind about these characters. I don’t want to reveal the characters yet. She just started thinking about this story in her head, and when we were in the studio, she’s such a prolific writer that she showed up and she didn’t really have any lyrics. And she was like, “Hold on, I’ll be right back.” And she went into the next room and she came back and she had this whole story written. That kind of stuff takes me weeks! I don’t want to give anymore away though.

Zach: So you’re writing songs for Kanika at this point?

Ross: Depends on the song but yes Doom is the first project that I’ve written songs with and for Kanika. I’ve been writing songs forever, but never for a vocalist like Kanika, she’s a force. It’s been an amazing process to kind of like sing my own version of a demo, and then she comes back and knocks it out of the park, It becomes a whole new animal. One of the most rewarding things about the album for me is bringing songs to the table watching everybody bring them new life. It’s an incredible feeling. Sometimes I will come up with a rough melody for the vocal, she obviously adds her own spice to it, and there’s been occasional word changes, but most of the time they stay pretty much the same. Another thing too is sometimes we’ll bring music to each other and test it out. I’ll bring her a song and it’s like, “Well, this one didn’t work, back to the drawing board.” Writing with someone else obviously doesn’t always work, it’s how you move past that that counts I think. That’s something that we’ve gotten a lot better about through this album’s journey is just constantly coming up with new ideas and finding something that works for everyone. Not getting hung up. We’ve all been pleasantly proven “wrong” at some point, and, again, that’s what happens when you LET it happen. I really am loving where the band is heading, I think we’re getting better. I like to think all bets are off musically. 

Zach: Can you take me through your creative process of writing “Blade”? 

Ross: That was such a conceptual thing. Like, I love horror movies, so I was purely just injecting myself into a character and just writing from that perspective. I was really thinking about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the chick from that movie. I pictured her trying to convince the villain that she’s a real person and she doesn’t need to be chopped up. Also it’s just like the whole process of her running away from them and stuff like that. It’s like there’s so many underlying themes to horror movies that, at least I see sometimes thematically, prey on the human psyche, like running away from a love or whatever. You’re like, oh, wait, this is maybe what this is about. Obviously in writing from a character’s perspective, you’re always going to inject a little bit of yourself into it too.

Zach: Did you get to work on any new equipment while making this new music?

Ross: Let’s see. You know what? I did incorporate some Vocoder. This is the first time I’ve used it. Sorry, not a Vocoder. A talk box. This is the first album I’ve used a talk box on, and I’ve started incorporating that live, and that’s been really fun. I love the talk box. I can make my Moog sing with my mouth. I diiiid just start using vocoder on the Queen tribute we’ve got coming up to tackle some of the like nine part Freddie Mercury harmonies. 

Zach: So what exactly is a talk box?

Ross: It’s basically like your mouth is the speaker cabinet, right? So there’s a little amp that plays through a tube and the tube goes into your mouth and you shape the sound with your mouth. And it’s kind of weird because you put the tube, like in the back of your throat. You got to kind of like making the consonance without saying words. It’s kind of like when you hold up your cell phone speaker to your mouth. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that. And you go like, wowowowow. Same thing. The vocoder is a little different. You sing into a microphone to trigger the keyboard. The microphone goes into the keyboard as opposed to the speaker going into your mouth. Think “Game Of Love” Daft Punk for vocoder and Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do” for talkbox. 

Zach: Would you ever think about putting out a solo album?

Ross: Yeah I have. We all have our own solo things going on and those things together is what makes Doom Doom. But yes, I have been working on a project that I am going to reveal pretty soon, and it revolves around my wolf mask. I’ve actually been working on an EP and I’ve got bookoos of demos. So over the next couple of months, I’ll be working on that as well. Now that we’ve knocked out a good bit of Doom Flamingo stuff, that well is deep right now. So I have a little time to dive into some Wolf Mask. I’ve been working with Matt Zutell and Aaron Utterback from Human Resources on it and they’ve been kind of helping me produce it. And, uhh yeah, I’ve been doing that. My other project Lureto has an album coming out July 29 as well and very excited about that. It’s very chill instrumental music. We just had a great show at SXSW with SUSTO playing Grateful Dead and working on some future dates as well. Plenty of great things going on. 

Zach: Last question, if you could cover any album with anyone what would it be?

Ross: Man…. Will say I’m pretty friggin jazzed about this Queen tribute coming up. It’s not a particular album, just kind of doing the greatest hits and the songs we love. Kay is of course smashing the Freddie Mercury vocals and we’re getting creative with the arrangement. She’s going to have some cool outfits out there too, the whole nine. It’s been kind of emotional, too. Just diving into Freddie Mercury’s whole journey and disease. There’s a tune called “Who Wants To Live Forever” that he sings at Live Aid and he’s up there playing his last show and kind of shrugging off his pretty imminent death like, “who wants to live forever anyway?” So powerful. Get’s me every time. Glad we can celebrate his music.