It wasn’t all that long ago when we came across this band coming to town. We noticed its name was Dr. Slothclaw. We lauded it in the Weekend Playlist. Our interest was piqued. It made us smile. Well, it turns out the Slothclaw is coming back to the area soon: Next Friday (that’s March 31, for those keeping score), they are taking the Opera House stage over in Shepherdstown. We recently caught up with the band to talk about how they came up with such a great name, how much of an influence Frank Zappa continues to be, and why Chuck Berry was the inspiration of all inspirations.
First and foremost, I love the name. How did the name come about?
Slothclaw was a “battle cry” of sorts in our group of friends. You could hear it being shouted along with the chugging of beers, or if someone happened to be comically falling out of a chair. It came from our drummer Josh and a close friend of ours. On a lazy summer afternoon and completely under the influence, the two were sloshing around in a swimming pool hooting and hollering. When Josh discovered a plastic turtle pool toy that was missing a fin floating nearby, he picked it up, hurled it out of the pool and yelled “SLOTHCLAW!” No one is quite sure why he yelled that, considering it was a toy turtle that had been thrown, but it was hilarious nonetheless and became a term we used in those kind of circumstances. Later on down the road, after months of deliberation, we still couldn’t come up with a decent band name, so Dr. Slothclaw was born!
Can you take me through the history of the band? How did you get together and what kind of goals did you have in mind when starting the project?
We basically just started jamming together in November of 2006. We were all friends and musicians from different musical backgrounds and just started playing together. Our original sound was much heavier and more in the region of Primus and King Crimson. After some time (18 months or so) we started writing funkier material and eventually decided to focus on that funk. We’ve been working on our funk ever since. Here we are 10 years later, still getting weird with it.
You guys are from York, from what I understand. What’s the music scene like in York?
York has an awkward music scene. There are fantastic musicians and amazing people, but a lack of decent venues. The masses in this area want Lynryd Skynyrd cover bands, and the few have no place to perform. There are a few hole-in-the-wall spots, but little to no real venues. In our beginning, we played a ton of shows in these joints (The Depot served as our home base for quite a few years), but as we grew, we had to look elsewhere. The Abbey Bar in Harrisburg has become our “hometown spot,” where we bring in people from all corners of Pennsylvania.
Chuck Berry passed away this weekend. What was your favorite Chuck Berry song and why?
I can’t say that any of us are huge Chuck Berry fans, but that iconic riff from “Johnny B. Goode” is like an ear worm you can’t get out of your head. Everybody knows that what that lick sounds like. I bet you just heard it in your head. Chuck Berry was obviously one of the originators of rock and roll and a legend. I would consider him more of the grandfather of inspiration. He inspired all of the guitar players who would become the legends and inspirations for every generation since then, including us.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
Frank Zappa is numero uno in our book. Most of us were raised on his music and all of us have spent countless hours diving into his ridiculous catalog. You could say we get our Freak from Zappa. Our funk would obviously come from none other than P-Funk. George Clinton and company dominated the funk genre while helping originate it. They were doing things that were so far out and psychedelic. Mixing that big on the “one” funk with soaring delay-soaked guitars and huge bass lines. It was truly out of this world. Other big influences of ours include Tom Waits, James Brown, The Meters, King Crimson, Sly and the Family Stone, Pink Floyd, Betty Davis and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, just to name a few.
Can you give us names of some bands we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
Turkuaz, Lettuce, The New Mastersounds and The Motet have been dominating our playlists lately, but we run into and perform with all kinds of amazing groups you probably never heard of. Such as: The English Project (Rochester, NY), Out of the Beardspace (NJ), Starship Mantis (Pittsburgh, PA), Naughty Professor (New Orleans, LA) Johnny Showcase and the Mystic Ticket (Philadelphia, PA), Marbin (Chicago, IL), The Southern Belles (VA) and Of Tomorrow (D.C.), who happen to be opening up for us at Opera House Live!
In addition to what you have going on currently, what does 2017 look like?
2017 is looking to be our best year yet. New cities, new states, new festivals, new friends and new music. Events like Mountain Music Festival and Beardfest are putting us alongside national acts like Umphrey’s McGee, Twiddle, Tauk, Antibalas and a bunch more, so of course we are looking forward to that along with some other great events that have yet to announce. Plus, we plan on releasing our fourth studio album and have a bunch of other surprises in store.
What are some of your favorite venues to play and why?
We love the Abbey Bar in Harrisburg. The stage, the sound, the staff – everything about that place just makes us feel right at home, especially with 200 of our favorite people screaming at us from the crowd! Recently, we took a trip to Flour City Station in Rochester, NY, and we were treated amazingly by the staff and the fans, not to mention they have a great room and sound in there. The Ardmore Music Hall in Ardmore, PA, is also at the top of our list – just an all around great venue that brings in amazing national acts. In reality though, we really like playing on outdoor stages at music festivals. There’s nothing better than a warm summer night and getting freaky and funky on a stage under the stars.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
Wow, that’s a hard one! How about I do you one better and say Pink Floyd’s “Animals” is the most perfect album ever written! Everything about it screams perfection to me. The way it flows as one whole piece of music, the lyrics and melodies have such a weight to them, the guitars? Come on – the guitars! Gilmour slays that fretboard. It’s just so good, it’s perfect.
And, finally, what can we expect from your upcoming show at The Opera House?
Every show with Dr. Slothclaw is a P-A-R-T-Y. It’s gonna get weird, it’s gonna get sweaty. You might even sing along. You may lose your voice from yelling and you might also boogie all night long. One thing is for certain: We’re in the business of being funky baby, and business is good … .