The following is written by the fabulous Imade Borha and will appear in this week’s 72 Hours. If you dig, you can follow her on Twitter here. Enjoy!
Two years after Retro/Ricole Barnes assembled DaMood to back him at the Frederick Music Showcase, the eclectic band is still performing, with a date at Café Nola on Saturday.
But this isn’t a typical DaMood show. This concert is a part of the Swag On! event series, presented by Frederick’s Velvet Lounge boutique, to bring some holiday cheer. DaMood will perform songs from Retro/Ricole’s 2011 Christmas EP, “X-Mas Man.” DJ Babylon’s set will close the night out with a dance party that will feature EDM, dancehall and deep album cuts of throwback pop albums.
We recently sat down with DJ Babylon, Barnes and April Reardon, the keyboardist of DaMood and owner of Velvet Lounge, to talk about the upcoming event.
“Whether we do original music or covers, we always put DaMood’s spin on it,” Barnes said.
DaMood combines genres like punk and hip-hop for a sonic landscape that is label-less. Following the interview, Reardon and Barnes went to rehearsal to transform his percussion-based Christmas EP into DaMood’s sound.
“I kind of guide it as well,” Barnes said. “Drop that bassline right here … Use that synth right there.”
“Lately we’ve been scheduling multiple practices a week where one of those practices would be like, ‘Let’s all just explore music’ practice,” Reardon said. “Literally, we just sit down and jam and see what funky loop or hook comes out of that. We recorded those and now we’re trying to expand on some of our favorite random things that we came up with. For this past Sunday, we spent four hours just working on two random [songs].”
Because there’s no designated songwriter or producer in DaMood — which includes drummer Beau Bailey, bassist Dan Zboyen, guitarist Chris Smith and horn player Ethan Lichtenberger — each member shares song creation duties. With inspirations from grunge to jazz, DaMood is in some ways, a United Nations of sound.
“I know one of his biggest influence is the Roots,” DJ Babylon said of his longtime friend, Retro/Ricole. “And for Ricole to be playing with a band, is kind of like really epic for him. But DaMood, I think, represents Frederick in having that fusion.”
“It’s so Frederick,” Barnes responded. “That’s one of the biggest compliments you can pay to me.”
Building Frederick’s diverse music scene took time.
Back in 2009, when Reardon also ran a sneaker shop called Social Study, the idea for Swag On! began.
“Between the two stores, we had this idea of having a party that would attract girls and guys and would be all about music,” she said.
Though Reardon couldn’t remember the year of the first Swag On!, Retro/Ricole could. That was his first solo performance after his group, Razor Eaterz, disbanded.
“Our very first Swag On! was at Danielle’s, which is now Ayse,” Reardon remembered.
DJ Babylon opened with a dancehall reggae set and DJ Two Teks followed.
For each event, Reardon teamed with Frederick stores to offer a swag bag for early arriving attendees. The first 30 people who come to Swag On! this Saturday will get a swag bag of items from businesses including Velvet Lounge and Classic Electric Tattoos. Swag On! became so popular, the event eventually moved to Bentz Street Raw Bar and went from quarterly to monthly.
“We would pack that place, to the point where they wouldn’t let anybody in,” Reardon said.
Swag On! went dormant in 2012, but it returned in May when DJ Babylon offered to help Reardon shoulder the load since she owns two businesses as well as a farm.
“I was actually practicing in her barn,” DJ Babylon said. “I told her, ‘Look, I would take on a lot of the load. What’s stopping you is the stress and the workload. I will take that on. Let’s bring it back. Let’s do it.’”
Reardon has an assistant in Kelsey Dyson who helps decorate the Swag On! venue based on the event’s theme. They even take trips to Philadelphia for inspiration. Reardon applies the creativity she uses for Velvet Lounge’s window display to Swag On!.
“We decorated the crap out of here,” Reardon said while sitting in Café Nola. “You walked in and it was a total chop shop. Like a butcher, where you take someone to chop them up.”
For the upcoming Christmas show, Reardon was coy about her plans, but she dropped some hints.
“It’s gonna look like Christmas puked in here,” she explained, referring to Cafe Nola. “We’re basically making this thing that’s a grid that will go on top of the bar. The whole thing will be solid ornaments.”
For the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, there are also plans to have a Heartbreaker’s Ball for people who want to avoid the sappy romance of the holiday.
“The imagery in my mind is that its too cliché to have hearts everywhere,” DJ Babylon said.
“So basically, all the single folks come out and you might leave with a valentine,” Reardon added.
Reardon and DJ Babylon seemed to be brimming with ideas on how to make Swag On! the party destination of its beginnings.
“We’re all about working with other people to make something cool happen,” Reardon said.