Howi Spangler of Ballyhoo! Talks about Dreams, Music, and Fame
Dec 22, 2016 04:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Photo from baltimoresoundstage.com
Ballyhoo! is a self-proclaimed punk, rock, and reggae band from Aberdeen, Maryland, that has been touring all over the country since their first show in 1996. The name, meaning extravagant publicity or to draw attention too loudly, sheds light on the band’s mission: to spread positive vibes.
With 2016 bringing in enough negative energy, Ballyhoo! serves as one of the few loud, but upbeat and optimistic voices. Striving to find the bright side in almost every situation, the laid back, reggae tunes not only relieve a little tension, but also inspire you to take it easy, summer-style, even in these cold winter months.
Lead-singer and guitarist, Howi Spangler, describes this effect as therapeutic: “I’m also a big fan of the idea of our music being a therapy for people. There’s something really powerful in being able to say what you’re feeling and know that people are feeling the same way, it forms a sort of unique bond and connection.”
In addition to breaking into the Billboard top 200 charts at 189 with their album Pineapple Grenade as well as reaching #4 on Billboard Heat seekers and #5 at iTunes Alternative charts. The band has released several albums and is looking forward to the release of their next album Girls which will be available for pre-sale in January.
Howi has always been in love with music and successfully commits wholeheartedly to the industry. From a young age, Howi has enjoyed playing with friends and even his brother who has been a part of the band for as long as he can remember. More than just a family tradition, Howi has turned his passion into a career.
Be sure to catch the boys live on stage, December 30th, at Baltimore Soundstage! Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
What inspired you to create your own label?
It was always my dream to own a record label and promote cool bands. It’s the best way to put good music out there and it also helped us get our start.
What is it about music that drives you to commit as thoroughly as you do?
If you want to do the kind of things I want to do, meaning the big stage, the big crowd, the big public audience, you’ve really got to give it your all. Once you get into it, you have to go in with your whole heart and head. Otherwise you’re just doing covers or playing in the local bars.
I was lucky because I could take care of my bills before I had a family and all to support. I don’t think I could’ve come this far if it had been the other way around. Being a musician requires more than a full-time job.
As for the inspiration behind the music, my favorite bands are 311 and Green Day because they have such a good vibe and really cool guitarists. I’m also a big fan of the idea of our music being a therapy for people. There’s something really powerful in being able to say what you’re feeling and know that people are feeling the same way, it forms a sort of unique bond and connection.
You’ve played in the region quite often for some time. Do you have a favorite venue?
For sure. Down in St. Petersburg, Florida there’s a great outdoor venue called Januus. They have a huge stage light show, which is amazing. Also, the crew there takes care of us which we really appreciate and are grateful for. They really set us up with a huge room and on top of how they take care of us, the stage and room for the show is massive so it also turns out to be our bestselling venue.
You’ve done a lot of festivals and big tours, is there any particular one that you favor most? Which was most memorable?
We’ve done the entire Vans Warped Tour twice now. It’s an exhausting tour that’s in the middle of summer so you’re hot and sweaty and dirty the whole time, but it’s worth it because you get to play for a lot of people who wouldn’t get to see you normally and that’s a big deal.
If we aren’t with Vans, then I love touring with friend’s bands where we know the guys, our music is pretty similar, and this creates a cohesive whole when we play together. It’s the best when the crowds are familiar with all of us and they’re super stoked to see us so they have a really positive vibe and it makes for a real fun time. We usually get this experience anytime we play with bands like Pacifier, Pepper, Bumpin’ Uglies, and a band named Resonated. We’re big fans of each other and their crowds love us so that’s a really fun time too.
What’s it like to have your brother as the drummer in your band? Can you describe what it’s like to tour and play with a family member?
We’ve been doing it so long its fine, it’s just typical brother stuff. It would be weird to not have him in the band. We have really just grown up always being in the band together, so I can’t really imagine what it would be like to not have him playing with us.
How do you think streaming on sites like Spotify and Pandora have affected what artists produce?
I think the streaming services are great because people can get the music and counters piracy. I understand it for the consumer, I used to pirate as well, I’m guilty.
It’s so easy to pay the ten bucks for the monthly fee and get whatever song you want.
For the artist, I think it’s a double-edged sword especially if you listen to Katy Perry. You’re not going to make money off music it’s all about promotion. People aren’t doing CD’s anymore, so there’s a real limit on how to make money off of music. You basically have to go through a streaming service and even though they pay us next to nothing, that’s all we’re going to get.
But for us to stay on the road we need to have money. A lot of people don’t understand how much it costs to tour. You go out for a month and it costs 30 grand. Even if you camp or sleep in the van and don’t stay in hotels, you’re really only saving about five grand, and you still end up spending well over 20 grand.
So, while the streaming services are great for the consumer, it would be great if they would take into account the artist more in their business model.
Is there an aspect of success that surprised you?
I wouldn’t want to say it surprised me, I mean we see enough of what fame looks like from TV and all. But, one thing I realized is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s very gradual, you work towards it one step at a time always pushing and then one day it’s real. We get to be on the radio and see the country. It’s an experience that we are lucky to have.
What’s next on the agenda for Ballyhoo?
The next big thing is our new album Girls that we have been waiting anxiously for. It’s got a full track list of songs produced by Paul Leary (Sublime) with additional production by Matt Wallace (Maroon 5 and Faith No More). The album will be up for pre-sale on January 4th and be fully out on March 24th.