Lee Dorsey

Quick Q and A with Soggy Po’ Boys

One of my biggest joys about music is discovering new artists and learning about their influences and what drives them to create music.  The New Hampshire based Soggy Po’ Boys have been playing all around the Northeast for some time now and I’ve been wanting to check out their music.  My verdict: these guys are the real thing! If you enjoy New Orleans inspired music and can get into some tasty variations that veer away from the traditional, then this is your band. Soggy Po’ Boys are a fun listen but if you’re into dancing the night away, get yourself to a venue where there’s space to get down and groove along with them.  Listening to the music of the Soggy Po’ Boys is the next best thing to hanging out in the French Quarter where the living is easy and the music is hot, hot, hot!

To learn about the Soggy Po’ Boys, check out their website. You can find out where they’re playing and make sure you ask your favorite venues to book them too!

To get a taste of what this band sounds like, take a look and a listen.

New England.  New Orleans.  One might think that the twain might not ever meet but they have.  What is it about New Orleans style music that attracted the band in the first place?

New Orleans music is a strange unicorn. Things had to be just right for it to exist in the first place. It is the last time that jazz music and pop music were the same thing. It is meant to be conversational both between members of the band and between the band and the audience and unlike bebop and modern jazz that has a reputation for being esoteric. New Orleans jazz is jazz designed for people to enjoy.

Tell us about each of the members of the band and what instruments they play.

Brett Gallo-Drums

Mike Effenberger-Piano

Zach Lange-Trumpet

Eric Klaxton-Soprano Sax/Clarinet

Nick Mainella-Tenor Saxophone

Scott Kiefner-Bass

Stu Dias-Guitar/Vocals

I understand that the personnel of the band has changed a bit over the years so I’m wondering if the vibe has changed at all.

I don’t know if it’s changed as much as it has gotten more refined. When we started, we very much enjoyed the music even though we didn’t fully understand the conventions of the genre. We’ve tried to be careful about the use of the phrase “New Orleans Jazz” Or “Dixieland Jazz” and instead use “New Orleans music.” It allows us to explore the breadth of what is available including blues, jazz, funk, soul, and gospel. 

You’ve got several recordings available and your latest, All in Favor, was released just before COVID changed our lives forever.  What can you tell us about this album vis a vis the others?  

All in Favor, in many ways, is the more representative Po’ Boys album. It’s our first album that wasn’t entirely original music, and instead included a wide range of our favorite songs from the New Orleans canon. The Po’ Boys are definitely a live band first and a studio band second. All in Favor represented the fun and heterogeneity of a Po’ Boys live show.

How does the band compose the songs?  Are they a collaborative effort?

They end up being collaborative in some way because we always workshop them on the bandstand. In general, someone will bring in a tune and we’ll play it cold and then talk about how we want to arrange it. As far as lyrics go, I am the primary lyricist for the Po’ Boys.

Could you name a few New Orleans style artists whom you all admire?  What is it about their playing or song styles that captivates you?

Allen Toussaint—He’s very underappreciated outside of New Orleans and responsible for tons of great records by bands like The Meters, and Dr. John, and Lee Dorsey. Louis Armstrong–He sort of changed the face of music. We all think of late-career Louis that gave us beautiful songs like “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” but young Louis was an absolute firebrand and a force that did things on the instrument that had never been done before. Sidney Bechet is also a frequent reference point. He has such an incredibly expressive sound on the soprano sax and his compositional chops are absolutely exceptional.

One song on the latest album that jumped out to me was “Gin and Coconut Water” and I was surprised to discover that it was also done by the Baha Men (famous for their hit “Who Let the Dogs Out?”). Your version keeps that Bahamian tone but also gives it a bluesy New Orleans feel.  I bet this one was a lot of fun to form in your own unique way.

This song was actually a happy accident! I happened to be in a record store in Philly with a friend and picked up a record by Blind Blake. I thought that this was Blind Blake the piedmont blues guitar player…..turns out there were two Blind Blakes and “Gin and Coconut Water” was the first song on the record I had purchased when I finally got back to NH and put it on the turntable. It wasn’t what I expected but it was so fun and joyful that I had to bring it to the band!

The Louis Armstrong songs on the album are standouts for sure. “Hotter than Hot” is a Louis Armstrong song written by his second wife, Lillian, and “Save It, Pretty Mama” is another classic from the 1920s.  Have you studied the Armstrong catalog intensely to uncover gems like this?

We have! We actually used to do a series at the Kittery Dance Hall called ‘Honoring a Tradition’ where we do a show entirely comprised of the music by a pioneer that we admire. The shows are preceeded by a lecture by one of the members of the band to provide a little historical and cultural context. We have done them on Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Fats Waller, Allen Toussaint, and Caribbean Music broadly. So, we have spent a fair amount of time rummaging around Louis’ early catalog.

“My Indian Red” Is based on a traditional chant by the Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans.  It’s been recorded by a number of artists.  Did you alter or morph any of the previously recorded elements into your version?

We took a few different elements of some of the versions we listened to–Dr. John, The Wild Tchoupitoulas, and even the Treme Brass band but ultimately, we sped it up quite to bit to have a little bit of fun frenetic energy in there!

Listening to your album and checking on the origins of these songs gives the listener such a musical education.  Tell us about why you decided to record “It’s Raining” by Irma Thomas. It’s more of a soul ballad but the band manages to add just enough jazz overtones to it that it completely changes the feel. 

We did this song as part of our tribute to Allen Toussaint. He actually produced it for Irma Thomas! We were struck by how simple and elegant his arrangement is and how he simulates raindrops in the opening piano line. Irma Thomas herself is an absolute powerhouse on the song and since we wanted to highlight the range of music we were capable of, it felt like a good fit for the record.

What are your plans for the band?  Are you going to concentrate on playing New England or do you have broader plans?

Right now, it has been so long since we played consistently that we’re just kind of spinning back up, but our plan is to expand as much as we possibly can and play as many festivals as we can!

Here’s a fun question to end on: The name of the band alludes to Po’ Boy sandwiches that turn soggy by the time they reach New England.  What’s your favorite Po’ Boy?

Hot Sausage!