Eleven Fingered Charlie is an inventive genre-crossing rock/reggae project based out of Austin, TX. Since 2001, the band’s status has been expanding with each passing year through word-of-mouth grass roots efforts. EFC’s devotion to their musical career has opened the door to opportunities such as the Barack Obama Political Rally, as well as many shows with major artists like The English Beat, Pepper, OAR, The Expendables, etc. Dedication and creativity remain paramount as EFC continues to push forward, writing new music, building new friends/fans and sharing their interpretation of what the future of rock and reggae music can sound like.
I had heard of you guys from a relative who knows the Austin scene. I looked you all up and was moved to reach out and maybe have a chat. Thanks for agreeing with the interview.
First off for those who don’t know, I can’t imagine who wouldn’t, there is a vibrant music scene in Austin Texas. Tell us about Austin Texas.
Austin, TX is an awesome city. After going out on the road, we always enjoyed coming home to Austin. You can catch live music on any night of the week in Austin, and the culture here really embraces it. Beyond music, Austin offers so much. It’s landscape is beautiful, there are awesome local restaurants, and it’s a great place to raise a family.
How did you come to play Reggae?
We love reggae music. We don’t necessarily play traditional, roots reggae, although the reggae upchucks, bubble organ, and one-drop beat is a key ingredient of what we offer. I was musically influenced by the Marley’s and Sublime. The members of EFC all came from various music backgrounds, jazz, metal, rock and reggae – I think that is what created our unique sound. A sound that we just have fun playing.
I would have called your music Ska, I believed that Reggae was associated with the Rastafarianism. You have been written up as playing both, explain the difference as your band creates it.
There are definitely a few songs that we have recorded that have a ska feel. Fast upchucks, catchy horn line, upbeat, fast bass scales, etc. There are only a handful of songs that we do that. ‘Common Patterns’, track 3 on our newest album, and ‘Drag Me Down’, on ‘Never the Same’ have that ska feel. Not sure how these songs come about. None of us are Rastas, but we prefer the Rasta sound. The Rasta/roots sound is more laid back and chill. One drop beats & slower tempos. More groove. We practice at the Music Lab, which is paid rehearsal space. It’s a good way to get away from it all and just jam. Ska, Rock, Reggae – whatever we create, we are just happy to be playing music.
Travis, this band seems a long way from the Travis Damron Project, an interpretive group, how did this band come about?
TDP was just an outlet for the songs that didn’t have the energy to be played, or recorded under Eleven Fingered Charlie. Sometimes I would write songs that sounded too acoustic/singer/songwriter, and didn’t fit well with what we were doing with EFC. I looked at TDP as a recycling bin for the songs that didn’t make the EFC cut.
Sorry, I’m being neglectful please introduce the band.
We have had some lineup changes over the years. The band started with myself (Travis Damron) and Chad Manes. We played an acoustic show and after our first show we were told by the owner that he would pay us more if we got a drummer. So we did. We got one of my high school friends, Adan Salazar, to rock the drums for the 1st year of EFC‘s existence. Dustin Hall was the drummer, after Adan, and was introduced to me, by my girlfriend at the time. They had a class together at TX State University-San Marcos, where we all went to college. The three of us recorded our 1st self-titled album. Shortly after, we wanted to add horns – so Chad asked Rodney Howell to come sit in with us sometime. It took Rod a few months, but he finally showed up, with his tenor sax, to a pool party we were playing at, The Exchange Apt Complex. This was around the 2005-2006 era. Our 2nd album has a heavy dose of tenor sax.
In Aug 2009 Chad decided to part ways with the band – so we picked up Justin Fletcher, who is our current bass player. Fletch & I met at the Guitar Center we both worked at in N. Austin. Fall of 2010 Dustin Hall also decided to part ways and moved to California. Allen Lingensjo stepped in on drums. He played drums in a band called Sons of the Beach, who had recently broke up.
Currently the band consists of Travis Damron – vocals/guitar, Rodney Howell – tenor sax/keys/vocals, Justin Fletcher – bass, Allen Lingensjo – drums.
Click the Pics to enlarge[cincopa AMNAxf6dt_aK]
You have been together ten years? Tell us about the early days.
EFC @ Gil’s Broiler on Monday nights. $1 beer, $1 burgers, and live music. You couldn’t beat it. We would play pool parties at all the TX State University apartments during the summer time. We would get burned from playing in the Texas heat from 2pm – 6pm. We got started playing our first shows at ‘Nephew’s’ on the square. Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar was a live music club that we played frequently. Great sound, staff and atmosphere. We would pay $99 to order 5,000 fliers from a company in Florida, called Pkgraphics. We would make sure that every apartment and dorm room had a flier for the next big show we were self-promoting. San Marcos is a great town.
You guys are terrific, four guys putting out a lot of sound; there isn’t a cut I heard online that I didn’t like – tight, and a great groove! I did notice different lyric genres’ within your work. Some seemed light/danceable, some had a serious side, and some being poetic – how do you decide what to write?
Whatever comes in our crazy minds. We are always just trying to write a good song, and to make it unique. We never want 2 songs to sound alike. We like for each song to have its own flare. EFC has 37 songs on record and we hope to have many more. We want each one to be special. I guess it depends on the mood, time frame, and whatever’s going on in our lives at the time that determines what song is created. It’s something we don’t really think about. We just love to play.
Enjoy four selections from the EFC ‘Patterns’ CD[cincopa AkJAdcKd-T5k]Who does the writing?
Since I do all the singing, I do most of the lyric writing. On the album ‘Patterns’, Dustin Hall, and I, collaborated. All members have a piece in the construction of the music, and the overall feel of the song. The music usually drives the lyrics. Chad Manes, and I, did all the lyric writing for the 1st album – I did most of the 2nd. ,
Rodney Howell is featured a lot on the 2nd album ‘Never the Same’ He writes some really nice sax parts, and is now contributing by playing keys as well. He played keys on the 3rd album Patterns. He switches between tenor sax, and keys, during our live performances. That has helped our sound immensely.
How is a tune picked?
We jam. Go to the music lab, or lock ourselves in the house, and show each other ideas we have been working on at home. Someone will say, ‘Jey check this out’, and we’ll add to it, and make it our own.
Give us an idea about the process the band goes through from the rough song. to the finished product in the studio.
You’re right. It’s a process. We record a lot of our practices, and listen back to what works, and what doesn’t. A lot of time most of it doesn’t work, but we build on it, always trying to improve. We try to have everything rock solid, before we launch the songs in the studio. Efficiency saves money in the studio. We have a great engineer in Craig Lawrence at Pirate Studios in Austin, TX. He never fails to contribute his art to our music.
Your band has a large fan base,and you seem to be on the road a lot. How do you balance the creative side, the living side, and the performing side of your lives?
We have done a fair share of van-trailer tours! More recently we have been focusing more on our regional area in TX. Between Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio & Corpus we feel like there is plenty of room for us to grow. We enjoy being on the road, when we can, but we are dedicated, and focused, to keep creating good music in the studio. We have been saving more money, and putting that back into the product this way.
How important is the Internet in getting your name out there?
For us and any independent artist/musician/entrepreneur it’s HUGE. The explosion of social media, and instant access to anything, has completely changed the music, and entertainment, business. Grooveshark, itunes, cdbaby, google – There are so many outlets to obtain the music you want to hear, at the click of a mouse. There are more bands now than ever, because of the internet.
Is there a new CD in the works? The last one ‘Patterns’ was well received.
We have not started recording, but we are always trying to create. We never set time-lines, but we always like to put out new music for our fans, and for us to play live.
What’s next for the band? How do you see the band evolving?
Recording, licensing, creating music and getting better everyday. These are the goals for EFC.
I’m sure that those who didn’t know Eleven Fingered Charlie, after reading this interview, will be fans. Last question – where did your name come from?
A buddy in college, Michael Vricella, told me a story about a homeless character in the hill country of TX, (Llanno/Kingsland) area. His nickname around the town was Eleven Fingered Charlie. It was said that he got the name, because he was always seen around town picking away. I thought that the guy was cool, and decided we would go under that name, when we were first getting shows booked up. It was either that or ‘Dirty Sanchez’. We’re happy with Eleven Fingered Charlie. You can call us EFC for short.
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
We would like to thank everyone who has ever came out to a show, or bought a CD. Thank you so much for your support through the years. Keep in touch with us at:
Would also like to thank you Ken for taking the time to do your research and ask your questions. See you at the next show!
Much Love, EFC
Copyright © 2011 SongwritersMarketplace.com All rights reserved.