A band that has a crowd pounding their fists through tables one minute and sitting silently on the edge of their seat the next, Swampcandy is dirty and sweet, brash and thoughtful, simple and complex. It’s true stories that are made up just for you. It’s pig drinkin’, whiskey eatin’, foot clapping’, hand stompin’, american music. Their roots are fermented in American mud, primitive blues, pre war folk sounds, field hollers, gypsy jazz, and ragtime. Steeped in influences from Robert Johnson to Radiohead. Their sound is distilled in a boiler of mercurial energy that swirls with tempo changes and dynamic peaks and valleys, holding the ear and refusing to let go.
But that’s not all folks….. Ruben Dobbs is the guitarist/vocalist and the creative force of this 10 year old project and has no allegiance to any genre. Performing in best interest of the song is always his objective. His pallet is vast and augmented by the skills of full/part time members and other creative partners behind the scenes. Joey Mitchell is the full time upright bass/kick drum/percussionist and has played the lions share of the last 1600 plus gigs with Dobbs as a duo. All who witness a show say the the same thing “They sound like a 4 or 5 piece band”. He is a disciplined disciple of jazz, classical, and punk rock. He has the objective ear that leads to the less than typical arrangements of their tunes. He has also revolutionized the percussive possibilities of the upright bass as an instrument. Gina Cottey brings a stiking feminine element that is both strong and welcoming with her featured lead vocals and harmonies. Her ability to nail multiple harmonies in a series of single passes have left recording engineers stunned. Percussionist/drummer/multi-instrumentalist Dominic Fragman can hardly be described… no really just look him up HE.IS.A.FREAK.The sharpest tools in the shed are rarely seen but they include: Ahren Buchheister with a skill set that eclipses most other musicians he is responsible for pedal steel and string/horn arrangements. He is an indispensable creative aspect of the Swampcandy sound. Writing partner James Von Lens is the Gram Parsons to Dobbs’ Kieth Richards. Steven Wright, Alex de Turk and Jeremy Reichwein have been integral in capturing and producing the live and studio recordings for the last 5 years. They bring yet another set of objective ears to these songs and are not afraid to share insights that have sculpted the shape and sound of their recorded material. Alison Harbaugh’s Sugarfarm Productions provides most of the video content of the band going so far as to produce a full length documentary based around the unusual locations and people that contributed to the 2013 recording of Midnight Creep. Then there is Joseph Karr, Dobbs’ longest creative relationship, they have worked together in some respect or another for 24 years. He’s given Swampcandy an ascetic of dark mystery and playfulness, silhouettes, black birds, drunken bunnies, blind folded monkeys, and abstract projections during live shows and video shoots that disturb/delight the imagination have come to distinctively brand the band.This group of creatives give the songs a sense of inevitability… like these songs have always been here but because you took the blue pill you are just now seeing them. Now light a candle and drink some O.J. because you are in for a wild ride.Here’s a little history:
Their 2013 double album, Midnight Creep/Noonday Stomp, which placed in NBT Music Radio’s Top 150 Albums of 2014, and the track “1000 Miles” placed in the Top Singles category, their 2015 release, Land, garnered substantial airplay from blues stations and syndicated radio shows across the US, UK and Europe.
2015 proved to be productive and rewarding as they set a new high bar for themselves, playing a staggering 268 live dates at venues and festivals across the US and UK, including four performances to capacity crowds at the 2015 Floydfest. (The band won the 2014 Floydfest ‘On The Rise’ competition, coming in first place out of 37 bands competing at the festival. They also outsold the headliners in merch both years) they also won that year’s Radio Flag award.
2016 Swampcandy saw the band expand sonically with auxiliary members Dominic Fragman and Gina Cottey for festivals and special shows. Fragman on drums, rhythm and/or lead guitar and vocals – SIMULTANEOUSLY, add new dimensions to the sound. Gina’s harmonies and lead vocals create a ever changing landscape of a show. The collective goal is to leave the audience with the feeling they have experienced a short festival rather than seeing a band play a great show.
2017 Was the year of organization and process for Swampcandy. Two full length albums got underway, one of them live one of them studio. Also a large pool of videos were produced to accompany those releases. They cut their gigging schedule down to 225 gigs to be able to concentrate on these releases.
2018 has the band firing on all pistons doing two tours of the UK and Ireland and increasing their touring presence on the eastern seaboard of the US. Mid Summer will see the release of their new album MINE in several formats: CD, Digitally and vinyl. Also a repressing of Midnight Creep and a first pressing of LAND is on the horizon. An explosive combination, LAND and MINE together create Swampcandy LAND-MINE. These albums will have gatefolds with the game they created “Swampcandy Land” halved horizontaly onto each album so when put together it creates the full game that will come with playing pieces, special dice, special instruction cards and the “Flask of Question” Trickling out through out the year will be live digital releases and live videos to appease the rabid ones.
The band was founded by Dobbs in 2007 and functioned with various lineups until he teamed up with Joey Mitchell in 2010 and the permanent die was cast. After only a few months together, the duo began to tour aggressively and have not slowed down since.
Dobbs is a volatile creative force while Mitchell is a pragmatic technician. They balance each other out like the two hemispheres of one brain. Growing up they both enjoyed and played the music of their respective generations and found a deep affection for the music of the past; Ruben with Delta blues and Joey with jazz and classical. Dobbs has studied music on a need-to-know basis from an early age, becoming enamored with classic rock while still in grade school. Always careful not to destroy the sonic mystery music has represented to him, his curiosity led him down music’s family tree to rock’s roots in Mississippi Delta Blues and the greats who played it. Mitchell’s musical journey began upon hearing the opening bass line to Alice in Chains’ “Would.” The song inspired him to work it out on an old guitar he found in the attic, eventually leading him to pick up the bass at the relatively late age of 16. Focusing his attention on learning all he could to become the master of his craft, he has become a university schooled academician with degrees in performance and music education. Dobbs aural home-schooling has encompassed listening to thousands of hours of field recordings of early American music, developing a rare level of knowledge about the true roots of multiple genres. In distilling the essence of nearly undecipherable songs and incorporating that authenticity into his own compositions he’s writing new chapters in the history of roots music that inextricably link the past, present and future. Mitchell has spent thousands of hours studying complex music theory and composition, practicing the ins and outs of his double bass while reinventing the percussive aspects that can be delivered between his primary instrument and his kick drum. These juxtapositions are the key to their success.