Dangermuffin heals through music

This article originally appeared in the Kentucky Kernel.

Founded in 2007, Dangermuffin returns to their roots while also shaking things up on their sixth studio album “Heritage”, an eight-track blend of jam, folk and Americana influences.

Dangermuffin pulls from a wide array of influences to manufacture their eclectic sound, with each member of the band coming from different musical backgrounds. Acoustic guitarist Dan Lotti grew up listening to folk artists such as Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle. Lotti referred to electric guitarist Mike Sivilli as a guitar virtuoso heavily influenced by jam icons Phish and went on to describe bassist Steven Sandifer as a student of a variety of grooves including old-time and jazz, comparing him to a musical historian.

“Heritage” sees the Folly Beach, South Carolina-based group shaking up their lineup, moving Sandifer from drums to upright bass and bringing in Markus Helander to handle percussion. The group auditioned Helander and were blown away. According to Lotti, he was even more excited to bring Helander into the band when he discovered he was from Finland, where Lotti has distant family from. With the theme of the album being about getting back to your heritage, passing on Helander at that point wasn’t an option.

The group recorded “Heritage” at the Unitarian Church in nearby Charleston. Per Lotti, the church is the second oldest in Charleston. The band recorded all the vocals for “Heritage” in the church after midnight in the dark, helping to capture the essence of the space.

“To get into that church was very special. The approach with the album was to use all-natural reverbs instead of digitizing everything. Mike [Sivilli] got very ethereal on the electric guitar with some of the pedals, so we wanted to give him sonic space to do that.”

Of the eight tracks compiling the record, the most sentimental may be “One Last Swim”. The song is about an avid Dangermuffin fan named Kirk whom the band met at a show in Columbus, Ohio. After the show, the band went to Kirk’s house where he and his friends performed Dangermuffin songs for the group. The band quickly formed a tight relationship with Kirk, organizing meetups whenever they came nearby. A few years later Kirk was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

With the song already written, Lotti looked back on the lyrics and started realizing how eerily similar they were to Kirk’s situation, adding that connections like the one they fostered together are one of the most gratifying aspects of being a musician.

“When I last saw Kirk we were writing a bit of music and he explained that he’d be traveling the world for his final month alive, and he decided to finish in Folly Beach, spending the last couple months of his life there because of the band,” Lotti said. “What a humbling experience as an artist to have your work mean that much to someone.”

Dangermuffin will return to Lexington for the first time since 2010 to perform at The Burl on April 19 with support from local band Driftwood Gypsy, who walked away with the award for best funk/R&B/reggae act at the Lexington Music Awards in January. The show begins at 8 p.m. with tickets available for $8 to patrons 21 and older.

“One day we’re going to realize that we’re all walking around in this society just traumatized, and what better thing is there than music to heal,” Lotti said.

IF YOU GO

Dangermuffin with Driftwood Gypsy

When: Wednesday, April 19 at 8 p.m.

Where: The Burl – 375 Thompson Rd.

Tickets: $8, 21+

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