Exclusive Interview: Damn Right! – Cosmic Campout Series

Recently, Sensible Reason sat down with Philly duo Damn Right! to talk about their upcoming festival schedule, what acts they are excited to see on tour, how they got into jam music, their views on hardwood floors and more. Damn Right!’s next festival appearance will be Cosmic Campout in Gore, Virginia; you can find tickets and information for Cosmic Campout, here.


There have been some big changes to Damn Rights line up, how do you think this will effect the bands style and direction?

We are going to become a much more structured band, with a strong emphasis on song writing, this is what we’re interested in. In the end the idea is to have fully realized musical vision to present to the audience.

Do you have any plans for an addition to the line up or is it just to early to tell?

We’ll be trying out a bunch of things live. Of course we’ll play with some keyboardist, we’re also going to play with some DJ’s and explore that world a little bit. We are going to try as hard as we can to move away from the free form “jam” thing, we’ve wanted this for awhile now, but have been forced to rely on it because we didn’t have enough material. So to reach this goal we’re going to be trying to stay in the studio/practice space as much as possible in the near future to keep working on this new sound. I think in the end the product will be different then any of us really expect.

Recently you guys played with an all-star line up at the Brooklyn  Bowl.  Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

It was a blast performing wit the guys from Kung Fu and Barber. It’s always a treat to play with incredibly talented musicians. It’s kind of like a good game of tennis with someone who’s a little bit better than you. (Read about the Bowl sessions here).

It always goes by so fast and you have to catch yourself and say “wow, this is pretty amazing playing with true professionals, don’t fuck up”. It also reminds you of where hard work can get you. Nothing comes free in life and all of these incredible musicians put in tons of time and energy to get where they are. So we just want to keep working as hard as we can and see where it gets us.

So what festivals are you most excited to be playing this summer? 

We are excited to play Impulse in Atlanta and Papadosio’s fest, Rootwire. And of course we’re pumped to be one of the headliners at Cosmic Campout. Damn Right! has a special set planned for you all. It’s going to get RADICAL!

What acts are you most excited to catch while touring?

I’d like to go see the new Tim Burton movie, his movies rock. Oh, and definitely Hotchip later this summer in NYC.  We catch all the music we could ever want in Philly clubs, while we’re on road we’ll be pretty concentrated on delivering the best show we can and hanging with as many fans as possible. You guys also ROCK.

What is the biggest difference between playing a large festival and a small one? Which do you like better and why?

Musically there really isn’t any difference. It is fun to play in front of a huge crowd because you reach a larger audience and when everything is hitting, the energy is unparalleled. Also, big festivals give you towels onstage. Thats pretty cool. Smaller crowds are intimate and can allow for a more concentrated musical conversation with the audience

Can you explain your method a bit? How much of it is the two of you interacting spontaneously on stage and how much is predetermined?

Tommy: At this point in the game I’d say about it’s about 50/50. When John and I get our duo set fine-tuned the music/show will be almost completely predetermined. That’s right folks. The band is taking a different direction. We’re going for a more produced and polished sound these days which ultimately will sound prettier to your ears.

Johnny: We usually start a song with a hook and build the track around that central theme. By the end, our initial hook might only be a side note to the song because through  the writing process we usually come up with a better theme. At this point we then take that studio track and take out the parts that we would be playing live, there is a bare bones backing track that we play with. We want our sound to be polished and full. We also want to have an organic sound, we want it to have a human quality that is associated with live music. By the end of the year we want to have worked out the kinks to a live show that very structured and predetermined, but has sections that are open to interpretation from night to night. Really, with the use of the powerful technology out there (think ableton) , the posibillities are endless in terms of how you choose to deliver the live experience. We recently went to go see SBTRKT, the way he (they) deliver the live set was really awesome. We’re thinking something along those lines.



How much of your music comes from collaboration between the two of you? Are there times when one of you will make a track and not want a lot of alternative input or are you guys always up for mixing and sharing styles?

Tommy: I’d say that Johnny does most of the writing for DR! However we do collaborate on most tracks. We do ALL of the production in our home studio except for the mastering which is done by our wonderful Jedi engineer friend, Matt Flote. Johnny usually comes in the initial Hook and then we both sit down and talk about where the track should go.

Johnny: Tommy is pro at the finer details of a song,

Tommy: Johnny get’s too ADD sometimes and moves onto something new when we should be concentrating on a particular track. We’re working on that, haha.

Do you each have very different musical beginnings and influences or are you more or less cut from the same musical cloth?

We’re  pretty much cut from the same musical cloth. Our parents had classic rock blasting when we were young little guys. Then we got into Punk and metal and Rage Against The Machine. Then we both found Phish. Johnny went to his first show in ’97 and Tommy went in ’99. We still love phish but we don’t listen to it much any more. Our taste keep refining, but we still have an open mind to just about everything except for the usual, contemporary country. That stuff is garbage! We want to create that perfect mix of song that both casual and music junkies will enjoy. We’re not there yet, but we will be. We won’t stop till we get there.

When are you at the peak of your creativity? In the morning when you just woke up, when you haven’t slept for days, right after a run, or really any time that just feels right?

Per usual, creativity hit’s you whenever the hell it feels like it. You just need to be ready to capture it. Johnny owns a Cheese Spread company and sometimes he finds himself mixing cheese, (go figure). A song will just pop into his head and he will sing it right into the iPhone. There are definately some hits on there. It’s like the book “zen of motorcycle maintenance”, except its the Zen of Cheese Mixing.

What is your least favorite part of touring, something that most people who have never been in a band that tours would never think of? Conversely, what’s your favorite part?

Tommy: Best part is when everything clicks during a set and you remember why you do what you do. Oh, when Craig writes the setlist. That’s when things get reallllllyyyyy weird!

Johnny: The best part of touring is Beef Jerky, all flavors. The Least favorite part of touring is having no Beef Jerky and…

Tommy & Johnny: [also the worst part of touring is]….sleeping on hardwood floors suck.


Damn Right!’s next festival appearance will be Cosmic Campout in Gore, Virginia; you can find tickets and information for Cosmic Campout, here.

Greg Sarafan

Greg Sarafan founded Greg Sarafan’s Sensible Reason in 2007. He started blogging for HeadCount in January 2011. Soon after he organized and ran a small but successful charity festival called Binghamtronica to benefit HeadCount and OxFam America. He is a Team Leader in NYC as well as Artist Relations representative for HeadCount. Greg has BAs in political science and art history from Binghamton University. Greg has a J.D. as well as a Certificate in Intelectual Property, Media and Privacy from Brooklyn Law School . Greg also volunteers for OxFam America as a Concert Outreach Coordinator. In 2009 Greg presented his theory of Artistic Stylistic Transmission in the Royal Mughal Atelier at an art history symposium at Ohio State University.

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