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Artist Spotlight – The Bodarks

Energetic, fun, blue grass, talented, and just an all around boot-stomping good time. Those are just some of the words used to describe the Dallas-based band, The Bodarks.

From opening up for Kansas, Wade Bowan, and Pat Benatar, to playing at The Ginger Man, Stan’s Main Street and Taverna Rossa, The Bodarks have made their way across Texas and have been a huge supporter of the growing live music scene in Frisco. Today, I had a chance to sit  down with Jeffery Brooks of The Bodark’s and talk music.

LF:  How did The Bodarks come together?

Jeffrey Brooks:  We wanted to form a “hootenanny” kind of band… a high-energy, back-porch folk band with lots of audience participation, and a weird mix of genres, unlike the rock and country bands many of us had been a part of. Originally, it was Jason Bell and me. We’d been jamming together since we were roommates at Texas Tech and were playing shows around as a duo.

We found our doghouse bassist Brian Kelleher through Craigslist. After ping-ponging emails back and forth, we soon discovered he had been a student of mine when I taught at Collin College. He tried out and blew us away, the way he slaps and kicks a bass drum simultaneously. Very percussive.

We also met Shelly New, our fiddler from Kansas, through Craigslist. She could play the guitar solos of tunes like “Crazy Train” on a fiddle, which thrilled all of us metal heads. And, her lovely voice extended the vocal range on our harmonies, so we felt complete as a foursome. Though we’ve had many wonderful guests along the way since.

So, that’s one story of how we got started. For all the details about the deal with the Devil, the tornado, and Charlie Daniels’ fiddle, you’ll have to listen to our tune “The Bodark Song.”

LF:  You guy’s have a great sound and do some interesting covers.  What are some of the influences that make up The Bodarks?

JB:  “We’re a little bit Dylan and Mötley Crüe,” as we sing in one of our songs. Deep rootsy stuff like ragtime, jugband, and western swing, but mixed with punk and hard rock.  Stuff we grew up with as children of the 80’s and 90’s. More contemporary bands like The Devil Makes Three and The Asylum Street Spankers are prototypes for us. Trampled By Turtles, Shakey Graves, Shovels & Rope, Old Crow Medicine Show.

But we started off as mostly a cover band, twisting familiar songs from different genres into a folksy, bluegrass-ish style.  What we call “bodarking” songs. We’ve bodarked tunes like “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “Thrift Shop,” and “Crazy Train” in fun ways.

Whether bodarking cover songs or writing originals, which is what our first full album consists of, we just wanted to have a fun show and develop a unique style. We didn’t really have a name for what we do. A fan once described it by saying, “It’s a porch-stompin’, fiddle-sawin’, bass-spankin’ hootenanny,” so we decided that’s what we’d call it… A hootenanny.

LF:  Who are some of the local bands or artists that you are checking out these days?

JB:  We met so much great talent when we were in that KHYI Shiner Rising Star experience back in 2013.  As we advanced, we got to know other emerging acts like Buffalo Ruckus, Green Light Pistol, and Brook Wallace. Other friends we’ve shared stages with are Lincoln Durham, Mark Shelton and The Greater Good, and The Vinyl Stripes. Thieves of Sunrise are phenomenal. And then there’s Jackson Eli.  He’s a beast as a one-man band, and occasionally we’re lucky enough to have him on board to play guitar with us.

LF:  Have you been in any other bands?

JB:  Yes, I grew up playing piano and guitar, and more recently, banjo.  So, I’ve been sort of the “utility player” for a few bands. Most have been blues-rock cover bands. In more recent years, I played keys with Eric Beatty. Also the Spencer Cole Band.

LF:  Playing around town, what are some of the venues you like around Frisco?

JB:  We really like the downtown vibe of Eight 11 at which Shelly and I play occasionally as a duo. It has a real back-porch Austin-esque vibe. Places like eSpiritu and Lochrann’s were favorites, too, while they lasted. Stan’s really has that old “Main Street” feel, and though small, it has felt like ground zero of an emerging Frisco music culture.

Frisco has been fickle about its local music over the years. Some venues have the notion that all people want is 80’s tribute bands or karaoke, not realizing there’s some real talent around here… Artists like Stacey Shope, Ben Shurr, Matt Hinchey, Steve Anderson, and so on. For a while, a lot of Frisco talent was going elsewhere to perform, but that seems to be tuning around.

LF:  Looking at places like Allen, Plano, and McKinney, and how they’ve really started to embrace the music scene, what can Frisco do to continue to grow the music scene around here?

JB:  Those other ‘burbs, especially McKinney, have venues that really showcase their local artists. And that helps define their city culturally, not to mention boosting their economy. Now, it’s not just McKinney-ites who go out to their restaurants and pubs to hear good local music.  People all over DFW drive up to McKinney for this reason. To places like The Cadillac, The Celt Pub, and Cafe Malaga.

Frisco venues are starting to do that, and the people of Frisco are starting to discover it and getting out of the house.  Sticking around town rather than venturing off to these other places for their entertainment. This is why we launched our Facebook page called the Frisco Music Scene.

LF:  So, let’s talk about Frisco Music Scene (FMS) for a minute. What was the goal behind not only creating that page on Facebook but the actual movement?

JB:  Some local musicians and I started it to help liven up the culture of our town, which has been stale at times. I mean, Frisco has so much going for it. It’s booming in every way, especially in terms of sports and shopping. It deserves its own music as well. So, one of the main goals of FMS is to organize and mobilize a network of local musicians, venues, and city representatives to help nurture our music culture.

Now big plans are in the works for a music festival. Maybe we shouldn’t say too much more about that since it’s all still preliminary, but I think it’s shaping up to be something really unique for the DFW area, as far as festivals go.

LF:  When can expect something new from The Bodarks?

JB:  Soon, with fingers crossed! Hopefully in the next 5 or 6 months. We’ve written enough new material for two more albums, and now it’s a matter of planning how we want to record and produce this one. It’s quite different from what we’ve done so far. As our sound has evolved, so has our collaborative songwriting. Still a hootenanny though!

Our last album can be purchased online and at any of our live shows. We still love the story of how that all got started… We came in 3rd in the KHYI Shiner Rising Star competition, did not win the big record contract, and so our fans urged us to use kickstarter.com and they entirely funded the album.

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Keep up with The Bodarks and check out their Facebook page.  Their first album may be sampled and purchased at a live show or online at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thebodarks

And, don’t forget to check out FriscoMusicScene on Facebook to see all the events and news in regards to the local music right here in Frisco!