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Ballyhoo! plays the Brickroom

Howi Spangler of Maryland rock and reggae band Ballyhoo! says he and his brother, Donald Spangler, always wanted to be in a band.

Oddly enough — considering Ballyhoo's fusion of pop and punk rock and reggae sounds — the boys grew up listening to heavy hair metal bands such as Poison, Ratt, Tesla, thanks to their dad, who played drums.

Ballyhoo! played its first show in March 1996, a bunch of Green Day, Bush and Silverchair covers mostly, Howi Spangler says.

“For me personally, Green Day was my favorite band," he says. "It still is. I kind of based our sound off of that.” 

Then he heard Goldfinger, and liking its reggae sound, he and the band expanded on it. Soon after, Howi Spangler says he started getting into ska bands such as Operation Ivy and The Suicide Machines.

“That’s when we started really working in the ska and reggae sound, and it ended up being a really fun, upbeat sort of music. People seem to dig it,” he says.

The band has worked hard sticking to those roots and fine tuning its sound over the last two decades. Its newest release, which is certainly toned down in comparison to some of Ballyhoo!’s earlier releases, still hits the spot.

Ballyhoo! will perform its easygoing sounds at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28, at the Brickroom, 35 N. Main St., Ashland. Tickets cost $5 in advance and can be purchased at the bar and restaurant, Music Coop at 268 E. Main St., or at www.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets will cost $8 the day of the show.

Rogue Valley band The Illies — a name short for the Illinois River — will open the show with its blend of reggae, surf rock, hip-hop and ska.

Ballyhoo! plays Boise, Idaho, and Ashland before heading to Portland, where it will kickoff its Winter Blackout 2015 Tour with Santa Cruz band The Expendables at the Wonder Ballroom in support of its EP, "The Cool Down: Vol. 1," released in October.

Howi Spangler, the group's lead singer who also plays guitar, says fans can expect to hear more than refurbished songs off the stripped-down and acoustic-driven “The Cool Down: Vol. 1” at the shows. He and the band are reaching deep into the song bag while rehearsing for the tour.

“We’re working on some old songs that the band hasn't played in a while ... just trying to keep it fresh for the crowds,” Spangler says. “Some of the stuff that we haven’t really played live yet, or at least not that much.”

Howi and Donald Spangler (drums) formed Ballyhoo! in 1995 in Aberdeen, Md. Scott Vandrey joins them on keys and vocal harmonies, and Nick Lucera plays bass.

“Everything we do, I am proud of," Howi Spangler says. "We don’t put out EPs or singles that we don’t like. If we feel like it sucks, we’re not going to put it out. We want it all to be quality stuff. You want to give listeners what they’re used to, but you still want to surprise them.”

With a slow-paced seven albums in 20 years, cranking out mediocre songs isn’t something Ballyhoo! has any interest it.

“It’ll come out when it’s ready has always been our motto," Howi Spangler says.

“The Cool Down: Vol. 1” was recorded at the same leisurely — but intense — pace, and it isn’t lacking any of the quality Ballyhoo! fans expect.

Howi Spangler says the band wasn’t sure what to name the EP initially, but the name came easy after listening to the smooth and stripped-down sounds of the songs.

“It ended up sounding really cool,” he says.

Reach freelance reporter Sam Wheeler at samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.

Photo by Taylor Foiles