Xavier in the Doghouse, from Greensburg, PA, is a three-piece Apocalyptic Bluegrass Band featuring Sean on Banjo/Vocals, Trevor on Bass & Caleb on Drums. K.C. Focht spoke to the band recently to discuss their music, their roots, and their essential albums.
When I saw your band Xavier in the Doghouse play at Eris Temple Arts in West Philly, I was pretty impressed. How long have you been playing that banjo of yours and can you tell us when the band came to fruition?
We’re happy to do it! We started playing together about two years ago and I’ve been playing old-time music for about four years. We went out on our first tour along the east coast last summer and have since been writing a lot of new material.
You’re from Greenville, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?
We’re from Greensburg.
Does your approach to the banjo come from the perspective of having transitioned from another instrument (guitar, piano, etc.) or has this been your primary instrument from the beginning?
I played the flute when I was younger. Jethro Tull is pretty awesome. This fellow named Don Shean taught me about the banjo. He used to have these really incredible jam sessions in his barn, all of his musician friends would come out (he lived sort of into the mountains) and play old-time/bluegrass music for hours.
There’s been a long history of artists’ environments having a profound impact on their sound, from the blues to grunge and so on. You spoke briefly between songs at the gig I first saw you at in Philly, about the bands hometown being the basis for much of your lyrical content and “feel”. How much so, in what way and are there other areas of this you’d like to expand upon?
Greensburg’s kind of a weird place, a good amount of interesting characters and a lot to be pissed off about. There’s a woman that walks around downtown that everyone here knows, she shouts about loving god and other “Christ-y” nonsense, then tries to hit your car with a cane. We had one headshop, it closed because the owner made up this crazy ass story about being robbed and when the cops watched the video (he gave it to them) there were never any robbers – it’s too bad, he had some cool contraptions. I have a couple neighbors with this short bus, it’s painted in green camouflage and flies a confederate flag. I think they have 7 or 8 children (fairly certain they’re all named Clyde) and I know none of them are getting out of here… When you leave Greensburg, there’s some good hiking. I think that spending a lot of time in the woods as a child, with my father and brother, did a lot of good for me as far as creativity goes. There’s a lot to learn from the trees.
What does “hometown” mean to you in 5 words?
Sean: “Named best Pennsylvanian retirement town.”
Caleb: Oh, please don’t remind me.
Trevor: No comment.
You are a three-man act. How long have the band members known one another? Did you grow up together?
Sean: I’ve known Trevor since when I was a cub scout, ha! Caleb and I were in our first band together with our friend Matt, it was a weird metal/sewer-punk sorta thing called Savage Planet. Caleb played guitar like a caveman on speed and we sold out too quickly.
Caleb: I’ve known Sean and Trevor for about four years.
Trevor: Sean and I kinda grew up together and I met Caleb four or five years ago. I learned how to play bass because another friend of mine had wanted to start a band when we were younger. He’s now in this really angry stoner rock band with Caleb called Hage.
When do you plan on making more music?
Our full length titled “Search for Fire, Search for Thought” should be out by the end of spring/early summer through Silver Seed Records from Greensburg, Pa. http://essentialmachine.wix.com/silverseedrecords
When is your next tour going to be?
We’re planning on a couple short runs in June and July. Planning for Philly, Danbury, CT, Columbus, OH and also Fairfax, VA.
Name your albums or where we can find your music?
We have the one live EP Swallowing Shadows downloadable through our bandcamp page. Search for Fire, Search for Thought is going to be a lot more organized and lengthier.
With such unique style, you must have many influences.
Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Modest Mouse, Iggy Pop, Andy Kaufman and Pete Seeger. The banjo suited the purpose; old-time music, lots of licks from minor-key fiddle songs, used in a heavier amplified punker sort of fashion.
Can you give the readers a peak into your essential albums in your collections?
Sean: That list is too long but recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Dirty Three and studying some of John Luther Adams’ work.
Caleb: Reinventing Axl Rose by Against Me, Master of Reality by Black Sabbath, and Building Nothing out of Something by Modest Mouse.
Trevor: I like most Tool albums, Gojira’s L’enfant Sauvage, Lamb of God’s Resolution, Fallujah’s The Flesh Prevails, and Texas in July’s Bloodwork.
How would you like the world to describe your music? Do you care about genres? How do you and your bands mates feel about labels. It helps, it hurts, it means nothing?
I don’t know, we call it “Apocalyptic Bluegrass”. It seems to fit and people get a little kick out of it when I tell them. Really, I just want to make people feel anxious. I don’t think many other bands are doing exactly what we’re doing. We fit in well with folk punk shows but also experimental/metal shows. It’s a fun mix.
Is everyone in the band self-taught?
Caleb and Trevor are both self-taught. I’ve studied music in school and with Don.
What venues are you looking into?
We’d like to visit Eris Temple Arts again, we all really enjoyed the show. Other than that, I’m not really sure. I suppose I’ll be looking for houses.
How did you end up playing at Eris Temple Arts?
I booked for a venue in Greensburg called Dv8 Espresso Bar & Gallery. Daniel [Baker] reached out to me about a show he was doing in Pittsburgh and eventually after some inter web communication we were able to work out the show at Eris Temple.
Where would be your ultimate place to play?
Sean: I think it would be cool to play on a mountaintop sometime, have the sound reverberate across some valley. Maybe we could protest a mountaintop removal operation or something…
Caleb: In a bar in Mos Eisley.
Trevor: Don’t really care where we play, no dream venue.
Let’s talk merch. What do you have to sell us so we can support Xavier in the Doghouse? Maybe in order to buy a bigger house.
On Bandcamp there’s an option to donate money but I don’t expect people to pay for music anymore (it would be helpful though, our drum set keeps falling apart). Contact us through there or by email for shirts/cassettes/stickers and we can probably work something out. The best help would be to listen and spread the word I suppose.
Is there anything that anyone would like to add?
Listen for the Black Valley Orchestra!
By K.C. Focht