Few bands have benefitted from the same type of steady, organic growth as the Hogslop String Band. Originally formed in 2009 as a pickup band for a square dance, the group played together for 10 years before releasing their first album. In that time, their camaraderie strengthened – as did their songwriting, performance style, and fanbase.
Following their 2019 self-titled album, the group – Gabriel Kelley, Daniel Binkley, Kevin Martin, Will Harrison, and Pickle – has been hard at work on their next record (expected spring 2024). Produced by Kelley at his own Mobile Traveler Studios in Bells Bend, 10 miles west of Nashville, the record illuminates the purely original sound that the Hogslop String Band has found over nearly 15 years of making music together.
BGS caught up with Gabriel Kelley and Daniel Binkley to talk about the new music, the formations of the band, and where it’s all headed.
You formed in 2009, but it was 10 more years before your first album came out. What has the journey been like, coming from such casual origins to debuting on the Opry in 2022 and looking ahead to releasing your sophomore record?
Gabriel Kelley: We sure did. We were, to be honest, just a rag-tag bunch of buddies. Most of us had grown up playing old-time music or found it in our early years. For a very long time, our motto was a little more on the punk rock side: “We are not a band” is what we said for the first 10 years of the band. It was just a way to get together and have a good time. It wasn’t until a few years ago that we started taking it more seriously. One thing that’s cool about our Opry debut – and Binkley can fill you in – is that his family has been a part of the Opry since the ’20s.
Daniel Binkley: My family has been in Nashville forever – my great-grandfather, Amos, he had a band called the Binkley Brothers’ Dixie Cloghoppers, and they were a part of the very first Opry cast in 1926. Backstage they have a placard for every member and I found my family back there. That was a very special moment for me. They mentioned it during the broadcast, and we actually ended up playing one of the Binkley Brothers’ songs on the Opry.
For a band with a foundation in traditional music, i.e, fiddle tunes, where do you find the balance between introducing your own original material and digging from the old-time repertoire?
DB: Old-time music is sort of the school that we come from. So when we write original stuff, it’s gonna come through that lens. Once you run it through the “hogslop filter,” it’s gonna sound like hogslop. There’s just something about that foundation, and our knowledge of each other as musicians, that makes it come together – whether it’s traditional tunes or original material.
GK: We absolutely don’t ever want to lose the component of old-time string music and we’re currently in a time where that music seems a lot more accessible and is getting thrown under the big umbrella that everyone is calling Americana. We don’t do a show without old-time tunes in there. A lot of the other music we take influence from – blues, rock and roll – they were actually getting inspiration from early country and old-time music. So for us, it all goes in the same bucket.
You’re definitely known for that high energy string band sound, but this new album has quite a range of pace. How do you stay true to that sound while incorporating softer material like “Mississippi Queen?”
GK: We’re very much a live band and in that setting it’s about that high energy, rowdy thing. We love that, but amongst us in the band, three to four of us are songwriters and have very different approaches to songwriting. We’re very lucky to have Daniel in the band, he’s one of my favorite songwriters and has an ability to write some of that intimate, close to the chest material, like “Mississippi Queen.” And you need that delicate stuff just as much as you need the fast, hard hitting, and fun stuff. We feel that it’s very important to show audiences (and ourselves) that we have those dynamics.
DB: A lot of our shows at festivals are late night, midnight shows and it’s almost more like a punk-rock show. But there are also theaters or other venues where you can really showcase more of that dynamic. Kevin Martin has a few tunes on the album and he writes totally different that I do. He’s more rock and roll and I guess I’m the softy. It’s nice to have a little variety – especially on a record.
What’s special to you about this upcoming album, compared to music you’ve released in the past?
GK: Personally, watching this band shift and develop over 15 years has been pretty wild. This is the first record of the band’s that I’ve produced, and what’s special to me is (and I’m not saying that we’re reinventing the wheel), I’ve never heard quite the blend of genres that we’ve thrown together. It’s cool that Hogslop is still shifting and mutating and we’re still discovering that. And that we’re embracing our songwriting – everything on this record is our own material, and I’m really proud of that.
DB: I agree with all of that! One thing I’ll add that was a major game changer – and this is thanks to Gabe – was the ability to take our time in the studio and not be under the time constraints that’d you’d be under paying for studio time somewhere.
What else is on the horizon with the release in 2024?
GK: We’ll be in the studio most of November, and then we’ve got the Ryman show [supporting the Mavericks] on December 1. As different as this new music is, we’re really woodshedding and figuring out our live show. It sounds like our ‘24 is gonna be busy – we’re mainly a festival band, so that’s where we’re headed.
Photo Credit: Josh Goleman