Slim Gypsy Baggage: Making music with all they've got
Have you ever heard the expression, “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth?” It means, when a bunch of people with differing opinions come together to work on a project, that project tends to fail. But in the case of the band Slim Gypsy Baggage, those different styles make for a pretty flavorful soup.
Slim Gypsy Baggage is one of several bands in the lineup Saturday night at Czars in St. Joseph. They’ll be on both at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. The band is Morgan Ingle on rhythm guitar and vocals, Cam Mammina on lead guitar, Scooter Delong on drums, and bassist Matt Smith.
Smith: “I know I’m definitely more along country music and rock n’ roll and folk, while Cam is more on electronic music and rock n’ roll, a lot of different indie kind of music. Whereas Morgan is definitely soul and funk and gospel.”
Ingle: “I like the reggae.”
Smith: “And Scooter our drummer is definitely a Latin percussionist and jam band, and that kind of scene.”
Ingle: “You know, we all like so many things and when we write our own music we want to be able to put a little bit of all of those things into that package.”
Most of the members of Slim Gypsy Baggage met in the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area where they grew up, but Smith says the band didn’t get started until Mammina was hired to play at his wedding.
“Cam came down and started playing music," he says. "And the three of us sat down after the wedding and we started playing music together. We’ve been playing music ever since.”
Finding a name for the band didn’t come as easily. The band members resorted to picking part of the name out of a band name generator online.
“It was told to me: ‘Like if you have gypsy baggage you have nothing, so if you have slim gypsy baggage you have is like hopes and dreams,” says guitarist Cam Mammina.
Smith says once they thought about it, the name started to fit.
“We’re all broke, you know, we don’t have much going on," he says. "So why don’t we do this? Why don’t we…so it’s slim. So it ain’t much, so what?”
Mammina says this idea of working with what you have comes out in songs like “Tidal Wave.” Cam Mammina and Morgan Ingle’s fiancée made a small guitar out of scrap for the track.
“Nine dollars’ worth of parts and stuff reclaimed off of old guitars and a plank of wood and a cigar box...and a banjo pickup. We were joking around and we made it. And ran that through Cam’s beautiful, big, orange amp. And it’s just this really nice vintage amp," Smith says. "And we recorded in the studio and we’re all just kind of laughing. And the engineer’s going, ‘Seriously, some of the best guitar tone on this album is coming out of that nine dollar box guitar you guys built.”
When the band members’ styles come together, it even has a gypsy sound to it.
Mammina: “I use a lot of minor—minor scales.”
Smith: “Minor scales that are real indicative of that sort of music. So when you add the upbeat ska element to a folk rhythm it does come out really gypsy sounding. And it…it wasn’t planned I swear, but it came out. And the name came out and we’re all like ‘Man, this really fits.’”
But no matter how their sound changes, Morgan Ingle says a band like theirs always has to be willing to go with the flow.
“We see all of our songs too that we’ve written as little gifts sort of. And I think that we all, you know, remember that we need to stay open minded to be able to receive them," she says. "Because sometimes they just come.”