When I was growing up, my dad listened to jazz and classical…he we was really into Duke Ellington, Miles Davis…everything from big band to bebop (on early introductions to music).
We talked with musician, songwriter, and live sound engineer Dave Orr, we chat growing up with music, early influences, playing in local favorite, Flibbertijibbet, and what this area musician is excited for in the future.
All right, my name is David Orr. And everybody calls me Dave Orr, except for my parents and family. In fact, actually, my dad called me Dave one time in the presence of mother and my mother got stone face, she gritted her teeth and she said his name is David. And that was the last time my dad ever called Dave. But anyway, yeah, I was born actually in Okinawa, Japan actually. Dad was a captain in the Army during Vietnam at the time. We left there when I was two, so. And how I got into music really was my dad was really into audio electronics. Now he wasn’t into the live music aspect of it like I am. But still that’s kind of the roots of how I ended up getting into the audio thing is I grew up with an audio electronics lab in the basement. My dad used to design and build his own power amps, crossovers and speaker cabinets. But it was all for home audio stuff. And he also played clarinet. So you know, we always pull on his clarinet from time to time. He was never really a gigging musician or anything like that. But he liked to play, particularly jazz stuff. I mean, he was always playing around the house. And then my grandfather used to wake us up in the morning when we’d stay at my grandparents house. They live like two miles away from us. They had like a little hobby farm out in the country. And whenever we’re staying there, my grandpa used to wake us up singing these old vaudeville songs. So he was always singing and everything. So I just I was always just kind of around it. My sister plays piano. My next door neighbors, I had two kids our age and they were school teachers. And she was a music teacher and also taught piano. So she was my sister’s piano teacher. And then both those kids played piano as well. And I didn’t actually in the end up starting playing music until the summer after I graduated high school. I started singing in church choir when I was six years old. Once I got into my teenage years at all, you know, all that kind of went by the wayside. But until I graduated, the summer I graduated my school and a buddy of mine, Mike Darbrow, who is actually still in a band in the Chicago area. He played guitar and drums and he lived in a little farmhouse out in the country. Grew up in Mount Morris, Illinois which was 100 miles straight west of Chicago, but his alma stick is a little farm town. You know , so, kind of the best of both worlds, edge Chicago right there, Rockford, Illinois was 20 minutes away. So you know, I had urban stuff close enough that it was available for me when I got a little older. But yet I have the run of the town when I was a kid, you know, be home by the time the street lights come on, be home home or check in by the time the street lights come on and was kind of raised, you know. So it was really a great way to grow up. But anyway, so that summer, after I graduated high school, I had a vehicle, he didn’t, they’re out in the country, you know. I’d spend a bunch of time out there and we would just jam. You know, he taught me a couple of simple beats on the drums and we just I just took to it. I just was a natural, it just kind of came to me. And then I went off to college, he went off to the army. And he sold me that drum set, which I still have to this day, for 100 bucks with the stipulations of if ever I sell and I sell it back to him for the same. And I’m going off to college, and a guy by the name of Mike McCabe, who’s still a musician who plays around this area now, showed up in my doorway. So I was at Luther College, this would have been the fall of 1986. With a 68 Chet Atkins Gretch strapped around him which is relatively valuable guitar. He had an Amish beard and a big orange mullet halfway down his back. And he was wearing a pair of Long John’s tucked into combat boots, and then overtop of the long John’s he had like the Scottish plaid pants cut off just above the knee. And then he had this like big Maroon sweater that was too big for him, that hung down to about halfway down his thigh. And then the sleeves, you know, were so long that you let them dangle, they’d be like 6 to 8 inches longer than his arms. And then he had like black horn rimmed sunglasses with orange lenses that match the guitar and also matched his hair. And so he’s like this kind of crazy looking dude. And he says, are you Dave? And I said, Yeah. And he said, we’re looking for a drummer to join our band. Well, I’m not very good I said, I don’t have any drums here. He’s a well that’s alright, my RA said we could use his drums. Are you interested? This is like two weeks into college. You know, I got nothing else going on. Am I oh, sure I suppose you know, so we went over the music building and we jam for pretty much that whole night. We played R O C K In The USA probably a dozen times, we played The Satisfaction by the Stones, we played some Clash. We played a bunch of his original tunes. Quite frankly, I thought, you know, I was not good. You know, but I mean, I was a natural at drums, but I just hadn’t done enough of it to be a really good player. But somehow I landed the gig. And next thing you know, two weeks of school, I’m in a band. I’ve never in a million years really guess that.
Brent Hanifl 06:44
I’ve seen you were playing around town. I remember you kind of doing the music at Nighthawks. You know, I’ve seen you in Flibbertigibbet, seen you playing by yourself at the Freight House. It’s kind of like your a jack of all trades around the area playing in different bands and also, you know, being the sound engineer for a lot. What has been some of your musical influences kind of coming up from college till now?
David Orr 07:04
Well, I mean, when I was growing up, my dad listened to jazz and classical. I mean, he was really into Duke Ellington. He was into Miles Davis. He was into Dave Brubeck, Cannonball Laterally, you know. I mean, everything from big band to bebop to cool jazz, but then he was also into Beethoven, Vivaldi, Bach, all the classical grades. And then, like I said, my grandfather used to sing vaudeville songs to us. So those are my first earliest influences when I was really young, then church choir, of course, you know, and we had a pipe organ in our church, always had an organist there. You can’t help but have that stuff influenced you, you know, because that’s the first music you hear when you’re really young, and it sticks with you. And that’s kind of where my love of jazz came from, in particular. First album I ever bought was Led Zeppelin one. And I was probably in fifth grade, at the time. And then I just loved it, you know. So I ended up, you know, within a year or two, I had all their albums. You know, as I was going through my teen years in high school and all that 70s rock in general, I was really into. I was really into Deep Purple. I was into Rush. I was into prog rock stuff. Yes, Genesis, particularly the old stuff, you know, and of course, you know, being a child of the 80s radio was major, major, major, big at the time. So you know, all the stuff that was on the radio, you could just couldn’t escape, you know. Now, frankly, this day and age, like all the hairband stuff, and Jessie’s Girl, Summer Of 69, all that stuff. I’ve just heard so much of it, that I just can’t listen to it anymore. I mean, it’s just, it’s so ingrained in me, you know. And you know, I played that stuff for bands over the years and all that stuff, too. But it’s just, you know, I can’t sit still musically, I’ve got to constantly be getting new influences and listening to new stuff. So that’s kind of where I came from. Initially, the first band I was in, like I said, was with Mike McCabe that band was called The Priorities. And I would describe us as cow punk, kind of punk rock-ish sort of stuff with a country twang to it, kind of a country edge to it. A lot of our cover tunes were Clash and old REM, the Cure, a lot of that kind of stuff. But then we had a lot of really, really obscure bands like Dead Milkmen, you know, stuff that was a little bit more underground that we used to cover. But we were predominantly original music and from the very get go, the very first band I was ever in that was our focus. And to me that still to this day is still really my focus. I’m not really a songwriter, per se. I’m really good with arranging and I’m good with like the production end of things. That sort of thing. is really where my talents lie. I’m not a good lyricist. I’ve written a few songs. You know but nothing that I really think is all that good, you know, so I kind of leave that to the people that are really good at it. I’m more of a musician, more of a supporting cast kind of, you know, kind of role. And then, you know, on performance too, and just in general.
Brent Hanifl 10:13
So speaking of that, you know, you also play with local favorite Flibbertigibbet, people saw you guys play down in Moon Tunes. What’s going on with that band right now? We’ve talked to Drew in the past, but what’s happening right now?
David Orr 10:23
Well, Flibbertigibbet really that band has got a lot of history. I mean, a band has been around for over 30 years. I’m not an original member of the band. But aside from Drew, I’ve been with the band longer than anybody else in. Our current bass player, Eric Guido Lemon was I believe, the original bass player. But then shortly after he joined the band way, way back in the 90s, he left the band. And there was Flibbertigibbet has had a total of seven bass players, I believe, since I’ve been with the band. Now Guido being one of them. Guido just within the last few years returned to the band. There was a time after we recorded our first studio album with Mike Von Muchow at Actual Sound Studios, we really hit it hard and toured over about a four state, five state area. And really made a push for we played over 600 shows in that run. Then Doc was having trouble playing his guitar. And he just was frustrated and frustrated and frustrated and didn’t know what was going on. And he ended up basically calling it quits because of it. Because he was really just struggling. And it wasn’t that much longer after that, that he found out he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s. And he was actually relieved by that diagnosis, because then he finally knew what was going on, and was able to treat it. You know so now he’s on meds for it and that is allowing him to come back and actually start playing again. So a few years ago, he booked a gig, I believe it was a moon tunes thing that we did. And it just went really, really well. And he asked, you know if I’d be interested in, you know, doing another album and I said absolutely, for sure, let’s do it. And so we picked up a new cast with Kyle Renfro on guitar, people might know him from Sloane Awake, the yacht rock band that was really popular here the last couple of years. And then Matt Salvo on piano who is a UWL graduate, I think he’s fulfilled that contract now. But he has been at Northwestern University working in the Theatre Department playing piano for theater production stuff over the last couple of years. So he’s been living in Chicago, but still comes back from gigs and rehearsals and everything. So, he’s a trooper. Two really talented musicians, you know, and then we brought Guido back into the fold as well on bass. So we got three of the Flibbertigibbet veterans and two new guys, we hit the studio. And Doc, honestly, I mean, I’ve always admired his songwriting, you know once again because I’m just not good at it. But he’s a master. He can write stuff in so many different styles. He just as a way with words, he just has a vision for it. So, we went into the studio and recorded a bunch of his new songs, and some of our old ones that actually that we just never got recorded. Some of the songs on the album go way back. And I think honestly, this album that’s coming out is really, I’m proud of it. I mean, it’s really top notch, especially for the budget that we had to do it with. You know, there’s not a single song on the album that was more than three takes. I mean, we basically went in and just laid stuff down. And that was that. And you know, there’s a couple of spots on the album, really, where listening back to it that I think we probably could have done another take or two and kind of touched up a little bit. That’s really, really kind of splitting hairs. You know, I mean, and you’re always your own worst critic. So I’m really proud of what we have coming out here. Our new album’s called The Mississippi Life. The songs on it in general are about, you know about life here in La Crosse.
Brent Hanifl 14:04
What was the studio process like for that album? I know we talked to Drew in the past. Have you been working on that throughout COVID? Sounds like you guys are pretty quick or do you guys just jump into studio and try to knock it out as quickly as possible?
David Orr 14:17
It was done before COVID. We were planning on releasing that last fall and winter sometime was the original plan. But then COVID hit so we kind of just went to a dead standstill did nothing for quite a while. Since COVID has kind of been a bit more under control and vaccines out and whatnot, then we just had a few more things to do. But most of the rhythm tracks and everything were all laid down. We all did all that stuff studio live. So we’d go in as a band and play the song with a scratch vocal track. But most of the instrumental parts like that, I mean, we did go back and overdub a few guitar solos, that sort of thing. And we had some special guests on the album. We have horns on one song, a friend of mine Brendan Hogan did a masterful job for on horns for the title track. Cuban buddy of mine by the name of Alfredo Carmona played congo’s on a track. We have Matt Becker playing accordion on a track. And Jesse McDonald played some violin. John lewis was skiing, I’m not exactly sure how to pronounce his last name but played a tambourine part on one track. And then Doc’s daughter, Sequoia sang some backing vocals on a couple of tracks, or it might have been just one track actually. And then, of course, our producer Mike Von Muchow, you know, put a little seasoning in there too, with some vocals and guitar parts. But other than that, it’s pretty much the band. And all of those tunes can be played without any of that extra stuff, so that was just a little extra seasoning and stuff. When you’re in the studio, you make use of the studio to really develop the song the way you want to. So most of the time when we perform it will perform as a five piece band that we are.
Brent Hanifl 16:07
You are also doing a lot of live sound engineering around town as well. You have Flibbertigibbet, you know, kind of kicking off again. What are you excited for in 2021 2022?
David Orr 16:18
Well, we’re already booked in four states right now for the summer. Just about all of our shows are outdoor shows that Leo and Leona’s show is not and the Sax and Hall show is not. But the rest of them, I think are all outdoor shows at this point. And most of them are fairly sizable audiences as well. We’re really looking to get out and perform as much as possible to really, you know, try and push this new album, and get it out there and get known with it. I mean, we were already you know, we established ourselves back in the late 90s and early 2000s traveling around, like I said, a five state area. So, you know, we took a significant break, you know, so we’re gonna have to reopen a lot of doors and everything. But so that’s really kind of our goal right now, is to really create a buzz about the band this summer. And then we’re going to hit the club scene, God willing, as far as COVID is concerned, come, fall and winter. And then next summer, I think we’re going to try and really hit the music festival scene is so you can see us at music festivals in Harmony Park and whatnot. So the bigger or medium size festivals, I would say.
Brent Hanifl 17:34
Well, it seems like you got a lot on your plate for this next year and a half. So if people want to find out more, what’s the best avenue for them to go to?
David Orr 17:42
Well at the moment, right now, Flibbertigibbet just has a Facebook page. Now we used to have a website and we’re looking to get that up and running again. And that I believe the domain name is still available. And that’s going to end up being www.flibjib.com that’s f-l-i-b-j-i-b.com. Right now I’ve been spending a lot of time developing our EPK which is an electronic press kit for booking purposes and posters and all the stuff that we need for touring. That’s really been my focus. You know, before the tour hits, we’re going to have that website up and up and running. We’re planning on really hitting it hard and playing a lot. You see us at Deece Fest, which is the end of July that’s Cheech’s festival. Everybody knows Cheech. So that’s here in La Crosse. Starting at the beginning of July and going all the way through the summer we’re going to be playing pretty much, you know, two to three times a week.
Amy Gabay 18:44
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at lacrosse local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.
About La Crosse Local
La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.
Find us in your favorite podcast app.