Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. (Courtesy Photo)
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. (Courtesy Photo)

The swing revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy have been playing holiday shows for at least a decade now. The group has released three albums of Christmas originals and covers – Whatchu’ Want for Christmas in 1997, Everything You Want for Christmas in 2004 and It Feels Like Christmas Time in 2013.

“The thing about holiday music is that a song like ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ or ‘Jingle Bells’ off of our latest one, we’ll put a different arrangement to it,” said Kurt Sodergren, the drummer for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. “The arrangements for those tunes are very different. The melody is there but the horn arrangement or just the whole arrangement of the song can be different, so we can revisit those tunes. And it really puts a different spin on them.

“Plus, doing a song like ‘Heat Miser’ or ‘The Grinch,’ those are just tons of fun to do and those arrangements are more like spot on with the old TV shows. So, for us, it’s kind of getting nostalgic as well and we just love it.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy just kicked off their Wild and Swingin’ Holiday Party tour just after the Thanksgiving holiday, on Saturday, Nov. 26 in Carmel, Ind. The tour is coming to The Birchmere on Monday, Dec. 12. Sodergren said that the group had a few rehearsals for the tour before hitting the road. “Well, we’ve just been on the road quite a bit. We did come home and had a few rehearsals, but at this point everyone knows the Christmas material really well,” he said. “So it’s just a thing we do. It’s like getting together with your family for Thanksgiving.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy have been together now for over 25 years, so getting together for the holiday tour is akin to families gathering for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is especially true for Sodergren and Scott Morris, the lead singer of the group, who are two of the founders of the group. They are the only two in the group who have been in the band for the entirety of its existence.

“In the beginning, it wasn’t a full time thing that I just loved to do. I’d do it on the weekends and then come back Monday and do my regular job,” Sodergren said. “But I just loved it. It was just so fun to get together and play. And as we grew the band got bigger and we added players. When we added a piano that just opened everything up.

“Then our piano became our arranger. It seems like every year that goes by, the band progresses and becomes so much better and the arrangements are much more nuanced and it becomes a lot more challenging. It’s a lot fun to play. It’s never the same thing twice.”

It’s somewhat uncommon to hear a modern musician talk so much about arrangements, but it’s in Sodergren’s heritage to talk about them with the same feeling of a jazz artist. That’s because his grandfather played swing and jazz bands most of his life.

But that’s not exactly how Big Bad Voodoo Daddy got started. Sodergren and Morris actually met while both were part of the punk music scene in Southern California in the late ‘80s. Both of them were in other bands when they met.

“We grew up not too far away [from each other]. He grew up in the Ventura area and I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and we were both involved in the punk scene, just in different cities,” Sodergren said. “But he used to come out to some of the same shows [as I did] and we didn’t even know it. Then a mutual friend hooked us up, she thought we might get along. That was back in like 1988.

“We’d get together, just the two of us, and play guitar and drums in a rehearsal spot….We got along really well and had a good musical connection, so we just kind made an agreement that once our bands fell apart that we would try to get something going on.”

• For more information about Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, visit bbvd.com.