Ballyhoo! to rock at Scarlet and Gray Cafe

Howard “Howi” Spangler first heard the word “ballyhoo” when he was 13, and he didn’t know what it meant. He and his younger brother Donald were with some friends brainstorming names for the band they had recently formed. 
“One of our friends was just goofing off and came up with that,” he said. “And I was just like, ‘What the hell does that even mean?’ It took me awhile to remember it and then finally I looked it up. I stuck an exclamation at the end of it. It was big and colorful in my mind, and our band and music is big and colorful. And the name just stuck.” 
Spangler is now 28 and the lead singer of Ballyhoo! The rest of the band consists of Donald, the drummer, bass player JR Gregory and Scott Vandrey on turntables and keys. 
The four have known each other since middle school, which is also when they formed the band in 1995. 
The idea for the band started with Howi and his brother.
“Me and Donald had always wanted to do this,” Spangler said. “Our dad always kept us interested, he had been in a band himself. He took us to see Rat and Poison back in ‘86 or ‘87 and for us, it was just the coolest thing ever.” 
When Spangler really picked up the guitar in the summer of 1995, his brother also really picked up the drums, he said.
“We kept seeing local bands playing and we just said that summer, ‘We could do this,’” Spangler said. 
“We did our first show at our local high school,” he said. “We would do a ton of shows, in our friends’ basements, at family reunions, wherever we could. We started getting shows farther away, and we’d be driving two hours away or something and be so excited. It seemed crazy then.”
Over time, the band has continued to gain publicity. In 2006, they went on what Spangler described as a “huge” tour that lasted for six weeks and spanned the country. 
“We toured with our friends’ bands, Rude Buddha and 33 West. We lost about $6,000, our transmission blew, our van caught on fire,” he said. “It was crazy, crazy, awesome times. And we learned and grew from that experience.”
For the past three years, the band has been touring heavily, traveling to more cities with more people and playing in increasingly bigger venues. 
“We’re playing about 200 plus shows a year,” Spangler said. “Our music is getting out there and getting more and more lucrative.”
The band is managed by Steven Roeser, who sought them out.
“We were starting to create waves for ourselves,” Spangler said. “He had heard of us and ever since we have been working and growing together.” 
Gregory and Vandrey were added to the original band over the last 14 years. Vandrey came in 2000, after spinning on some songs on the band’s first record. When their bass player at the time split in 2003, Gregory took his spot and the line-up has been the same since then.
“We’re all good friends,” Spangler said. “We see so much of each other. It gets pretty crazy spending so much time together and it’s definitely a brotherhood. We do get sick of each other, naturally.”
Spangler’s goal for the band is just to take things as far as they can, he said.
“Dare I say a Rolling Stones cover?” he said. “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, we just want to see where we can go with it and take our music from our little town of Aberdeen, (Md.,) and just put it on the map.”
The band loves touring and always has a blast, Spangler said.
“We get paid to travel and see places we wouldn’t normally see, or maybe never would have seen, and meet people into our music, from all different walks of life,” he said. “It’s really cool to see people brought together and just create a party atmosphere. It’s just too much fun. We’re so passionate about what we do.”
As the years have passed and the band has gotten increasingly popular, the band has been able to positively affect fans with their music.
“We’ll have people saying they know all the words, or that they spin our CDS at their parties,” he said. “Or that we’re helping them with their life. There’s nothing like it.”
Ballyhoo! will be performing at Scarlet and Gray Cafe on Monday, Oct. 5.

Megan Savage