They named themselves after a sandwich from Louisiana and describe their brass-heavy, acoustic sound as New Orleans jazz “served messy.”
Three of the band’s eight members have their roots in Timberlane Regional High School. They credit the school with establishing their smooth-flowing classical style.
The Soggy Po Boys got their start almost by accident, at a pub in Dover two years ago.
“We were going to play electric, funky New Orleans music. We thought the gig went from 8 to 10 o’clock,” said Nick Mainella, a 2002 Timberlane graduate who plays the tenor saxophone.
It was Mardi Gras and the pub owner asked them to play for another hour, Nick said.
The six-piece band had packed up all its gear, so members opted to finish with an acoustic set.
“When we sat around the piano, the crowd went crazy,” Nick said. “It took off from there. We started playing more gigs and ended up having a weekly residency.”
Today, the band has one album and has added two more members — Nick’s brother Colin Mainella, a 2008 Timberlane graduate, and their friend Eric Klaxton, who graduated in 2007. All three live in Dover, where they also play weekly.
They focus on New Orleans swing music from the Roaring ‘20s to the 1940s. Covers have historically been their game, but they recently started writing their own material to match the style, Nick said.
They also carry a prominent brass sound guided by four brass instruments that play at once, trumpeter Colin said.
The band just returned from a 10-day tour of the South, playing gigs as far north as Tennessee and as far south as Georgia.
What they saw on the road provided memories to last a lifetime, they said.
They all shared a favorite memory — a hike that turned into a gig more than 6,600 feet above sea level.
The band was hiking, instruments in tow, up Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee-North Carolina line.
“‘Let’s go up there and play music for ourselves.’ That was the original intention,” soprano sax player Klaxton said. “I don’t think we expected to have an audience, or to be seen as entertainers, in that atmosphere at all.”
But that’s exactly what happened.
“We were walking by people with our instruments and a couple people turned around and followed us back to the top,” Nick Mainella. “We had a very attentive audience.”
That mountain summit wasn’t the only place they were accepted down South.
“When we sat down to perform, we were all right there and totally brought something to that atmosphere,” Colin Mainella said. “The amount of energy we were able to bring to each performance, we think it was pretty amazing.”
Every gig they played, they drew a crowd — even though they weren’t surrounded by New Orleans brass growing up.
As teenagers at Timberlane High, the three home-grown musicians all turned to the same musical program at the school.
They all named Tony DiBartolomeo, the school’s director of music, as one of their biggest inspirations. But it wasn’t just him they credited for becoming musicians.
“They opened a lot of doors, showing there’s a lot going on out there,” Klaxton said.
Nick described the entire music program as “one of the most encouraging” he ever encountered.
“It made us feel like, if music is something you’re passionate about and you want to do it, go for it,” he said. “That propelled us to be ready for playing music at the next level.”
As much as the three share, they also are very different, DiBartolomeo said.
“All three of them have such different tastes and the unifying thread is jazz,” he said yesterday. “They’re taking what is sort of a traditional element of the New Orleans-type jazz and spinning it, putting a new flavor to it.”
After broadcasting that flavor down South, the band came home Saturday. Two more shows are planned for the tour, Saturday in North Berwick, Maine, and a private party a week later.
On June 21, they will release their second album with all original music, Nick said.
The album is “Perhaps It’s Time To Go Home.”
But the band isn’t calling it quits. Really, they’re just getting started.
“When we first started the band, we were sticking to the great American song book and a lot of traditional, New Orleans tunes,” Nick said. “We never even started talking about it. Week after week, somebody would bring in a tune, and then another person, then it got to the point where we had a bunch of original recordings.”
For more on the band, visit soggypoboys.com.