How can we be whole?
It’s a question asked — in one way or another — by anyone who allows him or herself to dig deeper into their own existence than the simple day-to-day drudgery that seems to fuel our society.
“I want to know it and sing it from my soul,” answers Dan Lotti in the opening moments of Dangermuffin’s transformative fifth album, Songs for the Universe. From those first questions in “Ancient Golden Star” — a song inspired by a Cherokee creation myth — it’s clear that this Folly Beach-based trio has matured even further in their musical craftsmanship.
Taken at face value, the album’s 17 tracks can still energize a backyard campfire or an early morning jog, just as Dangermuffin always has over their eight-year career. But listen closely to Lotti’s words, and you’ll discover another world of stones unturned and long-hidden truths. Archetypes of the sea, the sun and the Phoenix are prevalent throughout the collection (very nearly a concept album) that plays like a sacred scroll of sage wisdom set to the laid-back roots-based sounds they’ve built their national following upon.
And though you can take a man away from the beach, you can’t take the ocean from a man. In 2014, the newlywed Lotti migrated north to the mountains of western North Carolina. His focus on personal and spiritual growth shows itself prominently on Songs for the Universe. “Since moving, a lot of my time has been spent in meditation and doing private yogic practices, abstaining from alcohol and connecting with plants,” says Lotti. Guitarist Mike Sivilli and percussionist Steven Sandifer — who remain on Folly Beach and in Charleston, S.C., respectively — also subscribe to holistic, plant-based lifestyles (not always an easy feat for a group of men on tour, burning up the miles between interstate exits).
If a vegan rock band surprises you, consider that Dangermuffin are simply an embodiment of a new consciousness building across their generation, where respect for the Earth and its healing powers outweigh the distractions of modern existence. Even the musical frequencies Dangermuffin employs are chosen for their nurturing potential. Songs for the Universe was recorded entirely in 432 and 444 Hz — the former of which was the frequency preferred by Vivaldi and chosen by violin maker Stradivarius for his renowned violins. Today, the gold standard for musicians is 440 Hz, but Lotti questions whether we sacrifice much of music’s potential by holding rigidly to that framework.
Like the secret chord in Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that “pleased the Lord,” utilizing ancient frequencies lets Dangermuffin seek vibrations that affect the body beyond the eardrums. “In the record, you can hear pitch shifts where we work with sound healing and frequencies that are harmonious with the human body,” says Lotti. On the album’s cover, the band’s ubiquitous muffin vibrates like a star in space, surrounded by the 17 archetypes present throughout the songs (a zia for “Lady of Fire,” a serpent for “Snakecharmer”).
Recorded at Charleston, S.C.’s Truphonic Studios, the album contains the influence of Appalachia but still maintains the salty vibes of the Carolina coast, perhaps best heard in “Little Douglas,” a lighthearted song about ‘herbal’ enlightenment that features Keller Williams on bass and backing vocals.
Dan Lotti (vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar)
Mike Sivilli (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals)
Steven Sandifer (percussion, drums, upright bass, vocals)