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Live Follies

Catching up with 23-year-old local music institution, The Cashmere Jungle Lords.


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Dominic Carpin is a veteran of the Richmond music scene. His rock trio, The Cashmere Jungle Lords, has been playing an eclectic blend of roots rock, surf and acoustic "swamp sets" for the last 23 years, but only recently released its second full length CD, "Bloodstone Follies." That's not to say that the group doesn't have plenty of other material lying around, though, just waiting for the light of day.

Over the years, the band has toured the United States extensively, had success on the college music charts and had its music featured on MTV's "The Real World." It even opened a show for The Who in Charlotte in 1998 after a promoter happened to catch its energetic live show at Goombay's Grille in Nagshead.

Carpin wrote, produced and mixed the new album, and it was recorded in a number of different locations, including an old bread factory in Church Hill, a defunct karate studio, a living room in Westover Hills and a warehouse in Richmond's Manchester district. It features band mates "Jungle" Jim Kaylis on drums and John Dacey on electric bass and backing vocals. Guests artists on the album include noted local drummer Johnny Hott (formerly of House of Freaks and currently playing with Johnny Hott's Piedmont Souprize) on six tracks with Bryan Martin adding double bass fiddle to the "Astral Weeks"-inspired "NY Hugs and Kisses Goodbye."

Style spoke with Carpin, 45, a father of three who has become more involved with his musical endeavors since his former job at Capitol One was outsourced in January.

Style: What is amp surfing?

Carpin: Sometimes if the mood is right I'll get on top of my amp, an old Fender Deluxe reverb, and I'll crank the reverb up and do surfer-type moves on the amp. The reverb tank starts vibrating and the springs start slapping around and it sounds crazy. The crowd loves it.

Where did the band name come from?

I thought it described the sound of our music, originally. Jungle, because we use a lot of tom-toms [drums], and the more exotic flair from the surf and lounge traditions. … The band actually formed out of [a] Crampsy-sounding band called the Mystagogues.

How is this album different from your last, "Southern Barber Supply"?

I think it's more cohesive, almost like a concept album. A lot of songs are about relationships, and it plays off the double meaning of the title, "follies"— part big theatrical production and part foolish behavior … I saw Los Straitjackets do a Christmas show with the Pontani Sisters at Alley Katz and became aware of the burlesque revival going on. It triggered something in my head about Ziegfeld Follies.

What's happening at the upcoming CD release party?

We have a history of skits at shows. [For the release party] I want to have a vaudeville-style show. Jeremy Parker from RVA Magazine will be the emcee as his character, Reverend Blackfire. We're going to have the Paliminos open, maybe the River City fire dancers, and I'm still trying to get a strongman. When we do our show, three dancers from Nouvelle Burlesque are going to do improv to our music. We'll do five sets of three songs with costume changeovers — a Latin set, surf set, rock set, pop set, Americana set. We'd love to play a similar show for our Christmas gig at the Canal Club.

How can Richmond get rid of its reputation as an unfriendly town for live music?

I think if [new venue] Toad's can get open it would be a huge boon, as well as The National Theater. But the fact that nightclubs are forced to sell food, and that some of the bigger venues don't sell liquor — it's tough. I think it would be better if Richmond had solely dedicated night clubs, but there are some cool little pockets right now, like at Café Diem. There is lots of potential. People just need to get out there and support the arts. S

The Cashmere Jungle Lords CD release party takes place at Alley Katz on Nov. 24 at 9 p.m. Tickets $10 at the door. Call 643-2816 for more info.

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