JC 1




American novelist Mark Twain once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough,” and the same could be said for good music. Inspired by this bourbon spirit, as well as country music, jazz, swing, and good old rock ‘n’ roll, THE JUDY CHOPS of Staunton, Va. are living proof that you can never have enough good music or whiskey, but they can certainly satisfy those cravings. Led by guitarist/vocalist William Howard, the rest of the band includes guitarist/vocalist Molly Murphy; banjolele player/vocalist Sally Murphy; violinist Anna Matijasic-Hennessy; drummer/percussionist Jess Bergh; trumpet and flugelhorn player David Boudouris; trumpet, saxophone, trombone, and euphonium player Richard Adams; and upright bassist Jims Hinkle. The band recently released their third studio album Minor Sunshine and is doing more innovative things with their genre than anyone else. We spoke with Howard regarding his band’s beginnings and how their name came from a hillbilly ninja, their love for whiskey, as well as their new beer which might make you want to kill some zombies.

While browsing your band’s website, I noticed that you have the Ohm symbol tattooed on the inside of your left forearm. What is the significance of that symbol to you?

It’s actually about my dad. When I was a kid, my dad used to live in California, and I lived on this coast. He would always send me letters, and that symbol was always drawn next to his name in his letters. I didn’t really know what it was when I was a kid, but I thought it was a cool symbol. He passed away when I was 21. My dad was covered in tattoos, so when I got older, I got that as a tribute to him, but he was not the most peaceful guy in the world (laughs).

Your band has been playing together since 2008, and your music combines a lot of unique elements that aren’t too common in modern music. Yet I feel drawn to the simplicity of it and the three-part vocal harmonies. Can you tell me how your band was started and why you chose this musical direction?

The main act was me and Molly and Sally Murphy, and then our drummer Jess [Bergh], and when we first started the band is was just that as our lineup. Molly, Sally, and I had been in a band called THE BOURBON SPECIALS out of Charlottesville, and the drummer Jess and I were in a band called HEART GETS MONKEY. Those bands kind of ran their course, and I was in the middle of both bands at the time. So I decided to take the best elements of one and the best elements of the other, and threw it all together. That became THE JUDY CHOPS. We kind of threw the rule book out at the beginning as far as genre. We didn’t really pinpoint anything. We just kept trying to learn whatever style or song we wanted to learn.

Can you explain the back story behind your band name?

If you do a YouTube search for “judy chop” you will find another guy names Diemon Dave, who is a redneck, hillbilly ninja, and THE JUDY CHOPS is actually referencing that video. It’s a move he does on his ninja training video. He says, “You got your karate chop, and your judy chop…” (laughs). We needed a quick name for our first show, and we had just watched that video. So we were like, “What about THE JUDY CHOPS?” (laughs). Since then, it stuck for six and a half years.

JC 3


I really like your song, “I’d Rather Be Drinking Whiskey,” as it is my preferred spirit as well, and I know you guys sing about it very frequently, as well. What is your personal favorite type of whiskey?

It’s hard to say exactly. I’m a big fan of Bullet or Buffalo Trace. Those are my two favorites. I guess it grew out of that band THE BOURBON SPECIALS. We kind of had an affinity for whiskey in that band, and I guess it stayed on with this band.

How does your latest album Minor Sunshine compare to your other two albums?

The other two are a little more country music based. They are more in that vein, I guess you could say. Minor Sunshine was a lot more rooted in jazz or swing, and even gypsy jazz a little bit. It was written with those minor key elements. This album isn’t a concept album per say, but it was definitely a little bit more conceptual in terms of the way we thought about it. It’s mostly in minor key songs, but they either have some kind of major tonality (laughs). It’s also kind of a play-on-words, the title Minor Sunshine. It starts in the minor key, and it moves throughout the album and becomes a major key (laughs). It’s homage to that light and dark idea.

In order to fund the creation of Minor Sunshine, you created an Indiegogo campaign, and some of the incentives included private house shows, writing a song, and “fan swag packs.” Have you made any progress yet on doling out these rewards?

We’ve done a couple of the house shows, and we are slowly giving out the rest of the physical awards. The very last piece of that puzzle is going to be the vinyl. We kind of had to wait til the very last minute on that one, but I think the vinyl will go into production sometime this week. We are hoping to get everything out by October 24, and the vinyl stuff will go out six weeks after that (laughs).

Have you started booking yet for your nationwide tour?

We haven’t yet. The next big piece of that puzzle is going to be securing a better vehicle. Ours is still running, but it’s definitely not running very well. We are hoping to coast out the end of the year on this van, and our first priority for 2015 is getting a new van. Then we can start thinking about how far we can go out (laughs). That’s kind of always been our limit in terms of our touring radius — how far can our van make it there and back.

This Friday, you will be playing the release party for Three Notch’d Beer’s new “Zombie Killin’ Ale.” Do you have anything special planned for that show?

We did a big roll out when Three Notch’d did the beer, and this one is our Staunton, Va. beer roll out show. Baja Bean Co. is one of the neighborhood bars in Staunton, and the rest of the band is all from Staunton. So we have a strong, hometown tie to that place. That will also be the kick off for Halloween too, so we will probably do more of our spooky songs, and that will probably serve as our main Halloween show as well.

JC 2


Are there any bands from Virginia or Washington, DC that you would like to give a shout out to?

We’ll shout out to one of our friends. They’re called TWO TON TWIG from Falls Church in the Northern Virginia area, and we actually share a member. Our violinist we had on our last album moved up to Falls Church last year to teach orchestra, and she has been playing with them since she moved up there. We’re getting ready to hopefully do some touring together.

For more updates on THE JUDY CHOPS, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their YouTube channel. and check out their music on Bandcamp.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *