When THE MUCKRAKES originally formed in October 2008, they had no goals of getting famous and making it big. Their primary objective, as it should be was to have fun and become better musicians, and on that front, not much has changed since then. However, between 2012 and 2013, the band found itself at a crossroad that helped shape their identity moving forward. The band, which currently includes vocalist/guitarist/banjo player Jon Owings, guitarist Mike Turner, pianist/keyboard player Billy England, bassist John Tingley, multi-instrumentalist Mark Smilor, and drummer Rick Isotalo, is currently working on their third full-length album, which is being produced by Tingley and will be pressed on vinyl. We spoke with Tingley regarding the bands humble philosophy, their change in musical direction on their new album, and their past and upcoming shows.

What do you think it is about your band that sets your music apart from the other bands in the Hampton Roads music scene?

THE MUCKRAKES are definitely a band that is not too concerned with getting famous, or getting rich, or being popular. I don’t know if that sets us apart, but that’s definitely something that not all the bands I have been in throughout the past were like. I think that makes us a little bit different in that we are really more interested in getting good at our instruments, having a good time playing together, and crafting songs that we enjoy playing. Our goal is having fun, first and foremost.

The last album your band released was Pill Shaped Void just over a year ago, and on your Bandcamp page, you wrote that the record was produced at a time when the band “found itself at a crossroad.” Can you explain to me what that crossroad was, and how you have progressed as a band since then?

The crossroad was really a point where a lot of the key members of the band were moving out of the area. We lost one of the primary songwriters, the original drummer, and a bass player that had been with the band for quite a while. So there was a transition with picking up new players who were learning the old songs, as well as writing new music, and there was a period where we didn’t know if the band was gonna survive. But indeed it has, and we’ve gone on to create something new.

I understand that you guys have been working on a new record and will be pressing it on vinyl. Can you tell me more about that and what listeners can expect from that record?

This is the first vinyl record that any of us have ever done in any band, and that alone is exciting to us because a few of us in the band are audiophiles. We have record collections, and we like sitting down and listening to whole records. The process of recording it is more or less the same having a company do the mastering and pressing for us, but we’re hoping to have a really good product. The recording process has been going on for about three months now, and it has been very intense. We have been recording or mixing every night during the week, and it has been a big project for us. We’re pretty happy with what we got so far.



On Pill Shaped Void, you were described as “a rock band with bluegrass guts, ragtime legs, folk sensibilities and a dash of the blues for good measure.” Does this description still aptly describe your current identity as a band?

I think that it has changed a little bit. We’re not so bluesy, and we’re not so hayseed sounding. We’re a little more rock or Americana rock, maybe like late 70’s easy-listening rock, if you will. We have taken a little more polished and less folky sound.

I saw that you guys recently played a show at Belmont House of Smoke in Norfolk with FERAL CONSERVATIVES. How did that show go?

We had a really good time. We really enjoy playing Belmont. The crowds are always good. There’s good food and drink. It’s just a good place to have a party in general. That was an especially good show for us because we had been recording all these new songs and working on them so much that it was very easy to go up and nail them with no problems. Sometimes stuff gets stagnant for a while, and when that show came along, we felt that it was a solid start with our performance.

Do you know when they started having shows there?

At least a year, but I’m not sure exactly.


Who are some of your other favorite bands or musicians in the Virginia or Washington, D.C. music scenes?

We really like to play with THE FRAMERS, THE DAHÜS, and MIMSEY. We’ve played with a lot of bands but those are the ones we tend to get along with the best and enjoy being around, and we enjoy each other’s music.

Do you have any more shows coming up soon?

We actually have a show this Saturday at Poncho and Luigi’s. It’s a new place in Ghent. Also, we’re definitely gonna have a CD release party, which may be at my house studio in Newport News, and have people come over and hang out. It just sounds like a nice way to have fans come over and be able to chat with us and hear our songs. Plus, we get a cool party out of the deal. It will probably be in late February or early March. We were debating on waiting until Record Store Day, which I think is in late March or early April and actually playing at a record store. We’ve got that connection as well, but we’ll see.

For more updates on THE MUCKRAKES, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Tumblr, 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.

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