Music — 'Savoy' Truffle

'Savoy' Truffle

By Seth Hoy

A musical delicacy

Wrapped in any one of its several names — Savoy, Truffle, (Savoy) Truffle or Groove Thang  —  this band’s rootsy music would still sound as sweet. South Beach Diet or not, (Savoy) Truffle makes music in which you can guiltlessly indulge yourself, earful after earful.

Not your average jam band that riffs hour upon hour on the same annoying beat, (Savoy) Truffle mixes up its songs with strong writing and lyrical content. But that’s not to say they don’t sound good  — tie a napkin around your ear and listen for yourself when they play their Annual Toys for Tots Show at the Brickhouse/Pasta Loft in Milford on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 9 p.m.

“The thing that really separates us from other bands is our strong song-writing,” said lead vocalist Dave Gerard. “We do shows with jam bands and get popped into jam band category. We do improvise but our thing is strong song-writing. Some jam bands are great but don’t have a lot of song structure going on. We put together our sound and style with great lyrics and hooks. That’s always been our goal.”

“Roots music is about honesty,” Gerard continued. “It feels good. It’s as simple as that. Any music that has soul — that’s the stuff I come back to. I listened to harder stuff growing up, but when I heard rootsy stuff like Little Feat, it just clicked. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is the stuff I’m supposed to play.’ Roots music is something you can grow old with.”

Formed back in 1986 at the University of New Hampshire, (Savoy) Truffle is named after a song on the Beatles’ White Album, “Savoy Truffle,” which is a song George Harrison penned about Eric Clapton’s sweet tooth.

The band changed its name to Truffle (putting parentheses before ‘Savoy’) after they signed a deal with Sony Records, who thought there might be some copyright infringement.

“What, were the Beatles really going to come after us for using one of their song names?” Dave Gerard said. “We signed a record deal with Sony Records back in 1994. They suggested we drop the “Savoy” in case anything came back due to the name of the Beatles tune. Most people called us Truffle anyway, but changing our name did confuse people. People in the south called us Savoy and in the north, Truffle. Looking back, it was probably a mistake to change our name.”

Now, Seacoast-based (Savoy) Truffle sometimes plays as Groove Thang, minus guitar and mandolin player Ned Chase, and sometimes Gerard flies solo. But since 1986, (Savoy) Truffle has played in more than 40 states across the country and have been known to play as many as 275 shows in a year.

Gerard defines their sounds as “Swampy Soul Pop” and derives much of their style from roots-based music from Blues, Soul and New Orleans to Reggae, Hawaiian and Country.

“You’ll hear a healthy dose of R&B, Reggae and bluegrass Americana,” Gerard said. “It all comes together to make up our sound. The rhythm section is definitely roots-based like our guitar section. I mean, we grew up listening to the Allman Brothers. My vocals are scratchy, which kind of give the songs a soulful flair. I play the resophonic guitar and Ned plays the mandolin — you get that back porch Americana sound.”

Gerard started playing the guitar when he was 15. His father was a horn player and started little Dave on the trumpet, but switched him to guitar.

“My dad said, ‘Damn it,  we need a string player!’ so I switched pretty quickly to guitar,” Gerard said. “I was mostly self-taught, but took a few private lessons when I first started out.”

With a rootsy jam-band devil-may-care panache, (Savoy) Truffle’s influences include the Allman Brothers, Radiators, Little Feat and the Neville Brothers. They’ve shared the stage with such band greats as Phish, Dave Matthews, Blues Travelers, Spin Doctors and Little Feat  — basically any band you can shake a doobie at during a concert and not get arrested.

“It was a huge thrill to play before Little Feat,” Gerard said. “When people ask us about that — kids especially — they don’t know who Little Feat are. For us to play with Little Feat was so exciting. Dave Matthews seems more like our peers — they were doing what we were doing but at a different level and more professionally. But Little Feat is a band we grew up with. We grew up playing their tunes and they’ve influenced so many people.”

(Savoy) Truffle has four albums out: Dish Me In (1989), Talking with Ghosts (1991), Nervous Laughter (1994) and their latest, Out Loud (2000). In 1993, they signed a three-record deal with a division of Sony Records called November Records. After they produced Nervous Laughter, November Records folded and (Savoy) Truffle took a short but much-needed hiatus.

“I guess the reason they folded is why any label folds — it’s hard.” Gerard said. “There are a lot of records out there. We got signed late in the game and had been on the road for a while. We knew getting signed wasn’t the answer to everything. We weren’t expecting miracles by signing a label, and we needed a little breather.” 

Their latest record, Out Loud, is a well-recorded live CD. (Savoy) Truffle took a lot of time recording it to make sure it was a clean album. Out Loud is a combo of some of their newer songs, old songs performed differently (acoustic vs. electric) and a handful of covers. They’re also in the studio laying down their next album, yet to be named, to be released in spring 2005.

Gerard, who has put out three solo albums on his own, writes as much music as the rest of the band. Each band member writes a song individually then brings it to the band to arrange.

When (Savoy) Truffle is not in the studio, they are performing in southern New Hampshire or around New England. They often play shows in Colorado, down around Virginia, and the in Virgin Islands once a year — not a bad gig at all.

“We have a good following out in Colorado and Virginia,” Gerard said. “There’s a certain vibe there that makes you feel like you fit in. Urban markets have never been our strong suit — we were always more popular around the valleys and south.

“This is our fourth year in a row playing the Virgin Islands. We play St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix three weeks to a month, a week on each island. People are psyched and love that we make an effort to get down there. It’s a lot of traveling — from planes to ferries to pickup trucks where the driver is smoking a big old doob’. It’s really laid back there.”

For (Savoy) Truffle, playing live shows is all about the vibe — laid back and soulful, something you can dance to. When they play the Pasta Loft, be ready to let loose and enjoy yourself — probably without a doobie hanging out of your mouth.

“I think we put it all out there,” Gerard said. “We play hard long sets. I think we’re always trying to get the crowd to dance. It gets harder and harder these days. That’s what live music is about. It’s not just about sitting and listening — we want people to boogie. It’s that whole energy that exists between the crowd and the performer.”

If you miss the show on Saturday, Dec. 18 at the Brickhouse/Pasta Loft, (Savoy) Truffle will be playing the Nashua Garden on 121 Main St. on Wednesday, Jan. 7 and again on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 9:30 p.m. For more information on (Savoy Truffle), please visit www.gerardtruffle.com.

Seth Hoy

 
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