When your band’s name is Deep Fried Squirrel, the question inevitably comes up: How did you come up with that?
“Our banjo player (Deakin Mooney) and his cousin were talking about how they had just eaten a bunch of pan-fried squirrel, and we liked that,” bass player Jake Norman said in a phone interview. “We had been trying to think of a name for a while. And then, it was, ‘How about Deep Fried Squirrel?’ Has a nice ring to it. It stands out.”
But the band, an acoustic bluegrass fusion outfit that will headline the Budweiser Tent on Monday night at the Missouri State Fair, didn’t stop there. Band members quickly realized the initials, DFS, are the same as the state’s Department of Family Services. Thus the tagline on the band’s logo: “DFS is coming for your children.”
“We just really cracked ourselves up one night,” Norman said. “When we thought up the name, we were like, ‘That’s pretty cool.’”
But the band is more than a catchy name. Deep Fried Squirrel is on the road supporting its second album, “Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil.” Its first release, “Southwest Missouri Home,” came out in 2012. The band, which calls the Springfield area home, plays almost every weekend throughout Missouri, as well as in Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois and Iowa.
The lineup includes banjo player Mooney, who also sings; Norman, upright bass; Caleb Fairchild, guitar and vocals; Kolt Kendrick, mandolin and vocals; and Eric Mathewson, fiddle. Mathewson is the grandson of Missouri State Fair Foundation board member Jim Mathewson, who passed along a copy of the band’s first CD to fair officials.
Norman said about half of the songs on the second album are instrumentals, which is “just how the songs happened to be written.” All of the band members like instrumental music, which is prevalent in bluegrass.
“We just figured if there are all these traditional instrumentals out there, why can’t we just write our own?” he said.
Band members also write their own lyrics, and true to bluegrass tradition they tend to deal in despair, such as this line from “Southwest Missouri Home:”
“When you’re young and stupid with the world in your hands, time slips by like little grains of sand.”
Norman said Deep Fried Squirrel offers “a pretty high-energy show for people who are playing somewhat intricate, instrumental bluegrass music. We have a way of keeping it upbeat, but it is very dynamic. … A lot of the songs were written more as an R&B song, or rock song. We all listen to a pretty wide variety of music that we draw our influences from.”
While the band prides itself on its musicianship, Norman acknowledged that being called Deep Fried Squirrel can lead people to think they are more of a novelty act.
“I think that is the impression that people get,” he said. “Then when people see us, we’re a little different than what they expected. When people hear that name, they think hillbilly music. And then they see us and … we’re a little more intricate than that.”
Folks who stop by the Bud Tent Monday night for some Deep Fried Squirrel are in for “a different musical experience.”
“We keep hearing from people that we sound like ourselves, that we don’t sound like anybody else –and in a good way,” Norman said. “So at least with us, you won’t hear anything else like it.”