The Brothel Sprouts are, dare I say, an eclectic bunch. They’ve got a good sense of humor to boot.
“Our genre is ‘post-nap sarcasm,’” says guitarist, vocalist, and drummer Robert “The Manchild” Ragsdale–otherwise known as Rags. It seems fitting that he’s quite literally just rolled out of bed as his lazy drawl nuzzles its way through the receiver.
You can call him Ragsdale, Dragsdale, Scratchdale, Flagsdale, and Trashdale (when he’s drunk). As for his nickname “The Manchild?” The songwriter has been sporting a beard since the fourth grade. He attributes its unlikely growth to living next door to a nuclear waste facility. Hormones in the local chickens, surely…
Then there’s lead vocalist and guitarist Kris “Sweet Tits” Mastin. One day he was walking down the street when a stranger called out from behind him.
“Hey! Sweet tits!”
“Yeah?!” Mastin yelled back in response.
The stranger was bewildered and confused. Mastin turned around and discovered a girl walking down the street in front of him.
“It was an embarrassing moment that everyone remembered,” he reflects with a laugh.
The band name itself is something of a joke–British wordplay that the group imagines might be commonplace slang on the streets of London in an alternate universe.
The Fayetteville, Arkansas group of rag-tag musicians create songs that walk the fine line between suggestive complexity and a simplicity that makes everything not only palatable but rip-roaring fun. It’s a burst of no holds-barred stop-and-start punk, bouncy electric doo-wop, and country with some spank.
Couple all of this with lyrical oddities, such as the zany cut “Go Score Some God,” and you’ve got a record that packs a sonic punch yet manages not to take itself too seriously.
Which is good–bands that elevate themselves to grandiose statures and belittle their songwriting through pretension can get boring fast. Oftentimes their retellings of how they “came to be” are even overwrought with self-importance.
The opposite couldn’t be truer for The Brothel Sprouts, a band of few words who would rather let the music speak for itself.
“Band origin stories are pretty boring,” says Ragsdale. “I’m pretty sure it started with a ‘hey dude, let’s jam!’ when we were all really hammered. It just grew from there.”
After a good laugh, Mastin further elaborates that the group asked Ragsdale to join only two weeks before they had a show booked. The band was forced to come up with a set list, so they wrote the songs that would later appear on their debut EP, Good Enough.
The show proved to be a success. While the songs were admittedly “simple” at the time, the audience loved them and the band kept pushing forward, eventually hitting Arkansas’ East Hall studios to record.
Good Enough is an apt title for an EP that almost seems self-conscious about its namesake. The Brothel Sprouts originally intended the release to be a full length album when Ragsdale suddenly came down with a bad case of food poisoning.
“It was a goddamn nightmare,” he reflects.
They cut the recording process short and unfortunately lost a swing of momentum. Nearly a year later they returned to the source material and decided to re-record everything as an EP for the sake of uniformity.
Keep both ears peeled for their new record, Cosmosis, which will mark a noticeable departure from Good Enough.
“It’s a lot less scream-y, for one,” says Mastin. “You know, screaming all the time just hurts.”
“We chose the songs for Good Enough because they were our first songs, and we were still developing as a band,” adds Ragsdale.
Expect less punk and more country. Each of the members cites Johnny Cash as a huge influence, and the country roots of Arkansas as a rite of heritage. Still, they maintain that their music shouldn’t be lumped into pre-existing stereotypes about the South, rednecks, and the sorry state of contemporary country music.
Instead there is a certain level of honesty to be maintained, as the band members put it, “that real Southern talk.”
There’s another reason why Cosmosis will mark a new chapter in the band’s life. Less than a month ago, Brothel Sprouts bassist Alex Ivey passed away unexpectedly. Aside from being an invaluable musical talent and humble young man, the band lost a best friend.
“It’s been very intense. Lots of drinking, and it’s only just beginning to feel real,” says Mastin.
“We actually have a show coming up,” Ragsdale says. “It’s really weird playing a show with another person; it’s all very disorienting and we feel pretty deflated. But you know, ‘the show must go on’ as they say…”
Still, it’s worth looking back. The songwriters share some of their favorite memories regarding the bass player, including the time raccoons stole his food while the band was camping along the shores South Carolina and how he had an affinity for sleeping in his car because of its powerful air conditioning unit.
Perhaps most importantly, Cosmosis (a name Ivey came up with) will be most anticipated because it features performances from their lost friend, who completed the sessions shortly before he passed.
“It’s got a lot of great playing from him,” admits Ragsdale. “Those who loved him really want to hear the songs, which gives us even more incentive to finish it.”