Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a special series profiling Michigan artists featured at this weekend’s Mo Pop Festival in Detroit.
Two Michigan bands will heat things up tomorrow at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival.
The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band will perform Sunday afternoon opening slots and join 26 emerging artists, including Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Lizzo and Ella Mai, during the two-day indie rock, pop and hip-hop festival at Detroit’s West Riverfront Park.
Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which returns for its seventh year. Each year, Mo Pop kicks off both festival days with performances from Michigan-based artists to expose people to some of the area’s rising local acts.
The Stratton Setlist recently talked with The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band about playing Mo Pop and sharing their eclectic music with a growing audience.
For The Doozers, Mo Pop will feel more like an outdoor party with a bunch of new friends.
The Rochester indie rock quartet will share their snazzy riffs, indie breakdowns, quirky lyrics and crazy stage antics with festivalgoers at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on the River Stage.
“In a nutshell, breaking it down by band member, Kyle will be in the back half-naked bouncing, Charlie’s just nicely swaying, I’m bouncy, absolutely cranking out the moves dancing on the side, and Sean is probably upside down or in the rafters,” said Melanie Kelley, bassist and vocalist for The Doozers.
Together, The Doozers have as much fun on stage as they do off it. With idiosyncratic tracks aptly named “Lemon Poppyseed,” “Cytoplasm,” “Architexture” and “Dream Beans,” it’s impossible not to catch the band’s infectious energy and camaraderie through their music.
“We’re not one of those bands that does something at the same time or plans something ahead,” said Sean Donnelly, the band’s guitarist and vocalist. “We just go, and then that’s the beauty of it, is that you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
That strong element of surprise fuels the band’s creativity and drive. Four years ago, Donnelly teamed up with Charlie Belleville (guitar) and Kyle Garland (drums) to form The Doozers while they attended high school in Rochester. Kelley joined several months later after the original bassist opted for a different musical direction.
Together, they crafted a fresh, fun indie rock sound influenced by Cage The Elephant, The Districts, Hippo Campus, and Catfish and the Bottlemen and selected an appropriate moniker to represent it.
“I was always into kids’ TV shows, and I was really into ‘Fraggle Rock,’” Donnelly said. “They had these characters that were green, and they were called Doozers, so I thought that would be a cool name. It kinda stuck as people dug it and ever since we’ve been called The Doozers.”
In 2017, The Doozers released their first EP, “A Year Ago,” and followed up with another six-song EP, “School Store Promotions,” a year later. In May, they released their latest single, “Lemon Poppyseed,” a four-minute energetic indie pop jam filled with fast-paced drums, high-pitched guitars and reflective, youthful lyrics.
“As far as the actual lyrics and title, the title doesn’t have much to do with the lyrics to be honest. The name was after a viral video we were really into, and the lyrics are about going through the struggles of a teenager. We’re always into the weird names even if they don’t have much to do with the song,” Donnelly said.
Next up, the band will drop their next project, “Full Length Album,” at midnight Sunday. It’s the ideal way to cap off one of the most important shows for The Doozers.
“We’re going to incorporate some new songs that will give them a taste of the new album, and we’re going to play some songs that are more well-known throughout the set,” Donnelly said. We still want to make our mark as far as going out there and having people hear our songs.”
Craig Brown Band
The Craig Brown Band will bring some much needed twang to Mo Pop.
The Detroit country-rock sextet will share songs about heartbreak, fishing and vans for a crowd that’s more acclimated to indie rock, pop and hip-hop.
“Whatever style or genre someone might want to put us in, I hope that it comes across like it could be fresh and new to anyone,” Brown said. “I feel like we’ve got something special. I mean the six of us doing stuff up there is a nice spectacle to see.”
Brown will join bandmates Jeff Else (drums), Randy Molina (guitar), Derek Warren (bass) and Caitlyn Drinkard (vocals) and Bonnie Drinkard (vocals), aka Drinkard Sisters, for their 2:15 p.m. Sunday set on the River Stage.
“We have a bunch of new songs that are new in the sense that they’re not properly released yet,” said Brown, who grew up in Farmington Hills listening to Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones and The Byrds. “While those songs that are getting old to us now, they can be new to basically any audience we haven’t played in front of, which would be this one.”
Brown and his bandmates have been playing in front of local, national and international audiences since making their live debut at the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival in 2015. Together, they deliver honky-tonk howls mixed with honeyed harmonies to provide a hillbilly-deluxe-meets-dive-bar-classic-rock sound for the Motor City.
Since their formation, the Craig Brown Band has released their latest single, “Big City Small Town,” a sped-up Tom Pettyish ditty about “how someone’s girlfriend used to be that guy’s girlfriend, and fast-forward a half-year later, and they’re all friends.”
They also released their beautiful twang-filled debut album, “The Lucky Ones Forget,” on Third Man Records in 2017. The album’s now in its second press.
Recorded “almost live” at Brown Rice Studio with Warren Defever, “The Lucky Ones Forget” includes 11 standout tracks, especially “Shoulda Been Fishin’” and “Mine’s Better.” The poignant Petty-inspired “Shoulda Been Fishin’” is a first-person song from beyond the grave about a friend who died by suicide.
“When I lived in Ferndale, I had a little four-track set up in my upstairs, and when I found out the news, and I went straight upstairs and recorded that song,” said Brown, who’s also shared a bill with Dwight Yoakam. “It’s basically him saying like I should’ve done all these things and then maybe I wouldn’t have gone this route.”
On “Mine’s Better,” Brown sings an angry acoustic tale about an annoying co-worker and her boyfriend who eventually become friends with him. “When I first met her, we got off on the wrongest foot ever, and we came across bad to each other,” he said. “She got a song for how shitty she was, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
After Mo Pop, Brown wants to return to the studio to work on the band’s next project for Third Man Records. He’ll also play some European tour dates with his bandmates in September.
“We have a bunch of recordings we did over a year ago, but we need to add a couple of more songs for it come out as an album or an EP,” Brown said. “We’ve been touring, and we’ve been playing shows, but we’ve got to get our asses in the studio to finish this up. It’s on me and stuff.”
Tickets are still available for this weekend’s Mo Pop Festival. Single-day passes are $95 while weekend passes are $149.50.