music insauga: Dead Penny Trio


"My high-hat is a frying pan I stole from my mom", explains Donny Milwaukee, the drummer for  Dead Penny Trio. 

Milwaukee uses drumsticks but doesn’t play the drums. Instead, a frying pan, tambourine, a metal-anarchy chopper, a Brazilian pandero, a skillet, a wood block, a cowbell, and a pair of Hi-Shakers, one of which he got for free as part of a sponsorship deal, are used to play one of the most unique sounding drum kits around. 

And his other band mates are just as unique. 

Mississauga-based Dead Penny Trio are the most unique band playing in Mississauga. With the Trombone, acoustic guitar, and a funky-ass drum kit all blending to form a melting pot of sounds, the outcome is music you haven’t heard before. Tack on the fact that all members of the band are wickedly talented dudes who have been playing music since they were kids, and are set to graduate with degrees in music. 

Sam Morton, who does the lead vocals and the acoustic guitar, was the man behind the wigged out vision for the band. The concept was to blend his favourite types of music - hip-hop, reggae and rock- and fuse it with skillful musicians that played funky instruments. Recruiting top talent was crucial for the music to work. 

"I needed someone who had that kind of the wackiness and knowledge of hip-hop to put this kind of thing together so you could do something interesting with it and have fun," said Morton. "I knew Donnie was the guy for it." 

With the drummer set he needed someone to play percussion. Ernesto Barahona, the trombone player, was the third part of the puzzle. Wanting someone who could bring a unique sound, but also knew  how to play jazz well, Morton knew it was vital to make it work. 

"I said to him ‘You’re not just going to play regular trombone, like you’ve gotta play bass, you gotta improvise’. I needed all those things basically to complete the whole package" said Morton. 

More than just playing music, Barahona has to do it in a way that fits with the rest of the group. It’s musical exercise. 

"I’m really isolated, it’s not like I’m hiding in the horn section. Everything I play has to make sense or it just sounds so wack," said Barahona. 

Injecting who they are into their music is a natural element for Dead Penny Trio. Working on their first album, which should be released early 2014, Morton who has taken the reigns to write the lyrics, says he can’t help but write what he knows.

"A few of them turned out to be introspective love songs," said Morton. "I typically write introspectively, because I’m a bit of a philosophical person. Even when I try and write a party song it always comes out a little bit wordy and intellectual". 

Dead Penny Trio finds fun ways to show their fun-loving personalities. For the video release of the "Thrift Shop" cover, the band rocked get-ups encompassing pajamas, cowboy hats, and tacky vests--clothes so horrible they had to have found it in, well, a thrift shop. People seemed to like it. It garnered 25k views on YouTube.

The video was a serious effort. Having to do over 15 takes, it was shot in an unrenovated room in Morton’s parent’s house in the middle of January. That meant no heating. 

"I had no layers. Between every take I would go put my jacket on," said Ernesto Barahona. "I was very grumpy."

 Despite frozen fingers, coldness, endless persistence, the video catapulted the trio into a realm of respect they were surprised by.

 "The best thing about that video was the recognition we got in the city. People would come up to me after shows and be like ‘man, I love what you did’", said Milwaukee.

 "I’m actually just getting a bunch of e-mails from people wanting that .mp3. There’s no boundaries. It’s so nice to get messages from Facebook. I have like friends in Mexico, and people from countries I never even knew existed in Europe. They’ll add me on Facebook and say "Oh, I really like your covers can’t wait to hear originals. It’s a beautiful thing," said Morton. 

With a taste of success, and mad props from respected peers and professors, Dead Penny Trio is rightly full of confidence. With a remarkably neat sound and a formidable work ethic, they don’t just blend rap, reggae and rock but blend heart, soul and funk. 

And they don’t plan on stopping any time soon. 

"It’s a humble beginning and I’m really happy with the video and how it turned out," said Morton. "But we’re not just stopping there."Catch them next at:
Spice Lounge in Port Credit:
July 7 (first Sunday of every month)

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