General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers
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General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers

Savannah, Georgia, United States | SELF

Savannah, Georgia, United States | SELF
Band Rock Folk




"“Sick Sick Lover” video by General Oglethorpe and the Panhandlers"

The question: What happens when an innovative and ambitious young band also has the technical skills to create their own music videos?

The answer: “Sick Sick Lover” by General Oglethorpe and the Panhandlers, which you can watch on the band’s website or below.

Lead singer Devin Smith is on the verge of graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in film — this video is part of his senior thesis. The gory opening gives way to a darkly orgiastic second half.

This is the first video off General O’s debut album Whistle the Dirges, which can be purchased here and which I reviewed here. - Savannah Unplugged

"New video for “Red Hot” from General Oglethorpe and the Panhandlers"

I’ve mentioned the young Savannah band General Oglethorpe and the Panhandlers several times on this blog since I started it in January, including this review of their debut album Whistle the Dirges.

Lead singer Devin Smith recently got his undergrad degree in film from the Savannah College of Art and Design — which gave the band a perfect opportunity to shoot music videos for his senior project. Bands certainly get better coverage online if there are good videos of some sort out there for inclusion on web pages, calendar listings, blog posts, and so forth. And General O certainly has two good pieces out there now.

Here’s the newly released video “Red Hot”, which is upbeat and dreamlike. Here’s the band’s much darker first video, “Sick Sick Lover”, winner for SCAD’s spring award for best non-narrative student film.

General O is currently working on an EP. More about upcoming gigs and other info can be found on the band’s website. - Savannah Unplugged

"The Mad Mackerel Recommends... General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers."

It is not a demanding or difficult album, but it is most certainly an inviting and rewarding one. It easily and confidently mixes pace and styles – as easy with the vulnerable as with the vibrant – and scalpel sharp lyrics are observed throughout, saying more in a couplet than many bands achieve in a whole song. Check out the upbeat bounce and pace of the suggestive Sick Sick Lover. - The Mad Mackerel

"General Oglethorpe & The Panhandlers to participate in new music festival."

Stoked about Savannah Stopover

Local band General Oglethorpe & The Panhandlers to participate in new music festival

There are going to be some outstanding local bands participating in the Savannah Stopover music festival.

The list includes General Oglethorpe & The Panhandlers, whose members are Devin Smith, Anna Chandler, Duncan Iaria and Daniel Wilson. Their fans cross all categories and age groups and include legendary publicist Bobby Zarem.

“They’re all terrific, very bright and a lot of fun to be with,” Zarem said. “Devin is very bright and mentally alive. He’s a terrific kid. I only heard them once, but I thought they were fantastic.”

“The band plays a type of folk music that is unhindered from conventional folk music,” Smith said. “We utilize poetic lyrics featuring subject matter that is raw and honest.

“Our delivery of this is disguised in hooks and melodies that keep you listening,” he said. “Acoustic and electric instruments come together to harmonize in alternating rhythms in our music.”

Smith came to music early. “I have always wanted to be a musician since the second grade,” he said. “I have written songs since then, as well. My parents bought me a guitar when I was 12 and I have played almost every day since.”

The band began when Smith and Chandler, both Savannah College of Art and Design students, met in a cafeteria in 2008. “I was trying to meet new people and began to hang around her and her friends,” he said.

“I played guitar in her room until one day she finally decided we should sing together,” Smith said. “We played ‘Grey Ice Water’ by Modest Mouse and from there went on to record a cover of Nana Grizol’s ‘Black Box’ for an Elephant Six Collective Compilation album.”

The band originally was comprised of Smith, Chandler and Kellan Stover. “We played at Zunzifest in the summer of 2009,” Smith said. “That is where we met Duncan Iaria, who replaced Kellan on drums.”

Wilson, the pianist and the only non-SCAD student in the bunch, joined the band early this year. “Jak Horner plays bass for us, but has no plans to continue with us after the Stopover,” Smith said. “He needs to focus on graphic design, so we are looking for a bass player.”

The band recorded its first LP, “Whistle the Dirges,” last summer at the White Noise Factory, then mixed it at an Athens studio, The Willow Run House. It was mastered in Nashville, Tenn., by John Baldwin, who has worked with artists such as Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, the White Stripes and the Silver Jews.

“We had an incredible time with the whole process and learned a lot about where we want to go musically,” Smith said. “There are 12 tracks on the album. Each one offers a completely different experience from the others.”

The band is planning to tour this summer. “Now that we have this album, the sky is the limit for touring,” Smith said. “We are writing new material every day, and soon we will record an EP to accompany ‘Whistle the Dirges’ at our merchandise table.”

Smith said Savannah is the inspiration for the music. “This place is incredible,” he said. “From the history to the current status of the city, everything is inspiring. Our life here has been throughout our college years, and so much has happened that cannot be forgotten.

“Also, Anna and I were both raised similarly, though in different parts of the country,” Smith said. “We relate on certain themes about philosophy and religion and life in general.

“I write the music and lyrics to some songs,” he said. “Anna writes probably 80% of the lyrics.”

The band’s members are stoked about the Savannah Stopover. “We have the opportunity to work with other bands in similar situations as ours,” Smith said. “The festival will hopefully encourage bigger acts to find their way to Savannah. The bands in Savannah can network with the acts coming through and help us find tour dates in other states.” - Savannah Morning News

"A Lil’ Venture with General O"

Devin Smith, Duncan Iaria, Anna Chandler, and Jack Horner sit on a couch and wait. They comprise General Oglethorpe and the Panhandlers and they have assembled—scrunched on the couch—for a quick, informal photoshoot to promote their upcoming show with Besides Daniel on Tuesday, August 3. When and where? They don’t quite know yet.

Anna Chandler giggles nervously. “We know it’s at a dock and we are waiting to get the woman’s address,” she says.

The other members of the band laugh.

“The woman is out of town, as soon as she gets back in town—” Chandler says.

“When does she get back in town?” I ask.

“I don’t know when,” she says. “I’m getting nervous . . . but she’s like . . . we bank on it. She’s all about it. She likes our ‘old time’ music.”

Their “old time” music is more of experimental folk music, which right now they aren’t playing. No, they’re waiting, and though they are nervous, you can’t tell because . . . well, you just have to meet them:

Anna Chandler, 22, is from Greenville, South Carolina. She has a lizard named Princess who went missing for eight days before being found (alive) in a pillowcase—Princess likes dark places. Chandler also enjoys working out and watching “The Golden Girls,” simultaneously. She is vocalist and songwriter for General O, as well as player of various instruments: singing saw, accordion, marimba, glockenspiel, and various other keyed things. She played bass and guitar many years ago, but the keys have taken over.

Devin Smith, 21, is from Mount Carmel, Illinois. He has a new kitten named Big Boy Murder Face, who is currently at the vet waiting to “get his balls taken off” but has to wait because the tiny kitten isn’t over the two pound mark. Smith, when not playing with Big Boy Murder Face, acts as vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist for the band.

Duncan Iaria, 23, is from Florence, Alabama, but will tell you that he grew up in Portland because it sounds cooler. He is in the Gold League in StarCraft II and has the nickname Captain Beat-off, which was given to him by Smith because of Iaria’s skills as General O’s drummer. Iaria in turn gave Smith a nickname of his own—Baby Devo—for Smith’s baby face.

Jack Horner, 21, is from Montgomery, New York. Horner—Chandler calls him Jack-ay!, usually in repetitive, quick succession—has a habit of actually helping his friends move when they ask him to, so he gets calls almost every weekend from someone he knows in Savannah who needs his assistance. He plays bass for the band and also marimba on a few tracks of their upcoming album, “Whistle the Dirges,” which currently does not have a release date.

The band was, “birthed from the belly of a whale,” says Iaria.

“Yes, birth from the belly of a whale. Partially, anyway,” says Chandler. “I wanted to contribute to this compilation that was doing covers of bands from the Elephant 6 Collective, and Devin and I played guitar, like, once together. He came over to my room and played guitar and we sang together, and then we just found out we really clicked and started sharing our original songs on the porch.”

“I think you just quoted the Myspace,” says Smith.

“I did quote the Myspace!” Chandler laughs with the rest of the band. “Then we just kept playing together from then on.”

Iaria and Horner joined the band after seeing Chandler and Smith perform at ZunziFest on October 3, 2009.

“Jack was drunk and fell in love with us,” says Smith.

“Jack was drunk and asked if he could be our bassist,” says Chandler.

Horner laughs. “I transferred to SCAD last fall, and I knew these guys through a couple friends. I heard them play at her house actually.” He points at Chandler.

“Yeah,” she says.

Horner continues. “It was after a party. They were playing their song, ‘Red Hot,’ and I was like, I totally love this song. A month later, I heard them play at ZunziFest and apparently was drunk and asked them if I could play with them.”

Chandler grins. “Several others asked us if they could play, but with Jack, it was true love.”
Smith pauses and then, “Duncan . . .”

Iaria laughs. “You can’t not think about Captain Beat-off.”

The band cracks up.

“Well, we had another drummer at first, until about February,” says Smith.

“Until I saw you guys at ZunziFest and I was like, I’m gonna play with them.” Iaria grins.

“Our old drummer, Kellan [Stover], is more of a singer songwriter and he was playing drums for us,” says Smith. “But it wasn’t really his passion. And. . .”

“We were gettin’ serious,” says Chandler.

“So we picked up Duncan from another band that I knew of through friends,” says Smith. “I stole him. Nah, we share.”

“You meet a lot of musicians,” says Chandler, “but we all clicked in a very unique way. And kind of get each other. Especially Devin and I, we totally have the same . . .”

“We all hang out and drink and eat cheesy hot dogs together,” Smith says, giving a wide grin.

“I hear of all these successful bands that hate everybody who’s in their band,” says Chandler. “I don’t get how they function. And that’s gotta—”

“Suck,” says Smith.

“I can’t understand being in a band without being friends with them,” says Horner.

“It seems like it would be purely professional at that level,” says Iaria, “and I don’t think that’s exactly why we do it. Because we sure don’t make any muh-nay.”

One reason they do it? Their sound.

“Our music can be melancholy,” says Chandler.

“I don’t think anyone has ever described us as melancholy before,” says Smith.

“In some of our new tracks,” says Chandler, pushing herself into the couch a little more, “we get a little . . .”

“We get pretty rock ‘n’ roll,” says Smith.

“Some of it can be really high-rangey, a litte pop-y,” says Chandler. “Devin and I are both way drugged up on Modest Mouse, so it’s always gonna be that air of the melancholy.”

“What was it that your teacher or someone said?” Smith asks Chandler.

“Oh yeah! My teacher!” says Chandler. “We played at the MFA opening house show and Alan Drummond, an illustration professor, was giving me a critique and whipped out my band name and said he loved ‘the beautiful chaos but the complex togetherness and tightness of our music.’ Someone once told us that each song . . . we don’t always . . . we’re not very structured, a lot of times, and someone told us that they’re like little adventures where you don’t know where you’re going. Which I liked that.”

Smith adopts a southern accent. “Lil’ ‘ventures, but we just don’t know where we’re goin’.”
Iaria laughs. “A lot of people who have heard the recordings say that it just sounds like we’re having a lot of fun.”

“Yeah,” says Chandler. “Fun with a little sense of recklessness but also . . . .”

Smith continues. “We don’t play sloppy, but it’s—”

“It’s multi-layered,” says Chandler.

Smith: “Like three-part harmonies and—”

Chandler: “. . . marimba . . .”

“Crazy instruments like a glockenspiel,” Smith finishes.

“It seems all over the place, but it comes together,” says Chandler.

Stephanie Augello, the photographer for their informal photoshoot enters and overhears their conversation. “Toy chest,” Augello says. “That’s what I thought when I saw you.”

“Yeah, toy chest,” says Chandler.

It’s time for the photos—this particular waiting time is over. But General O has a few more things to wait on. As mentioned before, they are currently recording their first LP, “Whistle the Dirges.” With tracks like, “Hush Animal Parade”—Chandler jumps with excitement when it gets to “the big part with the horns!”—and “Sick Sick Lover”—their take on a gospel chain gang song—the twelve track album will be mastered in either October or January. A lot hinges on the album. It could be an open door to distribution, more shows in Atlanta and Athens, and maybe even fame.

They love to perform and have played almost every music venue in Savannah: Tantra Lounge, The Wormhole, Hangfire, Desoto Row, LiveWire, at the SCAD Record Fair with Nana Grizol. Their love for performance makes the unknown location of their upcoming show the biggest thing they are waiting on right now. However, Chandler assures that the show on Tuesday, August 3 with Besides Daniel will go on. It’s just another little adventure in which they don’t know exactly where they’re going. - New York Is Boring

"General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers, “Whistle the Dirges,” and the wonders of contradiction."

I’m not quite sure where to begin with a review of Whistle the Dirges, the first album by the Savannah-based General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers.

With the complex, evocative lyrics? With the layers of sound — including the occasional accordion, flugel horn and dobro — in the final mix? With the striking emotional range of lead singer Devin Smith’s voice? With the inherent contradictions in the band’s name and in the title of their first album?

For those who don’t know, General Oglethorpe was the visionary founder of Savannah and the colony of Georgia in 1733. The utopian Oglethorpe’s original plan of streets and squares still controls — and magnifies — the diverse interactions that characterize public life in Savannah’s historic district.

Maybe because of the obvious grounding in place, I think of “Mary” as the album’s signature song. It begins like this:

This is a typically Savannah conversation. Two people of vastly different backgrounds cross paths in public; they’ve seen each other before; the older woman echoes Lady Astor’s famous description of Savannah (“a beautiful woman with a dirty face”) as the conversation turns quickly personal, an intimacy made easier by the certainty that the exchange will be cut short by circumstance — and by the certainty that the two will see each other again.

General O’s upbeat sound is a mix of genres — mainly rock and folk, but there’s no easy comparison for me to draw. (For what it’s worth, the band lists Modest Mouse, The Elephant 6 Collective, Arcade Fire, The Beatles, M. Ward, and Andrew Bird among its influences.) Anna Chandler’s backing vocals add resonance to Smith’s occasionally lilting voice. Jak Horner’s bass and Duncan Iaria’s drums sometimes come forward suddenly, only to retreat with abrupt changes in mood and tempo.

The lyrics to "Mary," "Old Threads," and "Over the Counter Silence"
Some of the tracks are perhaps best described as straight up rock and roll, like “Sick Sick Lover,” which opens with a fast pace and intense, sensual lyrics: “i’m sorry for taking all your time/lackluster lips tainted gin & lime/spent a good ten years burying dragonflies/knee-deep in waterbeds and mae west thighs.” Even in the songs that might seem more mainstream, for want of a better word, the lyrics are rich like this with metaphor and symbol. There’s a vibrant unpredictability to the phrasing too — the result is a level of complexity that could open artistic doors for General O even while creating innumerable challenges. I think a few tracks, like “Hush Animal,” get too caught up in the density of sound and of meaning, but that song is followed on the album by “Red Hot,” with its steadier beat and catchy, experience-over-education lyrics: “well I’ve learned more from a cigarette/than all my schooling taught.”

As much as I like General O when the tempo is fast, I think I like the slow moments even better. Like the vulnerability of Smith’s voice in passages from “Mary” or at the beginning of “Over the Counter Silence” as he sings, “oh the mouths of the soles of my shoes say/take me home/and you said what the world needs/is an over the counter silence.”

I had been vaguely aware of General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers for months before I heard them in a perfect setting — surrounded by a contemplative audience on a rainy Sunday night at The Sentient Bean here in Savannah. They were on the bill with singer-songwriter Dare Dukes, whose upcoming show and great album Prettiest Transmitter of All I’ll be writing about soon. It will be interesting to watch how General O’s live show develops in the coming months, as they develop new material and as promoting the album inevitably takes them to new venues. - Savannah Unplugged

"Four-Star General"

Let's remember that Talking Heads began as an art school band - a bunch of students at the Rhode Island School of Design - back in the mid 1970s. That, you could say, turned out well.

Savannah's equivalent is General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers. Each of the band members is tied to SCAD - that whole "creative careers" thing - and each brings something unique, conceptually, to the project.

The band is celebrating its first CD, Whistle the Dirges, with a performance and party Feb. 5 at Tantra Lounge, with an opening set from Lady Lazarus.

General O (that's the preferred shorthand) plays a kind of literate, poly-syllabic folk music, with lyrics that radiate from the obtuse and art-school consciousness stream to the strictly narrative. Think Modest Mouse mated with the Decemberists.

This is put across with guitars, bass, drums and accordion (!), with mood and tempo shifts, and a sort of quirky aesthetic and harmonic gang-vocal approach that brings to mind both Jefferson Airplane and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. And pretty much everything in between.

General O's music is equal parts whimsy, reflective poetry and finger-snapping fun.

The lead singer, guitar player and co-writer is Devin Smith, an Illinois native who's studying filmmaking. "We're all dreamers," he says. "Obviously, we're at SCAD and we have art student-type mindsets, so we wanted it from the beginning to be something."

They are, proudly, a self-sustaining collective. The Tantra bash will also include the premiere of the video for their song "Sick Sick Lover." Smith directed the clip as his senior project.

For his web design class, drummer Duncan Iaria put together the official band site.

Anna Chandler, she of the accordion, musical saw and other left-field instruments, designed the CD package and provided the endearing illustrations that go with the lyric sheet.

Chandler composes most of the lyrics, with Smith collaborating here and there, and putting music to her words.

They don't always make sense - art, of course, doesn't have to - but they're provocative. And fascinating.

"It comes out like that because I'm a fiction writer and Devin's a filmmaker," says Chandler, who graduated with degrees in illustration and creative writing in 2010, a year after General O's odyssey began. "That narrative aspect's going to be in everything we do, I'm sure."

We both spent years

Alluding ships in half a hundred colors

But you were a club-footed shoe-in for Christ listening to pilgrims' tales

With your mouth half-full

But this tense were shaking in between

- "Hush Animal"

In the summer of 2009, Chandler - she's originally from South Carolina - returned to Savannah after an internship up north. She played a little bit of guitar and other things. Always fascinated by toy instruments, she had purchased a real one - a Hohner student-sized accordion - during her time away.

"I had this epiphany when I was in New York," she explains. "I was kind of scared to write music, but somehow through the magic of the tiny accordion ...

"Devin and I had played music before. He would come to my dorm, he played guitar and he was really good. He was living with my best friend that summer. I brought my instruments over and we just jammed together. It clicked."

They first song they played was Modest Mouse's "Grey Ice Water," followed by the Beatles' "Why Don't We Do It in the Road."

For Smith, who had been knee-deep in SCAD work since 2008, hooking up with Chandler was a revelation.

"I would play and record on the computer, to pre-made drumbeats," he says. "I was really excited when I got to work with other people. I'm from a really small town, so this is the first band I've had."

Together, they recorded a song for a local compilation CD. "We wouldn't do our vocals in front of each other," Smith laughs. "One had to go smoke a cigarette on the porch while the other one did their vocals."

The band played its first gig in October of '09, at ZunziFest.

"Watching them the first time, I could tell that they were really new to the whole thing, but I really liked their style," says Iaria, who also drums in the band Howler. "And I felt that there wasn't really much in Savannah that was like that, live."

Alabama-born Iaria joined the band, which was soon augmented by bass player Jak Horner (although he plays and sings on Whistle the Dirges, and will be onstage for the CD release gig, Horner has since left General O to focus on his career in graphic design).

Everything snowballed. "We would go to Tantra and play open mic night," Smith recalls. "And that was like the Greek Theatre or whatever. It was amazing to play in front of people."

Adds Chandler: "We were getting strong reactions. It was nice to have that affirmation: ‘OK, we're not the only ones who like this.'"

I'm sorry for taking all your time

Lackluster lips tainted gin and lime

Spent a good 10 years burying dragonflies

Knee-deep in waterbeds and Mae West thighs

- "Sick Sick Lover"

Smith and Chandler prefer to write over the Internet - or, at least, that's how it works out a lot. "We'll be in different places over break, and she'll send me a sort of poem that she wants to be a song," Smith says. "I'll send her music back and she'll be like ‘I like this part,' and then we change things. It's a lot like back-and-forth, but every now and then there's a song where we just sit down together. ("Greyhound Rows," from Whistle the Dirges, was written while the two were in the same room.)

The complexity of the arrangements comes later. "A lot of times I don't play straight through, because there's a lot of negative space in the music," explains Smith. "I'm thinking about where the drumbeat will come in - or her accordion, mainly. There's a lot to think about, but there's a lot that comes by chance and re-writing once we're playing.

"Now we're working with a keyboardist as well, Daniel Wilson, so there's even more melodies to throw in."

The album includes a well-woven tapestry of marimba, flugelhorn, glockenspiel, trombone, trumpet and other delights. When Smith straps on an electric guitar, General O becomes a rock ‘n' roll band. Sort of.

"It ends up sounding like us, regardless of what instruments are being played," he says.

Brian Kucinski recorded Whistle the Dirges at his Savannah home studio (the White Noise Factory) and co-produced with Smith.

The Panhandlers' goal is to branch out and perform wherever, whenever they can. They like the idea of serving as Savannahian musical ambassadors.

After all, there's that name, which they adopted early on. "We wanted something local, and at the time I guess we wanted something kind of silly," Chandler says.

"Savannah was very fresh to me at that point," explains Smith. "You're impressed by all the history, but then you've also got the other side, that's maybe got some poverty. Everywhere we play a show, there's always people there panhandling. We played a show in DeSoto Row a year ago, and the panhandlers got on our instruments and started playing them and stuff."

Interjects Chandler: "We wanted a Savannah sound, though. We wanted something to characterize where everything was coming from ... although some people from out of town have trouble pronouncing ‘Oglethorpe.'" - Connect Savannah

""It's discoveries like this that restores our faith in songwriting as an unpretentious art.""

"Whistle The Dirges is the most satisfyingly complete album we've heard in a long, long time. It's discoveries like this that restores our faith in songwriting as an unpretentious art. 2011 just got very interesting indeed." - The Waiting Room

"Brings something else to music!"

When I first opened my email and saw a message about a band called General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I give pretty much everything an initial listen and decide if I want to continue learning more about the band. After I heard the song "Red Hot," I found myself interested.

General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers hail from the South in Savannah, Georgia. In the email, their sound was described as polysyllabic folk infused with bright rock tempos, which is a new mix to me. The music is best to be called that and includes up two three person harmonies, horn, marimba & accordion riffs. The band expands on the normal folk style and updates it to their liking. It's not like anything out there and certainly brings something else to music. Listen and download "Red Hot" and "Sick Sick Lover" below. You can pick up the full album, Whistle the Dirges, on iTunes here. - Oh So Fresh!


North of the River (EP) - due winter 2011/12
Whistle the Dirges (LP) - Feb. 2011

Daydream Generation 9 (Quixodelic Records, 2010)
Fanfare for Elephant 6 (2009)
Second Fanfare for Elephant 6 (2010)

Radio play:
Greyhound Rows, Red Hot, Sick Sick Lover, and Over The Counter Silence (all from have played on SCAD Radio, Houndstooth Radio (Los Angeles, CA), Radio Phoenix (Phoenix, AZ), ErrorFM Live (Portland, OR), CUXR - The Waiting Room, & The Electric Boogie Show.



General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers was formed in 2009 by friends Devin Smith & Anna Chandler. Together, they began writing narrative folk-tinged melodies layered with soaring harmonies, bright guitar riffs, and unusual instrumentation such as accordion & marimba. Duncan Iaria's high-energy drumming, Daniel Wilson's classical piano chops & horn refrains, and Crystina Parker's velvety bass made the band a full indie-rock outfit anchored in southern grit & charm.

In February 2011, General O released their debut album Whistle the Dirges. With themes ranging from untimely death, lost love, gentrification, summer sweat, and wanderlust, the band was hailed locally as "the sound of Savannah," with international critics professing, "It's discoveries like this that restores our faith in songwriting as an unpretentious art" (TWRHQ).

Touted as a "self-sustaining musical collective" by Connect Savannah, General O produce their own award-winning music videos, websites and graphics. Their latest endeavor is completing a five-song EP, North of the River, while continuing to deliver live performances full of contagious energy and passion.