The Ben Miller Band formed, roughly, in 2005, as a result of an open-mike night experiment gone right. Ben Miller, who grew up in rural Washington state before attending art school in Philadelphia, had been working as an open-mike night host in his adopted home of Joplin, Missouri when he met and began playing music with Doug Dicharry and Scott Leeper. Miller fronts the band on guitar (styles include both slide and fingerpicking), banjo, harmonica, and lead vocals. He's also proven to be an accomplished songwriter. Dicharry is primarily a percussionist, though he also plays trombone and mandolin. Percussion-wise he handles drums, washboard, and electric spoons. Leeper gives the band its backbone, keeping rhythm on his homemade one-string washtub bass. The bass is constructed from a weed-eater string that runs from the end of a stick that sits upon an inverted washtub, to the washtub itself, which presumably houses an elaborate pickup system that gives the instrument's deep resonant sound a lot more volume than you'd expect. Occasionally, Leeper also keeps rhythm on the side of an old-school fire bell that he's transformed into an interesting-sounding drum. Dicharry and Leeper both add backing vocals as well.
The band plays a gritty, modern mixture of various types of old American heritage music, including blues, bluegrass, folk, and country. Originally, the bandmembers called their sound "Ozark Stomp" as a tribute to the influences from their geographical region, but now refer to it as "Mudstomp" in reference to their label, which focuses on similar music, but in a wider regional area. In 2010 the Ben Miller Band released a pair of albums on Mudstomp, 1 Ton on June 10 and 2 Ton on August 5. The albums were assembled from a huge backlog of material and were developed as they were being recorded. Aside from the closeness of release dates and titles, the only other similarity is that both albums contain 14 songs. The albums are remarkably different and punctuate the band's versatility.
The Ben Miller Band is not only curious and inventive musically, but also instrument and equipment-wise. Leeper's homemade one-string bass has been mentioned, but Miller and Dicharry have some interesting gadgets of their own. Miller sings into two microphones; one is your typical mike, while the other is the receiver from an old land-to-land telephone. The telephone mike offers a distorted sound and is run through a trunk, which Miller keeps beat on with his right foot using a drum pedal. Attached to Miller's left foot is a tambourine and he alternates between the pedal and the tambourine. Dicharry, meanwhile, has a suitcase full of distortion pedals, which he uses to great effect when playing washboard and electric spoons.
On May 22, 2011, the Ben Miller Band was in Lawrence, Kansas preparing for a concert when their hometown of Joplin, Missouri was decimated by a tornado. The band set up a nonprofit charity to help rebuild their community and issued the benefit album Record for Joplin. They followed it with their own Heavy Load for CD Baby in 2012.
After touring in support of the album, they won a slot opening for ZZ Top in the summer of 2013. Given the rave reviews the band received for those performances, they signed to New West late in the year. Recording in Nashville with producer Vance Powell (whose various credits include work with Jack White, Kings of Leon, Wanda Jackson, and Buddy Guy), Any Way, Shape or Form was issued in early August of 2014. ~ Chris Berggren