The Spanglers: Not Your Typical 'Family Band from West Virginia'

Jun 5, 2016

Since the show began almost two years ago, A Change of Tune has highlighted some of the best up-and-coming artists out of these West Virginia hills with podcast-y chats ranging from The Sea The Sea to Coyotes in Boxes, Qiet to Bud Carroll and beyond.

But those interviews have been a bit infrequent, and since West Virginia Day is coming up (not to mention A Change of Tune’s second birthday), we thought we’d do something special: 30 days, 30 brand new #WVmusic interviews that range from Morgantown alt-rockers and Parkersburg singer-songwriters to West Virginia music venues and regional artist management and beyond, all of which contribute to this state’s wild and wonderful music scene.

And today, we are chatting with The Spanglers, a rock'n, folk'n family band out of Lewisburg, West Virginia. Between the six of them, The Spanglers have over 80 years of combined experience as musicians, not to mention hours and hours of original material. Which begs the question...

The Spangler family have been playing music for over 30 years.
Credit Jim Logan & Jacob H. Logan

How did The Spanglers start playing music?

Mark Spangler has been playing music since the 1980s and has had a couple songs chart on the West Coast scene as a solo artist. His children--Hannah, Josiah, and Evan--grew up surrounded by different instruments and genres of music, and at young ages, started playing music and writing songs together and with their dad. Now, Mark, Evan, Josiah, and Hannah collaborate as The Spanglers who consist of: Mark Spangler on lead vocals and guitar, Josiah Spangler on drums and percussion, Evan Olds on bass and percussion, Hannah Logan on background vocals, Bill Clapham on keyboards, Abigail Reynolds on background vocals, and Jeremiah Hatfield on lead guitar.

Why did you choose your last name for the band name?  

We are known around our hometown as a musical family and are often referred to as The Spanglers. Accordingly, we've adopted The Spanglers as our band name. We think it has a ring to it.

Where do The Spanglers play around West Virginia?    

We frequent Southern West Virginia, playing festivals, clubs, coffeehouses, theaters, and private events. We recently played The Walker Theater with Ron Sowell and friends at Tamarack, and we're slated to play the Wanderlust Festival at Snowshoe Resort and the West Virginia State Fair, to name a few.

What’s been the highlight of The Spanglers' musical journey?

We have enjoyed writing, arranging, recording, and now releasing our latest album, Restless. The album is completely original, recorded by our friend, Kenneth Clutter, and featuring artwork by our friend and West Virginia artist, Jacob Logan.

The Spanglers, pictured here recording at Turkey Knob Studios in Fayette County.
Credit Josiah Spangler

What advice would you give to anyone starting to make music?            

Have fun. Practice hard and frequently. Don't try to sound like your musical heroes; find your own voice. Don't let your preconceived notions of what others may think squelch your creative process. Be creative, do your best, and trust the listener.

What’s it like making music in West Virginia?

Our music has been well-received, and we've been fortunate to have a pretty full schedule. We encounter a wide variety of venues, and fortunately we have the capability of playing both as a full-scale rock band and as a stripped down acoustic ensemble, depending on the size of the venue.

The Appalachian culture is musically and artistically diverse, so we've noticed a wide age-range represented in our fanbase.

Credit Jim Logan & Jacob H. Logan

Do you feel held back by being in West Virginia? Or does it feel like a musically-supportive place?          

We've long enjoyed a very strong network of musical friends. From attending the songwriters group that meets at Tamarack the first Friday of every month, to swapping shows with other bands from other places, we feel creatively validated by the musical camaraderie here in West Virginia--where musicians are each others' biggest fans.

Catch The Spanglers around the state, including at Charleston's Taylor Books.
Credit Abigail Reynolds

What, in your opinion, needs to happen in the West Virginia music scene for it to move forward?

Externally, West Virginia tends to draw stereotypes that are inaccurate, including in the musical community. When folks hear "a family band from West Virginia," they are not likely expecting to hear what The Spanglers play. Nonetheless, we've been pretty well-received, and we do like to surprise people with our sound. Mediums like radio programming, social media, and festivals can promote the eclectic sounds of West Virginia and strengthen West Virginia's musical image and offerings to the world.

Internally, West Virginia artists and businesses/venues need to be mindful of how they benefit one another. Many artists operate at a loss financially, and some artists hurt good business by lack of professionalism. We think an open dialogue among venues and artists could help West Virginia's music scene and promote business and tourism.

The Spanglers' latest release is Restless. Keep an eye on their social media for their summer tour dates, including June 11 at Melody's in Beckley and July 30 at The RailYard in Bluefield. To hear more #WVmusic, tune in to A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. And for more #WVMusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic.