Dan Lotti knows that usually the best beach experiences come when you least expect them. "A perfect day could be when there is no one else there and a big thunderstorm comes through that lights up the sky and makes the ocean go crazy," says Lotti, frontman for Dangermuffin. "There's a thousand different days that could be perfect."
But Lotti and his bandmates, guitarist Mike Sivilli and drummer Stephen Sandifer, have one big advantage. Their porch is right on the Folly sand, so every day is a beach day.
When pressed, Lotti takes us through a typically great day, although he stresses that the perfect beach day can never be planned, and, in fact, the only necessity is that there are no necessities.
"It's really more about the laid-back Folly lifestyle," he says. "So having that freedom of no timeframe is the most important thing. The day wouldn't start until at least 11 a.m. We'd slowly wake up and ride our beach cruisers down to the Lost Dog Café, meet up with some friends, have a good lunch, mosey back on the bikes, and get on the sand." After that, time would just bleed along in that easy beach way.
"It's best on a Monday or Tuesday when there aren't too many people out there," Lotti continues. "And it will always entail frisbee. In the past couple years, we've gotten really into disc golf." And, of course, they can run the 50 feet home whenever they need something.
But more than anything, it's the Folly community that defines what the beach means to them. On lazy summer afternoons and nights, they can be found playing — or just drinking — at Surf Bar. "Just the communal feeling of being out at Surf Bar on a Sunday night is great," says Lotti. "It's just an awesome beach environment."
In the last year, the guys have seen much less of their beloved beach, since exploding onto the national scene with their latest album, 2010's Moonscapes. The beach was Lotti's main songwriting influence for the album.
"There's this particular energy that comes off the ocean," says Lotti. "And last winter when I was writing the record, I would walk on the beach, and there's a lot of energy that hits you. Lyrically, it's all over the album. We called it Moonscapes because of the tidal fluctuations and the craters they create on the beach that makes it like the Sea of Tranquility."
Lotti continues, "A lot of the songs are very elemental, about tides and winds, and wondering what it would be like on the Sea of Tranquility. It's very lighthearted, and that's from the lightheartedness of the beach and the easygoing vibes that affect whatever your craft may be."
Their recent success has come from playing several festivals and getting national exposure on SiriusXM's JamOn station. It's even drawn attention to Folly as a strong little music community, shining the light on fellow acts like Sol Driven Train and James Justin Burke. And they're just getting started, playing recently at the Wanee Music Festival with the Allman Brothers Band, and looking ahead to the All Good Festival in July after a hometown gig headlining the Pour House on June 25.
They've gained new fans all over who appreciate the beachy vibes. "One girl from Minnesota said on the first sunny day of spring, she put in our CD, rolled down the windows, and felt like she was at the beach," says Lotti. "When we tour, we don't say we're from Charleston. We say Folly Beach because it's part of our identity, and that comes through."
One track in particular, "Coffin Island," stands out. "Back in the day when ships would come into Charleston, they wouldn't let the sick people off," says Lotti. "They'd drop them on Folly, and it got that nickname because people were just left to die. So it was basically a leper colony, and that still affects the energy. As a musician, I try to be a conduit and tap into energies, and that stuff just forces its way through. Folly is a vortex in so many ways."
While touring can be tough on these beach bums, they know Folly is always waiting. "We were freezing in Maine this winter, and then we got stuck in a blizzard in West Virginia, but the next day we were on the beach," says Lotti. "And coming off the road and collapsing in the sand, that's the best situation. That's when you appreciate it the most."
Maybe there is a perfect beach day after all.