“To Turn Back Now” is a complex ballad, expressing the peaks and valleys of a thorny love affair, hinting at moments of love, confusion, remorse and triumph. But Frog Holler songwriter Darren Schlappich isn’t addressing any single person — rather, it’s a song for his band-mates and their small-but-devoted cadre of listeners.
“I still believe/in songs as kings/that melody/helped me to survive/and steal, one last look/on the chance we took on something real/ nothing’s sacred but I’ve been devo-o-o-o-out,” he croons in the 2009 recording.
While almost all of their contemporaries from the Reading, Pa. country/folk/rock scene have long since folded, Frog Holler has kept their six-man lineup intact for a decade. But it hasn’t been easy. It’s a thorny love affair indeed.
“We’ve tried to do as much as we can without starving to death. It’s really difficult to make money as a six-piece alternative country band,” says Schlappich while driving home from his day job (he owns a small beer-tap cleaning business). “When you’ve been doing it for 14 years, you have to take a look at not just, ‘Oh, I always wanted to play this place,’ but it has to make sense for us to do it. We have families now, so we have to be a little smarter about it.”
This weekend, Holler makes their annual pilgrimage down US-422 for two sets at Johnny Brenda’s. Schlappich says it’s one of the “smarter” shows they do: “To me, it’s the best place to play down there. I don’t like to go begging for a gig, and they actually ask us to play this show every year. It’s nice to be asked.”