Bonfire Dub has deep roots, “Gypsy Roots.” Like the title of the their most recent album, the band is a celebration of community and creativity, inspired by a spirit of world travel and the shared yet diverse spectrum of the human experience.
Scotty Stoughton is the lyricist and singer for Bonfire Dub. At age 23, he loaded up his car in the East Coast and headed to Vail, Colorado. It wasn’t long before he immersed himself into the tight-knit music scene, and quickly started playing at open mic nights and collaborating with local musicians. In 1994, Stoughton started a band called Short Term Memory, which gained a large and loyal following in the Vail Valley. Stoughton and the band moved to L.A. — following their dream to get a record deal and make it big.
The band fizzled out after a few years, and Stoughton returned to Vail “with his tail between his legs,” as he recalls. But he formed another band, Sucker, with new members that included Rodney James Coquia, now on guitar for Bonfire Dub. They wrote a bunch of songs, moved to Boulder and bought van, put out a record and toured around the country.
“That’s how I got my feet wet,” shares Stoughton. “It’s how I really got into the music business, and began to understand how much work it takes to be an artists, and how hard it is and how much work it takes — all the late nights, no money, night-after-night grind, and partying, and all of it. It was pretty wild.
Toward the end of the Sucker days, Stoughton started getting invited to sit in with band during festivals and freestyle. Mark Vann, one of the founders of Leftover Salmon, had Stoughton get up in front of 3,000 people to freestyle. He jumped all around, spoke in rhythm about positivity and elevated the energy of the crowd.
“It launched a different evolution of my music,” shares Stoughton. “I started being around all these different groups and roots artists and bluegrass artists. I saw how they were creating community and sharing the spotlight — I loved it.”
He sat in with Sam Bush at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in front of 10,000 people. And it wasn’t too long after that Bonfire Dub was born.
Stoughton moved back to Vail, helped run the State Bridge music venue and Samana Lounge, and looked to create a band that would not be constrained by a record label — not required to look a certain way or be defined too specifically within a genre.
Up to this point Stoughton had only played the hand drums, so he started singing, writing songs and learning to play guitar.
The Bonfire Dub group brought on Jeff Armistead on keyboard, Trevor Noel Gagstetter on bass, and their original drummer, Brian Dillon. For several years, Bonfire Dub included Kaitlin Dawn, bringing in the melodies sweetly.
“We created a space where we could all be free. We could bring the intention, we could still be politically minded, travel inspired, environmentally aware, doing it for the sake of building our internal and external community, and having an outlet for our own hearts, and that was really the point,” shares Stoughton.
Bonfire Dub’s first record, “Search,” included a combination of DJ beats and acoustic melodies. “We were finding our way,” Stoughton says. “ It’s fun to listen to that record — it’s definitely different than we are now.”
The band has continued to evolve, now with drummer Mark Levy, and since its 2009 emergence, Bonfire Dub has welcomed Bridget Law of renowned folk music group Elephant Revival, as a part-time player and full-time family member.
The collaboration is natural — coalescing the divine feminine and the sweet sound of the violin into the Bonfire groove. Law is also a part of the ensembles' released EP, “Who We Are,” showcasing the band’s trance-style beats and expressive lyrics.
“Smiling faces, beaming with love; swiveling hips and shuffling feet; friends and families hand in hand; eyes and ears wide to the wisdom — this is the sight at every Bonfire Dub show,” shares Law. “The vibe is community, joy, Earth reverence and deep rhythms expressed through music. The lyrics are wisely woven stories, poetry and meaningful messages that folks can relate to and the musicians are behind them with hearts and souls. Working with Bonfire Dub over the last six years has always been delightful; laughter and sweet friendship paired with super great music and fun experiences are memories that will ring through my mind for a lifetime!”
Bonfire Dub plays a deep and powerful blend of roots music — original songs with rich melodies, featuring down tempo, acoustic laced and electric steel driven reggae, folk and dub. Bonfire’s lyrical repertoire is inspired from eastern philosophy, indigenous struggles, political injustice, international relief efforts and a deep respect for the soul of love and the balance of nature.
Stoughton founded a music and event production company, Bonfire Entertainment, and produces the WinterWonderGrass Festivals and Campout for the Cause — festivals that have focused on the power of community, art, physical expression and environmental awareness.
Bonfire Dub’s 2016 album, “Gypsy Roots,” has been called “a record for our times.”
“Bonfire Dub’s aural travelogue of communal renewal should open your heart and resonate in your mind as your ears bask in sounds rooted in the high country. A bold departure musically that is grounded in the emotions that connect us all,” as reviewed by Tom Genes of KZYR The Zephyr, a Vail Valley-based radio station.
The album highlights the dynamic and evolving sound of the band, flowing through original songs with rich melodies, and delivering acoustic laced and electric steel-driven folk, reggae and rock. A dash of bluegrass has been infused in songs like “Free River,” inspired from a stand-up paddle trip down the Grand Canyon and a proposed development in the sacred valley. A sea of soulful lyrics are ever present in tracks like “Pilot” and “Open Heart,” inspired from world travel and expressions of humanity.
“The moments that we get together and share the stage, create music, and deliver something to the audience and receive from the audience is something so incredibly special,” says Stoughton. “And to have a product to release, it means a lot. We’re proud of it — it’s another step down the road; another chapter in the book.”