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Monday
Jan262015

GETTING RAUCOUS WITH AFRO-BEAT COLLECTIVE THE BUDOS BAND

The Budos Band are an afro-beat/funk collective from Staten Island, New York and are coming to Australia for a run of shows next month. We chat with Jared the Sax player about how the group got started, their early hip-hop and funk incarnations, being the naughty step brother of Daptone records and the new rock and raucous direction they've taken with their latest album. Harry Upton writes.

Thanks for your time Jared, what have you been up to?
Well today, personally I've had a meeting with my fiance and the wedding co-ordinator, we're getting married in a couple of weeks.

Oh awesome, congratulations! So you'll be a married man when you get out here?
Yeah just! Within the same week I'm jumping on the plane to come out to Australia.

Now, I understand there's up to 13 of you in the band at times, do you take it in turns with interviews?
Yeah, I mean there's a few of us that do the bulk but yeah we share it around.

How about in the studio, is their a band hierarchy or is it just a jam?
Usually when we are writing, the way it usually goes down is Tom (guitar) and Dan (bass) sort of create the rhythm track first with guitar and bass, whatever riff or groove is going to be the main part of the song, they get that going. Then myself and Andrew (trumpet) will write the horn parts over that - the main melodic lines. Then a lot of times out drummer Brian; who has a good ear for arranging, will make the call on the song structure, especially with the bridge and the chorus. Although we do it collectively, Brian definitely plays a big role in those transitional moments; working out what makes sense with where we want to go as a band.
I guess that's the core, I guess of the song writing ''team''. Then our keyboardist Mike certainly adds his own lines on top. A lot of times that will be things that compliment either the rhythm or the horns and melody. Finally, the percussion guys fall into the pocket that Brian has created on the drums.
Because we've been playing together so long its a very natural and easy process for that sort of final congealing of instruments and sounds to all happen. I think that really gives us our signature sound - to have all different guys contributing their own piece, but everyone knowing so well where their particular instrument falls into the greater collective. It comes together really easily once the building blocks are there. 

Yeah, sounds like you've developed a well oiled machine! 
Yeah it takes time, but we've got the process in place.

Can you tell us more about how the band got together and how you formed your sound?
Sure! So the majority of the band grew up together on Staten Island, some met as young teenagers at school ad started hanging out. A lot of them learned how to play music together in various attempts at bands. The first incarnation of the Budos was a band called 'Slick 36' - a hip hop group. That then morphed into 'The Bullets' which were more of a funk group. And then basically the guys went and saw Antibalas (Brooklyn based Afro-beat band), way back in the day when Antibalas was doing regular residencies in New York City. It was sort of decided that the Afro-beat was the next genre to tackle! Budos first starting to play afro-beat as a rhythm section - percussion, bass, guitar and keyboard. They were doing that just for a brief amount of time, at which point I moved to NYC and pretty soon after I met them (around 2002), strangely enough, or not strangely enough; at a open mic put on by a coupe of guys from Antibalas. So I met them there, they needed a horn section and I said sure I'll come to Staten Island and rehearse. It just went from there, it was a good fit!
In the early days there was a few different members and a couple extra horn players but over the past eight or ten years the line up of the band has been almost constant! Over that time we have taken various turns of genre, but that's how we came to be.

So is all that line up coming out for this tour?
We've got 8 guys coming out to Australia, and these days our largest line up really is 9. So you're getting very close to the full Budos experience! One of our percussion players isn't able to make the trip.

Great! And you're in Australia next month for a few shows as part of the Perth festival then a run of east coast dates including one as part of the Melbourne Zoo Twilight series, have you ever played in among the animals before?
We have never played a Zoo before! It will be very interesting. Quite a unique spot to hear some music.

You're signed to Daptone records, was signing to a soul/funk label important for you?
Yeah, I mean when we got going and recorded our first material, Daptone was (and still is) the largest, or the gold standard of funk and soul music, and so we didn't really think about anywhere else! Once we found out they were interested it was a no brainer for us to decide to partner with them. I think musically speaking, our paths have probably diverged a little bit since the original meeting, in terms of where we're at and what they have stayed very true to and a lot of the other bands on the label.
But in terms of the overall commitment to putting out quality music and the way its recorded, we still very much share those values. Daptone is very sort of family orientated and the Budos are part of that family - even though we are probably the step brother who comes in and causes trouble!

So it is that a good way to sum up your live shows? The trouble making step brothers?
Yeah (laughs), I mean we like to have a good time, we like to hang with our friends and have a party - a good time.

At the Melbourne show you have one of my favourites - Bombay Royale opening for you, do you enjoy sharing the stage with local bands?
Yeah, we've definitely heard of those guys before and it should be cool! It's nice to have a good opener on the tour.

Tell us about your latest record 'Burnt Offering' and single 'The Sticks', cause you've kind of gone in a new direction?
Yeah I mean, we made a very conscious effort to take a turn in our song writing and the actual recording process. As a band we've listened to 70's psychedelic and hard rock for many years now (some longer than others) but certainly on the road, that's our preferred sound track. We decided we really wanted to make an album where those influences are more prominent. For the song writing, and the process I explained earlier, for Tom and Dan doing the rhythm parts it became much more of an exercise in writing riffs, as apposed to Tom writing rhythmic guitar, it was more him and Dan linking up on grooves and riffs more reminiscent of rock songs than afro-beat or funk. Likewise for the horn section were we thinking less about writing funk or jazz heads and  thinking more about what a singer or a rock singer might sing as a melodic line over the track. So it's still very much the Budos Band, still the same line up, still a similar quality about it, but we definitely tried to make the songwriting and arranging a bit more of a rock thing than an afro-beat or funk thing like it's been in the past. And then in terms f the sounds, "The Sticks" in particular is a good reflection of this turn in terms of songwriting and in terms of the recording process; the engineering and the mixing. We wanted to make the album a little noisier, a little more raucous. There is much more distortion on this record than in any of our records passed. The mixing; the drums are a little more prominent than in the past. So its sort of subtle but definitely gives the whole album a very distinct sound as apposed to the three before it.

Finally, what stimulates your soul?
Maybe I can answer on behalf of the whole Budos Band here and say ''Beer''.

Sounds like a request to all the Australians they meet! You can catch the Budos Band live next month:

From FEB 16
Perth Festival
Chevron Festival Gardens in Perth

FEB 19
The Corner Hotel in Melbourne

FEB 20
Melbourne Zoo Twilight

FEB 21
Oxford Arts Factory in Sydney

 

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