- Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 10 p.m.
- Tugboat Grill & Pub, 1860 Ski Time Square Drive, Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs A few weeks ago, Chicago funk, soul and jam eight-piece band Bumpus went on a West Coast tour for the first time. For 10 years, the soul-fired band has hit up cities across the Midwest and down the East Coast.
After some shows in California, Bumpus singer and guitarist James Johnston is seriously questioning what took the band so long to get there.
"I don't know, it just seems like sometimes on the East Coast and in some of the cities in the Midwest, it seems like sometimes people are reluctant to really let loose," Johnston said about the reception for the band he started with three friends out of a love for old-school funk and soul music, specifically Sly & the Family Stone and its "Fresh" album.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the band will make its debut appearance in Colorado, with two nights at The Tugboat Grill & Pub.
Johnston and Bumpus bassist Travis Chandler took some time before band practice to talk to 4 Points about what it's like to start a funk band without funk musicians, how that actually turned out well for them and why Sly Stone rules.
4 POINTS: So you all came together out of a mutual love for Sly & the Family Stone. Why Sly?
TRAVIS CHANDLER: Because it's one of the great funk acts that really focused on song structure. There are lots of great funk bands, and the sort of classic is a funk groove that goes on for - ever. And instead Sly Stone really focused on making great songs. We always loved song structure, and the idea of writing meaningful tunes instead of just tunes.
4 POINTS: Where did it go from there?
JAMES JOHNSTON: We have a lot of different tastes in music now. But I think the first part was like, "Oh my god, we can play funk music! We don't know how to play funk music!"
It was extra hard. Because like, with Travis, he's the bass player, he had been playing piano in an alt-rock cover band : And he was like, "Funk is bass, right?"So he started playing bass. ...
Back before radio sucked, my dad was a DJ, and he used to play Aretha Franklin next to Joni Mitchell next to Sly & the Family Stone next to Led Zeppelin. And that would never happen now if the songs were new.
I was raised on old-school music. But no one (in the band) played horns. There were two other guys in the band, one of them was a guitar player, and he decided to play horn.
4 POINTS: So you started a funk band, without knowing how to play funk music, because you liked the idea of being in a funk band?
JJ: That was all our favorite music. I guess I had been doing it a little bit before then. But on the whole, I guess I wasn't much of a singer. I could carry a tune. But I think we really grew and developed into what we are.
It's not like we were already skilled at this. We really started from scratch, almost.
4 POINTS: Once you did figure out what you were doing, how did the band develop from there?
JJ: The one thing I love about it is that you kind of never forget your first band. We've had people come and go, but mostly we've stayed together. So you still have that sort of magic of your first band.
We figured it out (playing funk music) for a couple of years, then finally we put out a record, and we put out another one really quick. And then everything fell apart.
4 POINTS: What happened?
JJ: (One of the main singers and songwriters) left to pursue a solo career, and then we added the girls, the soul singing girls, and really sort of shaped it around our original idea, that we liked Sly & the Family Stone, and that we wanted to write songs that mean something.
4 POINTS: Did the sound veer away from that idea in the middle there?
JJ: Our second album, it has stuff that sounds like Fiona Apple, it has some straight up hip-hop stuff. We kind of made a mix tape, for our second album.
4 POINTS: And the sound sticks more to one place now?
JJ: I think it's closer. There are still some different kinds of tunes. ... I really like electronic music, and things that are really sort of spacey, so there's some of that going on.
But it's just more rooted in soul now - soul and funk.