Bramble, Funk Fu | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bramble, Funk Fu

Posted By on June 29, 2010, 3:13 AM

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Well, the Utah Arts Fest has come and gone. Soon all those pissed-off drivers with led-feet can once again speed down 2nd East without a blockade in the way. But as festival season keeps on going with roughly twenty other events happening around the city, let's take one more look back at it all and some stuff you may have missed. Like the Flash Mobs that were running around the grounds doing living art. Like the one you see below.

--- While the numbers aren't officially out as if this post, the 2010 incarnation looks to have set a new attendance record, and with good cause as this festival brought in more artists of various forms than prior years, not to mention one hell of a musical selection. If you went to see Cowboy Junkies, good for you, but without question the locals dominated every stage. To which you can see with photos from Day Three and Day Four with material from groups like Subrosa, Birthquake, Tolchock Trio, Cavedoll, Will Satrain (plus seven), The High Beams, Fox Van Cleef, Spell Talk and Muscle Hawk (who pretty much threw a rave on the final night). Not to mention the two groups we're chatting with today, the acoustic harmony that is Bramble, and hip-hip-funk stylings of Funk Fu. Special thanks to Arissa Smith for added photos.

Bramble (Steve Schmidt, Chaz Prymek, James Miska & Ian Accord)

Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a little about yourselves.

James: Well, I'm James, I'm turning 24 during the Arts Festival. I like traveling and bikes, and traveling on bikes. I've played music since 7th grade and been on the wagon since then.

Steve: I don't have a social security number, so I don't really exist.

Chaz: I am Chaz, your local neighborhood Spider-Man, Jimmy Rigger.

Ian: I'm Ian, and I'll be turning 21 here in the next few weeks. I really enjoy freelance traveling, if the occasion calls for it. In the meantime, I really enjoy playing music and reading.

Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?

James: I started playing guitar in tenth grade, influenced most heavily, honestly, by Bradley Knowles of Sublime. A little embarrassing now I think, but whatever. I got into punk rock in high school too, and it's been a metamorphic process that has shaped my musical taste of today.

Ian: My parents signed my up for piano lessons at age six. I played until I was about fourteen, and then I started getting into punk rock. Since the piano was clearly not punk enough, I started teaching myself guitar. Around the age of seventeen, I decided I wanted to relearn piano. Around the same time, I saw my friend Gary do a performance at the Boing! Collective, where he played his accordion. I decided I wanted to play the instrument, and haven't really looked back since.

Steve: Chaz Prymek.

Chaz: Steve Schmit.

Gavin: Chaz and James, how did the two of you end up going on the now infamous trip to Oregon that inspired a lot of the music?

James: We've been highly impressed by our friend Gabe Dominguez of Shake Your Peace in the past, and wanted to do a bike trip as well. We were talking with our friend Merrill, Tune-Yards, and she said she might do a bike trip down the west coast with us, so we just started planning. Then when she changed her mind, we were kinda already neck deep in plans, so we just decided to go for it, taking our solo careers and guitars with us.

Gavin: How did you decide on forming a band from those songs instead of doing your own recordings with already established acts?

Chaz: Well, we knew that our first two songs were pretty good, and our friend Kazoo had joined in the fun, so it was like having a band. We couldn't individually lay claim to the songs. It was too collaborative. So they became property of the new project, whatever that was gonna be.

Gavin: What led to bringing in Ian and Steve to officially form Bramble?

James: Well, Ian and our friend Etta were our ride home from San Diego. We knew Ian as a great musician, and bangin' accordion player, so we asked him to bring it with him when he came and picked us up. He learned our three songs in an hour, and played our final show with us in San Diego. We also knew we wanted to include some percussion, and Chaz and I both knew Steve independently as an awesome person and a great musician as well. The three of us used to play in The Future Of The Ghost, and got kicked out at the same time. So he naturally became our idea of a good addition to the band.

Gavin: Considering the different music and bands you've all played in, what made you decide on a lighter, almost acoustic tone for this band?

James: The songs we started writing in the beginning were just exploding out of us, influenced by hardly any music at all other than the sounds of the forest to the East and the sea to the West as we rode along the coastal highways, and the inner workings of our minds, being lulled into comfort with each mile, and each amazing experience we had. We couldn't help them being happy. We couldn't help them being simple and fun. The acoustic nature of the songs has been just a byproduct of what was going on in our minds. But most people don't know that we love exploring what we can do in all sorts of musical pathways. We have really fun and awesome electric songs that few people have ever seen. Acoustic stuff is obviously what most people because it's so easy to set up anywhere and just play. But before long, people will discover what else we have to offer.

Chaz: Really I just wanna rock out.

Gavin: You've become known around town as a very eclectic group, especially from the street performances up at Sundance in the middle of snowfall. How did that performance come about?

James: We're all into busking, after seeing such a positive response from the Farmer's Markets last October. So we saw Sundance as this sweet event where we knew there'd be people. Ian, Chaz, myself, and a few of our friends have all tried busking Sundance in the past in a half-asked sort of way, and all been busted or told to scram by Park City cops after only minutes. So we all knew the crowds were there. We just needed to get legitimate and bring some music to them. Looking back, we feel like we were crazy. We see some of those videos and think, "Dude, we seem insane." And we kind of were. And still are.

Ian: We definitely are insane. I think it's a good kind of insane, though. Monetarily, the stint up at Sundance enabled me to quit my job, and I think I'm far better off mentally than I would have been had I continued to work there. Also, we were blessed with the opportunity to meet and share our music with folks from all over the world, a lot of whom were very amazing people. That's not a reward you can get working at a dead-end retail job.

Gavin: Recently you released the H.A.G.S. EP. What was it like for you guys recording that album?

Chaz: We had fun recording that album. Working with Jeff Adams at Archive Studios was really comfortable. He does really good work. We kinda just did our thing, most of them were live takes of us all playing at the same time. A few overdubs here and there with vocals and stuff was all we did. Jeff worked the realest of the magic.

Gavin: What did you think of the public reaction to the album when it was finally released?

James: It seems like people are into it. We've gotten a ton of personal feedback from people who have seen us before, or when we're playing live, like on the street, people aren't afraid to compliment what they hear, and tell us how much they like the album next time they see us. Directly, we always sell at least a good handful while busking and we get emails from random folks around the country who love it. I hope we can spread it even more though. We're way stoked that it's getting a good response!

Ian: Although I was personally really excited about the outcome of the recordings, I wasn't expecting such an overwhelmingly positive response from the general public. It's definitely been a huge surprise, and honestly I'm still not entirely sure how to react to it.

Gavin: Are there any plans in the works for a full-length or second EP yet, or just playing and touring for now?

James: We've written at least a dozen songs that haven't been recorded at all, with more in the works, so yes, a full-length is exactly our plan. Hopefully by next Sundance. More touring is also in the works though. Probably another west coast tour, but going to the same places Chaz and I played with this new project is gonna blow people away. A tentative tour of Antarctica is also in the works. Check out our website in the coming months for details.

Gavin: Going state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad? And is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

James: Our music scene is much like our city. It's not well known and it doesn't stand out in the scope of the nation, but it's damn good, and so many people here know it. Talking about "bigger" or "better" is to miss the point: that good quality is not always widely recognized, but that doesn't unmake its good quality.

Gavin: Aside yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?

Chaz: We've all got personal favorites, I'm sure. I really love going to see the one-person acts that are around town. The ten acoustic musicians thing they do on Sundays at Urban Lounge is way cool. I wish Form Of Rocket would play more shows.

Ian: I would say Form Of Rocket is probably my favorite local act, but I'd much rather see them play a house show. I tend to enjoy bands a lot more when the show is free of charge, and when it's in a house, art space, or other DIY setting. I find the ethic of those sorts of shows a lot more endearing. Also: Swet, Utah Free Jazz Collective, Seven Feathers Rainwater, Stag Hare, Silver Antlers, Cephalotron, Lake Mary, James Miska.

Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio these days and how its affecting local artists?

James: Not much of an opinion on that one. Radio is a weird thing. Not sure of who is getting what kind of airplay. Mostly radio plays trash that's not very good. I don't think airplay questions really apply to us, for instance, because we get none. Haha.

Gavin: What's your take on file sharing these days and how it affects you as musicians?

James: I love free music. I love record shops too. Slowtrain is kicking ass in that way, for instance, but we choose to give our music away for free all the time. Not just in album form, but you can download our album off the internet for free, and also, our albums don't even have a set price. you can just pay what you want for it. And you'll never have to haggle with us. So, how downloading affects us as musicians: It makes us happy. People are actually going to the trouble to find our music and listen to it, and like it enough to own it for themselves. That's a key point that is not factored into the argument: the fact that people like the music and want it. And will likely come to a show when the band they like comes to their town. The point that is focused on is capitalism. Making the dollars. I don't think we could give less of a you-know-what about that.

Gavin: What can we expect from you guys over the rest of the year?

Chaz: We'll be playing for the next few months at the Farmer's Markets. We might be going on tour in November around the Southwest and California. We mainly just want to keep writing. We have a lot of ideas for good songs and we really bloom and explode when we get to together and start cooking. It's fueling our desire to do this band. And watch out for all electric shows that will rock the casaba.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

James: We'll be playing 3 shows in July. Please check or website and MySpace often for updates and showtimes.

Funk Fu (Chris Hellfire, Trevor Horton, SwErV1, ChristopheRhymin, Nate Brown & Nate Kizerian

(For this interview the band chose to answer as a group.)

Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a little about yourselves.

FF: Six guys that like to play music, have a good time and make people move.

Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?

FF: With six members that could get pretty lengthy. A lot of hip hop, funk, rock, jazz, reggae, metal, oldies, fusion stuff like 311, Incubus, Beastie Boys, Primus, Sublime, Rage Against The Machine, Kool Keith, Prince, Floater, Funkadelic, Miles Davis, Bob Marley, Korn, Jimi Hendrix, Parliament/Funkadelic the list can go on forever.

Gavin: How did all of you meet each other and officially form Funk Fu?

FF: A few years back Nate Brown and Chris Bingham had been in a previous band called Cryptobiotic that did a lot of touring and played with many big names. SWERV1 and Trevor Horton both played in a band called Liquid Friction around the same time. Both of these bands eventually split ways but we were always good friends throughout. At this time Nate and SwErV1 came up with the idea for Funk Fu, we wanted to start a new band with our own set of ideals of the good stuff we wanted in a band, primarily to provide good funky entertainment that allows people to have fun and move and spreads a positive vibe. SwErV1 and Chris have been rhyming together for years know as The BreakThru Crew. So we had the drummer and the vocals/tables, all we needed to form Funk Fu was a Bass player and Guitarist. We recruited Trevor right off because we knew his skill level and style from Liquid Friction. We recruited Nate from good 'ol MySpace. After just one practice, we knew it was the right combination. Then more recently we added our sax player Chris at one of our shows, he simply approached us and wanted to know if we could use a sax player and we said why the hell not. That's pretty much the short story.

Gavin: The music you play sounds like a funk rock mixed with hip-hop lyrics and beats. What was the main driving force behind that fusion of styles and making it work for a live show?

FF: With two emcees and turntables we wanted to definitely focus on the hip hop aspect, but also have the live energy and sound of a full band. We have other styles infused such as blues, reggae, latin, surf rock and elements of other genres. Our main goal was for the audience to have fun and enjoy themselves.

Gavin: Was there any hesitation on your part to bring this music out to venues, especially with the backlash on nu-metal still fresh in people's minds?

FF: No hesitation at all, we do not associate our self with nu-metal or a certain scene. Our music transcends many styles and genre's with the cornerstone being hip hop vocals. Our first record had heavier riffs and the new record is more groovin'. We like to evolve as a band, switching up the styles to keep the audience captivated and on their toes.

Gavin: Over time you've becomes well known for the live shows, especially your jams at Liquid Joe's. What is it you each personally do to try to keep every show fresh and alive?

FF: We like to have fun, smile and maintain a high energy level through the entire show. We try to interact with the crowd and make sure they are having fun. We are not one of those bands that takes themselves too seriously on stage. Each band member gets a chance to shine in Funk Fu. Also we like to switch up the setlist and go off crowd reactions. Plus playing at quality venues always helps.
Gavin: How has it been over time to managed the double-DJ switch off, and how do you feel the two styles compliment each other in the music?

FF: Both emcee's also scratch during the set. This works out perfect when one is rapping the other can throw down cuts or que up effects. It also gives them both a chance to flex there skills and to be active during the set. Plus the crowd enjoys this aspect of the show and we believe true hip hop should always include the DJ.

Gavin: Does it ever feel like you're specifically representing the hip-hop community here, and how is it to feel that kind of weight as one of the few acts that perform on a regular basis?

FF: Definitely in our own way. I would like to think we represent the 801 hip hop scene and the SLC music scene as a whole. Sometimes being with a live band separates us a little from the main hip-hop scene. But we have done several shows with local hip-hop acts such as Mike Booth & The Bad Apples, Enee1, Jef Doogie, SEM, Kaotic, DJ Street Jesus and others. Props to Uprok, Mindstate - who we still need to do a show with, Graff heads, B-boys and everyone that keeps the culture alive.

Gavin: This year you released the full-length album Long Time Comin'. What was it like for you guys recording that album, and what issues did you deal with along the way?

FF: It was a lot of hard work but also really fun and recording is always a great learning experience. It definitely helps having Matt Winegar on your side. He is efficient, patient, creative and helps us stay on track. He recorded our first six-track EP as well. When we went in we felt a bit more prepared than we did on the first album. Matt is honest when it comes to criticism and suggestions which helped us a lot. Plus Matt is fun to record with and makes it an enjoyable process, we highly recommend!

Gavin: What did you think of the public reaction to the album when it was finally released?

FF: The reaction has been great. Many of our fans have told us they really enjoy the album and we get a lot of comments on the sound quality. We are also gaining a lot of new fans. At this time, this album displays what we are all about.
Gavin: Are there any plans in the works for some kind of tour, or sticking to home for now?

FF: We definitely want to tour in the future. We are going to first try to spread out of Salt Lake more this year. Try to hit up Ogden, Provo, St. George and let the rest of the state experience some Funk Fu. Also we plan on hitting Vegas quite a bit. If we could hook up the right tour with some other good acts, we will definitely make it happen.

Gavin: Going state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?

FF: Utah has a great scene. However, the Utah legislation does not make it easy on venues and clubs here, it seems mainly to keep their liquor stores competitive with the bars. There are many good venues that have been closed for the wrong reasons. Look at DV8, Zephyr and many other staple clubs that aren't around any more. It really limits where you can play. Also the all age thing is pretty tough here. We try not to get too hung up on the negative aspects of the scene. Funk Fu is a positive band and we try to make the best out of our situation. There are some bands that expect everything to fall into there lap, as far as shows and pay goes. In reality you have to pay your dues and put in work.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

FF: Keeping our good venues open is key. We need more people like yourself that are willing to promote local bands and to spread the word to the masses. Also bands need to work together and I think people really need to remember that shows are about people having fun.

Gavin: Aside yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?

FF: Royal Bliss, Funk N' Gonzo, Kettlefish, Mindstate, Bad Apples, Padrino... there are quite a few!

Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio these days and how its affecting local artists?

FF: There are some good outlets such as KRCL. Also Portia has a internet radio show that plays local bands. We had a lot of success on the X96 "Live & Local" program when it was going strong. Other than that its really tough to get your Jams on the radio.

Gavin: What's your take on file sharing these days and how it affects you as musicians?

FF: File sharing doesn't affect us as much as it does some of the bigger bands. For us anyone getting to hear our music is good. Everything is changing as far as digital media and how bands distribute their music. The music world is not the same and its kind of cool to use all of the new technology and social networking evolving over the years to get your band heard.
Gavin: What can we expect from you guys over the rest of the year?

FF: A lot more shows and promoting our album. Also if you come to our shows you will most likely hear some of our new material that we have been working on lately. The new songs are great and we are writing some of our best material right now.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

FF: Our new album Long Time Comin', buy it at our shows. Also online at Amazon, eMusic, Napster, Rhapsody & iTunes. We are also bringing out a tight funk band from Florida called The Soular System which features members from Parliament/Funkadelic, we will be opening for them July 10th at 5 Monkeys and also on the 9th at Liquid Joe's - with an unlimited guest list!! Check our MySpace for more details!

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