Apr 15, 2011

The Budos Band: An interview from 2010

Hailing from Staten Island, a group of eleven musicians called The Budos Band is making their rounds this August 22nd to our beloved Granada Theater in Dallas. The group will be touring for their third album simply called The Budos Band III, an album filled with Afro-beats mixed with soul, dipped in funk, and peppered with a dash of rock that seems like it came straight out of the sixties. The amazing thing is that the group has only been around since 2005 and they have already travelled the world showcasing their intensive live shows filled with an energetic sound that no one can keep from dancing to. Their sound is the very definition of booty-shaking and baby making music.

When listening to their albums, the sounds that emanate from your speakers will call forth layers of spooky funk, salsa, and afro-beats that could raise Fela Kuti from the grave. Devoid of any lyrics, the instrumental pieces are almost specifically designed to be a soundtrack for the next Quentin Tarantino movie. The new album takes the framework laid down by their first two albums and runs with it, heading into a darker sound that still keeps your butt shaking. I corresponded with the Budos Band and asked them a few questions, Jared Tankel, the baritone saxophone player, responded.

The interview

I’ve heard you describe your music as “Afro-Soul,” I love the sound and was wondering if your new album was staying in that same vein or if you are branching into new sounds?

Budos Band III still draws heavily upon Ethiopian jazz and west African funk with the subtle influences of American soul. But this album gets much more inspiration from American psychedelic, rock and even metal music than any of our previous releases. It’s still the same band and the same sound but we’ve gotten heavier and a tad more rock oriented.

I’ve only been into this type of music for a few years and have discovered a plethora of great acts, where do you draw your inspiration from for some of these grooves?

Mulatu Astatke, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, and the Rail Band are all African artists (Ethiopian, Beninese, and Malian, respectively) whom we’ve gotten really into. On the other side of the ocean, we draw inspiration from Curtis Mayfield, Motown, Stax, Hi Records, and American rock ‘n roll.

Is there a band leader or is it a collaborative process between all of the members?

The writing process is pretty collaborative. Tom and Dan (our guitar and bass players) work out a lot of the rhythm sections together. Andrew and I write most of the horn melodies. Brian (our drummer) is very involved in the arranging of songs. And our percussionists and organ player fall into place pretty well at this point. We’ve been playing together for so long that it’s a very comfortable process and everyone knows where they fall in the collective whole.

What’s the craziest thing that has happened at one of your shows?

Last week, we were selling Budos Band panties and some lady showed up not wearing any, bought a pair, put them on right then and there and modeled the backside for all to see.

It’s been three years since the last album, what took the longest, writing the songs, or recording?

Well, it’s been a busy couple of years for both us and our label, so really what it came down to was scheduling recording sessions that worked for everyone. The tracking itself only took 3 nights. The amount of time definitely led to stronger songs, though.

How hard is touring with such a large band?

Rolling with 10 guys definitely presents its challenges. It takes twice as long to get somewhere as it should. And even if we’re doing our best to be mellow, chaos is always brewing. But at this point, we’ve been at it long enough, we know how to make our way. It may not be the smoothest ride all the time, but we’ll get it done and rock out. We’ve perfected the art of dealing with authority – perhaps we haven’t quite perfected it, but we give ourselves plenty of opportunity to do so.

Do you guys ever play covers?

Occasionally, the first album has a cover of Sly Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song”; the second album has a cover of “My Girl” and the third has a cover of “Day Tripper”. It’s fun to take these classic, recognizable songs and put the Budos spin on them and make people go “what just happened…?”

How does where you live affect your sound?

Staten Island means rugged and raw. We practice in an old burnt out Evangelical church on a dead end street near the train tracks. We’re not concerned with being involved in some hipster Brooklyn indie scene. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate fans from any walk of life, but you’re not going to see the Budos break out with synthesizers and drum machines.

Where did the name “Budos” come from?

We were originally called Los Barbudos – The Bearded Ones – named after Fidel Castro’s baseball team of revolutionaries. We started getting a lot of questions about whether we were Communists; what our politics were, etc… And to tell you the truth, we just wanted to focus on playing music. At that time, there were other bands in New York that were a bit more political, so we figured we’d just leave that to them and focus on the music. Plus, we don’t have any lyrics and without a vocalist, it’s a bit tough to carry a political message. So we let the music speak for us and leave it at that. We cut the name to The Budos and when we released our first record, Daptone Records added “Band” hence The Budos Band.

Some of your songs have a very dark and scary feeling to them; do you ever listen to Doom Metal?

Yep. Our drummer Brian loves it and there are quite a few other metal heads in the group as well.

Whose mom cooks the best food in the band?

That’s a dangerous question around these parts.

mydallasmusic.com, Interview by Travis McAnelly, published July 2010

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