November 5, 2014
“Attention all gourds and goat lords” is just one of the unique ways Charlotte-grown band Bubonik Funk would greet you at one of their shows. Over the years since their formation when they were in high school, they have been through many personal transitions as individuals and musicians. But they have still maintained their original lineup and stayed true to their goals as a band.
The band has previously put out collections of recordings during summers and holidays home from college featuring golden oldies that die hard. B-Funk fans yell out titles during home town shows. For a while, the shows were comprised of similar content played in the same ways, which is fine for a weekend warrior band that just plays music on the side for the hell of it, but not for a band really trying to make a mark. After college, the group reconvened back in Charlotte as home base and decided to become a full-time act, writing a lot and booking a lot of shows.
Bubonik Funk began playing their own shows with friends in the Northeast, which then stretched into the Southeast, making them a certified East Coast band. The true magic with these boys has always been in live performance. Their earlier recordings were good, considering their experience level and experimental nature. But their performances have always had high-energy and are full of emotion, playful and crunchy improvisations, comical stage antics and dancing. Good albums come from playing something to tons of different audiences day after day, when the trials and tribulations of the musicians’ lives shine clear through their minuscule yet performance-altering improvisations on stage until the song becomes what it is. After casual conversation with the B-Funk guys, it is easily discernible that life is their inspiration. The people they encounter and play music with, the jobs they work, and the unique experiences they collect have become an obvious inspiration for their recent writing. Their newest album, Odd Fish Volume One, released in June of this year, is probably the best sense of the band’s continuous growth and creativity as musicians on and off stage.
It is obvious how much writing, rewriting, and reviving has been going on in the past year or two on this album since it is all new material. Some songs we have been hearing live, but others we hadn’t heard at all before the album dropped. Their level of musicianship has notably increased as well as their attention to small arrangement details, song structure, and use of production effects. For instance, the high frequency swirling in the background of the verses in “Walking on Flames” makes it feel like you’re floating through the sky. Then, the midsection lags super hard, and singer Dylan Ellett’s voice starts to get intentionally a bit gritty, and the high frequency swirling turns into the sounds of a full on Moog space lab, changing the feeling to a disassociated, aimless type of floating—what I would image it would feel like to be inside of the album’s cover art.
This fades into a new song that starts off sounding like it was recorded in a live hall, with the mumbling hallowed out sounds of the drum kit and bass echoing until the full arrangement crescendos into full volume and vocals enter. “Ain’t Too Hard” has a catchy, candid quality to its simplicity. Almost as if this was an in-studio, mid-session write. Imagine this scene unfolding during one of their sessions: drummer Daniel Allison just up and starting the drum beat, then guitarist Stefan Kallander riffing over it until bassist Nick McOwen joins in, and Ellett starts to say these words and it becomes a contagious, joyfully repetitive jam that they all start humming, snapping and giggling over for a while.
“Ghost Child,” Bubonik’s newest single, has a few zinger lines in it, like “Clicking heels in ruby slippers ain’t the same as knocking boots / It’s the truth” and “You’re on a phone / You are alone / You are a digital fiend” making commentaries on how our youth—and, well, pretty much everyone—is addicted to their smart technologies and changing the way people interact with each other. Aside from the culturally valid commentary, the song is driving and upbeat with fun laser noises and catchy lyrics that will get stuck in your head in no time.
The other two tracks on the album are “TV on My Head” and “Head Strong” have been being played live and tweaked by the guys for a little while now, and definitely have reached a resting groove in these recorded versions.
Some of the songs we can anticipate for Volume Two are hinted at in the introductory title track “Odd Fish,” as well as the songs on the current Volume One. These newbies may or may not be able to be heard at Bubonik Funk’s next show at The Fillmore Charlotte on Friday, November 7 as they open for The Dan Band. There will definitely be guaranteed singing, dancing, TVs, overall mayhem, and most importantly, The Squid.
Bubonik Funk plays this Friday Nov. 7th at Fillmore Charlotte.
Listen to “TV on my Head” from the album OddFish, Vol. 1 by Bubonik Funk