Umphrey's McGee Crushed Their Recent Stint of Red Rocks Shows on 'It's You' Tour

By: Will Baumgartner

When you hear the phrase “rock music,” what do you think of? Not one specific thing, probably, unless you’ve only listened to a handful of “rock” bands who all sound the same. There’s a reason for this, and it’s simple: Of all the musical genres, rock is the only one broad enough to incorporate elements of many of the others. If you say “jazz” or “hip-hop "grindcore,” and I’d argue you’re more likely to hear a more blueprinted sound in your head. Rock, however, conjures a field as wide as the sky above at, oh, say, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Morrison CO, on a beautiful clear night in early July.

Umphrey's McGee at the Rocks. Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Umphrey's McGee at the Rocks. Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

Recently, I attended a concert by masters of cross-wired rock Umphrey’s McGee during their three-night residency at Red Rocks last weekend. While I was admittedly not steeped in their music, I’d heard enough UM that I was sure I’d like to see them live and I’d heard their shows were electrifying examples of tightness, groove, and onstage inventiveness. And also, there was nowhere else I could imagine being happier on my birthday than at Red Rocks absorbing a legendary live band for the first time.

I had not been misinformed on the rumors of UM live, and my intuition was also spot on: Umphrey’s McGee transported me along with thousands of other blissed-out music lovers, to a kind of rock heaven. I just couldn’t believe how good they were. Sure, people can tell you about a band and their shows ad infinitum; you can even watch full-concert videos. But none of that fully prepared me for the actual experience.

Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

When attempting to describe the show to friends and fellow musicians, I found myself grasping for words beyond ones like “tight” and “inventive,” because they just didn’t seem emphatic or expansive enough. Live, Umphrey’s are tighter than the gear works of a Swiss watch. Their group improvisations are as seamless, creative, and mind-blowing as an MC Escher print. And often, they went even further to where, in keeping with their cross-genre style, it was like being in a sonic world co-created by Escher and cosmic visionary artist Alex Grey, with a score co-composed by the love children of Miles DavisJerry GarciaBootsy Collins, and… uh, I guess a bunch of prog rockers from bands like Yes, and… oh, I give up! Frank Zappa once said something like writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Of course he was right in this observation, and in no case more aptly so than here.

If you haven’t seen UM live yet, you should, and if it’s been a while since your last time, you should go again. If these words are unworthy of their subject in any other respect, if they can get more people to share the Umphrey’s experience, I’ll feel that I’ve done the world some good. Though I can’t count myself as an old fan who knows all their songs, a lot of the material in their two-set show the night I saw them wasn’t stuff I could sing along with, with the exception of their cover of DJ Zebra’s Beatles/Nine Inch Nails mashup “Come Closer.” I didn’t sing along, but that was only because I was too busy digging how they did it.

Another notable aspect of this night’s many-faceted performance was the way these guys could layer and build, and then strip down and rebuild to yet another and even higher climax, to the point where it was hard to tell if they’d gone into a new song, or just taken the one they were doing to some dizzying new height. At one point, I realized that everyone but the two guitarists had stopped, and that was it: no bass, no drums, no percussionist or keys, just these two guitars dancing on a beautiful bridge of sonic sculpture. It was so dense and at the same time, so pointedly connected like a constellation viewed in striking detail. I just kept slowly shaking my head, trying to wrap around the fact that all this was coming from just two guitars. So I thought, “Oh yeah, effects. Effects, pedals.” But when once again, I looked closely, I saw that most of what was going on was coming from just those four hands, sixteen spidery fingers weaving their web.

While a large chunk of the concert not surprisingly came from their January 2018 release It’s Not Us (though the tour is named after the just-released companion It’s You), the band drew widely from their entire 21-year history and, in classic genre-hopping style, kept it all well mixed. They moved from their crunchiest prog-rock burners into the occasional bits of country-folkish type material, and some of their simpler funk-driven dance numbers, which gave guitarist/vocalist Brendan Bayliss ample opportunity to employ his rather cutely effective falsetto. And for sing-along songs, I’d be hard pressed to find one more irresistible than their cover of George Michael’s “Freedom.” The members of Umphrey’s may not spend a lot of time and effort on showmanship- they barely said anything at all between songs, preferring to let the music speak for itself- but there was much more going on at Red Rocks than just dazzling musical wizardry. This is clearly a feel-good band, just one that doesn’t encourage shutting down your brain while your feet are moving.

Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

Still, while acknowledging the good-time aspect of their shows, I don’t want to underemphasize this band’s outrageous skill on their instruments. Wikipedia’s UM page makes an important point about the group, and it was what I felt most defined the concert I experienced it. While Umphrey’s may be commonly grouped in with “jam bands” because of their varying setlists, improvisation, and encouraging taping of their shows, their overall sound owes much more to progressive rock artists like King Crimson, early Genesis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the aforementioned Yes and Frank Zappa. I was also reminded of one of the first bands to advance the “jam band” prototype, The Allman Brothers, in the sheer and near-delirious power they cooked up as they brought their jams to full boil. And you just can’t do this without being overtly adept, not only at your own individual instruments, but also at the skillful interweaving of those talents combined with a highly developed sense of composition and dynamics. Guitarists Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, bassist Ryan Stasik, keyboardist/vocalist Joel Cummins, drummer/vocalist Kris Myers, and percussionist Andy Farag all displayed these musical attributes in spades.

I could go on but, okay, I think I’ve done enough dancing about Umphrey’s McGee’s splendid architecture for one article. Let’s just finish by repeating an earlier sentiment: whether you’re looking for virtuosity or just a very good time, get yourself to one of the shows on this tour, get on down to your local record store and pick up It’s Not Us and It’s You and then… well, just relax and enjoy. Umphrey’s will do the heavy lifting from there.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Lettuce & The Floozies Set to Play Third Annual "Rage Rocks" at Red Rocks This Friday (06/08)

By: Will Baumgartner

Bands don’t get to Red Rocks by accident, and in the case of seminal “future funk” unit Lettuce, they’ve proven themselves a few times over to be a consistent headliner at the legendary venue. This Friday’s “Rage Rocks” event, which they’ll be co-headlining with Lawrence, KS electro-funk sensations The Floozies, will be the third annual recurrence of what’s sure to be a blissful rage party under beautiful Colorado skies. And as anyone who has attended a concert at Red Rocks knows, our skies are even more gorgeous when a masterful band like Lettuce fills them with their wondrous sounds.

Lettuce.

Lettuce.

Another thing that basically never happens is an act getting to Red Rocks overnight. Sure, buzz bands come and go, but they mostly go. Lettuce has proven they’re not going anywhere with a solid two decades of consistent and persistent touring and recording, while making many ears and feet incredibly happy. And as proven yet again on their most recent release, a live recording of their Miles Davis tribute Witches Stew, there’s a lot more going on in their music to feed listeners’ thirsty ears, minds, and souls than simple dance grooves. This reimagining of songs from Davis’ intensely creative late 60s/early 70s experimental jazz/funk fusion period shows that the members of Lettuce are more than adept at the art of sophisticated, soulful group improvisation. The album, which features re-readings of songs from Davis’s Live-Evil, In A Silent Way, On the Corner, and of course Bitches Brew, shows Lettuce not content to merely replay the songs, but to take them to a whole new level. Given that they’re pushing the genre forward in this way, it’s a small wonder that they’ve been compared to other contemporary fusion pioneers like Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Kamasi Washington. Add this skill to their fierce dedication to the almighty funk groove, and you’ve got a formula guaranteed to please both the body and the mind.  

Lettuce certainly have the pedigree for it, as can be seen just by looking at the credits boasted by their mighty rhythm section. Drummer Adam Deitch, who also plays with Break Science, has played with some of the biggest stars in jazz, hip-hop and soul, including John Scofield, 50 Cent, Talib Kweli, and Wyclef Jean. And bassist Eric “Jesus” Coomes has not only toured with Britney Spears and The Game, he’s also a noted producer, having worked with the likes of Kanye West and Dr. Dre. The other members- keyboardist and vocalist Nigel Hall, guitarist Adam Smirnoff, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis, and trumpeter Eric Bloom- are all highly sought-after musicians who can be heard working all over the international music scene.

Lest anyone get too caught up in this musician’s-eye view of what Lettuce does, let’s be perfectly clear here that this Friday’s show, like all the shows they do, is going to be a party. You don’t need to know anything about jazz to catch the electric buzz of Lettuce’s lightning-rod performances. Above all, this band knows how to get an audience moving and smiling. Co-headliners The Floozies, a duo comprised of brothers with producer/guitarist Matt Hill and drummer Mark Hill, are widely known for their combination of cutting edge electronic music production with insanely infectious dance party grooves and incendiary live performances. With breakout Canadian act The Funk Hunters and Portland, ME rising stars Jaw Gems also on board, it feels entirely safe to say that this Friday’s event at Red Rocks will more than live up to its “rager” name.

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Lettuce, The Floozies, The Funk Hunters and Jaw Gems perform in the third annual “Rage Rocks” at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison CO this Friday June 8th. Tickets here.

 Keep up with Lettuce on their website and on Facebook

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat. 

Denver's Jam Band The Wondering Woods Release New Music

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Denver’s jam band The Wandering Woods consider themselves “a musical art collective.” Formed in 2016, TWW consists of Ross Sandlin (bass), Jake Setters (drums), Jeremy Evans (hand percussion), and Mike Drummer (guitar). Together, the four piece dropped five tracks last year which incorporated funk, jazz, world, rock, and fusion sounds. Inspired by 70s jazz fusion artists Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, Weather Report, and Miles Davis, TWW’s more modern musical friends include Tauk and The String Cheese Incident.

The Wandering Woods.

The Wandering Woods.

Recently, The Wandering Woods released a self-titled compilation of singles, which you can check out on Apple Music before you hear them live at Cervantes’ Otherside on February 13th. Said bassist Ross Sandlin, “No one else is trying to do what we are right now, and that is what makes our music so compelling.”

After finding ourselves boogying down to the band’s 16-minute “Europa>Scimitar,” we’re stoked to hear TWW’s newest sounds on their latest release. Take a listen to The Wandering Woods for yourself below and keep up with the band here.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Refueled and Ready For Liftoff: Booster’s Front Range Funk/Fusion Sound Rises to a New Level

By: Will Baumgartner

Boulder-based “funk/fusion/rocket fuel” quartet Booster have been one of my favorite local groups for awhile. I first caught them at The Lazy Dog in early 2015, drawn by curiosity and loyalty to old friends who had also been my musical cohorts (bassist Alex Vouri and drummer Mike Lehman had both played in The Pamlico Sound with me). What I heard at that first show was satisfying and exciting beyond anything I could have expected: the duo, with their first keyboardist Aaron Pettine (now of Envy Alo, who we last covered for BolderBeat here), were simply on fire with funky/jazzy compositions, infectious energy, and top-level musicianship. When trumpeter Les Miller joined a couple of months later, it was like their rocket ship had burst through a whole new level of space, breaking some unknown sound barrier, and I went from ardent supporter to rabid fan of the band. I wanted more; all I could get of Booster’s sounds. Then, toward the end of 2015, Pettine announced that he would be leaving the group to focus on Envy Alo, and I was (as I’m sure other fans were too) greatly disheartened. Alex Vouri told me they were going to get someone new in on keys, but I wondered how anyone could fill Aaron’s shoes. Still, I told myself to just wait and see.

As it turned out, all I needed was a little patience and faith: Booster are about to do their first show with new keyboardist Evan Morris, and as Alex said to me in a conversation a little while back, “this guy is straight fire”. There’s nothing like taking an already great band and bringing in some new blood and creativity. And so, on the eve of a new dawn for the exploratory vehicle known as Booster, I was more than excited to have a conversation with Alex Vouri and Les Miller about what the group’s been up to and what to expect from the band next:

I’ve been a Booster fan since the beginning, which wasn’t all that long ago, and have seen you grow and change a lot in a short time. What were the circumstances of the group’s formation, and how have things changed since then?

Alex: Well, it started as most groups do- I wanted to form a group to perform instrumental music that would be equally fun to listen or dance to; good for the brain and the booty, ya know? So I called up our drummer Mike Lehman, we jammed a few times just the two of us, and then we started bringing in players we knew and already had chemistry with. Mike brought Aaron in on keys and after a few shows, we felt we could really use some solid top end melodic focus, so we brought Les Miller in on trumpet.

Alex Vouri of Booster. 

Alex Vouri of Booster. 

For your first year or so, your keyboardist was Aaron Pettine, and I know y’all loved working with him. Now that your lineup has changed, you seem super excited about new keys player Evan Morris. How has bringing him into the band affected your overall scenario?

Alex: Evan is a monster player, and a perfect fit for Booster. His phrasing and voicings really open up the tonal pallet when we improvise, which allows us to be more harmonically complex, and at the same time, a little looser in feel since there are so many paths to choose from. He really dropped right in chemistry-wise, and it feels as if he’s always been here! He’s a good guy too, which is always nice.

One of the most interesting and impressive things about this band is the way each instrument- bass, drums, trumpet, and keys- feels like a lead instrument, yet fits into an organic sound. Do you all take active roles in composing?

Alex: Being a quartet without vocals or a familiar focal point is deliberate; we’re very much a traditional jazz quartet lineup of horn, keys, bass, and drums. We want to spread the focus evenly across the band, allowing each player to feel fulfilled and invested. In a band of such great players, it’s pretty easy to do! In terms of working up material, it’s definitely a group effort. Sometimes someone will have a pretty specific arrangement for a tune and sometimes not, but everyone is typically in charge of their part or contribution: we don’t micro-manage each other’s playing.

Les Miller of Booster.

Les Miller of Booster.

I hear echoes of a lot of familiar sounds and styles within the Booster sound: Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis come to mind, but I’m sure there must be many influences at work here. Who have some of your main influences been, both compositionally and in your individual styles as players?

Alex: Herbie and Miles are right on for sure, I also really love Jaco Pastorius, Grant Green, Christian McBride; all the greats. Weather Report is a big influence for me in terms of instrumental quartets, and Critters Buggin too. They’re one of my all-time faves in terms of chops and pure originality.

Les: My main influences improvisationally are Lee Morgan, Maceo Parker, Jerry Garcia, & as you mentioned, Miles Davis. I really enjoy the 1968-69 output of Miles, and I think albums such as Miles in the Sky, Filles de Kilimanjaro, and of course Bitches Brew have influenced Booster’s sonic direction. It’s interesting to note that the keyboard player on those albums is the other player mentioned in your question, Herbie Hancock.

Mike Lehman of Booster. 

Mike Lehman of Booster. 

Your music is richly rewarding on both an intellectual level and a visceral one: musicians get plenty to appreciate in terms of skill and complexity, while your average concertgoer gets a solid dose of dance music. Has this been a conscious thing? How do you approach creating music like this?

Alex: Yeah, that’s always a goal for me personally. It’s good for everyone at a show. It’s important as a player to be interested and invested in what you’re doing, while at the same time not becoming totally self-gratifying, and alienating your listeners, which can happen in a chops-heavy improvisational band.

Les: I’ve wanted a band like this for a long time, one that combines in-the-pocket groove playing of funk music (making it eminently danceable), the harmonic complexity of jazz & Western romantic traditions, and the rich, constantly expanding sonic palette available to musicians today.

You’re an entirely instrumental band, but since you’re also clearly a band that keeps expanding its concepts moving restlessly forward, I’m curious: Have you considered adding vocals at any point in the future?

Les: No plans for a permanent vocalist, but we have some guest vocalist ideas brewing.  And I’ve been known to drop a mean 16 on very rare occasions.

You began as a trio, with drums bass and keys, then added trumpet. Any chance of the group expanding beyond its current quartet form? And if so, what other instruments might you bring in?

Alex: I think we’ve struck an ideal balance for ourselves instrumentally. We all have just enough room, but we do love having folks sit in with us, that’s always a good time.

Les: I’m very happy with our current lineup. That being said, I have a long history of playing in horn sections with a sax player, so if Skerik wanted to join the band, I think we’d become a quintet pretty quickly.

Ha! Who wouldn’t say yes to Skerik (legendary saxophonist of Garage a Trois etc.) joining their funk fusion group? So… If Skerik came asking what y’all were like, what would you say? What’s your vision? Can you give our readers a capsule version of the “Booster Manifesto”?

Alex: We’re a band in which each player is free to do whatever they want. No limits, no preconceptions, no particular concrete goal or genre is in mind. We’re not trying to corner a market, we all just really love to make music we’re proud of, and want to grow as players and artists together, while putting on a good show of course! But in terms of a description? Funky, high energy, jazzy, adventurous… it’s always changing.

I’m very excited for your performances this week, starting tonight at Boulder’s Southern Sun followed by this Saturday’s Vine Street show in Denver. Can we expect any special treats at these gigs?

Alex: Yeah! The unveiling of Booster 2.0! Our sound has really changed, and we’re excited to share that with people. We’re very invigorated right now. We’ll have a lot of new tunes, and probably some special guests!

What’s on the horizon for Booster? Anything our readers should know about in advance, or would you rather milk the mystery?

Les: After this week, we have a show lined up at The Fox this fall, and are planning dates in Denver, Fort Collins, and all around the Front Range. We are excited to share the new tunes being forged in our rehearsal space, “The Launchpad”, and we can guarantee song breakouts at every show over the next few months! We play mostly original music, but will continue the tradition of surprising the crowd with a cover medley occasionally. In fact, I’m arranging two new ones right now. I won’t reveal both, but I will say that it is a nearly impossible task to choose just two or three favorite Steely Dan tunes, and we will probably invite our fans to choose an artist they’d like to hear us perform in the near future.

Make sure to check out the re-formed and re-charged Booster tonight at Southern Sun, and this Saturday at Vine Street Pub in Denver. Get the details on both events on Booster’s Facebook; keep up with the band on their website here.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured, No Coast, and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Sharing The Merry Madness of the Moment: The Alcapones

By: Will Baumgartner

There are three things I can pretty much guarantee if you go to an Alcapones show:

  1. You’ll leave feeling shaken up, stirred, and poured into a very pretty vessel.
  2. You’ll have trouble finding enough wild words to describe what you’ve just experienced.
  3. You’ll probably dance all the way home. I mean, unless you’re, like, DEAD! But even then, by the time the show is over, you’ll probably have been brought mysteriously and miraculously back to life.
The Alcapones.

The Alcapones.

This Boulder-based band hits the stage like a traveling minstrel show, determined to breathe as much life and fun into (insert your town name here) as they possibly can, and they do just that with their driving rhythms, delirious horn harmonies, and pointedly silly/ridiculous/wise singalong songs. The group is relentless in their determination to have as much fun as they possibly can, and to make sure their audience feels as much a part of the madcap show as the band itself. During their recent party/performance at the Boulder Theater, I don’t think I heard a single, stale exhortation to “get up and dance”, a phrase you so often hear from other bands. Why? They didn’t need to try to make the audience dance, it just happened.

A huge aspect of this instant dance-party atmosphere (and one that every band who aspires to create a similar feel with their show could learn from) is the Alcapones’ instinctive understanding that if you want your crowd to cut loose and be spontaneous, you’ve got to embody that same spirit onstage. This is a quality The Alcapones have in spades: a huge percentage of what’s going on up there when they play was not scripted or rehearsed. It’s the overwhelming, joyous madness of the moment taking them over. So if you go to one of their shows and find yourself inexplicably unable to loosen up and go a little crazy, perhaps you should have your vital signs checked. And if you find that you are in fact clinically dead, don’t worry: The Alcapones probably have a cure for that too.

Now let’s move on to our interview (in which the group repeatedly made me laugh hard): like all the best interview subjects, these brilliant maniacs have a way of eclipsing my rather simple questions with the overflowing poetry of their answers.

I saw one of your shows recently and was swept up in the powerful, dance-friendly music, and the overwhelming spirit of fun you create onstage. Although your Facebook page and website describe you as being primarily ska and reggae, I heard many other influences as well. What artists have influenced the Alcapones most directly?

Early Jamaican music from the 1960s influences our music most heavily. Artists like The Skatalites, Toots and the Maytals, Lynn Taitt, The Pioneers, The Ethiopians, Prince Buster, Lee Scratch Perry, Laurel Aitken, and The Specials have had a very direct impact on our sound. Naturally, as a ska/reggae band, we have some tributes to Bob Marley thrown in; however, our sound is more 'early Bob' in that we focus on a faster, more upbeat ska-feel, rather than a slower reggae sound that's more typical of 70s and 80s Jamaican music.  Our “other” influences would include Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Parliament Funkadelic, Fela Kuti, Taraf De Haidouks, Dusty Fingers, and a smorgasbord of international/world/middle eastern Yiddish and Klezmer music.  

You had a few guest musicians onstage with you at the show I saw. Do you use guest/sit-in players often? What are the most people you've ever had onstage at once? 

Our core group is six or seven members (when Johannes is in town), but we are lucky enough to feature a heavy hitter from time to time. Occasionally some renegade jazz cats show up unannounced. We’re methodized misfits and we attract other methodized misfits, who also miraculously play horns.  

What's the history of this band? When and how did the group start, and what changes have occurred since that formation?

Several members started a reggae dub project called Weapons of Mass Creation back in 2011. That group fell apart in 2012 but some of the members wanted to keep playing together, and to make the sound more of a ska feel. And so begins our story:

Sam (on accordion) and Shaun (on sax) met and jammed out to some Joe Gibbs and Lee Perry, realizing that they had a mutual love for the music. They began playing on Pearl St. as a two-piece.

Eventually, Sam introduced Shaun to Clay and Johannes, and Clay happened to know a metal drummer (Jake). Prior to The Alcapones, Jake had never played one drop rhythm, but his youth and aggressive backbone beats have become part of our signature sound.  

In 2014, the Swedish international superstar, Johannes (trombone) moved with his wife to Chile. But he still frequents a couple of shows a year dressed in a red onesie; he always brings some punk rocker poetry and plays a mean shaker.

Tom, the replacement trombonist, was sourced from Wyoming’s Craigslist. He was looking to make a buck doing some church gigs, and later confessed that he was actually armed when he came to the first rehearsal, as he didn’t know what we were all about.

Finally, hot off the boat from Hawaii, Jayma (clarinet) took a quick job as a ski instructor up at Eldora, where her fateful path would cross with the band on a night when The Alcapones played at a party. She had just come from a jazz jam at an old folks home when she hopped up on stage, unannounced, and ripped a few solos while metaphorically punching us upside the head with her circus antics. Needless to say, she fit right in, and she’s been in the band ever since.  

While watching the group onstage, I kept thinking of Gogol Bordello. I know your core sound comes mostly from Jamaica, but I wonder: are y'all familiar with this group and has their Eastern European gypsy-carnival style influenced The Alcapones at all? 

To even be remotely compared to Gogol Bordello is an honor. We have been tinkering with the Klezmer sound and studying some of the scales and the basic Hebrew idiom that make up their music. For us, that sound is especially enhanced when Shaun is on accordion. The clarinet also adds to this flavor. Our partycore modus meshes naturally with the street party style that Gogol bring to their shows. It’s spontaneous combustion. It’s in our blood, and so we cough up whatever comes up from the infinite spastic envelope of a liberating process.

We also find a lot in common with the upbeat bluegrass styles that are popular in the CO mountains, and play shows with bands like Caribou Mountain Collective frequently. That's why we sometimes call our music island-grass or mountain ska, to distinguish ourselves a little more. A lot of people think of ska as being third-wave ska like Voodoo Glow Skulls, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, or Reel Big Fish, but we're much more first-wave oriented. It's all part of the ska revival and the street party ethic making music for the common people, and it can be found in a lot of genres of music.

Horns on horns.

Horns on horns.

Does (lead vocalist/guitarist) Shaun Garin write most or all of your material, or is songwriting a collaborative effort?

It's a split between Shaun 62% and Sam 28%, with the others supplying the anamorphic 10% injection of whatever gets invented and connected. It’s like a bin of socks: lots of matches with a few strays.  Sam has written a lot of the horn lines and thematic impressions for our original songs, drawing heavily from the Jamaican influences we mentioned. Shaun has written full songs, but also helps meld the horn lines into more natural progressions, and he writes most of the lyrics. The other members add their opinions musically and it kind of melds together organically. It's a joint effort that takes a lot of jamming and practice to figure out what sounds the best. We’re an amazingly egalitarian group.

One of the things I'm most impressed by are your horns, so I feel compelled to ask: Who writes your horn arrangements? 

Sam usually writes the melody, or composes it after humming ideas into his phone, and Jayma and Tom add in amazing harmonies. The horn lines are constantly evolving, and each show can be dramatically different when premeditated execution gives rise to monotony. It’s a kind of Ouija board method combined with an extemporaneous Mandelbrot series. A recent fan described it best when he said "gushing horn-lines." We want to make ourselves cry while we pull your heart-strings; to balance that in-your-face funky aggression with the sweetness that could make Saint Cecilia weep.  

Listen to The Alcapones album Happy

What can an audience expect from an Alcapones show, and what do you hope they'll take away from it when they go home?

Rawness. Sincerity. The REAL. Whether it’s a spontaneous circus show that erupts or an introspective interpretation of a disquieted dark star, you better believe it’s going to evolve directly out of the present moment. Drop off stress and drama, insert happy and dance your face off. It's the medicine for a dark night of the soul experience. We want you to snap through! Self-express that badass self you are! And share your own unique thang, whatever that may be! We had a gal doing push ups last night front and center and we were cracking up on stage. Do whatever you want! Sit in a pimp daddy chair and simply go “yeh” and enjoy the vibe. We’re sharing and hope you share too! We want kids springing on the dance floor whirling around like a dervish… we want grandpa with his walker boogying down… (all of which has happened!). More so, we want to be that therapy for a good and grateful life.

So what’s next for The Alcapones?

Recording our second album with a desire to continue to grow in gladness by playing shows for our people. Lady Gaga say’s she’ll be the first to play a show in space. We say we’ll be the first to do some extreme banding in a hot air balloon with bungee jumping.

The Alcapones will perform at the Dark Horse this Saturday (04/23), and at the St. Julien in May (05/06). For more news, photos, videos and fun, visit them on their website or Facebook.

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.