Funk has been evolving since the mid-60’s and has seen several iterations gain widespread popularity over its history. The genre’s rhythmic focus and ability to make people dance have been common denominators though since its inception. Fast forward to today, and while funk may not be as prevalent and popular as it once was, new bands are emerging who are helping to revive its infectious groove for the next generation of listeners.
Widely known in their home turf of Cape Cod, Funktapuss is one of those up and coming bands that are beginning to make a name for themselves. For being relatively unknown, the five piece surprises most new listeners with their high level of talent and experience. Bassist Brian Vanderbeek was mentored by Victor Wooten, who is known as one of the best bassists in the world. Beek says, “I have been down to study with Vic three or four times since 2005. He holds camps outside of Nashville and has been a huge influence on me since I can remember. I also do regular Skype lessons with Vic’s second bass player, Anthony Wellington.” The talent doesn’t just end there as keyboard/sax player Ryan Tivey and drummer Chris Santos are both graduates of the Berklee College of Music, one of the most prestigious music colleges in the world. The three went to high school together as well and share a sixteen-year musical connection that directly translates to their tightly executed sound. Rounding out the five piece is guitarist Tom Davis and singer Latez Crawley, who add a bluesy, soulful touch to the overall funky sound. The band’s unmistakable drive has them typically playing up to seven gigs a week when they’re not touring. It’s that experience paired with their deep understanding of music that allows them to satisfy any crowd. They can simultaneously pull off something technical and intricate while still keeping a crowd dancing to their feel-good sound.
The band currently has a self-titled first release out which was recorded about a year ago. The album features seven songs that require little intervention as it’s one of those you end up listening to from start to finish. The opening song immediately gets your feet moving and doesn’t let up until it ends with the anthemic “Live, Love, Be Funky”. The balance they strike is calculated down to the beat with each member knowing when to compliment and when to lead. If you’re able to close your eyes and pick out what they’re individually playing, you’ll stumble upon treats like Beek’s bass runs and Chris Santos’ ability to accent an easy beat with difficult, but tasteful, rhythmic patterns. You can hear a wide array of historic influences in their sound from Stevie Wonder and James Brown to Prince and Bill Withers. The ties to those influences doesn’t just end at their sound either, as Victor Wooten was the inspiration for the band’s name. The album cover for Victor Wooten’s album, Soul Circus, is titled Funktapuss and the band was given the okay from the bassist himself to use it.
Saturday, November 23rd, Funktapuss is joining forces with seasoned jammers Conehead Buddha for a show at Nietzsche’s in Buffalo. Opening the night is a local collaboration of musicians known as Ben Whelan Your Mom and the Reach Arounds. Conehead Buddha has their roots in Albany and was part of the 90’s jam scene that was thriving in New York State at the time. After a long hiatus, the band has recently gotten back together and picking up where they left off. The intimate venue will be the perfect atmosphere to get down and dance to a night packed with good music.
As of late, Funktapuss has hit an inspired peak and is riding that momentum towards a new album slated for release in early 2014. Guitarist Tom Davis talks about how it’s been progressing, saying, “It’s been a very productive time for us creatively. Every time we get together, we end up writing a song and there’s just a lot of ideas floating around.” Their hard work and proven ability makes the next evolution of Funktapuss a highly anticipated release going into the new year. Also in 2014, the band is planning on touring more extensively than they ever have as well as jumping on the festival circuit. This next year might be new ground for the budding band, but catch them now before their veteran sound provides a catalyst to new success.