It always motivated me when I see a band that truly appreciates the musical influences that inspried them. Taking those influences and moving them forward to create an original sound is what music is all about. We recently had the chance to chat with Reverend Barry and The Funk about how they came together and what makes their live shows so mesmerizing. Enjoy the interview below:
First off, where did the name Reverend Barry and the Funk come from?
I’m not a “real” Reverend in a religious sense, but I do believe that music is a gift from the Spirit of God. It has a way to stir the soul in a way that is unique from other art forms.
The Funk isn’t just a style of music that has a cool beat that’s easy to dance to. James Brown felt The Funk deeper than anyone has ever felt it – and it showed in the way that he danced. Nobody has EVER danced liked James Brown. It was as if he was possessed by The Funk itself, like he had no control over his body – something else was controlling it. I’m sure back in the 60’s when people first saw him dance like that, there were those who thought he was possessed by the devil.
I believe the opposite is true.
…in the same way God gave Moses the 10 Commandments to pass on his laws to us.
…God gave The Funk to us through James Brown
As Reverend Barry, it’s my mission to bring the Gospel of The Funk to this generation (or any generation who will receive it)
How would you describe your sound?
Like any band, we are largely influenced by our musical heroes: Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, James Brown, Maceo Parker, The Commodores, The Bar-Kays, Prince, Rick James, Rufus & Chaka Khan, Lakeside, Zapp, The Time, The Isley Brothers, etc.
We use all the classic funk instruments: a real horn section (trumpet, trombone, alto, tenor & baritone sax), Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Clavinet, Talk Box (ala Roger Troutman), Fender guitars & basses.
However, even though we’re influenced by all the great classic funk bands, and we use a lot of the same instrumentation, I don’t think anyone could listen to our album and say it’s a rehash of what’s already been done.
I think the key difference is our vocals and our songwriting. We have really great singers in this band. Yaya Diamond, Jayar Mack and myself all trade off on lead vocals. Each one of us are lead singers in our own right.
Our guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/engineer/producer wunderkind Chet Gass also sings a ton of backup vocals on the album, and is responsible for arranging most of the vocal harmonies. I think the quality of the lead vocals, combined with the “big” sound of the vocal harmonies sets us apart from our Funk heroes from the past, as well as other modern funk bands.
The other thing is the quality of the songwriting. If you listen to a lot of “forgotten” funk records from the 70’s, the reason nobody remembers tho
The other thing is the quality of the songwriting. If you listen to a lot of “forgotten” funk records from the 70’s, the reason nobody remembers those tracks is because the songs were really just “jams”. The same grooves, played over and over, no chord changes, no memorable hooks, melodies or harmonies. That kind of thing might make for cool background music at a party, but we want our music to be more than that.
All of our songs tend to have a set song structure – with memorable hooks, bridges, choruses, chord changes, harmonies, etc. Grooves are nice…but great songs are what stick in people’s heads and make them want to listen to your record over and over.
We know Earth, Wind, and Fire has been a huge influence. What about their music pushes your music forward?
EWF embodies everything I just mentioned about not allowing the “groove” to reign supreme (and put out forgettable records as a result) – instead they let the desire for high quality songwriting to be the thing that drove them. Give a thorough listen to the albums That’s The Way of the World, Open our Eyes, Spirit, All in All – there’s some downright NASTYASS funk on there (Serpentine Fire, Mighty Mighty, Getaway, etc.) but there’s still structure and substance to those songs. Great hooks, harmonies, song structure, etc. – and that’s why people are still listening to these albums 30-40 years later….and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
We aspire to do the same.
Word is that your shows are legendary. What makes a RB and the Funk performance so special?
Like I mentioned earlier, The Funk is a gift from the Spirit of God. And when that spirit makes its way into the musicians on the stage, it then starts moving into the audience and they begin to feel The Funk. When the band and the audience are feeling The Funk together in unison, it brings actual, real JOY to the spirit. Our goal with every show is to bring JOY to the people in the audience…we just let The Funk do its thing…
Reverend Barry and The Funk seem to keep a full calendar of gigs. How do you keep it fresh night after night?
We keep writing new songs and trying them out on the audience. We also like to rearrange our older material and create newer live versions that are different from the original recordings.
What is next for Reverend Barry and The Funk?
We’re working on material for a new album, shooting to release in the spring of 2018. We’re also going to focus a LOT of our energies in the new year with building up our worldwide fan base through social media (and good old fashioned email). I’m not talking about just getting a lot more people to like our various social media pages – but making actual, legitimate REAL connection with fans who love our music. We’re at a unique time in history where artists can connect directly with fans, without the need for intermediaries like record companies, management or agencies. We want to take advantage of that, perhaps even pioneer it in some ways.
As far as live performance goes, we’re shooting to play a lot more festivals, concerts, opening slots and doing some touring. We’re especially interested in touring Europe & Asia…we feel strongly that Europeans and Asians would totally love to feel The Funk…it’s time for us to bring it to them
What advice would you give other performers trying to build momentum in the music scene?
First of all, you MUST have the right people in your band. The right musicians working together can do incredible things together. However, having even ONE person in your band who isn’t right – especially if it’s an attitude problem – can poison the well. It doesn’t matter how good that person is talent-wise, you must be quick to remove that cancer from your band, or it could spread.
Once you know you have the right people in your band, take inventory of your local music scene. Are there local nightclubs that have bands that play all originals? Or do all the nightclubs have all cover bands that play no originals? Or something in-between? Are there music festivals coming through the area?
Remember – nightclubs, festivals, bars, etc. are all different. They all pay differently (or don’t pay at all), they have different clientele, different expectations, etc. People go to clubs and festivals for different reasons. Some go to dance to cover songs they know, some go to discover new original music, some are just there for the party and don’t give a crap about the band no matter what you play. But you can only build real momentum for a band when you play in front of LOTS of people consistently.
If we wouldn’t have started as a cover band, we likely would have never survived after the first 6 months. I’m not saying this should be the road for every band, but it’s worked for us. Heck, most of the greatest bands in history started by playing covers. We’ve slowly transitioned our crowd out of the covers and into our originals. We now do a mix when we do our 3-4 hour nightclub gigs. We play all originals when we do festivals, concerts and opening slots. Eventually we’ll get out of doing covers altogether. A lot can happen for a great band in a year….2018 will be the year of THE FUNK.
Keep up with more news and shows by Reverend Barry and The Funk on their WEBSITE.