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"We love the energy that comes from improvising in jazz" - Busty and the Bass on their love of funk

Monday 16th March 2020 | Grace

Canadian-based funk and jazz band Busty and the Bass have collaborated with music legend George Clinton to create a new single that takes funk to a new level. The 8 piece consists of  Nick Ferraro (vocals, alto sax), Evan Crofton a.k.a. Alistair Blu (vocals, keys, synths), Scott Bevins (trumpet), Chris Vincent (trombone), Louis Stein (guitar), Milo Johnson (bass), Eric Haynes (keys, piano), and Julian Trivers (drums). We were lucky enough to talk to them about working with Clinton, what funk means in today’s music world and getting into scuffles with angry Southerners.

Tell us a bit about yourselves?

We’re an 8-piece collective that formed in Montreal. We started this group almost a decade ago while studying music at McGill University.  We started out playing small house parties and slowly grew to playing in venues and writing our own music. We’ve toured extensively throughout North America and Europe, with over 500 shows to our name.

How did you think of your name?

We honestly don’t know. We think it was created in the early hours after a long house party early in our first semester of University. All we know is that it definitely didn’t come from a place of seriousness; we were just young and figuring out what we wanted this band to be.

What is it about funk and jazz that you love so much?

The groove and the freedom. I think we look to funk music for inspiration on how we can make an idea really dig deep rhythmically and make our parts fit together. We love the energy that comes from improvising in jazz and the kind of listening that involves.

You met at University in Montreal, a city with lots of jazz as part of its culture, do you think that being in a city like that has influenced your music?

I don’t think this band would have formed if it wasn’t for Montreal. Montreal is incredibly supportive of the arts. We started out basically playing jazz standards with a hip hop/funk beat underneath. Early on, we were somewhere between a jazz band and a party band, and because of Montreal’s huge amount of students and vibe of supporting experimental performances, we felt welcomed for during our thing we were able to grow a following.

There are 8 of you in the band, what are the best and worst parts of working with so many people?

The best part is never having a shortage of ideas. We can create things super quickly if we want to. HOWEVER, there are a lot of strong opinions in the group, which is important but also makes it very difficult to choose a direction on any given idea.

Who has the worst habits?

We all eat too many McDoubles on the road.

What is your new track ‘Baggy Eyed Dopeman’ about?

Alistair wrote the song in New Zealand. He wanted it to be an ode to the greatness of Cab Calloway mixed with the psychedelic magic of Parliament Funkadelic. We were lucky enough to work with the legend behind Parliament Funkadlic on this one, George Clinton.

How did you get involved with working with George Clinton and what was he like to work with?

We got in contact with him through our producer Neal Pogue. We haven’t had the chance to meet him yet but hopefully will perform the track with him soon.

If there was someone unconventional that you could collaborate with, who would that be and why?

I think we would want to work with James Blake. We all love his production and vocal style.

How has working with producer Neil Pogue helped with your sound?

Neil has played a big role in focusing and refining our sound. He’s great at keeping things moving when we’re in the studio and it’s valuable to have a fresh pair of ears on our songs. He’s also an incredible mixer and we rely on him to make sure what we’re hearing translates from the studio to people’s speakers.

 

You have toured across the UK a few times. How do audiences differ across the country?

A lot of us have only been to the UK on tour, so it always feels new and exciting. We’ve played in London a few times and have built a fanbase there, so now it’s one of our favourite places to play. Other places in the country we’ve usually played only once or twice, but we’re always pleased by how many people are willing to come check out a band they sometimes haven’t heard of before.

What has been the strangest thing that has happened to you whilst touring?

The strangest thing actually happened in the UK. We were staying in an Airbnb in Compton (Guilford), but we had to drive there after a show so when we arrived it was really late. Because it was dark and the directions we had weren’t super clear, it took us a really long time to find the place. While we were looking for it, we wandered by some sort of vet clinic or dog shelter, and two people came outside and yelled at us for having “woken the dogs”. When we finally found the place, it was about 3am. At 7am the next morning we were woken by someone pounding on all the windows with a broomstick. We wandered downstairs, drowsy and disoriented, and this man was at the front door yelling, “I’m an angry man, and I’m liable to DO SOMETHING!” It turned out in the confusion of the night before we had parked our van in his driveway, and he was pretty upset about that. We apologised as best we could and tried to catch a bit more sleep before our gig that day.

What 2020 hold for you?

In the last couple months, we’ve released three singles, two of which featured artists that we really admire: George Clinton and Amber Navran (of the band Moonchild). We’ve just signed with Arts and Crafts, a label from Toronto that we’re really excited to work with, and although we can’t get to specific, we’ve got some more music coming soon that we’re really excited to share with the world. 

Discover more about the band on their YouTube page, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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