Thursday 24 January 2013

The Third Coast Kings: Spicy Funk [Interview]

Written by Imran Mirza

The Blue-in-Green Sessions is proud to say we’ve covered soul and funk music from all over the world – starting out in the UK, we’ve had the pleasure of Nick Pride & The Pimptones, along with The Baker Brothers; we’ve been to Germany, courtesy of The Whitefield Brothers; Australia with The Liberators; and Italy via Italian duo, Simon Maccari and Andrea Bellentani, aka the Diaphanoids, aka Blackula.  But every now and then, you just have to go home

Now, it would probably be a stretch to describe Detroit, as the ‘birthplace of soul music’ but it certainly has a history and heritage so rooted in the genre that it still seems like an appropriate tagline.  Motown’s 60s influence doesn’t really need reinforcing here, but Michigan would go on to boast so much more than the hugely successful crossover sound – Little Willie John, Jackie Wilson, The Winans and the grittier and funkier sounds of The Propositions all have a hand in establishing its intricate soul history.  Fast forward to 2012 – adding to that rich musical tapestry, we have The Third Coast Kings.  

Formed in 2007 by the band’s drummer and leader, James Keovongsak, following an application for musicians via Craigslist, the 8-member outfit have gone on to draw strong comparisons to James Brown, but been able to introduce enough of their own sound to the mix to have people eagerly coming back for more. 

Record Kicks would go on to release the band’s first single in 2010, ‘Give Me Your Love/Tonic Stride’, which became a massive declaration of the band’s presence and went on to attract all the right attention from fans as well as influential DJs, BBC’s Craig Charles and Adrian Gibson.

Thankfully, fans now have more than a few sparkling songs scattered between compilations, and the strength of the band’s live shows to rely on.  Headed up by their first single, ‘Spicy Brown’, Third Coast Kings debut full-length album finally sees the light of day five years after the band was originally formed.  With a strong mix of fiery instrumental numbers interspersed with tracks featuring a one-of-a-kind vocalist in Sean Ike, the band’s promise has officially been realized in what is hopefully the first of many more and consistent releases.

Third Coast King, James Keovongsak, took time out to chat with The Blue-in-Green Blog about the band’s road to the present day.

How did the members of Third Coast Kings come together to form the band?
We formed in summer 2007.  I posted some ads seeking musicians and after a short period I had the core of the band formed.  The rest of the members fell into place after calling a few musician friends and by word of mouth.  It all seemed to come together pretty quickly.

Which artists have been the strongest influences in shaping your music?
There are many of course, however, we tend to favor funk and soul that is on the heavier, grittier side.  When the band was formed, we went on a pretty strict diet and I credit compilations such as Keb Darge’s ‘Legendary Deep Funk’ series and Luv n’ Haight’s ‘Searching for Soul’ compilation. I must stress that credit is due in so many other places, but again, there are simply too many positive influences to name.

How would you describe the music scene in Michigan?
I would say the Michigan music scene is pretty typical at the moment.  Our economy isn’t doing so great, so less people are out at the music clubs spending money.  But, like anything else, I’m sure that better times will come.  We’ve played most major cities in Michigan and are always well received.  Michigan is known for Motown – we’ve got to keep that alive.  Many great musicians have come from here and will always continue to.

Can you tell us a little about what went into the making of the album?
The original tracks that went into the album were written and recorded in a manner that would attempt to recreate the way it was done in the 60s and 70s.  We knew right away that we wanted to find a place that could record on 2” reel to reel tape.  After finding the proper studio, we implemented a few simple rules:  use the least amount of effects, processing and mics possible. This is all in the name of capturing the essence of funk and soul in its heyday.  As for the tracks, they just had to pass the test of sounding like songs that could have come from that generation.  This is a lot tougher to do than one might think!  It is something we are still refining.

How would you say the creative process in writing, producing and recording new music usually work for you? 
It always starts with doing your homework.  In my opinion, the best way to write and produce music is to learn from the masters.  You have to get into the mindset of the people who wrote this music before you.  Then you can attempt to recreate it.  Like I’ve said, it’s not always easy.  The band has gotten very good at recognizing when a song, or part, just won’t do.  When we feel that our composition fits in perfectly with something from the past, we proceed.  There is great pleasure in paying homage to the music that we love – it should be this way for anyone who writes.

Why was 'Spicy Brown' chosen as the first single?
It seemed that this track would work well on video and as a good way to visually introduce ourselves to the world.  We’ve had a few singles released on Record Kicks compilations, but never a video.  It just seemed like the best track to do, so we went with our gut instinct.

How was the video to put together?
The video took a while to reach fruition, mostly because we couldn’t decide on a concept.  All we knew was that we wanted it to look vintage and funky.  So we met with a local videographer and came up with a few ideas.  Once a location was locked down, we showed up and let the director work his magic.  Now we know to always trust the videographer!  All in all, it only took about two hours of setup and filming.

How would you say your sound holds up against other funk acts?
We definitely hold our own.  The band is well rehearsed and operates under a pretty strict discipline of deep, heavy funk.  In our experience, we have not always had the pleasure of playing with funk/soul bands that are aiming to achieve the same things we are.  We do occasionally run into some great bands that share our love for this type of music and it is very refreshing to see.  At the end of the day, these are the bands that we share a mutual respect for and there is a definite sense of camaraderie.

How does the band's music transfer to the stage show?
Our stage show is something we are very proud of.  A new set list is written for each performance, so they are always different.  One thing that never changes is our ability to segue each track into the next, like a DJ changing records without stopping the beat.  Our sets are typically 1-2 hours and during that time, the rhythm section never stops playing.  We also showcase an extensive library of covers from artist like The Dayton Sidewinders, African Music Machine, The Soul Tornadoes and Deep Heat – just to name a few.

Who would be a dream artist to perform with or have appear on your album?
First person that comes to mind – Lee Fields!  The man is still doing it right, and we love it!

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