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Pic from Bluesfest 2017 by Jason Rosewarne

New Orleans funkateers Dumpstaphunk had such a good time at this year’s Bluesfest that they’re coming back again in 2018. AM’s Greg Phillips spoke to guitarist Ian Neville about the band and their return trip to Australia.

There isn’t a family name more important to the New Orleans music scene than the Nevilles. From the groundbreaking funk and groove of The Meters to The Neville Brothers and all of the side projects in between, the Neville name has been an incredible influence on the crescent city’s musical output. Continuing that legacy today is 5 piece funk outfit Dumpstaphunk, which features Ivan Neville (Son of Aaron Neville) on keyboards and Ian Neville (Son of Art Neville) on guitar. I asked Ian if he could remember the first time he got a sense of the significance of Neville family name in music?
“I guess seeing some of the people that gravitated to them as artists, the musicians who appreciated them more than just being popular among a general audience,” he says. “I was into a lot of hip hop growing up and the amount of samples that were drawn from them was up there on par with James Brown and Parliament, which are some of the most sampled artists in existence. So that’s another example of the clout and influence of the music, so it was cool to see that from two different angles.”

Dumpstaphunk recently played Tipitina’s, the spiritual home of The Neville Brothers band and New Orleans music in general. It was a benefit show with proceeds going to the Second Harvest Food Bank. In fact many of the shows Dumpstaphunk play have a social awareness angle. Tipitina’s, named after a Professor Longhair song, is a venue Ian Neville knows well. “Yeah I pretty much grew up at Tipitina’s,” he tells me. Dumstaphunk seem to play a lot of interesting concerts. Another great one that they played in late 2017 was their Dumpstaween show, a gig in which they jammed with Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. “That was in California,” Ian explains. “We were out there for halloween last year as well. We mixed it up, played some New Orleans, some Grateful Dead. I could never be blamed for being a deadhead though! That’s not my go-to. But in recent years crossing paths with certain gigs and musicians I have dug into some of it and can appreciate it but it’s not something I’d put on at my house and chill out to.”

New Orleans recently lost a local legend in Fats Domino, a man who helped to build the crescent city sound. The loss to the city was profound and particularly personal for the Neville family. “Fats is synonymous with New Orleans,” Ian states. “His house is a landmark. I was a special case though, cos my dad was friends with him. It was not like he was hanging around all the time but I had more reason to know about him and his influence than a lot of other people. But that being said, everybody from New Orleans knows who Fats Domino was.”

The Dumpstaphunk guys are no strangers to Bluesfest either. Having played there at Easter this year, they’ll be coming back in 2018 for more Byron Bay action. Ian has fond memories of his first Bluesfest experience.
“That was my first time playing there” he says. “I always heard about it growing up. My family has been there a bunch of times. I was excited that we were finally getting to go as Dumpstaphunk. You get to do those four sets over there which is a different experience for a festival, playing four shows at the same festival, so that was a new experience in addition to just being there, so it was cool. We had some guests … Eric Gales came and jammed with us. That dude is a badass! There were some random moments like that and it was great that we got to represent New Orleans there.”

Pic by Jason Rosewarne

Pushed to name some guitar influences, Ian suggests Leo Nocentelli from The Meters, Jimi Hendrix. Freddie Stone from Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, plus Gary Shider and Glen Goins from the original Parliament. Ian Neville will be heading to Bluesfest armed with his Telecaster guitar and a swag of pedals. “My main guitar is a Telecaster, a thinline Tele, like a semi-hollow,” he says. “It’s actually a Jim Atkins model, which is the guitar player from the band Jimmy Eat World. I found it at a guitar centre over here, just a generic music store and then ended up buying it from somewhere else. I’ve got elevens on it to give it a little more fullness.” Ian has been busy thinking about pedalboard renovations too.
“I got a couple of new ones recently. I’m just about to rebuild my pedalboard but I got a set I’ve been rolling out with for a minute now. Usually I have some kinda Cry Baby Wah, an MXR bass envelope that sounds pretty good for guitar stuff sometimes … a Univibe, Carbon Copy and Mesa Boogie flux drive. They also do this boost mute pedal where it is a send return deal that is also a boost.”

One factor which separates Dumpstaphunk from many other funk bands is the powerful, dual bass attack of Tony Hall and Nick Daniels. With that much bottom end coming off stage, the band has to deal with some PA elements that many other bands don’t. “Yeah it helps when we have a real system to push all that because we’re loud on stage, so we need to make sure the system can get it out, ” he says. “It’s mainly getting the vocals out because the instruments are so loud. So yeah, making sure the vocals can be heard over double bass and at times the double guitar is louder than the bass, so you gotta be ready for all kinds of volumes.”

A new Dumpstaphunk album is nearing completion, it’s currently in the form of files residing on a hard drive awaiting the band’s full attention. “We are trying to find time when we’re all around and decide on the finishing touches,” Ian says with a hint of frustration. “With some of them it is just a matter of mixing, with others it might need some vocals on it or where the horns should go but it’s close. We have a couple of guest spots in mind too … we might try to drag some people in to finish it up. Our song Justice that we previewed earlier this year, we have a version that Chali 2na did a verse on. He’s originally from Jurassic 5 and now his own solo force. He dropped a really cool verse on that song Justice, so we might put that out with the rest of the stuff but we’re not really sure yet. That was really cool for me because I’d always listened to him growing up.”

The song Justice, featuring another New Orleans stalwart Trombone Shorty was released early in 2017 and has been described as “a plea for equality and fairness in a time of frank uncertainty in the United States.” It was a reaction to the division which has developed in America under the current administration. There’s often a message in Dumpstaphunk’s music, not always political. “I feel that without beating anything over people’s heads or being preachy about it, it’s more about making people aware of something that more attention could maybe help that situation,” explains Ian of the band’s goal. “Just by the way we say it in some of our songs, hopefully it inspires somebody to help somebody else.”

Ian and the band are winding things down leading up to Christmas before cranking it up again and heading to Australia for Bluesfest. For a band that’s famous for jamming with other musicians, I asked Ian if he’d seen any potential jam partners in the 2018 Bluesfest line up as yet. “I gotta dig into that man and I also gotta see if I can come over early this time and just hang out. Due to the timing, I have to fly back for Jazzfest in New Orleans straight after, so I’m gonna try come early. I love Australia when I come down there.”

Bluesfest occurs in Byron Bay March 29- April 2, 2018. Ticket info

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