March 15, 2006 | Author: Greg Phillips
Listeners of national radio broadcaster Triple J may have heard the Bamboos track “Tighten Up” off their soon to be released debut album ‘Step it Up’. It’s the instrumental featuring a trippy flute dancing all over a funky back beat, a tune that can’t help but put your most earnest troubles aside, if only for a few minutes. Such is the nature of The Bamboos mix, locked in a groove so tight they couldn’t escape from if they tried.
Melbourne based deep funk outfit The Bamboos have been around since 2001 in one form or another, playing live and distributing material incrementally on vinyl as singles. However it’s only now that founding member Lance Ferguson has found the time to dedicate his energy into recording and releasing the debut album. While not fronting The Bamboos, Ferguson is also busy producing his own electronic music, has another deep funk project called ‘Cookin’ on 3 Burners’, and also runs a record label called Bamboo Shack. It was while in the UK as part of a DJ tour that Lance met up with Rob Louie from the prestigious jazz/funk record label Tru Thoughts . The label had previously released one of the Bamboos singles and was pleased with the feedback. It didn’t take too much encouragement from Ferguson to persuade True Thoughts to sign them up for a long player. The bonus of this deal is that the British label has a strong affiliation with respected American label Ubiquity, meaning The Bamboos album will be released on both sides of the Atlantic.
Through word of mouth and Lance’s influential international contacts, The Bamboos have created quite a buzz about themselves, not just on the strength of their own single releases, but also as part of the Quantic Soul Orchestra backing UK soul queen Alice Russell, a TruThoughts/Ubiquity alumni.
Working with multiple genres I asked Ferguson whether each recording project required a different mentality?
“Totally different mind set, because the type of music I am influenced by for the electronic music is people like Roy Ayers and Herbie Hancock and a different production vibe, which I guess is not as raw. After this I am going to a studio to record some rhodes piano for an album for Tru Thoughts with that sort of stuff. Harmonically it’s more jazz influenced whereas Bamboos is more bluesy and raw.”
The groove based music that The Bamboos churn out is an organic experience in which all band members contribute equally. When all cylinders are firing, the results are inspirational. The staccato horns, precision drums, percussive top end guitar sounds and bass bubbling just behind the beat all merge together seamlessly, and there isn’t much room for error. Ferguson expands. “With the parts we play and the way the rhythm section interlocks together, no one can really hide behind anything. Everyone’s part is a distinctive thing that makes the group happen… it’s all about the rhythmic thing.”
The album ‘Step it Up’ was recorded with an ‘old school’ vibe in mind using reel to reel analogue tape, vintage amps and ribbon microphones in order to achieve the authentic 70s type funk sounds they sought. Reference points used, particularly for the horns were fellow funkmeisters like The JB’s, and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. Although The Bamboo sound is very much derived from the past, and their stage presence conjures visions of a bygone era with all members decked out in dapper suits, Ferguson is adamant that the band not be perceived as being on some kind of nostalgia trip. “I’m wary of the retro thing'” says Lance. “I don’t want it to be a time machine kind of thing like those rockabilly guys, but I just think it just gives it a sense of occasion. If we were up there doing the same thing in jeans and T shirts it wouldn’t have the same impact. When you see footage of JB’s and James Brown, it looks great when they are all in their suits.”
It looks like The Bamboos will finally get to play the UK in June, depending on album sales. However before hatching those chickens, they’ll be launching the album at home, doing a lot of shows in Melbourne and traveling interstate, as well as working toward album number two. Ferguson also hopes to seek out other like-minded local bands for his label Bamboo Shack, with the aim of getting a whole deep funk community happening.