Groovement describes its sound as “what you’d hear if Led Zeppelin caught a Soul Train with Grouplove and they threw a party while headin’ down the tracks to Motown.” The six-man funk-rock outfit based in Fayetteville, Ark., makes a stop at Jazz UpFront in Bloomington on Saturday, Nov. 17.
GLT caught up with drummer Bryan Burkhart via Skype from his home in northwest Arkansas, an area he said has been fertile ground for funky bands that like to stretch out a bit.
“Since I’ve been here, there has always been at least one pretty solid funky groove band out of here,” said Burkhart. “All the way back to a band called Punkinhead that toured a lot in the 90s.”
Groovement formed in 2009 when Burkhart hand-selected the guys he believed were musically the best fit to form a group, and would work together as a team. He said his band is part of a vibrant northwest Arkansas music scene which includes Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas. Bentonville just up the road is the world headquarters for Walmart. And neighboring Springdale is where Tyson Chicken corporate headquarters is located.
“And we’re in the Ozarks, so it’s beautiful country,” said Burkhart. “The scene is great. We actually saw an article on Facebook that ranked Fayetteville as the 3rd best music town in the country. Austin, Texas, was first and Denver, Brooklyn and Asheville, North Carolina, was right behind us.”
Burkhart said the strong music scene is what has kept the Tulsa native around after graduating from the University of Arkansas.
“And they’re proud of their scene in Tulsa, but I felt the scene here was much better,” said Burkhart.
Even romping through Groovement’s 2016 recording “Clouds” can give a hint of the fun the music sounds live.
“Definitely,” said Burkhart of their songs that have an extended jam in the middle or end of each song, and sometimes both. “We love to have the dynamic range of build-up, break-down and get emotional movement within the songs.”
Burkhart said the attraction to their funky groove is because it provides a balance between musicianship, songwriting, and performing.
“You find that a little bit more so in classic stuff, where you find pop songs that have big jams in them that could be six minutes long. That has kind of gone away, now you have to keep it within three or four minutes, and often solos are what gets cut,” said Burkhart, who added they especially want that extended improvisation during their live shows.
“You kind of find that more often in older music than in modern music,” said Burkhart.
Kind of like Parliament, Funkadelic, and Rick James, all huge influences on Groovement’s sound. Though Burkhart and his bandmates were too young to catch that music during its heyday.
“Hip-hop music … with the samples … re-introduced that music to us,” said Burkhart. “We’d hear those songs for the first time and think it’s a Dr. Dre song. Then we find out Dr. Dre just took a sample from a song by Curtis Mayfield or Parliament/Funkadelic. We’d then go back and discover that music and their whole catalogue for the first time and realize where that originally came from.”
Speaking of Rick James, the R&B legend is name checked on perhaps the stand-out track on the “Clouds” album, “Rick James & the Giant Peach.” The extended up-tempo jam is full of funky horns and organ sounds. It’s tight and obvious the band is locked into each other and the groove itself. But the music isn’t the only component when performing. Burkhart says movement on stage is just as important as what’s coming out of their instruments.
“That’s what people come to see and what we like doing the most: performing. And if our shows aren’t fun, then nobody wants to come,” declared Burkhart.
That fun includes bass player who goes by the name Supa Man. He loves to wear his superman cape and flying on bass cabinets and sub-woofers.
"Our guitarist (Lucas Parker) is king of the guitar face,” said Burkhart.
And they bring horns.
“Our horns bring an energy to our live show you can’t capture on pre-recorded material,” said Burkhart.
Groovement plays Jazz UpFront in downtown Bloomington on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 9 p.m. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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