What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think of a Kings Of Leon song? Certainly not funkalicious grooves and sexy vocals — but Melbourne’s deep funk outfit The Bamboos are quickly changing that, with the first single from their new album being a cover of Kings Of Leon’s ‘King Of The Rodeo’.
The first track to be released from Side-Stepper features the exquisite vocals of Megan Washington and has an instantly infectious groove to it. “Originally we had intended to do a Foo Fighters track and once we got in the studio the arrangement simply wasn’t working”, enigmatic front man Lance Ferguson tells me. “I literally had to rush home that night and come up with something the very next morning to record. Luckily it worked out OK. Megan really made it happen with her vocals too”.
Along with Megan, The Bamboos have an assortment of exceptional singers lending their voices to some of the tracks including Swedish Paul McInnes, British rapper TY and, of course, resident songstress Kylie Auldist who released her debut album with The Bamboos earlier in the year.
“With Kylie it is easy because we live in the same town. We can get together to write and record songs all the time”, Ferguson says “But with overseas collaborators I usually send them an almost-finished backing track and get them to record their vocals to it. In the case of ‘Move On’ with Paul Mac Innes from Sweden, I gave him a lyrical theme/concept and he ran with it. He then recorded the vocals in Sweden, uploaded them to me and I mixed it here. Same for TY, though I gave him free reign to do whatever he wanted. I never take the internet for granted in this context and think it’s amazing we can make music in this manner — it’s a wonderful tool”.
As well as working with some fantastic vocalists, the band can very much hold their own without a vocalist, something not too many bands around today can do. The suit-wearing band also cover funk and soul classics, this time around taking on The Chosen Few’s ‘Funky Buttercup’. “Funky Buttercup was originally intended for a Trojan Records remix album that never eventuated. We liked the version so much we had to put it on the new album. I really enjoy putting a new spin on someone else’s song — it’s something I’ve done with electronic-based remixes for a long time and it’s fun to do it with a live band also”, says Lance.
The kings of funk recently had the rare opportunity to play some of the Parklife shows and I was lucky enough to catch them at the Sydney show. “It was a great opportunity for The Bamboos to play to a very different crowd and from where I was standing the reaction was great. In a world where ‘live’ can still mean laptops, samplers and Ableton I think there is a lot to be said for eight people literally playing instruments on stage”, Lance explains.
“I think people sub-consciously react to it in a positive way — and The Bamboos are all about making people dance. Even the ‘One Love’ kids can get sick of a 4/4 kick drum so I think in some respects we offered them something different, organic and a little bit left-field that struck a chord (no pun intended!)”.
Side-Stepper is available now, and The Bamboos play the forum in Sydney on October 24 with Roy Ayers and Nostalgia 77.