Dumpstaphunk: Stankier Than The Rest

Listen to Dumpstaphunk on MySpace..

By: Dennis Cook

Travel back with me to a Saturday at Bonnaroo in 2006. It's 3 a.m. and everyone is bleary and bruised, chemically shaken and stirred, as the late night sets begin to wrap up. But one stage is just getting cooking. An undulating soul python is winding its way through our legs, spitting venom into our veins, inspiring us to shout, "I'm funky like a UFO," at the top of our lungs. Dumpstaphunk erased all weariness, replacing it with hip grease and lacerating rock fury. Not since vintage recordings of Funkadelic had I heard anything quite like them, and in one fell swoop under the Tennessee stars they made a fan for life.

"We were trying to decide what to call this band and I'd recently written a song with my two younger brothers called 'Dumpstaphunk.' I was thinking of what's stinkier or nastier than a dumpster? Not much," offers keyboardist-singer-bandleader Ivan Neville.

While most contemporary funk is really clean, at its best funk should be dirty, even vaguely unwholesome. "Exactly! We've been very nasty since our first show at Jazz Fest," enthuses Ivan. "The chemistry of this combination is amazing. We all like to listen to one another. We're fans of each other, which makes it fun playing. I love playing on stage but I also love listening to these guys! I like to stop playing and just sit there on the stool and listen. These guys are bad!"

Formed in New Orleans in 2003, Dumpstaphunk oozes righteous anger but never forgets to get your backfield in motion. You might not even realize you're shouting protest anthems and freedom songs but your body feels it on a cellular level. It's a party that celebrates being alive even though the world is a mess.

"There's five songs on the Listen Hear EP [released on their own DP Records earlier this year], which is our first studio recording. There's been a lot of live stuff that'd surfaced but we laid down about 13 tracks before Jazz Fest last year," Ivan says. "I told them, 'I don't want to have anything rehearsed or mapped out. I just want to go in there and press record.' It's almost like when we start we've been playing for five minutes already! Bam! Probably my favorite [on the EP] is 'Meanwhile...' which I believe is the first take of that song. It was so nasty and it had a vibe about it that we said, 'That's it!' The idea is if we have the opportunity to say something then we should use it. So, we were a little angry about the Hurricane [Katrina] and the state of affairs in this country but MEANWHILE shake your booty! All this stuff's going on but in the meantime have a good time. There's a lot of serious issues but I've learned to not take myself so seriously. I insist on having a good time."

One is always on shaky ground when talking politics in music. There'll always be someone who disagrees with your viewpoint but you can usually get the majority of folks onto a dance floor. It takes a Sly intellect to do both things simultaneously but Dumpstaphunk is steadily growing into the natural successor to vintage Funkadelic. This is a group that truly understands George Clinton's pronouncement, "Soul is a ham hock in your corn flakes." Guitarist Ian Neville, son of Art Neville and Ivan's cousin, counters quoting, "Deeper than the notion that the world was flat when it was round."

"If you go to websites where you have to pick the genres of music you like funk isn't even on there! So, I guess we're playing for that," says Ian. "Funk is an open genre like rock & roll, if you know what to look for in those realms of music. One of my favorite guitar influences that I stumbled onto after I started playing was Freddie Stone [co-founder of Sly & The Family Stone], and that was a whole other leftfield take on playing funk. They were doing their own thing and that's what I like and appreciate about it. Sly and them had a dry edge."

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