Words by: Anni M. Svilar | Images by: Jon Snyder
The Pimps of Joytime :: 05.24.08 :: Boom Boom Room :: San Francisco, CA
"It's all soul to me. That's the thing that elevates my spirit into a kind of musical ecstasy," says Brian J, The Pimps of Joytime's mastermind. Musical ecstasy is a soulful and addictive pill. Aren't we always waiting for a band or DJ or whatever to push us up against that pulsing wall of music until we say, "That sound is tight." I think about what it takes to elevate a crowd. I'm sure it is a slice of everything - the musicianship, the transitions, the style of music being played. "I love every musical derivative of Africa, from Afro Cuban to Afrobeat to blues to hip-hop and even rock & roll," says Brian J. And so in a live performance, like a skilled Brooklyn DJ, The Pimps of Joytime seem to give a little bit of everything.
I have a friend who reads drumming books while on airplanes and during down-time like they are classics - and you can tell that he does. Word has it that Brian J is a perfectionist, too. The result of The Pimp's sincere efforts is a percussion heavy band with rhythms that keep pushing energy out to the audience like a continuously pumping body of water. In such an intimate setting like the Boom Boom Room, the audience member come face to face with that onstage energy, and it seems to swoop one up into the red curtains and red candle flicker there, waving with the ghosts of the blues legends that used to walk the room. And at this show, The Pimps of Joytime threw themselves into it.
"When someone asks what style we play, sometimes we'll say we play all things funky," says Brian J. This show's funkiness was a little bit of everything, or maybe a little bit of each town, coast to coast. Sometimes there were gritty blues that you might hear in Memphis. Other times there were mid-tempo grooves like Street Sounds that made me think of rainy nights, apartments with good views in urban areas and that hidden band you come across in a dive bar somewhere. A highlight was "San Francisco Bound," a song with repetitive, driving bass notes that are easy to picture pounding through the headphones and into your ears on a Greyhound bus somewhere between here and New York City. Basically, my ears were walked all over the country in one night.
Towards the end of the show, The Pimps treated us to The Meters' classic "Just Kissed My Baby." That's not to say that they are a cover band or a nostalgic funk throwback. In New York, The Pimps work amongst the funk and world music scene and it's apparent what they take from those worlds, emulating the style of a DJ with tastes and samples. "A DJ is about the dancers," says Brian J. "It's about bringing the party to a certain place. A master DJ understands and can manipulate the energy of a crowd. My experience at these funky kind of Brooklyn parties, just as a cat that likes to get his groove on, is a big influence on my production and live show approach."
Brian J & Hagar Ben Ari - Pimps Of Joytime|
05.24 :: San Francisco
However it is not surprising that they covered The Meters since Cyril Neville is an old friend to The Pimps, having joined them on the track "H2O" from their album High Steppin', a record that was created during a time when New Orleans DJ, singer and musician Black Pearl was a founding member of the band and whose "influence is ingrained," in The Pimps of Joytime today. In fact Brian J says that he can't talk about The Pimps of Joytime without mentioning Black Pearl, though he clearly has respect for everyone who's ever been part of the Pimps organization.
JamBase: Tell us a little about each member of the band. What is their role in The Pimps of Joytime, and why do you like playing music with them?
Brian J: Chauncey Yearwood plays congas, sings and raps. Chaunce brings a lot to the crew from his tribal groove on the congas to soulful harmony vocals to his sharp witted rapping. He really is a wise old sage in a young man's body. He has a beautiful speaking voice and will hit you with quotable gems on the regular in conversation.
Eric Kalb :: 05.24 :: San Francisco|
Mayteana Morales is the newest member of the outfit. One day I invited her to the studio to get on a couple of tracks I was recording. It was the easiest vocal session I've ever done. She nailed every part on the first take, in tune and in time. I was needing someone in the band that could sing, do percussion and run the sampler, so bam, she was it. She has an easy laugh that I enjoy triggering by saying ridiculous shit. Part of what I love about working with May is that she comes from a dramatic arts background. Being a professional singer is new to her, which gives her a cool kind of innocence in her energy."
Hagar Ben Ari, bass player extraordinaire, is the daughter of a famous music teacher in Israel. She chose the bass at a very young age and was touring with major artists by the age of 16. Hagar is a very special and deep musician. Her playing is sensual and intuitive. She is a great player when she's not feelin' it. And when she is feelin' it, it's pure magic. She embraces the female aspect of the bass, which she believes is the true energy of the instrument. Sometimes we won't make eye contact for a whole set, but all kinds of subtle communications have been going on between us through our instruments."
Eric Kalb has been holding down the chair for about seven months. An original member of the now defunct Deep Banana Blackout, as well as stints with Sharon Jones and Greyboy Allstars, Kalb is a funky soulful drummer with a whole lotta grease in his playing. The thing I love about Kalb is he is an old school drummer, from his tone to his style to the way he hits the drums. A lot of cats come into The Pimps trying to modernize the instrument. Although The Pimps of Joytime is a future funk band, its an amalgamation of new and old. In the history of the drum set, most of the best shit happened between 1955 and 1975. That's why a lot of hip-hop, R&B and drum pop samples are from that era because it's really hard to reproduce. It's hard to find people that play like that today. Kalb is right in there. He's got that.
That is the core unit. We work with a handful of other musicians when budget allows including the talented Will Jones on sampler, saxophone and percussion. It's great working with Will or 'Spills' as we affectionately call him. He has a history of working with great jazz and Afrobeat bands so he brings that sensibility to the stage.
Will Jones :: 05.24 :: San Francisco|
JamBase: How is your sound evolving?
Brian J: When I think of The Pimps of Joytime, I see so much potential.
We've really just begun. There is a kind of funky, mystical place we can hit. I believe that we can hit some life changing kind of levels. It's that thing when five or six musicians playing together become something bigger then five or six musicians playing together. That has a lot to do with the audience. San Fran has been good for us cause people are musically savvy but also open and willing to be taken somewhere musically and spiritually. That type of environment is very nurturing to a bunch of New York musicians. New York crowds will make you work for their attention - gotta hit 'em over the head cause they're inundated with so much art. It's a good thing, though. It makes you a little tough.
JamBase: How important is energy from an audience? Can you feel it? Do you feed off of it and play to it?
Brian J: Yes, the crowd energy is a factor to what kind of night we have.
It's a symbiotic relationship. If we start kickin' some good sounds out there and people pick it up and send some love back towards us it's very inspiring. A Pimps of Joytime show is meant to be more of an event then a show. It's something we do together with the crowd. Sometimes there is that point in the set when people stop looking at us and start groovin' with each other and being part of the experience. I love that.
The Pimps Of Joytime will perform at the Boom Boom Room again this weekend. Completer tour dates available here.
JamBase | Frisco
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