FinkFankFunks Den of Worldly Pleasures
This year the band kissed their funky-smelling Lowell practice room goodbye forever, moving up to funkier headquarters. It now practices at the House of Funk, a spacious house near Kendall Square, with a basement that stands ever play-ready, in the words of co-founding saxophone player Alex G. Scammon 01.
The band inaugurated the House in early December with a cookout. I just walked in and there were practically satyrs walking around with plates of meat on a tray, recalls bass player Jesse R. Andrews 04. I knew Id stumbled into some sort of funk paradise.
The House was hand-picked for its funk paradise-like features. My goal was to live with people in the band so we could play whenever we felt like it, says Scammon, who works for a computer company. Getting this particular house was very much a band-driven choice.
Not only can the band members now play during dining hours, which Lowell prohibited, they dont have to set up their equipment each time they come in. And they can enjoy the odd beer or ten, uninhibited.
The fact is, the House is much more than a better version of Lowell basement. It is also an extension of the Adams House room where co-founder Scammon had his pad senior year, to use Andrews term. Before the graduation of the bands founding members, FinkFankFunk turned the Pad into a funky salon, every weekend, after the shows, says Alec B. Spiegleman 03.
The House of Funk held its first funky salon after an impressive gig last Friday, in which FinkFankFunk headlined a club for the first time, at Middle East. After the show, Alex and Ben [D. Scheuer 04, lead singer] got all these girls to come back, and some guys, says Andrews. Scammon describes it as
a chill time. It was just, if people are up for it. It was good, beer aplenty, he recalls. It devolved into some music playing, which often happens after a gig. You get a room full of musicians, and they make noise.
Andrews believes such goings-on are enjoyable for band members and audience tag-alongs alike. At first the girls were impressed, he says. But then they were less impressed. Then, they drank some more beer, and they were more impressed. It was a pretty interesting phenomenon.
Guitarist Ari K. Appel 03 is more concerned with the future of partying at the House of Funk. What were trying to figure out right now, he says, is how to throw a massive rager. Its complicated because the band is so large (11 members), were going to have to play in another room, and have dancing in the den, or pipe up the music from the basement or something. Were still negotiating.
Until such problems find resolution, other members hark back to the good old days, and hope that the House of Funk will live up to the Pad parties of yore. Spiegelman searches for Funk-specific terminology: I hesitate to even call them parties, he says, There is just much less talking involved. Its about being sprawled out on a shag rug, being exposed to Scammons music (Scammon maintains an impressive library of funk CDs) as a band. I think a lot of the stuff we play is due to the shared experience there in the wee hours of the night. There is this spontaneous thing that other guests can think is rude, but well sometimes all just stop. Our eyes all glaze over, and we cant continue our conversations because an amazing thing just went on in the music.
The bands motto is something along the lines of Keep bringing the funk to unfunky people. It began about four years ago, as an ill-fated Dixieland trio, says Jake E. Flemming 01, one of the three founding members who has filled the bands tenor chair to overflowing since his early days as a co-founder and distressingly square clarinet player, according to his website bio. Scammon, Flemming and Eric R. Rosenbaum 03 had met in the Harvard Wind Ensemble, and wanted more. To cut a long story short, Flemming claims that they simply said, This is stupid, lets play funk instead, and started on a long, slow climb to their current position . We were bad, but now were really good, he says.
The band has been getting gigs outside of the college scene since last spring around. This year they have added original music to their repertoire of mostly covers.
We have a new, more adventurous sensibility, says Flemming. Some members attribute the improvement to the lead singer, Scheuer, who joined last fall. After holding fruitless auditions for a new lead singer in early fall last year, the band caught wind of a rumor that somewhere in the freshman class there was a funky freshman who could match the craziness of our dress and tightness of our playing with a kick-ass stage presence, recounts Appel. He gave us a direction to go in, and has been a great force in rehearsal. Singing was not really a priority. We were just looking for someone to go crazy on stage.
At the Middle East gig, Scheuer lived up to this expectation. He climbed the pipes on the ceiling and jumped down into the audience numerous times. The girls gyrating in the audience edged one another forward to get close to him. When he threw a disposable camera into the pit, they were eager to provide him with mementos of their presence at the show.
Last year, he was the author of the bands only original song, Aint Got None, but this year, other members caught the composing bug. Funky Alligator came to be through the combined efforts of the entire group, and Andrews contributed both Free Love Vigilante, and Sanctify My Pants, on a religious theme.
We were talking about it, and to play clubs, you just couldnt be a cover band, he says of his inspiration. I just knew Sanctify my Pants was going to be the title, and once I got the beat, it evolved from there. Now Im at work on Lobster Man, which will be a bit of a parody. Crabwoman might figure. I think its going to be about my blockmate Jack and his girlfriend. He doesnt know that yet.
The band has pushed forward the musical style of many of its members from the keyboardist, Alex Zander Gordon 04, who learned to play fewer notes and be funkier, to Scheuer, who has had to meld his rock and roll background into the spirit of funk. The band is full of jazz musicians who play funk and funk musicians who play jazz, he says. Its about listening and adaption of music for the good of the group.
With the graduation of its founding members last year, the band might have have died. It was up in the air for a while, but at some point it was plain we were getting somewhere, says Scammon, explaining his purchase of the House of Funk. Knowing how long it took to get this going so well...to do it all again seemed so unecessary. The lease is only for a year, but, as Scheuer says, Were not going to end FinkFankFunk right now, because were on a funk odyssey, and its not going to end until were old and crippled.