In 2015 as things like privacy, personal freedoms and face-to-face interaction are all endangered; it’s comforting to know that funk is far from extinct. In fact, funk promotes fun, freedom and togetherness through dissolving the very illusions of difference that often lead us to define each other rather then dance with each other.
Euforquestra (pronounced yoo-FOHR-keh-stra) is at the forefront of this funk movement crafting music where many minds and musical tastes combine to create a sound that spins the globe of world music till it turns into a disco ball. With a backbone of afro-beat, funk flowing through their veins and reggae in their hips, Euforquestra has the body build of a dance machine and the perfect formula for a uniquely groovy genre blending sound. Euforquestra originated in Iowa City, Iowa then relocated to Fort Collins, Colorado, where all seven members have since spread out amongst the Rocky Mountains yet remained a tight, talented, ever-touring band.
Everyone in Euforquestra is a life long musician, most have musical degrees, and some have even studied their craft in countries like Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago and Brazil. The fact that they play an average of 120 shows a year and have still managed to release five albums is a testament to the unrelenting passion and road-tested endurance that enables them to consistently produce a large quantity of very quality music. Their most recent studio album Fire was funded through over 200 contributions to a Kickstarter campaign and produced by Kyle Hollingsworth of The String Cheese Incident. Kyle brought his wealth of talents along with an organic and open-minded approach to recording that allowed the band to thrive and play freely, which is part of why they moved in the first place.
Living in a land like Colorado constantly confronts you with peaks that tease the adventurous spirit and ache to be explored; as they’ve learned, some summits are snow capped and others occur on stage. Euforquestra continues to climb and show no signs of stopping. Luckily some of their seven members paused long enough to talk with AKcreative about what makes their local music scene so lovable, the Motet taking them under their wing, and keeping the funk alive.
AKcreative: You’re in the midst of a six-night run with Kevin Kinsella of John Brown’s Body and 10ft. Ganja Plant and you’re coming right off of a double header in Vail last night. How has the Riding Higher Still Tour been?
Mike Tallman: It’s been really good. It’s been a nice experience for us to learn a whole new batch of songs that we’ve never played before and work with somebody that we’ve looked up to musically for a long time. We’re towards the end of the run now so I feel like things are dialed in and we figured out how it flows and how to incorporate it into our regular music as well.
What have you learned from performing with Kevin Kinsella?
Austin Zalatel: We were just talking earlier today about how it has helped us develop our reggae pocket a little bit better because we’ve always kind of touched a little bit on reggae and this experience really deepens that I think.
You guys are originally from Iowa, and John Brown’s Body hails from New York. How were you introduced?
Mike: Kevin contacted our manager and said that he was trying to come out and do some Colorado dates. Originally he had a band he wanted to bring with him, Thunder Body, who played on his record as the rhythm section and they were going to come out but logistics just didn’t work out so our manager was basically like, ‘I’ve got some guys who can play reggae and are already in Colorado’. We’ve known a bunch of these tunes for years and years, and we all love the old John Brown’s Body records.
Bringing it back to your manager, you guys met Kevin through him but he also introduced you to Kyle Hollingsworth of The String Cheese Incident, who produced and was featured on your most recent album Fire. When was the first time that you met Kyle?
Austin: I think it was like the fall of 2009.
Mike: Yea, we did some dates with him in the Midwest.
Craig Babineau: That was before I was even in the band.
What was it like meeting him?
Mike: I was pretty into ‘Cheese’ in my younger days and I had met some of the other guys in the past, but hadn’t met him before. Kyle’s cool, we’re all very personable dudes you know, regular old people.
Craig: Yea, the more professional musicians or whoever it is you meet like that the more you see they’re just regular dudes. Some of them get up on their high-horse, but luckily most of people we’ve encountered and worked with have been pretty cool.
Especially out here in Colorado where the music scene is very friendly and fertile for collaboration.
Mike: It’s more of a communal vibe out here rather then a competitive one, and honestly part of the reason we moved out here was the first couple trips we took to Colorado when we played with The Motet and then they kind of took us under their wing and we got to be good buddies with that whole crew. Just felt really at home here.
How did Kyle contribute to the recording process?
Mike: There are several tunes on the album where Kyle did edit lyrics, or forms, or melodies, I can’t remember what all happened on what tune. He came to some rehearsals and was like ‘this tune is way too fast, why are you doing it like that’. He had some liberties and it was great for us you know since we had someone we could just ask. In the past when we were making records we’d spend time in the studio just going ‘what should we do here, should we go to the bridge here’, so this was nice because we could just go ‘Kyle what should do we do’.
Craig: He had a lot of input and the whole time he was on-point.
Did he encourage you to experiment?
Craig: Yea, we did a jam in the studio and all kinds of other stuff.
Mike: The last day that we were doing our rhythm tracking and everyone was playing together he was very insistent that at some point we do some improvising in the studio.
Craig: That ended up being some of those little interludes on the album (Moment #1, 2 &3). Those were spliced out of that 18 minute jam.
It’s pretty crazy and serendipitous that one of your first big gigs in Colorado was opening for The Motet since they are the ideal funk forefathers to usher you and your sound into the Rocky Mountain music scene.
Mike: They had us open the Fox the second time we ever came to Colorado and we were still living in Iowa. We had never even been in a room like that before and we were just playing bars constantly. So it was cool to be on a dedicated rock-hall stage and the Fox is legendary, it’s been around forever, and there’s a lot of history in that room. It was kind of surreal for a minute. I had to let it sink in.
I hope you still experience some surreal moments like that now.
Craig: Yea definitely, I’m trying to think of some shows in particular. This summer we played with Indigo Girls at Iowa City Arts Festival and that was to about 7,000 people or something. Then even having some of the guests, like last weekend in Denver we had Congo Sanchez from Thievery Corporation come up and play and the band that did this last tour with us, Miles Tackett and the Three Times, I think he plays bass in Breakestra but he plays guitar in his band, and he got up too. So there are all these bands that I’ve been listening to for a long time and like their stuff a lot, and here we are just playing with them on stage thinking ‘oh man this is pretty surreal’.
That seems to be a common occurrence out here in the Colorado music scene where lots of bands cross-pollinate very naturally.
Mike: Yea there are a lot of opportunities out here and a lot of people like Congo Sanchez (?) who just happened to be hanging out in Denver and came to our show. I saw him come in and was like ‘man we’ve got to get him up on stage’ and then we go back to playing a tune, I’m not paying attention, and I turn around and he’s already on stage playing.
Craig: I didn’t even realize it was him until you said something. He used to have some long dreads and cut them off recently, so I was like ‘is this some drunk guy that got up on stage, who is this dude’, and when I found out I was like ‘oh shit, it’s the drummer from Thievery Corporation who I’ve been listening to for a decade’.
Austin: It’s cool, and there are a lot of opportunities. We got to play The Fillmore for the first time a couple months ago and that was a big one for us.
Which characteristic of the Colorado music scene do you love the most?
Mike: A big part of it is definitely having the exposure to so much different music. First of all we get the opportunity to play with a lot of people and have opened for a lot of people who we have looked up to for years and years. But even if we’re not working and we’re just hanging out on a weekend there’s probably a show somewhere in Denver, Boulder or Fort Collins that we all want to go see and there’s Red Rocks all summer long. There’s constantly music that I want to see and be inspired by.
Craig: There’s a lot of music and it’s a lot of good music, which is awesome. There are also a lot of venues too and it’s not everywhere you go that there are places like The Ogden or The Fillmore and all these other awesome venues around. We’re kind of spoiled around here. There’s tons of abundance, even down to the smaller stuff.
Mike: We’re lucky for the quality of production and everything else around here. The bar is set very high in Colorado.
Despite living in and loving Colorado you still proudly keeps your ties to Iowa with events like your annual holiday benefit shows and self-started festival Camp Euforia (?), which will be in its twelfth year this summer. How has Camp Euforia evolved over the last 11 years from pretty much a party on a farm into a full-fledged festival?
Mike: It’s been gradual. From year to year if you look at it there doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of change, but if you look at what’s going to happen this year as opposed to five years ago it’s drastically different. It’s little steps, we figure out a little more every year. It’s a totally legit festival, but it still has an intimate feel to it and I think that’s what people really like.
Craig: I kind of came into it with an outsiders perspective because I didn’t go to like the first nine Camp Euforias. So I came right after joining the band and didn’t really know what to expect but it’s an awesome festival.
I heard that at last year’s Camp Euforia you had some rough weather that unexpectedly spawned a Motet/Euforquestra barn party?
Mike: Yea, Saturday night there was this torrential downpour that shut down the main stage, which is an outdoor stage, and all of our Colorado homies were all there and we were just sitting around on this farm with this massive storm blowing through. Our second stage is inside in a barn so we were like lets just take the gear over there and lets all play. Everyone just wanted to play, it doesn’t matter what, and us, The Motet, Juno What, and everyone else weren’t going to be able to play. We set up and did three or four Euforquestra tunes and then it just became a jam session with that little group of people and we did some Earth Wind & Fire, some Stevie Wonder and some Talking Heads.
Craig: It was packed in there, and everyone was pretty much trying to get in so it was just overflowing and sweaty. We had to carry all our gear across this field that was like a mud-pit, I think our bassist Adam fell in the mud, it was a shit show but it ended up being pretty sweet.
You guys have kept that close comradery with The Motet and you mentioned them ‘taking you under their wing’ around the time of you opening for them at The Fox. As your friends and mentors, what have they taught you about music, funk or even life in general?
Mike: Man, that’s a deep question. We met Dave and Scott, their former percussionist, and a bunch of those guys have done a lot of studying of Afro-Cuban music and Afro-Brazilian music, which is also something that we did a lot of earlier in our career. We don’t do as much of it now but it was a very big period for us, where we were doing this west-African stuff fused with this Afro-Cuban music and we met them when that was mostly what we were focused on.
They thought it was really cool and interesting that a bunch of dudes from Iowa were playing all this Afro-Cuban music, so I think that kind of spawned them taking us under their wing. They’ve given us lots of opportunities to open big shows and we’ve traveled together, toured, done festival bills, and thrown crazy barn parties. They were guys that we looked up to for many years and now they’re just our ‘homies’.
What are Euforquestra’s plans for this upcoming year?
Mike: We definitely want to record and release a little bit of music at some point this year, probably not a full album, but possibly a couple singles or an EP or something – that’s a big goal. We have some up coming shows that aren’t announced yet that we’re all pretty psyched about. It’s going to be a good year. Everything’s feeling really good
What would you like to tell your fans who are reading this interview?
Mike: We love you and thank you. We’ll keep playing if you keep dancing.
For info on Euforquestra’s current tour click here and for a daily dose of funk watch their music video for the title-track off of their most recent album Fire.