Everything around here is about to get funky. Austin-based funk band, Flyjack is celebrating the release of their fourth album Soul Catcher this Saturday, February 1 at the Continental Club. They will be sharing the bill with Houston’s own Bayou City Funk for what is sure to be a soulful evening.
The band recently held a release show in their hometown to a sold out crowd in Austin’s Continental Club. “When we have an empty dance floor, it doesn’t last very long,” says founding member and bassist Brad Bradburn.
Along with Bradburn, Buck McKinney who plays bass also founded the group. They currently feature nine band members, all of whom bring to the table their rich talent and like any real soul band an impressive horn section.
Flyjack grew their fan base playing weekly residencies around Austin, most recently playing every Thursday at C’Boys. “There’s really nothing like it as far as tightening up a band,” says McKinney. “When you play a few times a month its good, but when it’s every week and you’ve got to make each one of those nights refreshing it puts it on you. It helps you develop some spontaneity too,” he adds.
Soul Catcher delivers authentic soul music. It’s impossible to resist the urge to move and groove when the band breaks it down. It’s clear that these players run a tight yet funky ship, rooted in old soul music. "I think it's the best thing we've done. I just think we've finally got to a point where we knew what we wanted to do," says McKinney.
The album features nine original instrumental tracks that highlight the bands ability to bounce sounds off of each other and keep the energy high. "Flamethrower" is a prime example of a funky jam where every band members part can be clearly heard and felt.
The band also included two thoughtfully selected covers, "Damn Right I Am Somebody" and "Funky to the Bone". "Those are good examples of songs that have structure, they go places and they do things. They are challenging and everybody has got to be ready to turn on a dime," describes McKinney.
It’s no coincidence that they might bring to mind classic soul music, the band previously worked with the legendary Jab’o Starks, long time drummer for James Brown. They met by chance while McKinney was on a family vacation in Florida. He was searching for live music and a local pointed him towards the club where Starks was playing.
The two met and hit it off and McKinney came back to Austin with a plan in mind. His band mate Bradburn was also planning a trip to Florida so “a light bulb went off,” says McKinney. He sent his friend on a mission to find Starks and get him to play on their 2010 album, On The One.
“It’s one of those things where you go, ‘well this would never happen’, but you won’t know until you ask. You just gotta go for it sometimes and you find out that things will work out if you’re genuine,” says McKinney.
The band mates laugh warmly and fondly remember their time with Starks. “We learned from him in the fact that it was a real privilege to get to meet him and work with him. We could have sat there and listened to him tell stories all night long,” says McKinney.
Starks had a lot to teach the band. Not only had he played with James Brown, but he lived to tell the tale. Brown was notoriously strict and moody and would fine his band for any mistakes made during rehearsal.
“He had a funny way of doing it," describes McKinney. "He’d be on stage the band would be playing and if he heard a mistake he’d turn around and flash five fingers and that meant five dollars and then if he heard another one he’d turn around and flash ten fingers.”
The band was sick of it and approached Brown about it. He requested an evening to rethink his approach and one version of the story is that when he returned to practice the next day, he let almost everyone in the band go and brought Bootsy Collins on board. Jab'o did not lose his job behind the drums that day.
“It’s just stories like that and one thing you learn is how hard it is and how hard it was for a guy like Jab’o to do the job that he did and to play with an icon like that,” says McKinney. Starks also taught the youngsters some real soul lingo that they still use today.
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“He would literally pull his pocket out from his pants because he liked the groove that we were playing with and he was like ‘That’s pocket!’ and pocket means you’re playing in the groove, it means you’re tight,” describes McKinney.
It can’t be easy to get nine musicians on the same page let alone playing in the pocket. “You can’t crack the whip, you have to cajole, you have to use psychology. You cannot play this kind of music without really mapping things out. Sometimes people come to see us play and they crack up because there is a lot of communication going on on stage,” says McKinney.
Adding, "We are not playing the song the same way every night, somebody might decide they want to go this direction or that direction and everybody has to be paying attention when that happens so there's learning each others sign language, getting used to each other and having kind of like a sixth sense so you can all stay together playing this crazy music."
Flyjack will perform Saturday, February 1 at Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth, 3 p.m. Free. And with Bayou City Funk, February 1 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, doors open at 9 p.m. $12