Would you like to feel free? You wanna feel connected? Would you thrill to having an "eargasm?" These are all sensations the members of Tightn' Up! hope you'll experience on a single listen of their debut album, sensations you could even seek right now. The Houston funk and soul band's first album, appropriately titled And Now We Can Begin, is out today on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal and other major platforms. They'll celebrate the occasion by playing the album in its 10-song entirety at tonight's free release party at Notsuoh.
The band is a Dr. Funkenstein's monster, pieced together with some talented parts and then set loose upon our humble burg to get the villagers moving. Vocalist Ashlei Mayadia explains.
"We were brought together through the actions of Craig Brown and Steve Forse, and they, along with our drummer Mike Hatter, selected musicians they knew and thought would fit well together to meet," she says. "The initial purpose was for Craig to have a live band to perform on Record Store Day at his Heights Vinyl record store. We met on the last Sunday night in March 2014 and played our first show 14 days later."
Mayadia is joined by Hatter on drums, bassist Urica Fernandez, percussionist Lou Boldrighini and guitarist Brandon Miles. Each is a veteran or studio musician, and their union had the intention of furthering "Houston funk," which is currently surging.
"There is a bit of a scene around us," explains Miles, "and we are the gritty side of a larger part of a Houston scene that includes Soul Creatures, Heights Funk Collective, Journey Agents, Bayou City Funk, The C.I.T.Y., a bit of R&B and soul singers..."
"Our sound is built upon the sounds of old," Fernandez jumps in. "I pull a lot from Bootsie, Jaco, Parliament, I pull a lot from those early funkateers, their sound was just in the pocket. It was bold, on point and driving, and that's what tends to drive our music. So, but yet, still melodic, in the sense of creating melody with it. Together, with sounds Brandon comes out on the guitar — he's coming with Stevie Ray Vaughan to Eddie [Van Halen] to Isley Brothers. Hatter's sound comes from rock to country to soul to gospel, and Lou he just got worldwide skills, you know, African rhythms, Latin rhythms, Bossa..."
"Gumbo!" Boldrighini adds, "Houston gumbo."
"There's a definitive grittiness with us that's like our predecessors, like The Crusaders and Archie Bell and now, you look, it's like seven, eight funk bands doing it and what makes it Houston is it's just dirty," Miles said.
"We the Dirty South, baby," Mayadia says, concluding further discussion of the band's sound.
The album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Steven Finley at Digital Warehaus, located inside Sterrett Street Studio. The band self-produced the record and started recording last July. Until tonight's album release, the best (and only) way to hear what Tightn' Up! does was by catching a live show, which is still highly encouraged. This band has the sort of pedigree that allows it to play a song like Billy Preston's "Outta Space" with revered precision, then spin the Runaways' "Cherry Bomb" into a funky grinder. There are no covers on the new album, save a snippet of a classic. We won't spoil that surprise for listeners, but did ask the band about some of the music that influenced it. Each member took a turn:
Hatter: "That Rick James album, Street Songs, because Rick James embodies himself into funk culture relentlessly and unapologetic. He's kind of belligerent but he's well-versed in music. With that being said, I think you have to take him and understand both his expression musically and personally and that helps you start to understand what the funk culture is about- not trying to fit into a box, be your own renegade source and I appreciate him for that."
Miles: I say Sly Stone, Fresh, 'cause it's just a freak-a-thon, a front to back freak-a-thon. I have like six copies of that album, that's the one I keep replacing, 'cause I keep wearing it out."
Boldrighini: "Earth, Wind and Fire — all of them, you name it."
Fernandez: "Mine would have to be Bootsy Collins, any album. Only because being a bass player, his sound — when I talk about being free, freedom to just do whatever, however, whenever and to make good music that just gets down in your soul. I'd rather be with you..."
Mayadia: "Ya'll know I love Prince, and I'd say anything by him because his versatility infused soul and funk and jazz and punk and hip-hop and improv. He was my introduction to this freedom of creation and existence, masculine and feminine energy, God and sex. I fell in love with his music when I was three, dancing in the middle of my mom's friend's living room and asking her to play his records. He put soul and funk in everything he did. Definitely listen to The Rainbow Children album."
If that doesn't spark you into trekking down to Notsuoh for tonight's show, maybe Tightn' Up! can convince you with a few final thoughts. Fernandez says, "Come to our release party and be ready to a have a good time. Share in our..."
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"Our oo-wee-ness!" Mayadia chimes in.
"Come to our players ball," urges Miles.
"Share in our magical, soul-filled ,original funk," Boldrighini adds. "Come funk with us."
Tightn' Up! celebrate their release party for And Now We Can Begin, 9 p.m. tonight at Notsuoh, 314 Main. Free.