Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band has been dropping funked up booty shaking dance grooves to you for over a decade. With their latest release “Onward!” hitting record stores in September, we thought it would be a good idea to sit down with a couple members to talk about the album. We met up with drummer Lee Allen, keyboardist Mary Frances Newcomb and guitarist JP Miller, to talk about the new album, Lee and Mary joining the band and the true story behind the name.
P. Sunkel: Lets jump into this by talking about the Booty Band’s upcoming release “Onward!”
L. Allen: For this record, we recorded in Asheville, NC at Echo Mountain Recording studio. It’s a great facility and we worked with Julian Dreyer (Avett Brothers, Smashing Pumpkins), he’s the engineer for the record and a good friend of ours. We did a little bit of our last record working with him and we’ve got a really good relationship there. Our last record, we went down to Miami to record, that was a great experience as well. But theres just something nice about being at home, focused in that creative zone with creative space which provided us with the right environment to get what we wanted out of this record. This is probably the first record where the current lineup of the band is really showcased, which is Mary Frances on keyboards, JP Miller on guitar, Al Al Ingram on Bass, Derrick Johnson on Trombone and myself on drums . Our former member, Greg hollowell, is on this record as well on saxophone, he’s currently not in the group anymore. He had some health problems and that took him off the road. Anyway, now we’re a five-piece, on the record thats about to hit, it will showcase the six-piece. As far as writing the record, there weren’t really any rules or any kind of form that we follow. It could be a situation where somebodies jamming a riff at soundcheck and that develops into a groove and then that develops into a song which we all contribute to. One person will kind of bring their idea for the form, the grooves and the lyrics to the table, but theres not really a form that we follow. We basically just want to make your booty move and make it fun to listen to for years to come.
Lee: Thats right, thats the number one goal.
P. Sunkel: Would you say that that free-form style of building songs goes hand-in-hand with creating booty shaking funk songs?
MF Newcomb: Sure, I don’t think theres any kind of rule when songs come to life for any group. I think that you get on the road, you live life in the moment, you let the music come. We explore all sorts of different ways of writing music. Another part of it, is that we all listen to different styles of music, which we all listen to as a group when we are traveling together. I think that really feeds into who we are and what we’re becoming basically.
L. Allen: I think with the genre of funk its a natural fusion because of the guys who pioneered that kind of music, they had various backgrounds. Whether it be jazz or rock, funk itself is a fusion. There is always a free-form that is underlying because funk comes from so many different styles.
P. Sunkel: Will there be any special guests on the album?
JP Miller: Actually, the only guest that we have on this album is Mike Dillon, playing percussion on one of the tracks. He’s a musician we’ve respected for years, he’s played with Les Claypool and does stuff with Galactic, Garage A Trois and Skerik. It worked out perfectly, he was coming through Asheville, we got him in the studio and he laid down some percussion on one of the new tracks.
JP Miller: For a lot of it, its much nicer when we’re coming from our homes. When we we’re down in Miami, we actually felt like we were on tour, well we were on tour when we recorded that album. There are distractractions at home but being able to soak up the energy of our hometown, Asheville, while we’re at the studio and theres various people that we know who will come in to check out stuff. The band actually recorded their first debut studio album there, “Now You Know”. So its come around full circle to us coming back. We tried some different studios but it was nice to come back to Echo Mountain and record there again. We’ve done several different sessions there as well, outside the booty band, and we all feel very comfortable in that studio. We feel like the engineer, Julian Dreyer, Knows our band, knows our style and knows our sound. So yeah it was a fun experience.
L. Allen: Going down to Miami and working with DJ Le Spam was also very cool. We have a lot of respect for him as a musician and as an engineer. We recorded in a studio and yet it was chock full of vintage gear and interesting stuff for us to play with, different toys and different sounds. So you know, they were both just experiences. we’re all really happy about the turnout of both those albums, but I think everyones really excited about this new album being the best material we have released to the date.
MF Newcomb: Well Lee and I moved to Asheville about five or six years ago and we met Derrick at the tuesday night funk jam. I think that was, what six years ago? So Lee went on tour about four years ago in august with the Booty Band and then shortly after that I joined the band. Its been an amazing experience. I think the sound has really collaborated together with a funk rock sound we drew from the Eymarel years. We have a song out now from the album Onward! called “trunk Fallin’ Off” which we released early, we produced the track and actually released a video with that song which we shot at the Claremont Lounge in Atlanta, there was a lot of Booty shaking going on. So I think that song really shows some of the progressive ways the music has gone since we joined the band.
L. Allen: yeah haha.
MF Newcomb: Hahaha superheroes, yeah. Yup that’s why we’ve all got nicknames. Smoke Machine, Dr. Ock, Mama Funk…
P. Sunkel: Well thats something I actually wanted to get to. When exactly does sister Mary Frances transform into Mama Funk?
MF Newcomb: Well I would say that every show, Mama Funk comes out as soon as I hit the stage. And definitely when shes on the keytar ripping it. I’m a gemini, so I like having the two names because I really identify with those two and myself. Whenever I’m on that stage and the music starts, my soul just takes over.
L. Allen: Mama Funk holds down the power slides on the keytar Hahaha.
MF Newcomb: Hahaha I pulled a power slide last night on the keytar. Thats a classic Mama Funk move there.
MF Newcomb: Well we played in the Lower East Side at a place called Drom and it was a great turnout. It was a really wonderful show. The time before that we played the Bowery Ballroom and that was a sold-out show, that was a really great show as well. Any time you get to go to New York City its just packed full of excitement and the whole experience just brings something new to our sound and performance.
P. Sunkel: So my next question kind of goes back to the booty. Is there a combined love of the booty from the whole band?
L. Allen: Well I think everybody, not just the Booty Band, loves booty haha. Nah but I think the band has a combined love for the booty and watching it shake to the music is a combined perk of the job.
MF Newcomb: Hahaha Yes. I agree.
JP Miller: Well when the band first got together, it was 2002, and we had gotten a gig but didn’t really have a name for the band yet. So in order to get the gig we had to come up with a name or they wouldn’t give it to us. So simultaneously at the house where we were practicing, they were doing some construction because a tree had fallen and destroyed the staircase in the house. While they were doing the construction they unearthed this time capsule, like one of those things you bury in the ground. I guess at some point in the ‘70s someone had buried this time capsule and inside was just this little piece of paper and all it had written on it was “Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band”. We just thought that was an amazing coincidence, that we were looking for a name and we found one buried in a time capsule behind the house we were practicing in. It just worked out. So we stuck with it.
P. Sunkel: It was a sign from the Booty Gods…
L. Allen: Well, we kind of decided that our matriarch leader, Booty Mama herself, might have purposefully planted that and tried to control our fate to find that time capsule. So we are ultimately slaves to the Booty Mama. At this point we feel like she maybe is from a different planet and visits via streams of consciousness. You know dreams, messages from cats, she pretty much controls our destiny.
For more info check out: nu.bootyband.com