Interview with Tim Palmieri from KUNG FU; Playing Ct. this weekend, Co. in Jan., and AURA Music Fest! @kungfu @breakscience @blpfam
New Haven, Connecticut’s Kung Fu is bent on one thing: Sonically roundhouse kicking the bejesus out of fusion fans the world over! Though a fairly young band, Kung Fu boasts some of the most respected players to come from the jam/rock/jazz scene in our generation, including members of The Breakfast and RAQ.
Currently touring in support of their self-titled 2011 release, Kung Fu has been incredibly active on the festival circuit. Continuing to build a ravenous fan base by coupling the instrumental complexities of jazz-fusion club shows, with the straight up attack of a rave, this group is for anyone who enjoys deciphering what is happening onstage while they take a breather from the dance floor.
In addition to their Fall tour, Kung Fu will be performing at this year’s installment of AURA Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida from February 15-17, and they will undoubtedly bring an A-game full of sonic haduken’s to the warm weather jam-heads and snowbirds. I caught up with Tim Palmieri to discuss their tour, writing and musical approach, and what we can expect from the group in 2013.
G- Tim! Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today!
T- Thank you for having me!
G- No problem. It’s super cold outside, and I don’t think… Some of our readers may not know anything about Kung Fu, or who you are and what you do, so if you could, please introduce everybody in the band… What do they play and where are you from?
T- Ok. Well, I’m Tim Palmieri. I play guitar and am from New Haven, Ct. We have Adrian Tramontano on the drums, also from New Haven. We have Todd Stoops on the keyboards from Stratford, Ct., We have Rob Somerville on saxophone, from Delaware actually. He almost had a home base in Bridgeport, Ct. He feels some allegiance there! And then we have Chris DeAngelis on bass, our new bassist the just joined this year replacing Dave Lavolsi, and he is from Waterbury, Ct. So, we have 5 Connecticut boys for the most part, except for some of them.
G- Fair enough. Fair enough.
T- What are we, like 3 years old now, I guess? ’09 we started? And it was just to play some good fusion music that we all grew up playing and haven’t played in a while. And it was like ‘Let’s just play this club every Monday and have fun,’ and it kept picking up steam, and more steam, and then it was like ‘Hmm… Maybe we should stretch this out,’ you know? We just had small aspirations of having fun and now we’re traveling. Doing well, so…
G- Good! And as a band that is only 3 years old, that’s rapid.
G- It’s very new. Since you’ve only been around for a short while, and are making all these waves with “Nu-Sion,” correct? It’s the “Nu-Sion” style?
T- I guess. I like it! Where’d that word come from?
G- I believe that is a wiki word. I dig it!
T- Wow Nu-Sion. I’ll use it and see if it gains any traction. (laughs) NU-SION!
G- Good album title.
T- I’m a fusion fan. I mean, it just combines all the great aspects of music. I mean, it could be diverse, like, on a Latin level, or spiritual level. Jazz solos mixed with, like, the rock aggression, you know? And that’s the main thing. It’s like, it’s gotta rock and roll. It’s gotta be ‘No Guts, No Glory’ kinda thing, but then heady, intellectual, jazz side to music as well.
G- And since you’re fans of fusion, and we have the electro-rock scene and stuff like that, you’ve been playing with a very wide cast of acts and stuff at this time.
G- Like, your music is a little bit more complex than some of the electro, straight up stuff… How are those crowds reacting to you, because ti seems like that is your core?
T- I feel that they are taking it in wonderfully, and, you know… I don’t know what it is. I feel like a number of bands that are on the scene with us today are all expressing themselves in this nu-sion kinda style, and kids are taking to it. So I’m happy, finally, that people care.
As far as the electro scene goes, I think they feed off of our energy, because we are hard hitting. Fast tempos, and it’s a nice contrast things, so… It could be a good outlet for what they’ve got going on.
And to get a little more into your history, you guys boast members from other bands and things along those lines… How did this lineup come together in the first place? I mean, you guys had these tremendous other projects…
G- How did this all form up?
T- At the beginning, it was basically out of a jam session. You know, I know Todd through RAQ, and The Breakfast, Psychedelic Breakfast, we toured all the time, so we’ve done a lot of shows with Todd, and I was always interested to be in a band with him.
We actually had him play with The Breakfast for 3 shows one time when we were going through a keyboardist transition, and he did our Halloween run…
T- (laughing) And we made him learn, like, 60 cartoon songs for 3 days and traveling ridiculous amounts. It was like Northampton, Ohio, Burlington, in a weekend. So it was like… We had a lot of fun!
G- Yea that’s a good test! By chance, was the Voltron theme in there?
T- It was on the original list, but then we ended up scrapping it because there were so many others. But we were pretty thorough. From Ren and Stimpy to a lot of South Park songs. What else did we do? Beavis and Butthead. Smurfs.
G- So, you hit all the staples?
T- My favorite was Spiderman! I was like ‘Man… Spiderman is jazzy!’
G- That’s rad! Do you have any intentions of putting these out on record or getting them recorded?
T- It’s on tape somewhere. At archive.org, it’s probably out there.
G- That’d be a very good niche piece, a good piece of product. I would buy a copy of that! So, if you want to do that, let me know!
T- So, we knew him from that, some from Deep Banana Blackout, but how it came together was the old bassist, Dave Lavolsi, asked Adrian to jam. Todd moved to Connecticut from South Carolina, so it was just timing. Like ‘Hey… Why don’t you come on over.’ They called me up, and we had a different saxophonist at the time, and it was just a jam session really, that became a residency, that became a touring band.
T- Since then, we’ve replaced the saxophonist. Chris Jenson was the original guy. And Rob we met, I don’t know. I guess it was about a year into it that we got Rob. And then Lavolsi just left this past summer.
T- And you know, we’re friends. Everything’s amicable.
T- It was just, you know… Doing the band aspect of rock and roll, instead of a hired gun
Kid of deal, it requires some sacrifice up front, you know?
G- Yea. Life takes a backseat when you’re on the road all the time.
T- If anything, this band is older now, and because of all our previous touring, we’re seasoned. So we want to make the right moves. I mean, people have families and what not, so we can’t hit it like younger kids do. But we’re still trying to do the best we can to keep up with them. (laughs)
G– Good! Very good. You don’t seem to be slowing down!
G- So that’s good! Now, you’re still currently touring off of the 2011 release, correct?
T- Um hmm.
G- What do you have in store for 2013? Gonna be hitting the studio or anything along those lines? Anything in the works?
T- We actually have an album that we’re trying to wrap up by the end of this year…
T- To be released at the beginning of next year for tour, and we actually have Chris DeAngelis on it, too. The new bassist will be on there. His presence, his energy… We’re happy!
G- Excellent! Do you have any tentative titles or tentative label that you’re going to be releasing it on? Is it a DIY type of thing?
T- Everything’s tentative, you know? We will definitely want to shop to labels, and we have a few titles, but nothing I would want to…
G- Nothing to divulge yet? Maybe we’ll get an exclusive later on.
G- Well cool! Take your time and I glad that’s all coming to fruition.
T- Yep! Then touring, and just keep working on it, you know? We have one gig in December? We, we have Toad’s Place, and then we have our New Years run. So we have a lot of downtime, and we’re going to use that practicing and writing.
G- Are you doing NYE at Toad’s?
T- No. NYE is going to be in Providence.
G- Providence, ok.
T- At The Spot.
G- It’s going to be the spot!
G- One of them, anyways. This year’s NYE selections are just crazy, especially on the East Coast.
G- If people want to see music… Guys, GO TO MORE SHOWS!
T- NYC alone…
G- Yea, the Phish after-parties and stuff. It hurts!
G- It’ll be an expensive weekend I know, but that’s alright.
So, since everybody in the band is very proficient at their instruments, and since it’s such complex music, can you describe for us a bit about what your writing process and your style? Does a lot happen, like… Is it primarily riff writing and then brought to the guys, or is it a little bit more organic through jamming in the studio. Both, perhaps?
T- It’s a little of everything. We’ve had some of the organic jamminess. I have this riff, you have that riff, you put them together, and many rough drafts of a tune, keep re-working it.
We’ve had, like, ‘Ok this song is completely done and here are the parts, but put your energy and flavor to it,’ you know? And then, yea. We’ve had songs that have taken like 2 months to bake over… Just not feeling it for whatever reason, you know? Because we do want it to be danceable, you know, but still be complicated and tasty all at the same time. So, it’s interesting keeping that lens, that scope, our composition energy.
It’s been a challenge. I wrote different projects for The Breakfast where it’s like anything goes, but this one is definitely ‘It HAS to be this.’ It has to be NU-SION!
G- Good. Wiki… We may have stumbled upon something proper for a change.
T- (laughing) Fusion with a “PH!”
G- I like that, too! Now, there are still a lot of people who haven’t seen you yet…
T- Yes. We have a lot of work to do.
G- You’re still a new band, but you have already garnered a pretty nice fan base for yourselves as well, and the name is spreading virally. What can some of the new fans, people who have never heard you before, expect to see when they go to see you live?
T- High energy funk. Definitely intense rock and roll, kinda jazz, almost. It’s like complicated edge, but we always just try to deliver it with a groove, fast or slow. But yea, just bringing back rock and roll, as much as we can!
T- I say rock and roll. It’s not AC/DC or anything, but we’re probably one of the loudest jazz bands out there. Like, if we play a club, you’ll be like ‘You are loud!’ It’s gotta be loud!
G- And have you been playing any of the jazz circuits specifically, or is your focus… It’s very expansive.
T- It is. We’re pretty much in the jam market still, but we have done a few shows at Blue Note, and this year we have a new booking agent so we’re looking to do some of the Jazz fests. Montreal, Newport possibly. So, yea we’re open to that, and we’re going to explore this summer.
G- Nice. Alright, now before the summer exploration, you guys are one of the featured acts on AURA, and i’d get yelled at if I didn’t bring it up in length (Hi Destiny!), so I’d like to know… Those are probably a lot of your friend bands, and that is a lineup! Whoever put that lineup together needs a beer.
G- Tell me your thoughts about playing that one. This is your first time playing it, correct?
T- Yea. Wait, no. We played last year.
G- Ok so last year… What was your experience like last year, and what do you expect for this year, because it’s grown.
T- Last year was awesome, but a huge rainstorm came in just for our set, so we weren’t able to play that night, and that sucked. But the next day we did play, and it was a lot of fun!
G- Nice! That almost happened at Catskill Chill, too. I was actually walking out and I had to make sure I caught a few of your songs at the chill this year because of the tornado warnings which really didn’t come to fruition.
T- No. The Alchemystics ended up not being able to play, but made it up later. But AURA was great, and I’m looking forward to this year! New venue, so hopefully Florida will be warm then because we just did Bear Creek, and it was pretty cold.
G- Was it cold?
T- Yea it was like 40 degrees when the sun went down. So for Florida we were like ‘Where is the sun?’
G- That sucks! I don’t want to go to Florida when it’s under 65, 70 maybe. Florida is 70 degree.
T- So I’m hoping for some sun time. We’ve got the set with Nigel (Hall) and that’s going to be great. We’ve got our homework cut out for us with that.
G– That’s right! Like, you guys are playing A LOT of music.
G- You’re going to keep all this stuff in, right?
T- We’ve got that set, we’ve got our own set, and I mean, it’s like learning anything. Like you really want to get it ingrained in your mind, so you don’t have to think about it so much, and that just comes with practicing and touring. You know, getting to that rhythm. The Stevie Wonder for the first time, we’re going to rehearsals and let Nigel cherry pick the set which, I mean… I could probably play a days worth of Stevie Wonder because I love it so much, but we’ve got to focus it to 90 minutes or something, so we’ll see.
G- That’s good. It’ll be a fun 90 minutes!
T- Yea. He is gonna kill it!
G- Now, for some of the folks that have never heard you before, first of all, do you have a favorite song that Kung Fu plays or that is most fun for you to perform, or if you were to give one of your tracks thus far to someone who had never heard you before to make a fan, what track would you give them and why?
T- To make them a fan, I’d play them “Gung Ho” I think, because it’s just high energy, it’s got a great groove, but it’s also complex. It’s got like a Brecker Brothers, action packed horn line… I don’t know how I want to put it, like… An athletic melody! (laughs)
And it’s like, some nights when we play it, it’s like ‘Oh DAMN… This one’s tricky!’ Tricky and quick!
G- Do you think that is one of your favorite songs to play as well?
T- Yea. It’s also funky. It has a nice old school, to me, 60’s funk, James Brown vibe in the middle. Just bluesy. It does a little of everything, that’s why. It’s got so many moods in it, and it’s smart but it’s funky at the same time. So “Gung Ho” is like the conversion song, if we want to make a fan.
As far as my favorite tune, it’s tough. I mean, originals wise, we’ve done some good stuff, and the band has actually forced me to write differently and challenge myself. So, there’s a tune I wrote called “Popcorn” that I like a lot, because I tried writing like a Charlie Parker-head, and making it funky.
So, I come from a little more of a rock school than a jazz school, though I love jazz. So for me, this was a nice challenge. ‘Ok… write your own bop song!’
G- Right on!
T- It was fun!
G- Ok. So, to get a bit speculative for a second, Kung Fu has already played with a lot of bands that not only fit you well, but who you’re friends with and you probably get along great. But if you were to pick your Dream Bill out, if you could bring Kung Fu on tour with 3 bands… Feasible, because The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, everybody wants those guys… But if you could select a feasible 3 bands to tour with that would make your Dream Bill come true, who would be on it with you?
T- Current bands?
G- Embellish a little bit, but living. Living is good. Feasibility is good.
T- Living, ok. Damn. There’s great ways to structure a bill to contrast, or you can keep the music similar as well. One of my favorite bands now, and they are all great friends of mine, is The Step Kids. The Step Kids would definitely be on the bill.
And, I don’t know… Red Hot Chili Peppers, so that they could let me jam with them, and take over guitar!
G- Alright! They’ve had a couple of vacancies. I think you could cover that stuff pretty well!
T- I remember when John Frusciante first left. I was like 18 wanting to try out for those guys.
G- Did you write them?
T- No, I didn’t.
G- Awww, you gotta try!
T- I know. But, I love the Chili Peppers, and that Chad Smith. It’s just good funk rock! I’m thinking all elements of funk. You’d have Kung Fu, the fusion, Chili Peppers, the pop funk, and Step Kids, the psychedelic soul funk. What else… One more?
G- Yea one more is good! Why not?
T- Let’s see. Hmmm, we should throw some dubstep in there (laughs)
G- Kung Fu and Skrillex?
T- (laughs) I’m thinking Break Science, actually.
G- Break Science would be great! They’re playing here in a couple of weeks!
T- They tore it up at the Chill! The chill set was like “Whoooooa!” So, I think that’s nice. You’ve got the dj/electronic element, the organicness, the fusion, the pop… Yea.
G- I would pay for that lineup. Good call!
Now, again, my first and only time seeing you besides this evening was at the Catskill Chill, and it was in the midst of a potential tornado that never happened, and then I couldn’t get back on the lot. But what would you say is what would you say is your favorite or most memorable show that Kung Fu has played in your 3 years? Where was it and what was it like?
T- Memorable? I’ll tell you, Camp Bisco this year was unreal! The amount of people was great, but their response was better, because we could have had the same amount of people staring at us with blank faces who just didn’t get it. But, after taking just one solo, like “Popcorn” finished, and it was just (huge crowd whirring sound). You know that energy, the whole band picked up on it, and it was like a magical hour, you know?
T- And it was almost starting off the whole festival! It was like 3pm on a Thursday, so we were like…
G- Were you the first band to go?
T- First or second.
T- We didn’t know what to expect, and it just ended up being the most memorable of the year and a whole lot of fun! But I think AURA might take it next year!
G- Keep reaching for it, man! That lineup is just awesome!
T- And it starts the year off, so it sets the bar high!
G- People are gonna be hungry after they come down from NYE, so there’s going to be some travelers there.
And the last question I want to ask you is, you’ve been doing this for quite a while, and Kung Fu is still new, but all of the members have been doing this for a while. The band dream is never going to die, and there are a lot of kids who want to be professional musicians, they want to go out on the road, and they want to do what you’re doing.
What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
T- If I had to do it over again, I would just employ the “Work Smarter, Not Harder” philosophy more than I thought I was already doing.
Certainly preparation before hitting the road, make sure your product is just great all around, be it the songs, your performance of them, your package. So that when you hit, boom, and it’s clear-cut the impression you’re going to be getting.
And it used to be different touring. Gas wasn’t always $4, so we’re going to have to remain open to adaptation, whatever new factors are going to pop up are going to effect it. Dubstep wasn’t around when I first started touring, or the internet wasn’t as popular, Youtube wasn’t around, so people tended to go out and see music more. Even before I was around, in the 80’s and early 90’s, people used to go to shows. You have a lot more factors pulling people’s attention away from going out and seeing live music, so that’s where I say preparation is key. Really building up steam and making sure all cylinders are firing before you hit it!
G- Nice! Great interview, and look forward to seeing you tonight!
CONNECTICUT’S NU-FUNK QUINTET, KUNG FU, HEADS WEST!
COLORADO RUN JANUARY 21ST – 25TH, 2013
Connecticut’s nu-funk quintet, Kung Fu, is heading West January 21st – 25th for a five-night run taking them to Aspen, Breckenridge, Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver. Punishing the line between dojo-disciplined electro-jazz-fusion and street fighter funk, Kung Fu, will bring the heat with their unique brand of lethal ‘70s-style funk mixed with EDM ideology. Their explosive live performances described as “jaw droppin” and “musically mesmerizing” have earned them coveted slots at Camp Bisco, Gathering of the Vibes, Catskill Chill and Bear Creek this festival season.
Monday, January 21
Belly Up Aspen
450 South Galena, Aspen, CO 81611
970-544-9800 | www.bellyupaspen.com
$15 | All ages
With Tiger Party
320 S. Main St., Breckenridge, CO 80424
$8 adv | $10 dos | 21+
Wednesday, January 23
With Roster McCabe
1135 13th Street, Boulder, CO 80302
303.447.0095 | www.foxtheatre.com
$10 | all ages
Thursday, January 24
With Robert Walters 20th Congress
204 S. College Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80521
970.482.8300 | www.aggietheatre.com/
$10 adv | $15 dos | All ages
Friday, January 25
Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
With Robert Walters 20th Congress
2637 Welton St, Denver, CO 80205
$10 adv | $12 dos | All ages
“God Made Me Funky”: http://bit.ly/UcjcWM
“Snaggle” > “Gung Ho”: http://bit.ly/VyWJSC
“S’all Good”: http://bit.ly/T1tauy