It doesn't matter what kind of music you're into. If you're a music fan, you've probably heard some fairly pessimistic appraisals concerning the state of your favorite genre.
We've been told that rock 'n' roll is on the decline, that punk rock is dead, that pop isn't what it once was, that hip-hop has deserted its roots. Rarely, if ever, do we hear about the state of funk music, a genre which reached its peak in the 1970s. That's about to change.
The Free Boody Institute (F.B.I.) will make its Williamsport debut at 10 p.m. Saturday at Rumrunner's Pub, 341 Market St.
The Free Boody Institute (F.B.I.) will make its Williamsport debut at 10 p.m. Saturday at Rumrunner’s Pub, 341 Market St. For more information about the F.B.I., visit www.reverbnation.com/freeboodyinstitute.
The band is comprised of London McDaniels on guitar and vocals; Franklin Henry on bass; Jeff Tripoli on drums; Jeff Love on vocals; Tommi Lee on vocals; and Tom Bergeron on keyboards. The Sun-Gazette spoke with drummer Jeff Tripoli about the band's history, its sound and its upcoming show in Williamsport.
The Free Boody Institute came together in 2007 and is based in Ithaca, N.Y. Ithaca, a prominent college town, is home to a diverse music scene.
"Ithaca has a plethora of original music," Tripoli said. "It's very eclectic; everyone has their own sound."
The F.B.I. are right at home in these eclectic surroundings, drawing on funk, soul and R&B roots. The band is steeped in tradition, although - as Tripoli was quick to point out - they are informed by tradition, not defined by it.
As the group's primary songwriter, McDaniels has a direct link to the hey-day of funk and soul music. London's father, the late Eugene McDaniels, is a music legend who wrote a number of R&B and soul hits during the 1960s and '70s, including "Compared to What" (sung by Les McCann) and "Feel Like Makin' Love" (sung by Roberta Flack). The F.B.I. cites Gene McDaniels as a major influence.
"We're keeping the funk legacy going," Tripoli said. "The family link keeps our music true to its origins; it keeps our sound authentic."
That sound has been described as "funk revival."
"Funk revival is bringing back the old school sound and vibe," Tripoli explained. "It's about remaining true to the tradition of funk music."
The band is heavily influenced by seminal artists like James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone and Chaka Kahn, all of whom laid the foundations of funk music more than 40 years ago. Tripoli also cited contemporary artists like John Legend and The Roots as influences - both of whom came together to record a cover of Eugene McDaniels' "Compared to What" on their 2010 collaborative studio album "Wake Up!".
I asked Tripoli about the present state of funk music. Are we in need of a revival? To hear Tripoli tell it, the genre is in ascendance.
"Funk is accessible to a lot of people these days," he said. "It's striking young and striking old, and everyone inbetween."
As with any credible funk band, the F.B.I.'s sound is rooted in the rhythm section, anchored by the bass and drums.
"As the drummer, my role is to keep time but also to create space for the rest of the band to do its thing," Tripoli said. "My counterpart is Frank Henry on bass and together we've developed an amazing vocabulary."
The band believes that every instrument is a form of communication. "Music is the world's oldest language and there are so many different dialects," said Tripoli. "There's actual conversation going on between the instruments."
The F.B.I. is in the midst of recording its debut album, "How You DO," which is slated for a summer 2012 release. Tripoli called it "the most comfortable and productive recording experience" he's ever had. Hoping to free themselves up musically and hone their sound, the band decided to record the album entirely at home.
"We're recording in our living rooms, taking the time to be really thorough and creative without worrying about money or any other constraints," he said.
When asked how audiences have responded to their new material, Tripoli admitted they haven't had the chance to play their new songs live.
"It's that new," he said. Perhaps, I suggested, they could debut a few tracks from the forthcoming album when they come to Williamsport. "We might," Tripoli said. "People will just have to come out and see."
For more information about the F.B.I., visit www.reverbnation.com/freeboodyinstitute.