THIS seems like a great day…
to push Bumpus out into the world! With their awesome E.P., Way Down Deep, unshackled; I have been talking with the Chicago-based band about the songs and how it came together; if there is a cut from the E.P. that stands out – I wondered how the band got together.
I ask the guys about Chicago’s music scene and what they have planned regarding touring; if they will shoot over to the U.K.; which new artists they recommend we check out; what music they grew up around – they provide useful advice to new songwriters coming through.
Hi, Bumpus. How are you? How has your week been?
Great. Shooting music videos in an old church with a secret bowling alley in the basement.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We’re Bumpus. Nine people. One with accompanying tiny humans. Some with dogs. Lots of Funk.
Way Down Deep, your new E.P., is out. Can you reveal the themes/inspirations that go into the songs?
We started writing work for this album as a side project called Dance Floor Plans. But, in the middle of the writing process, James (bandleader and lead singer at the time) got nodes and the band took a break. When we got back together, we started shifting the focus to Tina and things just took off from there.
What was it like recording the songs? Is the studio somewhere you all like being?
It was pretty spread out, time-wise. Half of the songs were done in a studio that specializes in vintage recording techniques so, for those; everything was done live with no overdubs and no studio magic. The sounds we heard recording is exactly what we heard at the mix.
We spent more time on the other half of the songs in a more traditional studio situation. I think our favourite time in the studio is the editing phase. Pulling things in and out. Trying something in a tiny section of a song.
Is there a cut from the E.P. that, you think, stands out from the pack?
We really like Anything (which Tina wrote).
Tina: I taught myself how to play guitar. I am not great, yet, but I have a great ear. I was teaching myself to play Dear Mr. Fantasy by Traffic and I had one too many notes (laughs). I wound up writing this hypnotic little ditty which is about a woman's affirmation after looking back on her life at that point and realizing that she didn’t have to be like everyone else - that being herself is just fine.
How did Bumpus get together? How has the band changed over time?
Bumpus has really been three bands, but our origins are as early as the mid-nineties. We had a seven-year run with our original line-up, which featured singer-songwriter, Rachael Yamagata. We were all completely self-taught, but that worked out because we played about four shows a week for five years straight.
At that time, we had three singers, including an M.C. The music was super-diverse, but you probably wouldn’t know it was the same band from one song to the next. Our middle period kept most of our original members, but added a keyboardist, three horns and a cavalcade of backup singers.
The end result was our most ‘studio’ (studio) album, All the People. Probably 500-1000 shows played in that era. Our current group features extremely talented musicians from DePaul and Berkley and, of course, Ms. Tina Howell.
Chicago plays an important role in your music. How much of the city and its history do you bring to your material?!
I think we just bring the history of our experiences more than the city. There’s a grit to Chicago that comes through in our music. However, I think we have a love/hate relationship with Chicago...
It’s an amazing city, but it’s not generally supportive of artists. Gentrification is a huge thing. The clubs are fewer than they used to be. Most of the neighbourhood festivals have moved away from original music in favor of cover bands.
What sort of music did you all grow up around?
We all grew up around tons of music, of course…
James: My dad was a D.J. and program director for WBBM FM in the '70s, when they played Joni Mitchell next to James Brown next to Led Zeppelin. As a result, we had stacks and stacks of promo records - and my dad was smart enough to put them right down on the ground where I could discover them.
Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?
All over the Midwest for now. Maybe a little farther in the fall.
Can we expect to see you guys play over in the U.K. this year?
Possibly the fall. Working on it!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
More awareness for our group and really just bringing good times to people through our performances. We set our shows up for people to dance.
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Being on stage with Maceo Parker (James Brown’s sax player) singing Gimmie Some More and Shake Everything You Got.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Practice, practice, practice your craft. All the time. Your bands and situations may change, but you must always rely on your core skills. Luck favors the prepared.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
PJ Morton – Sticking to My Guns
Vulfpeck – Daddy, He Got a Tesla
Am I Wrong – Anderson.Paak (ft. ScHoolboy)
Warrior – Chloe x Halle
My Song 5 – HAIM
Woman’s Gotta Have It – Bobby Womack
One Mo’ Gin – D’Angelo