Deli Magazine



Q&A with Gnarlemagne

- by Hillary Anderson

Inject some funk into your life with Gnarlemagne’s sophomore release: A Warm and Cozy Volcano. They define themselves as Garage-Soul and count in their influences Otis Redding and Tom Waits. As you can imagine, the vocals shine and really give some soul-power to the album, which was just released November 6th. The diverse instrumentation includes sax, trumpet, trombone, and keys. The ever-present throbbing bass, occasional guitar solo, and lively percussion complete the concoction. 

the Deli: How did you come up with the title “A Warm and Cozy Volcano?”
Mike Effenberger (Keys): It's not a bad image of what playing the music feels like from within the band.  Lots of explosions, periods of calm followed by geological trauma, but pretty comfortable.
the Deli: What was the most difficult part of recording the album? What was your favorite part?
Jed Allen (Drums): The most difficult part of recording for me was partly due to the way in which we recorded this album. We took a long time. It was tough going into the studio and laying down the rhythm section, and then not coming back to the song to record the horns and vocals for months. We would get out of that first session pretty excited about the tracks, but then that excitement would die down a little bit in the months that followed. On the other, my favorite part of the recording process would have to be after all the main sections had been recorded, and we got to go back and put extra layers in on top of it. Its exciting being able to just add an extra horn part here, or add a guitar overdub there. That was the point when the album was really starting to come together and feeling cohesive.
the Deli: When I was in college, there was one campus funk band, and the lead singer sold drugs, wore a hat and crazy colored pants and had female vocals backing him up. People either loved or hated them. One complaint I heard against them was “every song sounds the same.” Do you think that this is a challenge for the funk genre? How do you combat that? It’s obvious your songs don’t suffer from lack of diversity.
Stuart Dias (Guitar/Vocals): Well, theres few crazy hats, no drug peddling, no female backup singers and I don’t think theres love or hate with us. Just hate.
I think the work ‘funk’ has connotations that are not always great, and can sometimes be challenging to shake. Many people think of it as polished and glossy, but Funkadelic showed us that that doesn’t have to be the case. We don’t really think of ourselves as a funk band. We like listening to that stuff, but don’t really play funk standards.
We are more of a rock band than anything. We have a horn section, but that’s pretty much as far as the connection to funk goes. As far as diversity goes, our musical backgrounds and inclinations are very different. So when there’s an idea on the table, there’s 8 people pulling it in different directions and there are a lot of ideas that get melded together in the arrangement process, which explains how there can be elements of soul, punk rock, and psychedelia in the same song.
the Deli: You guys embrace that iconic rock and roll + brass band + growly singer sound. A lot of the influences you cite come through in your music because they had similar instrumentation, i.e. Tom Waits and Zappa. However, I’d argue that you guys definitely have a modern sound. Are there any influences you attribute that to who might be less expected?
Stuart Dias (Guitar/Vocals): We never really had a goal in terms of sound. We let the music develop organically, and once we heard something we liked, we said “Yeah..lets work on that a little bit more”. That process eventually led us to our sound which is a mashup of Rock, Soul, New Orleans Jazz, and Psychedelia.
There are quite a few modern bands that we really like and I think their influences definitely come through. The Buffalo Killers for their simple, but incredible approach to songwriting, The Soil and Pimp Sessions for their energy and arrangements, Queens of the Stone age for their melodic heaviness. Theres a lot of bands that we really like and influence different elements of the music. The Beatles, Soundgarden, Radiohead, Funkadelic, The Roots, The Smashing Pumpkins and many others influence our music in different ways. Sometimes it’s a tone or an aesthetic, other times its more of a production based idea, but I think they help us evade the ‘funk band’ definition.

the Deli: Where do you get your inspiration for songs? Do you come upon your arrangements through individual study or group experimentation?
Stuart Dias (Guitar/Vocals): Usually, I will come to the band with a song or an idea and we arrange it as a group. The things that influence the content vary quite a bit. There is a song on the album that was influenced by the death of Pete Steele (of Type O Negative) and another that was influenced(in an oblique way) by a Russell Hoban story, so there isn’t a set way in which we come upon songs.
During the arrangement process there is a lot of group experimentation and that can lead to some of the coolest and weirdest parts.

the Deli: Is there something you’re working up to in terms of musical success?
Jed Allen (Drums): I don't think there is one particular thing that we are working on in terms of musical success. I don't think there is ever that moment or milestone that you reach where you say "ah, we're succesful now." I think we will continue to work and try to play bigger shows, and we will continue to develop our sound and strive to continue doing something unique and worthwhile. But I don't believe there is one specific goal that drives us.
the Deli: Listening to your album, it is almost like you’re the mouthpiece for “Gnarlemagne”, like he’s this semi-fictional character that the songs are being sung by and about. (Especially “Mountain”) Am I way off or was this in any way intentional?
I love this question. Yes and No. When we started we tried to do something like that, where we wrote a song in which Gnarlemagne was a character. The song didn’t really work and the whole thing felt a little hokey and forced so we abandoned it.
Having said that, Gnarlemagne, in a way that wasn’t intentional at all, came to be a speakerbox for all the weird ideas we had. We took the music seriously, but had a lot of fun with the lyrical content, and I think in any other band, we would be less likely to say the things that we do. ‘Gnarlemagne’ gives us the freedom to do whatever we want and not be bound by any perceptions of content or genre.
the Deli: Are there any upcoming shows you’re particularly excited about?
Alex Koffler (Bass): We have a show at the Barley Pub 2.0 in Dover, NH coming up on February 6th where we will be playing with the band Township.  This gig is doubly exciting because it will be our first time playing in the BP's new location, and Township is close to, if not the most rocking band in the New England area (IMHO).  Whenever we play with township the energy in the building gets wild and between our two bands, it's more or less guaranteed that audience members will be losing their clothing, control of their limbs, their mind...etc... you name it."




A Warm and Cozy Volcano