B. Bravo is a key player in an ever-growing wave of entirely modern funk music.
Sometimes you’ve got to take your hat off to the UK for its knack of positioning itself at the forefront of popular music culture. With initiatives such as The Red Bull Music Academy and the overwhelming demand for live music on these shores, the UK has the uncanny ability to attract people from other scenes and musical climates, no matter how niche.
These people aren’t necessarily millionaires or household names, but they are hugely talented, and it’s this grounded nature and authenticity that makes the fact Crack is talking to smooth San Francisco resident B. Bravo while he’s on the day job all the more special.
B. Bravo first came to our attention through the Earnest Endeavours label, an excellent spin- off from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint, when they released his Kiss ‘n’ Tell EP in 2011. A superb delve into a musical world loosely described as funk but incorporating soul, slow jam R’n’B and disco textures, low slung basslines and sexy synth hooks collide with off-kilter beats leaving Bravo’s work thematically a million miles away from the 70s funk blueprint. His work is an updated take on a classic format, and much more as Crack discovered when he compiled our December Crackcast.
To call Bravo’s sound sexy would be to do it a disservice. His mix delivers the kind of music that could turn even the most dormant of characters into a slavering, libidinous beast. From the opening gambit of Play by Goapele (a slow-burning sensation new to our ears), the mix glides through sensuous texture after sensuous texture in a beautiful 50 minute love-in.
The fact Bravo also plays in two bands emphasises his musical exploits as focal in his life. You’d guess the day job will soon be a temporary thing with a full-length debut due some time this year and an ever increasing gig schedule. Deeply spoken with a West Coast drawl, his delivery mirrors the slow-paced nature of his mix. Funk found its feet in 2011, and with his considered and informed nature, Bravo is the perfect candidate to comment on the phenomenon.
What is the musical spectrum of San Francisco and how does the scene there fit in with what you are doing?
It’s been pretty good of late. I’ve been here for about 12 years now, and I’ve seen it really develop over the last 6 or 7. When I first got here it seemed like more of a live music city, and it still is to an extent. But in the last few years there are a few more electronic folks around. That scene has developed and is definitely growing. As far as the funk thing is concerned it’s always been with the turntablists, and The Bay has always had a huge turntablist scene: all the guys like Scratch Pickles and Shortkut. Now there is a whole new wave of artists doing the funk thing again like Teeko, Devonwho, Reggie B, Ad Bourke, Arp 101. It’s been a natural progression. I came from more of a live music background.
You were in a band before things started kicking off as B. Bravo?
I still play with those guys. It’s a band called Bayonics and we play a lot funk, Latin music and hip-hop. It’s a big blend of all kinds of stuff that’s come together in the last year.
As far as your gig bookings go are they still quite local or have you found yourself traveling anywhere exotic?
I’ve been traveling a lot more Stateside. Up and down the coast, Chicago and Minneapolis too. I’ve also just started a new band with my buddy Teeko and a couple of guys from Bayonics called Starship Connection. It’s a four-piece and we’re going to be at SXSW.
Do you divide your time equally between B. Bravo production and gigs with the bands? Is that something you think you can balance?
Ideally I’d love to play with the band all the time because it’s so much fun to play with those guys. But budget-wise and traveling-wise it’s not always feasible to fly four guys out to places, it’s much cheaper to just fly one. So it really comes down to a matter of logistics and budget. But I do try and push the band as much as I can. We’ve only been together for eight months or so. It’s still pretty new.
Your own sound is a real amalgamation, from slow jams and R’n’B to spacey disco and funk. Where would you say it lies?
I was really into jazz when I was younger. That’s been a real influence. Taking guys like Herbie Hancock and bridging the smooth chords and strings and synths with a funk beat and bringing in R’n’B sounds is probably the best way to describe what I do.
Your last release, the Kiss ’n’ Tell EP, came out on Earnest Endeavours, which is an offshoot of Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label. How did you end up working with them?
They got in touch when they were forming. I had been contacted by Alex Stevenson (Co- founder) on MySpace and we were exchanging tracks back and forth. There was a remix he really liked and then I got chatting to Tom (McCarthy, EE co-founder), I came over for an RBMA event in London and we met in person, had a bunch of drinks and hit it off.
So was the RBMA your first experience of playing in the UK?
It was actually. I’d been over a few times before but only to go on holiday. When I came over for Red Bull it was really exciting.
Are you working on a full-length album at the moment?
Yeah that’s what I’m doing now. I’ve done three EPs, so it’s time to step up and do a full-length. I’ve got about three or four tracks done so far. It’s a natural progression of my sound, but I am looking forward to experimenting with some more out-there stuff and getting psychedelic. I want it to be interesting and make sense together.
How would you assess the state of the funk genre in 2012? How do you see the scene moving or progressing?
I hope it keeps growing as it has been in the last year or two. People have just been catching on to what funk is. Last year was almost like the year of boogie. You couldn’t talk to anyone without them saying ‘boogie, boogie, boogie’. But there’s more to funk than just boogie. I guess people need to have words to describe things. I think in general the movement of it is great and I think it’s a positive genre as far as the feeling it expresses. It’s communication and party music and it’s fun. The more that can catch on the happier I am. It seems like it’s in a really good spot and more and more people are showing the influence of funk in their music, which is great.
It’s really hard to talk to you about modern funk music without mentioning Dam Funk. How important has he been to the whole movement?
He’s been huge. For a lot of people that didn’t grow up with the music he opened up their eyes to that whole sound. He’s spearheaded the movement and it’s huge. Him being successful has opened up a lot of doors for guys that are coming up. A lot of people I talk to know Dam Funk, but that’s all they really know. If he’s the way people get into the music then great.
It must good if he’s the gateway for people to discover other artists
That’s part of his message as well. He’s trying to spread funk as a way to enrich people’s lives. In his DJ sets he’s spreading music from the early 80s that was long forgotten. He’s bringing it back to life.
What were you going for with the mix you did for our Crackcast series? It’s not like any other mix we’ve hosted before.
It’s basically a lot of songs I’m into at the moment, like the new Goapele song – I can’t get enough of that – and some newer stuff I’m feeling. But the vibe was to create a kind of late- night erotic sex mix. Like a slow-burning kind of thing.
There are definitely some slow jams on there. The mix does come across as incredibly sexy.
It was what I was kind of going for with that. It was all of my R’n’B slow grinders on there, but updated with a new feel.
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B. Bravo’s ‘Kiss ‘n’ Tell’ EP is out now on Earnest Endeavours
Photo: Ferdinand-Noel Bacani / XARIUSOUND / http://xariusound.com