Get Ready To Get Funky
By Josh Ruff
New versions of things from the past are not always good representations of that era, but once in a while people just plain get it right. Motherlode is bringing back 70’s soundtrack funk with a mix of Afrobeat. The Arcata-based band is not an artificial, homogenized version of the past. This explosive nine-piece funk extravaganza is as real as it gets. The band is very heavily influenced by James Brown and The JB’s, Herbie Hancock, as well as more contemporary funk artists like Galactic, Greyboy Allstars and Soulive. A number of individuals in this group can be seen around town in other roles, which makes their musicianship even more impressive. Their sound can be distinguished from an array of others because of how tight this band is. By just watching them play, one gets the impression that there are some complex logistics going on just to make such a well-oiled machine churn away as they do. I had a chance to sit down with Pete from Motherlode and talk about motivation, friendship and the pursuit of happiness.
How long has the band been together?
Pete: The band has been together almost 2 years. Our first show we opened for Soulive drummer, Alan Evans. The sound is still evolving and breaking new musical ground as we go.
Who are your influences?
Pete: My personal influences that pertain to this band would be Fred Wesley (who we had the pleasure of playing with back in March of this year) as well as Soulive, Lettuce, Greyboy Allstars, New Mastersounds, Daft Punk, Lee Fields and The Menahan Street Band to name a few.
What have you been listening to lately?
Pete: I’ve been listening to a lot of those influences but also I love hip hop such as Raashan Ahmad (who I also got to play with recently). I have been listening to lots of soul too like Alice Russell, Curtis Mayfield and Lee Fields and progressive dance music like Thievery Corporation, Little Dragon, Daft Punk and many others
I see some familiar faces in the band. Tell us about the lineup.
Pete: Our lineup in this band features some really great horn players that have some serious jazz chops as well as funk and afrobeat. Our guitarist Greg Camphuis is the leader and primary songwriter. He has played locally for almost 20 years with such great bands as Spank and Bump Foundation as well as afrobeat bands like Afromassive. Our other guitarist Jonny Fiya is such a great compliment to Greg and he is the main guitarist in Talking Heads Tribute band Naive Melodies. Our bassist is Michael Dieter who has played with latin-salsa band Ponce and is about to embark on a European tour in September with a cool psychedelic garage rock band White Manna. Our percussionist Dan Speilberg plays in local band Sambamore and has been a part of the ever-evolving drum and percussion community here in Humboldt for quite sometime. Our keyboardist
is Aber Miller who plays in many local projects and can be seen around time hosting or playing many jazz gigs. I am the drummer and have played with bands like The Nucleus, The Hip Hop Lounge, Subliminal Sabotage and a few other rock outfits as well.
Your music sounds very demanding, are you guys friends outside of the band?
Pete: Yes we are. I think we have a lot of fun in this band and we are committed to growing it and making really solid records and a truly funky and danceable sound. I would say a large percentage of my friends are musicians or love music. It’s just a common ground that we can all easily relate too.
What do you do when you are not playing music?
Pete: Well, first and foremost, I’m a father of 2 going on 3 and a husband. So my family is very important to me. I also own and operate Big Pete’s Pizzeria and The Jambalaya in Arcata. I’m either playing music or working. I like being as involved in the Arcata Community as I can too. I always wish I had more time. I like to do lots of things.
Which is easier, making friends or finding band members?
Pete: Haha. Probably making friends. It’s hard to assemble a big band like this with players that are on the level and committed to making it real. It takes a lot of planning to practice and book gigs and work around everyone’s busy lives.
Is the gig on Halloween different from your usual gigs that you play?
Pete: Well it’s Halloween so we plan on having a costume party with prizes and people will of course be dressed up. We will be performing a few new songs and some new arrangements as well. Our last bunch of shows we have focused on bringing in artists to perform with like Fred Wesley or Bill Summers from Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters or DJ logic so the Halloween show will be just us this time which will be fun to rock out some of our tunes solely.
Planning on dressing up?
Pete: It’s Halloween. I think we would be kinda lame if we didn’t. I’m not too sure what our theme is going to be or if there will be one but we will dress up. We are open to suggestions if anyone has one maybe they should post it on our Facebook page or something like that.
What is your favorite thing about Halloween?
Pete: I like the party atmosphere here. I like spending the first half of the night taking my kids out and seeing them really enjoy all the fun and candy and community interaction and then throwing down a big party at night with the big kids and seeing how creative everyone gets with their big kid costumes. It’s a lot of fun.
Are you planning any tours?
Pete: Yes. We have been talking about that in 2014. We have been making a lot of great connections with these artists that have shared the stage with us in Humboldt and have talked about perhaps going to New Orleans for Jazz Fest or doing a small run on the west coast. I think we would be happy just being weekend warriors and doing out of town gigs on the weekends in the Bay or Portland areas and slowly expanding the sound from there.
I don’t try to be sad. So I don’t know if it’s hard or not. I try to be happy as much as I can. I try to stay open to as much as I can, especially in music. Playing shows and being part of the circuit between the band that’s playing and the crowd is a wonderful thing. It’s an energy exchange and it can be really uplifting. We do this because it makes us happy. I am very thankful to have the gift of music in my life whether it’s the music I’m personally making or the music I’m going out and listening to. It inspires me both ways.