In some ways, Dumpstaphunk revives the notion of what entails a supergroup: a few exiles from various big name bands in a new amalgam, and suddenly you're garnering headlines. On the other hand, Dumpstaphunk is the product of a very distinctive bloodline, one which flows from the first family of New Orleans music but bears the legacy of the Crescent City as a whole.
The group originally formed on a whim, performing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2003, but it's maintained a steady presence ever since, playing such high profile gatherings as Bonnaroo, High Sierra, Outside Lands, and the Jam Cruise. This is a Neville-heavy act, founded by vocalist/keyboardist Ivan Neville -- son of Aaron, nephew of Art (the Meters) and Cyril (the Neville Brothers) -- the band also includes his cousin Ian Neville on guitar, bassists Tony Hall and Nick Daniels III and current drummer Nikki Glaspie.
Dirty Word, Dumpstaphunk's current album and their third to date, shows them continuing to forge their trademark mix of funk, gospel, blues, R&B, and rock 'n' roll, all served up in a cross-cultural gumbo that represents their hometown at its finest. "We don't pursue a 'New Orleans signature sound'," Ian Neville insists, "As individuals in the band, we draw from our musical influences, which is definitely not limited to NoLa music. But most of us eat, live, and breathe New Orleans, because that's where we are from and where we grew up. That explains the NoLa signature sound in our music."
With that in mind, we probed further, asking a few questions of Ian Neville.
New Times: After that initial gig at the Jazz & Heritage Festival, what made you decide to make this band an ongoing endeavor?
Ian Neville: The first gig, we played together made us want to make this an ongoing thing. It felt too good and worked out, so well musically that it just made sense.
So at the time, were all the members readily willing and available to embark on this new project?
Not immediately at the time of the first gig. We all had other gigs and projects going on. Then, eventually after juggling timing for a while, we all committed to D-Phunk full time.
Who came up with the name?
The name came from Ivan's brother coming up with a name for the most stank, funky, nasty substance or concept possible... That's the name that fit.
What kind of reaction do you get from your audiences?
Sometimes we get the deer in the headlights look back from people who had never seen us and didn't know what to expect, and sometimes we get the people who sprint onto the dance floor when we hit. But ideally, by the end of the show, everybody is jamming along with us.
Is it a challenge to translate your live sound onto a record?
I would say to a degree that it is, but for Dirty Word we just focused on making a great record and worrying about translating that to the live show later. Some tracks on the new record stemmed from a few songs that we had been playing live and just kinda morphed into our own thing.
What is the legacy that you think you learned from your family?
I learned to pay attention to what people play and say, and try to learn from any situations and opportunities that present themselves -- music related and otherwise
Is it ever intimidating to have to live up to that high bar that the Nevilles established early on?
We had the opportunity to learn from them, to learn what to do and what not to do all at the same time. Some of that is to make music that you love. That's where it should start.
Did your father or uncles ever give you a piece of advice that resonated especially significantly with you?
My dad (Art Neville) sometimes likes to say "less is more." Which can apply to all kinds of situations I guess, except practice
What do you think it is about New Orleans' signature style that attracts people to begin with, whether they're familiar with the legacy or not?
It's the melding of so many styles and influences into its own new thing. That's what makes New Orleans as a city and New Orleans' music what it is.
What's been the biggest career highlight for the band so far?
I'm excited for our new record. I feel like it represents us as a band, and the direction of our music. I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes us.
Who are some of the other up-and-coming artists that you're grooving on at the moment?
Definitely the London Souls. Those guys are killer musicians and great people.
What's next for your band?
Hitting the road to support this new record. We have some U.S. fall tour dates. Also, hitting Australia in October. Then we've got Jam Cruise coming up in January. And in between all that, we'll find time to go back into the studio and make some new music.
Dumpstaphunk. 10:30 p.m., Saturday, August 31, at the B.E. Easy Music & Arts Festival, Birch State Park, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $38 per day in advance, and $48 per day at the gate. Visit brownpapertickets.com.