Some might think Junk has a bit of an identity crisis.
Critics have dubbed this San Francisco quartet acid jazz. Some have called it funk. Others call it an instrumental pop band. And a few have labeled it an improvisational funk combo.
But really, Junk is none of these.
So, what then is Junk?
Junk, which plays Outback Jack’s on Wednesday, is simply Junk.
“We are in an identity crisis if you want to pigeonhole the band,” says guitarist Dave Schumacher in a phone interview from his home last week. “But if you just want to hear the music, then, no, there’s no identity crisis.
“You can put our record on, and if somebody’s heard us before, they’re going to know who it is,” he continues. “They’re not going to have any problem discerning what band that is. In that regard, I think we really have a strong identity.”
In music, especially in America, most critics and record labels feel compelled to associate bands with a particular genre. They aren’t comfortable unless they can readily identify a band’s sound.
Labeling also makes it easier to market a band. A record will fare better in stores if it belongs to a certain genre, because consumers tend to buy albums according to their favored style of music.
“If a booking person calls me up and says, ‘Hey, I want to book you guys and I don’t know much about you. I’m running an acid jazz night and it pays real well. What kind of music are you guys?’ We’re acid jazz,” says Schumacher.
“Or if somebody else calls and says, ‘Hey, I think you guys would be cool but I’m looking for a danceable funk band. Is that was you guys are?’ Yeah, sure, that’s what we are.
“I don’t care,” says Schumacher. “We just want to play our music for as many people - the widest possible audience - as we can. At the same time, we have to be honest about who we are in a musical sort of way and not pretending we’re something (we’re not).”
They don’t. Junk - which also includes bassist Frank Swart, drummer Malcolm Peoples and baritone saxophonist David Robbins - never compromises its individual spirit. No combo sounds quite like Junk. True, its influences - funk, cocktail, jazz, rock and improv - perk up in the melee. Yet, no one has arranged them in this fashion.
Being unique in world of copycats isn’t always the easiest road to travel.
“I think all of us … feel vulnerable - almost naked - in what we do,” Dave says. “We’re not following somebody else’s methodology in order to achieve certain results that have already been achieved.”
On the band’s newly released third album, “Continuation of Madness,” Junk pulls the thrill-crazed listener along for an unusual odyssey. Demonstrating instrumental genius throughout, the quartet augments the ambient voyage with sharp improvisation, unexpected segues and fluid instrumental interplay.
Some of the compositions, such as textural “Stratosphere” and “The Spelling Kids,” whirl the listener into a trance. “Steppin’ in Gilroy” and “Chutney Con Carne,” punctuated by fat lilting rhythms and juicy sax riffs, implore heavy-duty hip swinging and finger snapping.
More than 1996’s “Kiss My Acid Jazz” and 1995’s “Junk,” “Continuation of Madness” best defines Junk.
“Like Frank, our bass player, says, ‘I can listen to this record,”’ says Schumacher.
“There’s always some bias,” he continues. “Like, this is our latest thing and we put a lot of energy into it, so of course anybody is going to say their latest thing is their greatest thing. But I have my highest hopes for this record more than any record that we’ve done.”
Junk performs at 9:30 p.m. The cover is $4. Bring your ID.
Too Slim update
The Washington Blues Society, based in Seattle, held its annual “Best of the Blues” awards ceremony last Sunday, an event that distinguishes the Northwest’s most promising talents in the blues. Spokane’s Too Slim and the Taildraggers were nominated for two awards - best album and best slide guitar. Sadly, they didn’t win. However, they’ve won enough in past years to fill a few trophy cases.
Maybe next year, guys.
You can catch Too Slim and the Taildraggers plugged-in at the Fort Spokane Brewery tonight and Saturday and unplugged at Wine Stein’z on Wednesday.
The blues trio enters a Portland studio in mid-April to record its fifth album.
Both Fort Spokane shows start at 9:30 p.m. The cover is $5. And on Wednesday, Too Slim plays from 8-10 p.m. There is no cover.
For those of you who failed to buy tickets for the Floater concert last Saturday at Outback Jack’s but wanted to go - you’ll get another chance on April 4. The band canceled its performance here last week after its van broke down en route to Spokane. Floater’s song “Danny Boy” remains a fixture on KNJY’s play list. Tickets are $5 in advance and $6 at the door. So far, 200 tickets have been sold. Hurry.