Davin Michael Stedman claims to be exhausted.
He works around the clock as bandleader, lead vocalist and lead visionary of Seattle’s festival favorite the Staxx Brothers.
The last few days he’s been burning both ends between touring and recording to memorize lyrics so he can pinch hit for his co-vocalist who just went solo.
He claims to be exhausted, but Stedman speaks fast and feverishly about the band’s organic approach to mixing rock, soul, funk and hip-hop, the ever-evolving lineup, and recording a new album.
Stedman started Staxx Brothers in 2002 while attending Washington State University. The band was designed as a sort of post-hip-hop channeling in the spirit of Stax Records’ artist such as Otis Redding and Booker T. & the M.G.’s, mainlined with healthy doses of The Rolling Stones and Sly and the Family Stone. On stage Staxx Brothers throws down like a compact version of Funkadelic fused with rough, hard-driving R&B.
“If The Rolling Stones formed today Mick Jagger would be rapping over a funk groove,” Stedman insisted during a telephone interview.
In its early incarnation the band famously featured DC, a blind, black emcee from Detroit. DC has since left the band. Up until recently Staxx appeared as a septet highlighted by Nigerian rapper Ayo Dot and soul singing Staquelettes Michelle O’Connor and Angela Rickard. Ayo just left the band to pursue a solo career.
Staxx was also just joined by new drummer, Charlie Lorme, though he’s about 10 years older and boasts the most industry repute and experience in the band.
“We’ll be playing as a six piece for the first time in a long time,” Stedman said. “Whether people know the lyrics or not, I want to make sure I’m able to do justice to the songs. We have a song we want to play that’s an Afrobeat song that involves lyrics in English and Yoruba, that’s the language in the West African tribe Ayo Dot is part of. It’s the same tribe Fela Kuti was part of. It’s great to work with someone who has that connection.”
In between time, Staxx Brothers is working on a new album, “Hot Chocolate.” Stedman said he is also collaborating with Seattle emcee Delisha Phillips.
“It’s about sustaining and adding and expanding,” Stedman said. “Working with Delisha is great. It’s exciting to have a young, hungry female emcee to be working with. She is going to be on the next record on a song called ‘Thug Life,’ it’s sort of tongue-in-cheek but it works because what Dalisha is doing is so authentic.”
“Hot Chocolate” finds Stedman taking his lyrics in a different direction through the gateway of a science fiction hip-hop opera.
The story revolves around advanced aliens who have a taste for human music – and brains – but has its favorite delicatessen threatened by a zombie apocalypse and a sun going supernova. As Stedman tells it, he raps in an alien voice with the unmistakable cadence of Kurtis Blow.
“Hot Chocolate” follows the subversively political charged “Jungle Cat” album, which was a departure from the comedy steeped “We Are The Blaxstonz.” Staxx is finishing the album with Justin Armstrong at Seattle’s Electrokitty Recording Studio, the same studio frequented by Dave Matthews.
“I can never rip on Dave Matthews ever again,” Stedman said, lowering his voice with mock paranoia. “He might be on the block right now.”