Expect Funky Unkle to be quite busy in the studio and on the road during the summer since the entire group is comprised of teachers. “It’s funny how that’s worked out, but that’s how it worked out for us,” tenor saxophonist Austin Long said from his Audubon home.
Funky Unkle, who will perform Saturday at Lucky You Lounge, is a funk band influenced by Lettuce, James Brown and the Polyrhythmics. The instrumental act, which formed in 2016 as a side project, has built momentum releasing an album, “Funkle,” which dropped in 2020.
“We started with covers and quickly evolved and started writing our own songs and recorded them for our album,” Long said. “It’s all worked out really well. There’s not a band like us here in Spokane.”
There’s probably not a band like Funky Unkle – a tight, soulful group that lays down smooth grooves – anywhere in America. “We’re really coming together,” Long said. “We’re having fun, and we’re on the same wavelength.”
It’s not surprising since each member is an instructor. Long teaches music at Shaw Middle School. Guitarist Mellad Abeid is a professor at Gonzaga and Eastern Washington University. Bassist Dave Fague is the jazz director at GU. Drummer Kenny Seger has taught drumline at local high schools. Alto saxophonist Cameron LaPlante teaches at the Libby Center. And trumpet player Jesse Flanagan and keyboardist Cole Peterson have teaching certificates and give music lessons. Percussionist Bailey Noble recently departed the eight-member band, leaving the group with seven.
“So, we’re all here where we teach and play,” Long said. “We rehearse at Gonzaga, and we just have so much fun together.” Funky Unkle is working on an EP, which should feature about five songs that will be released at some point in 2022.
“We’re working on some new music that we’re excited about,” Long said. “Being in quarantine the last two years has given me plenty of time to write, so we have a ton of songs that we’ve yet to record.” The band is looking forward to its gig at Lucky You due to the audience the venue attracts.
“Lucky You is one of the best places to play since the people who go there are actual music fans who are really into what’s played,” Long said. “They just don’t go to dance, not that I’m against dancing. But they listen intently.
“They don’t go to Lucky You to talk, and the band up there is just background noise. The caliber of music fans that goes to Lucky You are the kind of fans you want to play for.”
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