Published on October 11th, 2012 | by Ballard Lesemann0
The Pimps of Joytime Take the Funk to the Green Fair
Not many touring bands do the funk thing so exquisitely and confidently as Brooklyn-based combo the Pimps of Joytime. Led by slick-cool singer and multi-instrumentalist Brian J, the Pimps bring an invigorating mix of old-school R&B, classic soul, disco, AfroBeat, Latino-rock, and blues to the stage. There’s a brush of hip-hop over the top of it, too.
“We definitely blend different styles,” says Brian, the founding member and musical arranger of the group. “As the primary writer in the band, I have so many influences, and I love so many different genres, but the name Pimps of Joytime sort of focuses in on being kind of fun with some attitude, too. That comes from the Brooklyn aesthetic and a lot of New Orleans.”
There’s plenty of swagger and cockiness in the Pimps’ attitude. Speaking about the band’s most recent studio album, 2011’s Janxta Funk, Brian defines the music and vibes as “part gangsta, part janky.”
“Our experience on the road over the last four years certainly affected the sound the music on Janxta Funk,” Brian says. “We went for that dusty, dingy-sounding groove, like with the drum tones being more lo-fi. Of course, you set out to do one thing, and the results are often very different. I just picked out the best songs and went with that.”
Drums and rhythm have always been at the heart of Brian’s songwriting and musical technique. Though he mostly handles the guitar on stage, he actually started out as a drummer while growing up in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn. His first serious band included Harper Simon (pop singer Paul Simon’s son) in the lineup.
“I tried to learn the guitar, but Harper told me I was so horrible at it that I should stick with drums,” Brian says. “But wanted to be in the front. That was one of the motivating factors. I think I’m fortunate that I started with drums because rhythm is such a critical part of the music, and it plays a large role in my style. Even in the solos, there are rhythmic melodies going on.”
Armed with a fiery set of soulful tunes, heavy grooves, and badass threads, the Pimps of Joytime have been a popular touring machine in recent years. The pace keeps accelerating. They regularly perform at jam-band festivals, big-city clubs, and popular rock venues.
“I feel that you make your music and if people are drawn to it, you should appreciate that,” Brian says. “That’s why I’ve never cringed about categorization or getting lumped into a jam band scene or urban shows or whatever. I like them all. People are searching for music and they’re drawn to it. What’s wrong with that?”
Aside from touring, Brian and the band — vocalists Mayteana Morales and Chauncey Yearwood and a roster of guest musicians — have been cranking out new songs and recording track for a forthcoming album due this spring.
“In some ways, I think our next record will be our best by far,” Brian says. “I’m working more closely with the rhythm section to arrange the parts ahead of time. On the previous albums, I played most of the bass and drums, so this is a different, more collaborative approach. I’m trying to include everyone who’s in the touring band, so it’ll naturally sound very live.”
The band’s early-evening concert at the Carolina Green Fair on Saturday, Oct. 13 marks the fifth annual Green Fair show on the Marion Square stage. As far as aiming for green goals as a band and striving for a more environmentally-friendly approach to touring, Brian and his gang are trying to practice what they learn along the way.
“We have to drive in a van or fly to gigs, and I don’t feel particularly good about that,” Brian says. “I’d like to learn about alternatives. I hope to get greener with touring because it’s very important to me. We try to live in a healthy way on the road, and we’re receptive to environmental issues. A tour bus that runs on veggie oil might be the next big investment for us.”
This feature was included in the 2012 Carolina Green Fair program.
The Pimps of Joytime perform at the fifth annual Charleston Green Fair on Sat. Oct. 13 in Marion Square. Ben Fagan and the Holy City Hooligans and Penny Candy share the stage. Admission is $20 (at the gate) and $15 (advance). The event is all-ages and runs from 5-9 p.m. New Belgium Brewing, Bota Box Wine, Firefly Vodka, One Coconut Water, and Triangle Char & Bar will be on hand.
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