How they got their funk

Sophistafunk, a homegrown Syracuse band that started in 2007, uses improvisation, the audience and other bands to help them create their unique music.

Four years ago, Newhouse graduate Adam Gold sat in on performances by Jack Brown (who was a Newhouse student) and Emanuel Washington at Syracuse's own 'Funk 'n' Waffles.' A jam session with a big group of guys eventually whittled down to just the three men, and Sophistafunk was born.

"It's more of a statement than a generic name," said Brown, the band's MC and lyricist. "It sets you up for the band itself."

Judging not only by their music and lively performances, but also by the way they come up with their material, the mashed-up word seems an ideal way to describe what Sophistafunk is all about.

Gold plays the bass synthesizer and is a backup vocalist, Washington plays drums and Brown is lead vocalist. With only three members, each is given the opportunity to control his wn material. Gold writes the music and Washington produces the beat, both of which lay a foundation for Brown to produce lyrics, such as, "Like a marriage, it has to match."

Often, new material is created at live shows.

"Improvisation is a major part of what we do every night," said Gold. He said revisited improvisation at different shows will lead to a solid intrumental, which "becomes finalized" once Brown adds lyrics to it. The band's appeal comes from the fact that each show is tailored to the audience. The energy the crowd provides makes every show unique.

Between the three members of Sophistafunk is an eclectic mix of musical influences, which overlap in places. 'Outkast,' for instance, is one of the band's major influences, as is 'A Tribe Called Quest.' For the most part, the band is always looking for different types of music, but it will always come down to funk. The group's lyrics look to challenge listeners and go deeper than music that is repetitive and meaningless.

"When you're hearing something where the music is so great and then the lyrical content pulls you even higher ... It's a full body experience," said Brown. This is exactly what they try to evoke in the audience: "to make them move, to make them feel, bottom to top."

Hours worth of material enabled the band to begin doing live shows right away. Since their formation in 2007, they've gone from performing Tuesday nights at Funk 'n' Waffles to playing across the country, from Maine to Colorado to Virginia. Their favorite venue, however, is still close to home at the Sterling Stage in Syracuse.

"The energy is just so high," said Washington.

As for goals this coming year, Sophistafunk is looking to make and record some new music, while promoting and selling their most recent album, "twentyeleven." More immediate plans include shows in Michigan next week, opening for Eoto at the Westcott Theater on Oct. 20 and Colorado in December.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.