The Budos Band: It’s A Family Affair

Staten Island’s The Budos Band have been on the scene for nearly 15 years, entertaining audiences with their infectious concoction of funk ‘n’ soul, afrobeat, and hard rock. Their forthcoming release is V, which will be available April 12 from Daptone Records. The album is a hard-charging, 33-minute blast of sharp guitar riffs, thundering horns, and heady bass that reflects the distinct musical ground on which the Budos tread.

“I think the early- to mid-seventies is our musical sweet spot,” says baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel in a recent conversation. “Whereas some groups that are going for a throwback soul or funk vibe really zero in on 1968, we’re really going for a mid-seventies vibe. It has to do with our recording techniques, as well as the type of music that we’re trying to write and play.”

With the release of V on the horizon, the Budos—now a bi-coastal outfit—will be playing two hometown shows, first on April 5 at the Bowery Ballroom, and again on April 6 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. During our chat, Tankel and I spoke at length about the band’s mindset while recording V, which propelled the Budos Band—original members of the Daptone scene—into a new era of musical exploration.

Hey, Jared. How are you?

Awesome. What’s up, Dan?

Nothing much. I appreciate you taking the time to chat today. Thank you very much.

Yeah, for sure, man.

Cool deal. So, let’s talk about the new LP, V. It comes out on April 12 on Daptone Records and having had the chance to hear an advance of it, I want to congratulate you and the group because it is truly a great LP.

Thanks, man. I appreciate that.

No problem. V is your first full-length LP in 5 years—your last being 2014’s Burnt Offering. What have you guys been up to in between albums?

Uh, let’s see…. We have been having kids, working, moving, and despite all that, figuring out a way to still get together and make albums and play shows. Since the last album came out, I think there have been at least 3 new additions to the Budos family—and by that I mean dudes are having kids.


Thanks! I think we’ve got—as a band at this point—about 12 Budos kids, so we are quickly developing the farm team to take over when we’re old men. [laughter] So, life happened for a minute, and actually a couple of us moved out to the West Coast, myself included. I live in L.A. now. So, you know, there were some major changes, and it took us a minute to step back and figure out what our new MO was going to be, because we’re now bi-coastal, and we’ve got a lot of other life things going on that we didn’t have, say, 10 years ago when we were crankin’ out records. So, yeah, life happened, but luckily we’ve figured out a way to keep the train on the tracks.

That’s great, man, and congratulations again to everyone in the band. You know, when I listened to the first single from V, “Old Engine Oil,” I was instantly hooked on its chugging rhythm. The track is very guitar driven, and I’ve noticed that on the last two albums, the band has showcased the guitar a bit more with some heavy licks and a few scorching solos.

Yeah, definitely.

Was that something the band had decided to explore, or was it just a natural progression?

I think it was a natural progression in our sound, but there’s some intention behind it, as well. I think with Burnt Offering, you saw us trying to make a more rock skewing record as opposed to afrobeat or Ethiopian jazz—we were trying to stake out some ground in the rock area while still making a Budos record. We listen to a ton of rock, and hard rock and classic rock when we’re touring around together, so we were trying to make a record in that vein. So, with Burnt Offering and then carrying over into V, the guitar and the bass—their riffage is much heavier than before, and in my mind, it directs the band in a new way.

I would agree, and I would also say that on the second single, “Arcane Rambler,” there is a similar kind of punch that “Old Engine Oil” has. Was it important for you guys to put those two tracks in particular out first as singles to sort of set the table for the album?

Yeah. When we finished the record and it was time to talk about what songs were going to lead things, certainly you wanna lead with your best foot forward. So as a group when we were thinking about that, “Old Engine Oil” was kind of a no-brainer. It’s a very strong representation of where we were at with this record, and I think the guitar in particular on that track really sets it apart.

The band’s style, initially, has been a mix of afrofunk, retro rock, elements of Ethiopian jazz—all these different styles that have come together over the band’s existence these past 15 years. There’s really a lot of great bands that are playing music in that style, but I think the Budos Band is a little different from the rest, and I was wondering what you think sets the band apart from other groups.

I think that we take a different angle on it than other groups, in terms of our influences and what’s informing our writing and recording process. I think specifically, you may find a band that is super into afrobeat or west African funk, or even east African stuff out of Ethiopia. But our music is a combo of that with ’70s hard rock informing our sound. That makes us a little unique and I also think that when it comes to arranging our songs—and especially playing them live—we’re not a band that plays 15-minute songs with long, drawn out solos. We strongly resist the notion of being a jam band. So, for us, having very focused and tight arrangements is really important. That’s something we’ve always stuck to ever since we’ve started. We’ll get bored with ourselves if we start playing a song for six or seven minutes. We need to make ourselves heard, say our piece—whatever that is—and then move on to the next one.

That’s interesting—you guys are almost like punk rockers trapped in the bodies of funk musicians.

[Laughter] Yeah, totally…. We try to keep that ethos in mind.

With instrumental music, be it funk, jazz, or anything else without vocals, the emotional context of a track may not always be immediately captured by the listener. With the world being such a chaotic place nowadays, was there anything collectively on the group’s mind while making V, be it thematic or otherwise?

I think for us, this was—again, given where we’re at in our lives—this is a triumph of us prevailing over big life changes, and coming together to make this album. Our music has a darkness and moodiness to it, and I think that comes through in the intensity. But I also think this was a real unifying experience because we all came together and made sure the Budos was going to prevail despite all odds.

The Budos Band was one of the first groups signed to the Brooklyn-based Daptone Records, a label that was originally a very indie, but then gained a lot more attention through artists like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. Are you able to share some memories of what the early days at Daptone were like?

Sure, man… you know, Budos helped build the studio out in Bushwick. All of us were out there at various points—I remember specifically putting up plywood in the isolation booth in the middle of the studio… putting tires under the floor to make it a floating room…. It was a real DIY sort of thing, for sure, and in the early 2000s it was really such a family vibe—and it still is—but you would see everybody out a different shows, or people were spinning at different bars in Brooklyn, or just out hanging. So, it was a very, very small, close-knit family vibe that changed over time, but it still definitely has a family vibe. Everybody is older now, and obviously certain people have left us too soon, but in those early days, we saw each other all the time, and every time we got together it was like a family party.