A Funky Conversation With The Pimps Of Joytime On Music, Brooklyn & More

first_imgThe Pimps of Joytime have found an audience thirsty for their brand of New Orleans-infused funk well beyond the bounds of their Brooklyn roots.They’ve already been busy on the festival circuit. This spring, they’ve taken their tunes to JazzFest down south and Lightning in a Bottle and BottleRock out West. Later this summer, you’ll find the Pimps promoting their new album, Jukestone Paradise, at the Deaf Camp Benefit in Snowmass Village, Colorado on July 16 and FloydFest in Floyd, Virginia on July 27, in addition to a slew of other dates in Washington, D.C., Colorado, New Jersey and Pennsylvania along the way.Live For Live Music had a chance to catch up with three of the pimps—lead singer and guitarist Brian J, percussionist and vocalist Mayteana Morales and vocalist Kim Dawson — before their set at BottleRock in Napa, California to talk about the band’s origins, how they fuse different styles together, the challenges of making money in music today and more!L4LM: Where did the name “Pimps of Joytime” come from?Brian J: When I was making my first record, I hit up a friend of mine to write a little piece, a little spoken-word piece, for this track. On some of the stuff they wrote was “Pimp of Joytime”. When I saw it, I just figured “That’s the name of the band.”L4LM: That was how long ago?Brian J: Ten years ago.L4LM: In those 10 years, do you feel the name has adapted well to you or that you have adapted well to the name? Does it fit? Has it fit you well?Brian: Well, I think we all have a different answer. My answer is yes, for the most part. People see the name and they’re like “Ooh, that sounds fun.” Here and there, some people can be offended about it, or if it’s some type of government-sponsored gig, it could potentially rub certain people the wrong way with that. But I’ve enjoyed it.L4LM: How did you all come together?Brian: Well, it’s an evolving…it’s evolved. It started as one thing and, over the years…I started working with May within the first year of the band. And then Dave [David Bailis, on the bass, keys and sampler], maybe six years, five years ago. Dave, maybe even six years. Then John [Staten, the drummer], maybe four years and Kim…Kim Dawson: This is my one-year anniversary this weekend.L4LM: Congratulations!Kim: My first gig with the band was Memorial Day weekend last year. Let’s get some more wine!L4LM: I guess that’s sort of the industry, to have to bring in new members.Kim: It’s very common for bands that have been around for 10 years, 10-plus years, to have evolutions, different rotations of members. Sometimes, people come back. Sometimes…you know. Everybody’s trying to do what’s best for the band. Everybody’s trying to do what’s best for themselves as individual musicians. But I feel like everybody right now in Pimps of Joytime is pretty happy with what we have. The sound is good, we get along.L4LM: Good chemistry.Kim: Yeah, it’s good chemistry, for sure. And especially because we all come from kind of different backgrounds as far as our musical education and professional experiences in music, whether it’s gospel for some of us or it’s like Afrobeat for some of us, whether it’s rock for some. I think that contributes to the sound because we all bring a little bit of that.Mayteana: Well, the music itself, it already started as a really diverse sound, so for us to come from those different backgrounds, we all found a place. I love all kinds of music and I think everyone in the band does. It works for all of us in terms of taste, too. I think we do find joy in being able to play such diverse kinds of music.L4LM: Do you feel like it’s more common nowadays for bands to be more eclectic in the way they bring together all different types of music? Or is it almost less genre-defined now than it used to be?Mayteana: I think it depends on what kind of scene you’re in. I think in the jam band scene there definitely is more variety in one set, you know, just because everybody has different influences.Kim: I think the industry, too, has changed. There is more acceptance in the mainstream if you have…it’d be like, “Okay, this is rock and this is what our definition of rock is and that’s all we play.” But I don’t think it’s ever been true that musicians have only been interested in or been influenced by one style of music. I don’t care who you are, whether you’re the Rolling Stones or whoever. I think everybody always has lots of things they listen to, and now I think in the industry, change is more common to be allowing all of these different sounds into your overall sound.L4LM: How do you guys go about incorporating so many different musical elements into one cohesive whole? What I’m asking about the songwriting process more than anything, more than anything.Brian: It happens really naturally and organically. I even have to try to be disciplined to make it a little…it can be too crazy sometimes. You’ve got to keep it focused. That’s always been a challenge for me is, it’s great to have a lot of influences, but you always want it to be cohesive. So that’s sort of been the challenge.Mayteana: Yeah, I remember when you wanted to incorporate polka and it just got vetoed.Kim: Everyone’s like, “Nope!”Brian: It was too much, that waltz base.Mayteana: Little polka dots.L4LM: What’s the genre of music that you were able to incorporate that most surprised you by the extent to which it worked?Brian: Well, I think in putting the original, first record together, I was experimenting like wildly with different styles. The funk groove, the foundation being groove sort of rose to the top as like, “This seems fun” when I was thinking about what kind of show do I really want to play? I decided to make it fun.L4LM: And you guys have ridden that since then, more or less?Brian: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s gone a little more rock, a little more blues. But certainly the heavy, rhythmic influence, like the really groove foundation thing, has really stayed.Mayteana: I don’t think there’s ever been a genre you’ve drawn from that has been so left field and it ended up working. I think everything that you’ve pulled from, it just naturally fit in, you know what I mean?Brian: That sounds good.L4LM: How do you feel you guys fit into the festival atmosphere? Because this is a pretty eclectic environment to be in, with so many different artists coming through. Do you feel at home in an atmosphere like this?Brian: I do, yeah. It’s just, you’re getting people where they’re really receptive. They want to have fun, and it’s like, “Oh, this is our perfect audience person.” They’re like out, they’re like “I want to have fun!” And we’re like, “WE want to have fun!” It’s a perfect combination.L4LM: I’m sure you guys have had some gigs where the crowd hasn’t been all that receptive, maybe the mood has been more tense.Brian: We’re familiar with it, yeah.Kim: I think most musicians have that, I don’t care what level you’re at even. Sometimes, you’re like, “Okay cool. Here’s where we are. I see. Cool.” It’s just part of the job.L4LM: What do you take away from experiences like that?Brian: Well, you have to work harder. That’s when it’s like, you keep working, you don’t give up. I’m really into comedy. It’s like these comedians. They have to keep working and finding a way to loosen up the crowd and get them laughing. That’s essentially what we do, but on a musical dance level.L4LM: It’s almost like finding your voice as a band, like you have to find something you can connect with audience on a certain level. They can get you, they can feel you.Brian: Well, we have a lot of built-in devices in our set, like things that’s like, “Okay, this works on people.” Sometimes, it works better than others.L4LM: Any examples of what those are?Brian: Arrangement things, vocal…just pretty much what we do. We construct a moment, like “Okay, we’re going to build this up and then we’re going to break it down.” When it works, people get really excited.Mayteana: It can be really challenging to play for an audience that’s very mellow. So, in those situaitons, it can be easy to not give as much energy back, as a show where an audience is going nuts. So I think the important, at least personally, I try to refmember to connect to the music and go from there, because that’s first and foremost. You can’t go off of someone sitting there watching you with a serious face, you know? It’s just like, “Hey [clap], I’m going to do this anyway!”Brian: That’s a good answer.Kim: You can’t get psyched out by whatever their mood is, if you’re feeling ready to party and they’re like “I’m chilling.”L4LM: You’ve got to hope they come along with you.Kim: Well, you just do what you do regardless.Mayteana: 100 percent.Kim: You have to do what you have to do and mean it and be authentic, authentically yourself. And eventually, people respond to that. People respond to when you are authentic. I think that, like you said, we connect to the music and we connect with each other and we’re just ourselves.Brian: But that’s a real challenge. Like, if you’re there and the audience, they’re just like dull. Sometimes we have gigs like that where like, for me, I’ll really connect to the music and I just completely don’t give a fuck. I’m having a great time, my eyes are closed, I’m just going for it. But then, when you don’t connect, you’re really having trouble connecting musically for the sound or your mood or whatever, those are the most challenging nights.Kim: Like you said, it’s work. You’re working harder. Not that we don’t ever, you know, put ourselves out there. It’s just like, there’s definitely a different energy level when you’re having to be like, “Okay! I’m going to make you dance!”L4LM: You have to give them more energy for them to then reciprocate.Kim: Yeah, and that’s always the balance that you’re working with on stage, reciprocating energy and then your own energy. It’s like this dance that you’re doing the whole time with the audience. But…Brian: I hope you’re not going to write this whole answer, the longest fucking answer to one question ever.Kim: It’s like 20 minutes.L4LM: It’s interesting to me! I don’t care.Brian: “This article is about what happens when the crowd isn’t feeling it and you’ve got to try to make it happen.”L4LM: I think it’s interesting, though, because jam music is so crowd-oriented.Brian: Well, we’re not actually a jam band.Kim: Yeah.L4LM: But you do jam sometimes.Brian: We do some jamming, but we write songs and we sing and we have harmonies and structure.Mayteana: It’s pretty structured. We have cues and a lot of sections.Kim: I would say…you mean like when we’re with crowds that are more of the jam orientation, festivals that are more jam-oriented.L4LM: Is it important at some level to read a crowd? Do you try to read a crowd?Brian: I think there’s a combination. You read them. Dave makes the set lists. That does structure the energy flow of the set. You read them, but I think regardless, you’re just going to put a lot of energy out there.Mayteana: I think it can go too far either way. You can’t go by just what the audience is feeling because we also have this thing we do. There’s a balance.L4LM: You guys are Brooklyn-based. Are any of you from Brooklyn? Did you meet in Brooklyn?Brian: Well, I met May in Brooklyn during the genesis, the early genesis of the band. And Dave also is from Brooklyn. And then I imported Kim and John from out of state.Kim: We were the imports, yes.L4LM: Where were you imported from?Kim: I’m imported from Denver. John is imported from San Diego.L4LM: Do any of you live in Brooklyn?Kim: May, Brian and Dave do.L4LM: A lot of our fans have noticed a rise in the live music culture of Brooklyn. Can you speak to that at all?Brian: I think May’s more qualified because she actually gigs in Brooklyn. The Pimps only play about three or four shows a year there because we’ve graduated to a certain level. You have an experience with it.Mayteana: I was just talking about this with my husband the other day and we were talking about how, for a while—you can attest to this too—is that the live music scene was dying for a short time. And now I’m walking around and I see live music here, live music there. It’s kind of resurging a bit, which is really nice to see because it was like, “What is happening to this culture?” It was kind of disappearing. These great music venues are shutting down with high rents or whatever. And now, so, me and my man, we play these restaurants and we’re playing 1920s, 30s music. So people are connecting to some rootsy music. I think there is the desire for live music and for music that’s not only popular, but all kinds of music. I think it’s an important part of the city. But there’s always a venue—Rockwood, for instance, Lower East Side—there’s always something interesting to see, so I think you just have to find different pockets. I don’t know. I think it’s always, it’s ever changing and the styles are ever changing, you know? There’s modern, there’s old, there’s people that are going to music school, there’s crazy…I don’t know if you know Cory Henry, Funk Apostles and Snarky Puppy, that school, that are playing some crazy new shit. It’s interesting. I think there is an evolution.L4LM: That seems to be the case with live music in general. Last year was a banner year in the business. It’s harder to make money just by recording music so you have to go out and play. Have you guys experienced that first-hand?Brian: Oh yeah. You can barely make anything making albums anymore. But the one thing there’s always going to be a value for is live music. So think as music just becomes so available, and I think in some ways people fall in love with albums less than they used to because it used to be, you got the vinyl or the tape and you just look at the picture on it and put this in. Where now, it’s just like, “Oh, what do I want to listen to now?” You can access anything. Maybe that means less and maybe that has some type of effect on making live music.L4LM: Along those lines, where do you guys fall as far as streaming is concerned? I was listening to you guys through Spotify…Brian: Yeah, Spotify is a real problem for artists. It’s a problem that they need to figure out. It’s not fair for artists. It’s incredibly…it’s not really moral. I use Spotify too, but they just need to figure out a way that they are not taking advantage of artists, that they can compensate the artists. Making records is really expensive and time consuming and it’s like your life’s work and then people just…the company…I think you saw the thing that was going around on Facebook. You need to get like, what, 200 million plays to equal the average salary. They just need to figure something out.Mayteana: And I think, at this point, they have like membership fees that will cover a little bit more for artists.Brian: Or you get 10 plays and then you have to buy the record or something like that.Kim: Something. There’s got to be a way. And the thing is, artists will start getting fed up enough that they have to find a way. I understand on the other side, the consumer side. We all use it, I’m sure, Spotify. It’s great to have the access, but we’re also, this is our living. We’ve put so much into it.L4LM: Well thanks so much for talking to us!Note: Parts of this interview were edited for clarity and length. Photo taken by Stuart Levine at BottleRock.last_img read more

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