Name: Kerbside Collection
Members: Andrew 'manny' Fincher, Lachlan 'swampdog' Symons, Paprika, Papa Joe Roberts
Occupations: Guitarist/Keyboardist (Andrew), bassist (Lachlan), drummer (Paprika), baritone saxophonist/flute player (Papa Joe Roberts)
Current Release: Kerbside Collection's new singles "Glaze" and "Round the Corner" are out now via Légère.
Recommendations: 1. Interesting, funny, quirky Illustrator / artist Saul Steinberg - Passport (plenty of other books on his work – but that’s pretty comprehensive)
2. Look into Tomorrow – Lisette Wilson (amazing early 80’s jazzfusion soul song from lesser known / underrated NY multi instrumentalist)
3. Traffic – Jaques Tati (super funny visual+sound humor film from legendary French film maker/artist, known for his way of making full length films with no dialogue – just sound & visuals, this film particularly has awesome soundtrack! Where a song title came from on the our previous album and 7” single on Spasibo Records)
If you enjoyed this interview with Kerbside Collection, visit the band on their tumblr account. They're also on Facebook, Instagram, and bandcamp.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Music’s been in the family from day dot (mother is a classical & folk music teacher / multi instrumentalist, and grandfather legendary Aussie Jazz musician recording artist). The earliest influences came from there, and things like Dad’s record collection which were things like Steely Dan, Herbie Hancock (his favourite period were the Mr Hands, Sunlight, Secrets albums etc), Weather Report (his favourite musician is Joe Zawinul, so quite into his fusion, which a lot of people with musical taste were into back in the 70s), Joe Sample & the Crusaders and some early soul things like Leon Patillo (one of Santana’s original singers) plus the odd African and Brazilian music records.
At the end of high school I remember encountering the first Jamiroquai album ‘Emergency on Planet Earth’ and that acid jazz sound, that really stood out as the modern day connection to these sounds I would hear that at home on the record player stereo, and as a drummer I was compleeeetely blown away by Nick Van Gelder’s tight grooves alongside Stuart Zender (the best Jamiroquai rhythm section imo), even though that was a good 8 years after that album was released (there was even some Didgeridoo – Aus indigenous instrument on that record if I remember, plus cool things for that time like DJ scratching, rapping etc), We even had our own Jamiroquai (tight acid jazz group) around that time called D.I.G., who was every ‘musician’s’ favourite band at the time.
As I got further into my 20’s the mid 2000s deep funk thing (James Brown, The Meters & gritty rare funk grooves revival) had really exploded, especially in my country with our own people like the Bamboos, Cookin’ on 3 Burners etc. That really hit home the idea of tight, simple grooves of a nice fun rhythm section, with 60’ James Brown approach as the pinnacle of music (no contemporary cheesy ‘shredding’ or pointless noodling or show-off ‘gospel chops things, just good wholesome, home cooked grooves from guys enjoying their company and wanting to share, explore this (obviously with the added background of some jazz and musical sensibilities - not apes in a cage).
Then finally when kerbside collection first began, the core members met around a mutual appreciation of some of the West Coast Jazzfunk things like George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Joe Sample & The Crusaders, Kenny Burrell, plus Grant Green, Jimmy Smith etc etc, and then that informed the trajectory of our sound till now.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Totally, that age old jazz (well Black music community history) saying “we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us” is completely true. And essentially that’s what humanity is, a continuation, progression informed somewhat by what’s come before.
Correct, most musicians will say they started growing up emulating who they were drawn to musically, in my case it was Stix Hooper (The Crusaders), Bernard Purdie (Steely Dan), then further along it was Tony Allen (Fela Kuti and Afrobeat pioneer), and ‘Camanche’ by Joao Paraiba (Brazilian drummer, Trio Mocoto / Jorge Ben Jor). For Ravi (first original Kerbside guitarist) it was Benson, Wes etc, for Chris it was Jimmy Smith, for Andrew (longest member, who plays both keys & guitar) it’s people like Joe Pass, and some of the more New Orleans guys The Meters, Dr John etc, and in Lachlan (Bass) case he grew up on alot of reggae – The Wailers, cutting his teeth playing with Kiwi reggae bands etc. Joe (Baritone sax/flute) background is from be-bop, big band, salsa and modern straight ahead jazz.
From these influences and backgrounds the members develop and hone their ‘voice’ I guess (which add in many of the greats that’s always developing, growing, I mean check out diverse people like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Chico Hamilton, Miles etc were)
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Good question, the project is based around the direction or appreciation of instrumental jazzfunk (or what some people might know as ‘rare groove’) from a definite 60’s 70’s West Coast tip. But we’re not entirely ‘retro’, I mean people still love / appreciate the rice & beans ingredients of a rhythm section grooving together, whether it’s from the 60’s or the 2000s.
It can be a right challenge incorporating the colours of each member and have them melt musically into this dusty instrumental jazzfunk and gritty grooves pot with actual songs – and not just fuzzy ‘noodling’ or self indulgent ‘shredding’ , or mathematic music (no one wants to listen to an exam, I mean people like Snarky Puppy are technical amazing, they did all the study, killed the exams etc, but their music seems soooo ‘overdecorative’ and clinical – like you’re listening to people trying to please / gain approval from a conservatorium chin stroking professor, who’s ‘marking’ all the details – like an exam. Do people want to listen to that?)
I mean we as musicians can appreciate technicality, but by and large people want something they can groove along to, a soulful tune to whistle along to, a nice solo feature that doesn’t take over the whole song etc, and anyway isn’t there much better new ‘fusion’ music out than SP, with people like Dutch group Marutyri who seem to be so much more ‘musical’, but unfortunately just don’t have that crazy U-S-A ‘music machine’ behind them.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Some mentioned above, mainly absorbing the inflections of each member into the works / songs – so each member’s colours come through somehow (and naturally members change from time to time, very normal for little project bands / ensembles like this, even for those big bands like Sharon Jones & the Dapkings, The Bamboos etc – always changing). I mean our 2nd longest member (bass player) had to take a break, as he joined the army, and smashed it from the get go and is loving it, to our surprise – which is fine (as his Dad was a previous Police Captain).
This band and the music will never be famous or huge enough to do entirely out-rite (we know this). Also getting everyone together can be a challenge, as the members are very sought after musicians and teachers, and some have surprising day jobs, like the sax / flute player who makes model teeth for dentist work.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Totally. Kerbside Collection’s always tried to be about as much analogue as possible, and in fact this is part of the esensemble’s story, bringing some of this analogue charm back after the 80’s & 90’s killed out a lot of that (it was the underground hip hop / beat makers that still kept that ‘sound’ alive’ constantly going back to those 60s / 70s sounds for their samples etc, because there was just something about those sounds.
The first album (2011) was recorded and made in Jake Mason’s (Cooking on 3 Burners) garage attic studio at his house in suburban Melbourne, 1 x little room everybody together, no screens / separations, even Jake at the control desk is in that same room pressing record on the tap machine – and we get people saying that still stands out as the best ‘sounding’ record of our combo. The last 2 albums (‘Smoke Signals’, and this new one ‘Round the Corner’) have been pretty much the same setup, but have been in a different studio (Alchemix / Brisbane where we are based), that has separation screen if needed, and engineer is in a separate booth. But all recorded to tape, then a couple of extra overdubs if spec’d (synths, brass sections, string section, vibraphone etc).
All about not taking too long with putting down the work, I mean there’s preparation, but also leaving space for the natural qualities of each player to come through and complete some of the things that are purposely left unresolved – it’s exciting to allow for that (otherwise it can get too much, and over course sometimes never gets resolved, because you can get bogged down in ‘perfection’ details). I mean there’s parts in the songs where I’m like, man what did I do there, my groove wasn’t tight as I meant – but in the bigger picture it doesn’t detract, and that’s the take that the whole band put down the best.
I mean in this current record, there was one instance (as the drummer) I observed frustration I wasn’t getting these little solo rolls to work properly on a track (as the suggestion was to play to a click - to help the feel of a certain track), but the guys were like – nah mate it’s sounding fine, and put down the take, and moved on. Also think we’re inspired by those albums, where you see recorded on 23rd & 24th August 1972, 2 x days full album done (some 1 x day) they probably had gigs / sound check to get to etc, and they got the albums done, and they sound great. Some of the jazz albums it’s 1 x mic on the room! Incredible.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I guess as mentioned above. Recording to tape first to document that warm, funky sound. Then of course there’s instruments that provide this initial quality – Hammond organ, fender Rhodes, acoustic piano, tube amplifiers for the 60’s Japanese guitars, certain drums.
There are 2 instruments on this new album, that you don’t see in many recordings: a certain 70’ electric piano ‘Yamaha CP70’ which our friend plays (he thought it fit because he can adjust the volume when he’s practising, but secondly because it has this funky unique sound, that you can’t get in any patch – think the Vulfpeck guys use this a bit too), and a bass clarinet (sounds in-between a clarinet and Baritone Sax, pretty much like the sound of a duck or goose : 0 – funky ) which you can hear on the latest Glaze single.