Reverbnation Artist: 20 Grand
Brian Ripple | Tuesday Mar. 3rd, 2015
20 Grand is a 7 piece band that has been writing and playing songs in western Montana since 2009.
20 Grand can easily pop the party off with their funk stylings, but don’t be surprised if you hear some soul, rock, hip hop, ska, go go, and even afro beat mixed into a set. Check us out on the internet at www.20grandfunk.com.
BR - I am joined today by Eric Gates who plays Baritone Sax in the Whitefish, MT based funk band “20 Grand” How are you today Eric?
EG - Doing great. How are you?
BR - Excellent. Can you tell us a little about the band and your own musical background. How did you start playing the saxophone?
EG - I started playing saxophone when I was a kid, and I think that’s true for a lot of us in the band. We started on our instruments many years ago. Most of us have lived around Whitefish for many years and have worked in a bunch of different projects that have overlapped. I think it was about six years ago that we all came together to form 20 Grand out of several different bands that were coming to an end at the time. We had the idea of this funk band drawing from James Brown, The Meters and Parliament Funkadelic. That kinda classic 60’s and 70’s funk. It has kinda grown from there to include newer stuff.
We didn’t have an MC at first but we added him pretty quickly. We have changed a few members over the years, but the core of the band has mostly stayed the same.
We recorded our first album titled “Don’t Hoard the Funk” about a year ago and released it exactly a year ago. We have been plugging that as well as writing new material. We are looking forward to the next album a ways down the road.
BR - Who was the mastermind to combine the bands into 20 Grand?
EG - Jamie Simpson and Vincent Rannazzisi had the idea of having a horn driven funk band. They kinda recruited the rest of us.
BR - Besides some newer music, would you say the vision of the band has stayed the same or has it evolved along the way some?
EG - Yeah, it’s constantly evolving. The spot we have had the most turnover with has been our bass player position. We are on our sixth bass player now. Every one of them has brought a very different element to the band. We have gone through periods of almost being a heavy metal band with horns, and more Jam band periods, I’d say for now we are back into the deep pocket funk.
The image of the band has sort of evolved and the songs we have picked up along the way have also somewhat been dictated by that.
BR - You mentioned the funk classics like JB and Funkadelic, but in your bio on reverb nation it mentions artists like Galactic and Greyboy. How specifically would you say the new funk influences 20 Grand these days?
EG - Some we are actually drawing material from. In terms of Greyboy and Galactic we have added songs of theirs to our sets. More generally for everybody else playing funk there are a lot of great bands out there these days. Groups like Lettuce and Kung Fu and too many others to list. We are listening to all those bands and kinda absorbing what they are doing. So we are steeped in the history but definitely keep a foot in on what’s currently going on and happening these days. There is a lot of interesting stuff. Some great playing and great arrangements.
BR - So would you classify the Don’t Hoard the Funk album as being this newer style of funk with more modern arrangements?
EG - Yeah, it is probably more derived from Galactic than from James Brown, plus we feature the MC on about half the tunes so the hip hop element is there. It definitely has more of a modern sound.
We recorded it all analog and went for the vibe of a more traditional recording. It was all done live with very little overdubbing. We were trying to capture that old school vibe. So newer tunes done in an older way would be a good way of putting it.
BR - Speaking of live, how many shows do you typically play in a given year?
EG - Oh, it varies. Probably twenty to forty depending on the year.
BR - Does this year look to be a busy one for you guys?
EG - So far it has been busy up to this point. We are still booking for the summer which is looking like it will be pretty busy too.
BR - I see you are playing a show with Cure For the Common in March.
EG - We just did one a couple weeks ago with them. They came up and played the Winter Carnival. They are great. We will be playing with them at the Northern here in Whitefish in a few weeks. (Fri. March 13)
BR - Do you suppose that means you will come down to Bozeman and play a show with them here sometime soon?
EG - Yeah, I think we would like to do that. We have been branching out. For a long time we mainly played in and around the Flathead Valley, but we are starting to make more trips down to Missoula and have been looking at also heading further East than that. Hopefully this summer we will head that way.
BR - You mentioned a new album maybe coming along this year too perhaps?
EG - I do not know if we will actually get to the recording of it this year, but we are in the early stages of writing for it. We will write songs and kinda develop them live before we actually go in and record them.
BR - What else would you like to let our readers know about 20 Grand?
EG - They should check us out on Facebook, at 20grandfunk.com and of course our Reverb Nation page.
Through the tourist season we are playing a lot so if you are up in the Flathead come check us out. There is always a lot of cool music happening up here, even if we are not playing. Any given weekend it is worth checking out the local bands in Whitefish. There is a lot of cool stuff happening.
BR - The winter scene is really good in Whitefish too. People come from all over the world to ski and see Glacier Park. Tons of Canadians partying like crazy.
EG - Yeah its wild. You probably get a bit of that in Bozeman too. It exposes us to a lot of different people and it definitely exposes our music to a lot of different people so that is a good thing for us.
BR - It makes it hard to go tour when you have a built in crowd every weekend and it is three hours or more to the next viable city or place to play.
EG - It can be, but we do what we can. It is hard to justify sometimes but we like to play.
BR - Thanks Eric for talking to us and congratulations on being the Bozeman Magazine / Reverb Nation artist of the month for February and March 2015. Best of luck to all you guys in the future as well.