[Interview] Particle gets down with Space Funk Sounds at The Loft
By Lauren Purcell
Photos/Video by Sara Vogt
Arriving at The Loft a little early, I could hear an epic jam session pulsating from the stairs above me. Particle was still in sound check and working out every detail with their lighting guy, explaining their style for the night and how the lights should coordinate with their music. Before even speaking to this group of guys, I knew there were passionate and creative individuals. They have a real love for creating music that evokes emotion and sends your body grooving. When they finished sound check, I was able to find out more about these creative souls as City of The Sun prepared for their set.
Earlier this week, “Home Away From Home” was released as one of the first tracks from the new album, "Accelerator," how does it feel and what’s some feedback?
Steve: I feel great about it. The response has been really cool. It’s always such a good feeling when you work really hard, writing and recording new material. Then you just put it out there in the world and it takes on a life of it’s own. The response has been great so far. We are looking forward to keeping that rolling as we start to release more and more tracks. That particular track was one that we wanted to put out first because it has a lot of familiar elements for Particle fans, but also in a really updated format. So, it’s sort of the best of both worlds. There’s always that dilemma bands have, when they are recording new material. How much of the old sound do we stick to, and how much do we branch into new areas that might be inspiring us right now?
The track has the authentic Space Porn Funk sound, what’s the story behind this track?
Steve: That song plays as a story. There is a character that’s travelling into space to this distant planet, Kepler452B that was just recently discovered. This song imagines his journey and what happens when he arrives on this distant, earthlike planet, and his “home away from home.” The inspiration came from this discovery of this earthlike planet, where we can hope to live one day or where we wonder if there is already life. I definitely encourage people to read up on it. It’s pretty fascinating.
(We continued a very long discussion about Keler452B because it really is that fascinating. Here is a link about the planet.)
Is a lot of the new album about this transition to this planet?
Steve: No, just that one track. But there is a lot of thematic stuff on the album and there is a lot of sound design that accompanies the music. I’ve always been a big fan of that stuff. I think about the early hip-hop and rap albums I used to listen to and there were always these little interludes or skits. Some of them were funny or some of them were kind of edgy. Listening to NWA and there are riot noises and helicopters and gunshots. We definitely use a lot of that kind of stuff to create a framework and emotional context for a lot of the songs.
What are some details you can tell us about your highly anticipated 2016 album, Accelerator? Will there be more tracks released or will the album be released soon?
Steve: I think the plan would be to release the whole album in the very near future. We might release one more track. I’m sure there will be a bunch of remixes coming out too. So, stay tuned.
Since re-launching Particle in 2015, what have been some of the highlights for the band and it’s members?
Steve: My biggest highlight has been the past two weeks, on this tour. The band is just so alive and the music is so vibrant. It’s a real rebirth. It’s like spring; everything is blossoming right now, creatively and interpersonally. We are really challenging ourselves to try new things. Every night we are trying to play in different styles or debut new material. We are using sound checks as a rehearsal to get new songs out and into the rotation of every night. So, it’s really cool and it’s like the reason why you join a band - to have fun with your buddies, play great music, be inspired, and reach new places.
Clay: There have been a lot of moments that have been cool, at festivals and certainly tons of appearances. The past two or three weeks with these guys has been great. Last year, it was kind of a last minute thing, we popped up at Sundance Film Festival and that was great. We were joined by John Popper, Mickey Avalon, and Matisyahu and just had a really crazy session on top of the mountain there.
While there have been changes to the band’s lineup, what benefits do you think Particle has gained from the new additions?
Steve: It’s been really exciting to play with some many amazing musicians over the years. It’s a really cool thing to get different flavors from different people playing with you. There’s another magic that happens when you have a cohesive unit and you can just say, “This is the band and these are my brothers. We are all on the same team, swinging for the fences.” You can really build a foundation and then develop that trust, that unspoken communication that makes music like this really thrive. We are really just clicking and having so much fun playing.
After the release of the new album, what’s next for Particle?
Steve: We’re going to have a Spring Tour. You’ll definitely see Kito and Mike playing that tour. I’d love to see this band, after we put out this album, in the studio already recording the next album together.
How did your previous musical experience make you a part of Particle?
Kito: Well, Steve and I have played together on a couple different occasions over the years, same with Clay as well. We’re still playing in a band together, called Ficus, it just not currently playing now. I had the opportunity to join Particle, I got the phone call, and I happily obliged. I spent a lot of time with that band, but this opportunity opened up and I jumped in.
Mike: I use to play in a jam band in Minneapolis called Roster McCabe. We toured the larger area of the Midwest and did all the festivals like Summer Camp and 10,000 Lakes. I was just doing the jam band circuit, playing in that band. Our booking agent, at the time, introduced us to Steve and we ended up crossing paths with him a couple times and he ended up playing with us. He actually played on the biggest record that my band put out. So, we’ve known each other for a while. That band of mine broke up about two years ago and since then I was just focusing on making electronic music in Ableton and playing with this reggae band out of Wisconsin. That’s when my side project of being a producer began. Steve needed a guitar player and he called me up, I was available, and that was it.
Steve: We’ve all played together in various settings over the years, but it was just a really natural fit, to bring these guys together. The puzzle pieces juts fit together and I’m really glad these guys were available and that it all worked out. It’s been a great ride, so far.
After a couple cups of coffee and some fresh pizza, I returned to the venue and situated myself into the perfect spot to catch these guys send everyone into a funky spaceship ride into the galaxy. With Steve killing it on the keyboard, Mike shredding on the guitar, Clay providing the essential bass rhythm, and Kito keeping everyone on beat with perfect drums, the crowd grooved the night away.
I could see the improvisational connection with each of the members through their eyes, physical queues, and even the emotions on their faces. One would take the lead into a funkalicious solo and I could hear someone cheering them on with, “Yeah!” “Woo!” and “Yes!” as they grooved their skills. Transcending the crowd into an emotional connection with the music.
There wasn’t a single human body that wasn’t moving, bobbing, grooving, or throwing their hands in the air, especially after playing their new single, “Home Away From Home.” The whole vibe of the show was just like being at a festival. There were a variety of people from different walks of life, but they all joined together in a groovy jam session embraced by improvisational passion. I think all the Particle People are pretty stoked for the new album and Spring Tour, if it is going to be anything like the show that rocked The Loft on Saturday night.