Photos by: Teddy Williams
Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band is a mouth full for sure. This nasty funk band hails from Asheville, North Carolina and has been living the road warrior life since their conception in 2002. With multiple albums, a serious number of collaborations and a touring schedule that puts other artists to shame it's easy to see where their vision of leading a "funk life" comes from. This great group of musicians sat down with Bullet outside of Terminal West before their set to share what funk means to them.
Are you guys looking forward to playing in Atlanta?
Lee: Yes! We love Atlanta. It seems like there are lots of artists that inspire us from here, like Outkast, Big Boi, Janelle Monae. It makes me want to bring it right. A lot of good vibes from Atlanta, its just one of those cities that make you want to bring your “A” game. We always dig Terminal West as well, it’s a nice place.
Your shows are always referred to as “experiences” rather than simply performances. Why is this?
Mary Frances: Naked girls!
*the band members laugh*
Al: They do say that? Wow. Well, I totally agree with them because we put every single bit of energy into every single note that we play. We try to make it an experience for everybody. A new experience every single time.
JP: It’s definitely a visual experience as well as an audio experience. We’re not just standing up there like stick in the muds just strumming away, playing our keys. We’re dancing around, we’re jumping around, we have fun things that we do with the audience, there’s a lot of interactive activities and stuff. Sometimes we end up with people on stage, especially if we have friends in the audience.
You guys have a crazy touring schedule, how do you balance your personal lives?
Lee: In the past we’ve tried doing stuff on the road. We try to go see some cool shit, national parks, we’ve done Zion National Park, we’ve done a few things like that. Kayaking, dog sledding, you’ve got to incorporate adventure into the adventure.
Mary Frances: We also get to see family and old friends on the road. Along with touring you get to maintain your personal life with people that you might not see as often. I think that helps keep it fresh on the road.
Lee: There’s things out there that make you feel a little taste of home while you’re touring and that keeps you going until you get home. Good food!
*Everyone murmurs in affirmation*
Lee: Oh yeah, you start to really crave some good food out there and learn where those spots are and repeatedly go back to them.
How were you each drawn into funk as a genre?
JP: George Clinton, my first P. Funk concert I pretty much immediately knew. By the end of the show I was trying to figure out if I should drop out of school and follow the funk or if I should finish school and work on the funk while I was in school or what. But at that moment I knew that it was gonna be a part of my life.
Derek: I think that, things that make up funk live in all kinds of little, different places in other genres of music. I think that for me personally I’ve always searched for, I call it groove, and I can find it in almost any genre. You can hear the funk come out in a lot of people’s music that they create. You can find it in metal, you can find it in jazz, you can find it in all kind of stuff. You feel this thing that makes you..that touches your soul. I search for that in every style of music that I listen to. I feel like that’s what funk is to me. It’s that groove, it’s what moves me and I feel like that’s what moves people.
Mary Frances: One time my grandpa asked me if I played rockabilly or hillbilly. I said no Papa, I play the funk.
The title of your most recent album is Funk Life. It reflects the idea that funk is a lifestyle not just a genre.
Derek: Funk is like a gumbo of sound, a gumbo of people. You start looking at one of the first integrated bands, Sly and the Family Stone. It was men, it was women it was blacks and it was whites all gettin’ down on the same stage. That’s the embodiment of funk, that you can be whoever you wanna be, just meet us in the middle and let us groove it out.
I think that’s the biggest thing that funk has going for it. There are a lot of other genres where they can be male dominated or female dominated or black dominated or white dominated, but when it comes to funk it’s just everybody. It’s a free-for-all. We know amazing people of all backgrounds that are funk musicians and you can get on the same stage and throw down.
Lee: I think another reason we call the album Funk Life is for the last seven years that’s all we’ve been living, breathing, eating, consuming and putting out there is funk. I feel like our last record is an expression of the things that we’ve seen, the shows that we’ve played, the musical connections that we’ve made. That is what we gave to those songs.
You guys have some great album art, do you collaborate with a specific artist?
Lee: Yeah! Our homie Josh Finley from Denver, C.O. He’s the mastermind on the graphics. He does a lot of posters for us. It’s between him and Lebo from Miami. Josh is quirky enough that he kind of gets us. And he can draw a butt. That’s what sold us.
You guys are constantly collaborating with other artists, what led to you having such a strong sense of openness with your music?
Derek: For me personally it was musicians being like, you need to be here, you need to be on the stage. Forcing you to sometimes maybe not play what you want to play. We try to open that up to fellow musicians or up and coming players. We’ve worked with some great trumpet players, some great sax players. Having them on stage, it’s kind of like a nurturing situation between musicians. They push you harder.
JP: For one thing, also, the fans really dig seeing collaborations. You play differently when you’re playing with other people. The crowd can feed off of the energy the musicians are giving and the musicians can feed off the energy they’re getting from the crowd, so it leaves an openness. Opening the stage up to see what kind of collaborations are possible.
“Kid tested, mother approved.”
Mary Frances - keyboards, vocals
JP Miller - guitar, vocals
Al Al Ingram - bass, vocals
Lee Allen - drums
Derrick Johnson - trombone, vocals