Budos, Orgone push the East Coast-West Coast debate

by Ryan Snyder

WUAG presents samplings of East and West Coast funk in the ensuing weeks at Artistika with Budos (top) and Orgone (bottom). (courtesy photos)

In the mid ’90s while the attention paid to hip hop’s East Coast- West Coast rivalry was fueled by regionalism and one-upmanship, little mind was being paid to how much in common the two schools of music actually had. As the complexities and aggressiveness that later arose in the East Coast sound were a reflection of the thriving punk and jazz scene’s in New York City during hip-hop’s formative years, West Coast hip-hop’s self-determined ascent came on the back of the sunny fatalism prevalent in LA’s party culture. In addition to practicing the same four pillars of hip-hop, both east and west shared a common point of origination in funk music. However, as the boundaries between hip-hop factions began to blur, funk practitioners on both shores began to adopt subtly different creative ethos, mirroring the tropes of hip hop that were prevalent a decade before. Those nuances will become manifest when Staten Island’s Budos Band comes to Greensboro on Feb. 21 and Los Angeles’ Orgone arrives exactly one week later.

Just as Bad Boy and Death Row Records left indelible imprints on the artists they produced, so too do the respective products of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records and Costa Mesa, Calif.’s Ubiquity Records. While Daptone’s flagship act the Dap-kings gravitate more toward pure funk and soul, Budos Band baritone sax player Jared Tankel credits labelmates Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra with rousing the ten-piece group into creation, though he adds that some of their influences aren’t necessarily geographically particular.

“Whereas Antibalas has struck closely to traditional Afrobeat, we took some turns,” Tankel said. “For us, that was initially because of how American funk and soul sounds in terms of song structure and keeping songs more tightly arranged than Afrobeat songs tend to be.”

There’s also a distinctly aggressive edge to Budos that goes beyond the snakes, scorpions and erupting volcanoes on their album covers. Quite a few of the band’s members come from punk backgrounds, and Tankel says as a unit they’re gravitating towards a more metal and rock sound with a focus on interlocking riffs from their guitar and bass. He noted that the band had even begun working on an album composed entirely of classic rock covers, including Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and doom-metal pioneers Pentagram, but shelved the project in order to focus more on its own compositions.

“Compared to some of our peers, we have a more aggressive attitude towards both our writing and performing. We can be laid-back guys, but in terms of our music, we don’t take a laid-back approach,” Tankel said. “One thing we really try to avoid is having a jam band-y, easygoing label. We really try to keep our arrangements and performances hard hitting with a real dirtiness behind our sound. We’re not trying to make clean sounding records.”

As Tankel says that the band is going to be experimenting with more noise and distortion on its next record, LA octet Orgone is coming off of the release of Killion Vaults, a tribute to the clean, deep grooves found in library funk recordings native to the film and television industries of the ’60s and ’70s. Though they share a passion for classic rock and Afrobeat with Budos, Orgone percussionist Stewart Killen says the band is also driven by house and disco influences of the late ’70s and early ’80s, which are evident in their other 2010 release Cali Fever. While Budos Band’s combative sound is derived from the grunginess of its horn section, Orgone’s creative juice flows from the nerve center of funk.

“It starts with our rhythm section; drum, bass, keys, guitar,” Killen said. “I think with Orgone, I don’t think there is a bar. We might go for a late ’60s sound by changing the drums up, or we can create a disco vibe by placing the accent on the keys. Just whatever works, works.”

WUAG presents Budos Band at Artistika on Feb. 21, followed by Orgone at Artistika on Feb. 28.