Funeral Party: Making New York Dance to the Sound of L.A…

Los Angeles is often thought of as a very poor second to New York in terms of its musical heritage and legacies. However, dance-infused rockers Funeral Party aim to change all that. Formed in the summer of 2006, the core three-piece of Chad Elliott (vocals/keyboards/samples), James Torres (guitars) and Kimo Kauhola (bass) started playing shows the following year and steadily built up a following on the less-celebrated Whittier side of town. Having since recruited Tim Madrid (keyboards/percussion) and Robert Shaffer (drums) initially to enhance their live show, Funeral Party look set to make an impact on both sides of the Atlantic in 2011.

Named after a Cure song from their seminal Faith album, Funeral Party may have started life as a death metal band before enhancing their sound with what Chad Elliott describes as “rich, warm tones to compliment the drill passing through your skull”, yet their first encounter with UK audiences in the summer of 2010 at notorious rock and roarrrrrr fest Download proved an enlightening initiation for both band and prospective audience. “I think the audience caught us off guard,” declares the amiable vocalist, “not only did they like us enough to move around but they also pulled me into the crowd and let me body surf for the first time!”

Speaking to the Funeral Party frontman about UK audiences, he’s more than enthusiastic about the reception his band have received over here, despite not having released an album as of yet. “The English definitely take their music seriously, so that’s great for us, because we know we’re receiving a genuine reaction, whatever that reaction might be. The English will let you know how they’re feeling, whereas in America, if people are having a good time, only the people in front of the stage will let you know.”

Not that Blighty will have to wait long for said album to hit the store racks, as by the time you read this their first long player Golden Age Of Knowhere should be with us. When asked about the record, Elliott’s passionate response suggests it represents something of a life-changing experience for him and his band.

“We are totally satisfied. It’s our record and a lot went into it. We worked crazy schedules and odd hours to make it happen. There are always moments of doubt or second-guessing with art, and we are continually reinterpreting. Kimo and I had day jobs at the time we made the album, so we hardly saw each other because he was coming in from 1-5pm, and I was doing vocals from 8pm-1am. All the while, we were both waking at 4am to work in construction.”

Having enlisted the services of esteemed studio boffins Lars Stalfors (The Bedlam In Goliath) and Dave Sardy (Don’t Believe The Truth, Dig Out Your Soul’), and recorded the album in The Mars Volta’s studio, Funeral Party definitely can’t be accused of resting on their laurels, even at this early stage in their career. “Lars knew how to take our sometimes contradictory ideas and fuse them into a cohesive work, while Dave really pushed the recordings into a sonic realm we hadn’t envisaged” enthuses Elliott.

What’s more, Funeral Party are already preparing for the follow-up. The set list for their forthcoming UK tour will feature several unreleased songs and even Elliott himself admits the likelihood is that album number two will probably end up mostly written and recorded on the road.

Still, the venues they’re being booked to play (250 capacity and upwards) are a long way from the band’s earliest forays as a live outfit, playing in derelict warehouses and apartments. “Playing shows in that environment really made you feel like you were playing strictly just for the crowd, you know like you’re one of them,” professes the singer. “The only difference is you just happen to have a mic or a guitar. There’s nothing distracting you from them, no spotlights, no bouncers, no stage, no over priced drinks. It’s just the music and the people.”

Ambitiously focused as you’d expect from a band whose first single was entitled ‘New York City Moves To The Sound Of L.A.’, Elliott is equally unfazed when questioned about the motivation for Funeral Party’s existence.

“The best bands are usually the ones who’ve already broken up. Our recommendation is that if you’re looking for a new sound, always look to the past. The future has already occurred.”

Who are we to argue?

Words: Dom Gourlay
Photo: Michael Robert Williams
Art Editor: Elliott Webb

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This feature was first published in Issue 08 of FASHION.MUSIC.STYLE, February/March 2011.