Going into the studio with the title of ‘Australia’s greatest modern funk band’ hanging over your head might be a tad intimidating.
However, Lance Ferguson – bandleader, producer and lead songwriter of The Bamboos – is surprisingly relaxed when reflecting on this.
Having just recorded the band’s sixth studio album, Fever In The Road, Ferguson says he felt no outside pressure when going into the studio. Instead, he just aims for one thing: “Make this better than the last record and better than anything you’ve ever done.”
He pauses before laughing and says, “That’s enough pressure for me really.”
Formed in 2000, the soulful and energetic sounds of The Bamboos have been attracting fans worldwide for over 10 years now. In Australia they are hailed as one of the country’s best funk bands thanks to their flawless live performances.
2012 album Medicine Man saw them reach new heights, culminating in a sold out tour, three ARIA nominations and an inclusion in the Triple J Hottest 100. It saw them showcase an array of guest artists, including You Am I frontman Tim Rogers, songstress Megan Washington and American soul singer Aloe Blacc.
[do action=”pullquote”]“With the new record I really wanted to feature the band more.”[/do]
With Fever In The Road to be released in November, Ferguson describes the album as an ‘in-house’ record, showcasing the band’s own vocalists, Ella Thompson and Kylie Auldist.
“With the new record I really wanted to feature the band more,” he says.
“One of the main differences is just the focus on the live band this record. We didn’t want to use any guest vocalists. I wanted to keep it in-house and really just feature Kylie and Ella as the vocalists.”
While Ferguson is the lead member and guitarist, he says that the songwriting process was a collaborative effort. He worked for four months in the studio by himself writing songs before co-writing with Thompson and Auldist.
“I was calling Ella and Kylie to come down and co-write the rest of the tracks. As I said I wanted to feature the band, so the obvious extension is actually having their input in terms of co-writing as well.
“They both come from two different angles and I wanted to represent those both equally. It’s actually pretty much half-half across the album that Ella and Kylie sing. A little bit more of their input creatively in terms of songwriting and putting a stamp on their tracks”
While the band’s earlier albums were funk-heavy, Fever In The Road continues their recent trend of defying genres.
The album blends the rousing vocals and chugging rhythm section of ‘Avenger’ and ‘Your Lovin Is Easy’ with darker tracks, like ‘Before I Go’. There’s also a layered psychedelic feel, emphasising the band’s changing sound.
Despite the eclectic genre mix of the album, Ferguson says he’s aware of the funk label the band have been given.
‘The funk thing is definitely where the band started off on our first couple of records. But you know over our last three albums it’s really been just one aspect of a whole lot of influences coming through.’
He says he was not fixated on genre labels while recording Fever In The Road.
“I went into making this new record without thinking of genre at all. I was just like ‘let’s write some songs and see how it comes out.’”
Feeling free from genre restrictions, Ferguson says that he listened to a variety of artists before heading into the studio to record the new album.
“Before I stepped out to write this record, I was listening to a lot of bands like Stereolab who are an awesome band from the ‘90s I’ve always been a fan of. People like Beck, Tame Impala, Blondie, a lot of stuff like that.”
[do action=”pullquote-2″]“Before I stepped out to write this record, I was listening to a lot of bands like Stereolab who are an awesome band from the ‘90s…”[/do]
The Bamboos began playing songs from the new record at Splendour In The Grass earlier this year. Ferguson says the band were pleased with the response to the fresh material.
“I think that’s the ultimate test of songs is if you can play them cold to a new audience and get an instantaneous response. So I just can’t wait for everyone to hear the recorded and full proper version of the songs as they were intended to sound.”
Having stripped back the artist lineup after the guest-heavy Medicine Man, Ferguson says that Fever In The Road has proved to be a smoother transition to a live setting.
“It feels so good knowing we can go out and play these records as they are intended to be. We can just go out as band. But just the fact that we don’t have to worry about anyone else is amazingly liberating”
With a spot on the prestigious Meredith Festival lineup, the Bamboos have a busy summer in front of them.
“We’re actually heading over to the UK and Europe for the first third of 2014. And we’re also going to the States and Japan. It’s almost like a miniature world tour in a sense” he comments.
With their reputation validated as the band who redefined Australian soul music, it is not hard to see why they’re in demand on a global scale.
Fever In The Road is out 8th November 2013 on Pacific Theatre through Inertia.
The Bamboos Australian Tour 2013
Fever In The Road Tour
Friday 29th November – The HiFi – Brisbane
Saturday 30th November – The Factory – Sydney
Thursday 5th December – Capitol – Perth
7th December – The Forum – Melbourne*
Tickets on sale NOW
Meredith Music Festival 2013 Dates
Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre