sort of familiar
February 1995

Some of Motherphunk's music sounds kind of familiar.

The alternative dance band mixes some popular covers with their original songs. But the covers -- well, don't expect them to sound much like they did in the old days.

"We arrange them to fit our mold," said Motherphunk drummer Tony Kirchner. "They don't sound like the original tunes."

The band's selection of covers ranges widely, from Devo's "Whip It" to Dee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart."

Their favorite cover, "Spinning Wheels" by Blood, Sweat & Tears, even made it onto their upcoming CD, Friends with a Professional Juggler.

The original '70s hit is "slow in nature, sort of laid back," Kirchner said. "We increase the tempo and make it more funky. The chord structure is intact, the lyrics are intact ... but we've rearranged it to fit our style."

They usually pick covers to perform by jamming with them for a few minutes -- if they don't slip into the Motherphunk mold quickly, they're gone.

"If it sounds like it's going to gel, we pursue it," Kirchner explained. "If it sounds really stupid, we can it. ... Usually within like 20 minutes we can tell. If it's like pulling teeth, we know it's not going to work."

The band's music overall is "heavy groove-oriented," he said, "but we also have a feel for the funk sound. It's rock 'n' roll with a good groove behind it. If a tune doesn't groove, people aren't going to like it. ... We definitely try to get them moving. We're trying to tell our audience, 'We're into our music, we're enjoying it, so why don't you give it a listen'."

Most songs begin with music by guitarist/singer Matt Macbeth, then singer/guitarist A.J. (just A.J.) adds lyrics. Kirchner and bassist Keith Cramer take the arrangements from there.

"We don't like to get into what our songs are about because we'd rather have people listen to the lyrics and come up with their own interpretations," Kirchner said. However, he said, their music is usually "reflective in nature."

The band's name, by the way, is "in no way derivative of a swear word," according to Kirchner. Band members sat down with a stack of old album covers and started putting things together. "We found 'Mother-something' on one, 'Something-phunk' on another," he said. (And the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is not about LSD.)

interview by
Tom Knapp

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