June 7, 2010
Contributor Ezra Morris speaks with Bimbi Garraux of Atlanta funk party band Noot d'Noot.
Noot d’ Noot are a ten piece band from Atlanta, GA. They blend funk, electro, and soul into a psychedelically tweaked soundtrack to an alternate reality. Their live performances transform whole rooms of unfamiliar listeners into ecstatic, writhing mobs. I recently caught up with founding member Bimbi Garraux.
EM: How has the shift from being a two-person bedroom project based on sampling and loops changed how you write songs now that you are a ten-person band?
BG: It hasn’t really changed how we write songs all that much, but the outcome has changed a lot.
EM: Because of the input of the other people?
BG: The same ideas are still there, just messing around with sounds like it’s a collage project. What we do now is we all get together and play and record it and then listen through for cool pieces–a melody or a cool rhythm or vocal idea. Then we just keep honing it down until it becomes a song. That’s actually what we always did from the beginning.
EM: So you just cut out a little section and say this is the verse? Is that how you guys actually structure your songs, verse, chorus, and so on or is it more open-ended?
BG: It is becoming less open-ended, there’s always room to go back to that if we want. We started with us looping, where Dream Sanitation would play keys and I would play drums and we’d go and make loops and then turn those into songs. So it’s the same process, it’s just ten people instead of two.
EM: You have a vocalist now; is that pushing the songs towards having more structure?
BG: I think that’s pushing it towards that. It used to be entirely instrumental but now we have a bunch of songs with hooks, verses and choruses.
EM: What’s happening with the new record?
BG: It’s coming out in July. We were trying to get it out before this tour but we don’t want to half-ass it. It’s a full length. Ten songs. We recorded it at the Living Room with Ed Rawls so it sounds a lot bigger and more live.
EM: Will this one be more similar to the live experience? I think that was the one thing that threw people off with Fingers Like Steeples; it didn’t have the same manic energy that comes across in the live show.
BG: Yeah, we splurged and got an engineer so hopefully the results will show. We are trying to appeal to what people want. They want us to make a live sounding record so we tried it this time.
EM: Yeah, how big a role does the crowd play for you guys when you’re playing live?
BG: It’s so important, we’ve all been in a ton of bands and so often people in bands think of themselves as artists and it’s all about what they’re trying to convey. This time around, we think of ourselves more as entertainers than artists. We’re on stage to entertain, that’s our purpose. A lot of things we notice playing live that people respond to, we just run with if it gets a reaction.
EM: It’s literally crowdsourcing.
BG: Totally, like when we got the girls immediately people started asking why they didn’t sing more. They had just joined the band so we hadn’t actually had any time to write songs for them to sing on. I think, as an experiment, we’ve just tried to cater to the crowd. It’s been really fun to see the crowd reaction, to see people dancing. It’s awesome.
EM: Traveling, touring, even getting a full band practice together…how difficult is that with ten people?
BG: Logistically, often we don’t have everyone at practice and even sometimes when we play you’ll see James playing drums because Justin wasn’t there when we wrote that song. That’s why we switch around when we play. We write in different configurations. Someone will get up and leave the room and somebody else will grab an instrument. So it ends up being who was on what instrument when the song was being written.
EM: It’s like a claim ticket. With ten people from such different musical backgrounds, are there ever communication problems?
BG: That’s one thing that I think is cool about the band, we don’t really look like we’d be in the same band and we don’t share a lot of the same references or listen to the same music, but it all works out to come across as our sound. Like the percussionists, they have an Afro-Cuban ensemble that they also play in, and they listen to traditional Cuban music all the time. One of the dudes, he has two rock records, one from the sixties and one from the seventies, and that to him is rock music.
EM: That’s crazy to me, like having a space alien in your band.
BG: Totally, it’s bizarre, it’s almost like when we write a song their input is like another song laid on top, it’s like a mash-up but it works out. And the singers are listening to what’s on the radio, modern pop music that I’m not really familiar with.
EM: So is there a theme for the new record?
BG: Yeah, it’s called From Ever Since, and there are a few concepts tied up in that. Like, we think the music we’re making is coming from ever since, we always write as a group and songs comes out of jamming and improv, so it’s more about the band getting together and channeling a song.
EM: Do you think that the organic process of writing creates a greater sense of camaraderie in the band, since songwriting is shared?
BG: I do think so, and I also think it brings out music that none of us would write if we were writing by ourselves. I put out that solo record and I did most of it at home and it’s really chill, but when you have ten people in the room playing, and there are three or four people playing drums and percussion it is pretty hype, you know? It makes for stuff that is good to hear on a Saturday night. It makes you want to throw down.
EM: Sure, it’s a primal feeling. So how much of the show is improvised?
BG: Well, it’s getting less and less as we go along because we have more songs, but we always try to leave room for that.
EM: I think that’s refreshing, a lot bands get away from that, because they either want to be really tight or they have really taskmaster type songwriters in the band.
BG: Yeah, I don’t want to ever lose that element. For me, as a musician coming from a punk background where you only know how to play your songs, to be able to think about music as a language lets you find a place in whatever is going on.
For more visit nootdnoot.blogspot.com, and look for them on tour this spring.