Austin-based Roxy Roca brings the funk to Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – In order to be funk, it’s got to have base, rhythm and groove.
“It’s got to have something that makes you tap your foot or move your hips to be funky,” said Ryan Greenblatt, drummer for Roxy Roca.
Think of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good),” perhaps one of the most iconic and funkiest saxophone lines of all time, and then compare that to Roxy Roca’s first funk song, “Cornbread,” a song about lead vocalist Taye Cannon’s love for his grandmother’s legendary cornbread.
“That song — it’s like it’s two-texture cornbread: crispy on the bottom and soft on top,” Greenblatt said.
Roxy Roca, an Austin-based six-piece funk and soul group, will be back in Steamboat Springs for the first time since 2015 to take the stage at 10 p.m. Friday, July 27 at the Old Town Pub.
The group, which formed in late 2010, features a catchy combo of slick guitar riffs, a funky big band horns section and gritty, infectious vocals. Roxy Roca has shared the stage with B. B. King, Tom Jones, Lee Fields, Trombone Shorty, Fitz and the Tantrums, The Roots, Bobby Rush, Blues Traveler and Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk.
The band includes Greenblatt on drums, Cannon on lead vocals, Charalampos ‘Babis’ Tyropoulos on guitar, Austin Roach on guitar, Erik Muench on bass, Royce Phillips Jr. on saxophone and P. Michael Hayes on trombone.
This summer, Roxy Roca is touring throughout the U.S. in support of its latest single, “Taurus,” from their forthcoming album, “A Better Way.” Written in six weeks in the studio, the new album will be released in September.
Earlier this week, Explore Steamboat caught up with Greenblatt.
Explore Steamboat: More and more it seems there’s been a revival of funk and soul. Why do you think that is? What is that something about it that makes it so distinct?
Ryan Greenblatt: I think funk and soul is making a revival, because people love the emotion and full sound a band makes complete with a horns and a funky rhythm section. We also offer an alternative to non-analog music or EDM, because it seems like many people are looking for musicians to perform live and get that concert experience which can only be experienced in a live setting.
ES: How do you think nostalgia that music evokes affects our various tastes in music?
RG: Hard to say really. Music is so personal, and what is nostalgic to one person may be brand new to another. I do feel that we carry our pasts with us, and whether we are conscience of it or not, those influences show themselves in many facets of our lives such as our taste in music. I think there is a sort of generational nostalgia that can be passed down though. For instance, our parents played the music of their childhoods when we were kids. It was nostalgic for them at the time, and now that we are adults, it’s nostalgic for us as well.
ES: What would you say is the most “dance-able” song of all time?
RG: Oh, tough question. A few of the guys said, “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. I might say “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. It’s important the song isn’t too slow or too fast, has an easy rhythm to bounce too and catchy hooks that make you want to sing along.
ES: What does it take for a band to have a big band horns section? How have you guys developed that sound?
RG: Really, it’s all about finding the right guys. Horn players are in high demand and short stock typically. A good horn player who can commit to one (or only a few) projects is even harder to find because that demand can be so high. We’ve been very fortunate to get Royce (sax) and Mike (trombone) to buy in to being in Roxy Roca full time. Horns are integral to soul and funk music and really fill out our sound. On a visceral level, the horn players really add to the live show and the look of the band on stage. They are magnetic. We aim to feature them in just about every song, even if only in a small way.
ES: Where does a catchy name like “Roxy Roca” come from?
RG: Thank you! Roxy Roca is actually a play on the actress Roxie Roker’s name. She played Helen Willis on the show, “The Jeffersons.” You may remember, she was one of the first (if not the first) actors to be portrayed in an interracial couple on network television. That image had a lasting impact on our singer Cannon when he watched re-runs as a kid. She’s also Lenny Kravitz’s mom.
ES: Have early influences/inspirations influenced the sound of Roxy Roca? How so?
RG: From a philosophical standpoint Roxy Roca has always been about spreading love and hope. You can tell at the core of the band that’s the message we are trying to spread. “Happiness is a Choice” is one of our most popular songs, and it really strikes a chord with people. It’s a message that can stand the test of time: basically life will not always be easy and there will be tough times, but it is always up to you to choose how you react to it. It’s up to you to choose to be happy. It’s an underlying theme of hope that things can and will get better. The bad times never last forever no matter how long it actually feels in the moment. On top of that, there are seven members in the band, and each of us has a different background and different influences from which we draw. We try to write songs together, and that really molds our sound into a good cross section of all of our influences.
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