Tai Chi Funk Squad finds new creative outlets during panedemic

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COVID-19 has made musicians and bands get creative in different ways. In the absence of live music because of the pandemic, they don’t have much of a choice.

A lot of live streamed performances have happened via social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram over the past few months. There has also been a steady release of new music and videos.

Johnston’s Tai Chi Funk Squad have been keeping themselves busy during this time by playing socially distanced parties and filming videos of their performances to post online.

The quartet of guitarist and vocalist Jake Anderson, bassist Rob Anthony, drummer Dylan Butler and keyboardist Tom White have been feeling the live music itch and they actually have a show happening next month. I recently had a talk with Butler about the videos, the upcoming show, being behind the kit for different bands and recording new music.

ROB DUGUAY: Where have these performances been filmed and has it taken any getting used to due to the lack of live shows?

DYLAN BUTLER: A variety of places, with a variety of setups and situations. We use Rob’s Studio Space for some videos, and we try to capture most live shows. The most recent videos were from our last two shows, one a backyard party and the other a campground. The purpose of the videos is to help us get heard by a larger crowd, and also because we love doing them and we love the process of reflecting, honing and tightening our craft. Getting used to no shows was a nightmare at first, since my main source of income, social interaction and creativity was shows.

It definitely had me depressed and questioning myself, and wondering how I would continue to scratch that creativity itch without live shows. There was a withdrawal period for sure, but we have been finding ways to remain productive and positive. It has since become more of a blessing than a curse in so many ways. That being said, my fingers are definitely crossed for the resurgence of live music.

RD: My fingers are crossed as well. Keyboardist Alexander Agudelo from Slurp and The River Provides also joined up with you guys on a video for a cover of KC and The Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight.” How did you go about getting him involved in the performance?

DB: Alex is a homie and a half. We’ve been spending a lot of jam time together since the pandemic, with various awesome musicians including the nucleus of The River Provides. The video he was featured on was a double-band bill at a backyard party with us and The River Provides. It was a good-natured type of environment where you could take spontaneous chances musically. Jake played guitar on a River Provides set, and we figured it would be super fun and fitting to throw Alex on our set, seeing as Tom couldn’t make it to the gig.

RD: Outside of playing drums in Tai Chi Funk Squad, you also play drums in Nate Cozzolino & The Lost Arts and Steve Malec & The Electric Flood. What makes playing with Jake, Rob and Tom different than playing in those two other bands?

DB: Tai Chi Funk Squad plays a totally different style from any of my other bands, and every member of Tai Chi brings their unique vibe to the sound like a fingerprint. Rob is a virtuoso funk-style bassist, so as a drummer it’s a blast playing with him. It’s hard to keep up sometimes, he is also super tech savvy so it makes it that much easier to get things done while either recording or playing live. Jake has ridiculous amounts of charisma. He’s jovial and witty with a 100-percent natural voice that he uses to channel slammin’ party-funk in seemingly infinite supply. He has a huge personality, and he shreds on lead guitar, too.

He’s also the founder of the band, and wrote most of the originals. Plus he gave me his old ethernet cable, so there’s that. For Tom, what can I say? He’s like a little piece of white chocolate that I forgot I saved for later and just found. He tickles those ivories with a jazz influence, and then he rips a searing synth line that can only come from him. On top of that, he sings backup harmonies like he’s being possessed by Michael McDonald. I guess every band is its own completely unique entity, because music is autobiographical. You can’t hide your influences and your true self, it will be in your playing and everybody is unique.

RD: Tai Chi Funk Squad has an outdoor show coming up on the front lawn of Pump House Music Works in Wakefield on Aug. 8. What are your feelings going into it?

DB: Super excited! I mean, what’s not to like? Playing music, in the summer sun, with my friends? It’s going to be an awesome time and four awesome bands are playing. I actually drove by there yesterday as a show was happening and the setup looks awesome. Tons of spread-out tables on a beautiful lawn, and it was actually packed, while also being safely socially distanced, at 4 p.m.

RD: Have Tai Chi Funk Squad been working on any recordings over the past few months? If so, when can we expect a new record to be released?

DB: We are constantly working on new recordings and material. We have about half an album worth of new material at the moment and we have been dialing in our sound, so stay tuned.

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