So, we’re going to be sporadic in our posts over the next week or two, and because of as much, we thought we’d share this Q&A now, even though Black Masala isn’t performing in town until next week at Alive@Five (also of note: This week’s Alive@Five act, The Get Right Band, promises to be amazing). So. Check it. We recently caught up with Black Masala to talk about their wide array of influences, what they believe is the best song ever written, and what we can expect from their set at next week’s Alive@Five along the creek. Enjoy!
Let’s start with some history of the band. How did you get together? How did the band form and how long have you been at it?
We started around four years ago. I met a trombone player living in D.C. at the time and we started to write some Balkan- and ska-influenced type melodies. From there, we kept adding members and swapping out folks as we went. The core unit has been consistent for around three years.
Did you guys have any goals when dreaming up the band – perhaps stylistically or otherwise?
We initially started out to be a Balkan and Gypsy style band with an energetic stage show. We’ve since expanded into other genres like funk, ska, punk, Bhangra and go-go. Our goal, of cours,e was to create original and unique music different from a lot of the music happening in D.C. at the time and draw from whatever we felt like worked for us.
What are some of your favorite memories as a band? Conversely, can you talk a little about some of the hardships you guys have experienced through the years and what advice you’d give to someone looking to start a band for the first time?
We’ve had some great memories playing on stage at the 9:30 Club, touring around the east coast and partaking in some great late night jam sessions with musicians we meet on the road. Having an independent band in today’s industry is its own challenge. It takes a lot of time and effort and a good amount of persuasion to keep everything on the right track. I think it’s important to know what it is you want to accomplish, even if it’s a small goal, and work with the people who match those ideas. If they don’t share, to some extent, the same goals don’t work with them. Find the music you want to play or make up your own as you go. Be careful to not neatly fit into someone’s idea of genre or style. All the great bands are their own thing. That’s one great thing about the music world these days – you can do whatever you want.
What’s your perception of the local music scene in and around the DMV area, as well as Maryland as a whole?
It’s a pretty good scene around D.C. People have so many options from clubs, events, and house shows these days that hopefully live music is still a priority. You’re not going to have late, late shows like in New York City, but it’s a good place to get something going.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
We’re influenced by funk, ska, New Orleans music, rock, jazz, go-go, Bhangra, Balkan, soul, bluegrass, Appalachian music, Arabic music, avant-garde, Grateful Dead, folk music, Jack Kerouac … and then a lot of musicians in those general categories. A lot of this music to me is fun, high energy, exciting, and it often features some great songwriting.
Can you give us names of some artists we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
Check out bands like Slavic Soul Party, Red Baraat, Fat Bastard Gang, West Philly Orchestra, Hindi Zahra, Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Skints, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Pietasters, Gogol Bordello, Debauche, Bastard Bearded Irishmen and on and on. Seriously, this could be at least a page!
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
We like touring. So in D.C., places like the 9:30 Club, Black Cat, Rock and Roll Hotel, Tropicalia. On the road, Richmond, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, New York City, Philly, Asheville, Ithaca, Pittsburgh are some of our favorites.
You guys have made some headway in getting your name out there – being on CMJ’s World Chart is a pretty nice accomplishment. To what do you attribute that success?
Thanks. Well, hopefully, it’s due to the songs we wrote and recorded. We also were fortunate to work with a great radio promo company that got the album out there to college radio.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
Aren’t we supposed to say “Stairway to Heaven,” but “No Quarter” is pretty amazing. How about “Like a Rolling Stone”?
And finally, what can we expect from your set at Alive@Five?
We’re doing two sets fusing together all these varying styles into one eclectic high energy show. Hopefully, everyone’s in the mood for some fun.