Road-tested funk rolling toward Vail |

Road-tested funk rolling toward Vail

Aaron Butzen
Daily correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyVail Music: Pimps of Joytime are known for its high-energy, simultaneously retro and modern blend of '70s black Americana and Afro-Latin dance music. At its core, its funk, pure and simple.

VAIL, Colorado –Brian J, vocalist and guitarist for Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Pimps of Joytime, who play in Vail on Wednesday, can’t complain about his dance-funk group’s rapid arrival as a recognized, sought-after touring band. He only has one issue – he wants a tour bus.

Brian J started the Pimps of Joytime when he set out to make a record about five years ago.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be called, and I didn’t even know what style it was going to be,” he said. “But as things progressed, it started getting funky.”

The album led to the formation of the live band and a weekly residency at a small club in Brooklyn, which led to the Pimps of Joytime playing Mardi Gras, Jazzfest and other events in New Orleans, which led to semi-regular gigs in San Francisco. From there, the band got hooked up with a booking agent from Denver-based Madison House Publicity and embarked on its first national tour about a year ago. Since then, the Pimps have been making their presence known, hitting major festivals and mid-size venues across the lower 48.

Though Brian J said he enjoys touring and recognizes it’s an important part of the band’s growth, he’s looking forward to a time when it will be a little more comfortable – and won’t involve riding in a van all day.

“At the stage that we’re at, it’s really hard because we’ve got to get out there and show people what we’ve got,” he said. “We want to roll in a bus and have the things that make touring easier, which come when you’re making more money. We’re doing it the old-fashioned way now, so it’s hard work. You’ve got to wake up early, and you’ve got to sit in a van sometimes seven, eight, nine, 10 hours and then play a show – then give everything you’ve got onstage.”

Old school, with a modern twist

Despite the rigors of the road, the Pimps of Joytime are seemingly succeeding at giving it everything they’ve got, steadily winning crowds over with a high-energy, simultaneously retro and modern blend of ’70s black Americana and Afro-Latin dance music. At its core, though, the band plays funk music, a retro style the Pimps of Joytime keep fresh with the addition of 21st-century instrumentation and swagger.

“I love dance music, and I love electronic music, too. So we use a sampler and we bring elements of that into the music as well,” Brian J said. “Certain aspects of the music are very old-school, and that’s what I love, but then certain aspects are modern, like using a computer and running a sampler program onstage. … And we’re modern people. We live in a modern age. So even if we’re playing old-school stuff, it definitely has a modern twist on it.”

Aside from their willingness to allow modern, electronic elements into their songs, Brian J said a large part of the Pimps of Joytime’s appeal is their attention to all the components of the music.

“We do a lot of harmonies, and we really put a lot of energy into the vocals. Besides that, we’ve got musicianship, really deep rhythms that we’re drawing from,” Brian J said. “There are a lot of great musicians out there and there are bands doing well, but sometimes they’re lacking on the vocal thing, which for me, is so important. Or sometimes they’re lacking on another element, like the songs aren’t really there, but their jamming is great. We try to put all those elements together and make it work.”

Bringing the dance party

Attention to every piece of the puzzle is no doubt important to the Pimps’ success as a live band, but equally important is the group’s enthusiasm to share the moment with the audience – and turn that moment into a dance party.

“If you like to dance, we’re a good match. But you don’t have to dance. People can listen and get a lot out of it,” Brian J said. “But we prefer when people experience the moment with us, and that’s when it becomes a dance party, and it’s something we’re all doing together, which is more fun than people just sitting and looking at us like a spectacle. … I certainly like when it’s a party.”

Partying aside, Brian J said the most important thing about the Pimps of Joytime is that they believe in the music, and though further success is a goal, the band will be better off for having to work for it.

“You know, we’re building it, and if people didn’t feel like it was going somewhere, they wouldn’t be doing it, because the money’s not great at this stage,” Brian J said. “So people are there because they believe in it, and that’s important. … It’s more of a challenge, and it gives us more of a swagger and recognition of just the old-fashioned way of making it, the way we’re doing it. But with that said, I’m really hoping in the next year that things will elevate for us.”

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