“Our music is the lovechild of Led Zeppelin and James Brown,” grins Danny Jenks, founder member and drummer for Wolverhampton’s home-grown funk collective The Whitmo’deans.
Sinking into worn leather sofas above the Little Civic, it’s hard to imagine that the poster-plastered venue below will soon be filled with ass-shaking funk fiends. But it’s a dead cert: the Whitmo’s are building quite a reputation for getting a room fizzing.
“We like to get people dancing and shouting,” shrugs guitarist Matt Rogers. “That fits in well to a party atmosphere, and if there are big DJs coming people put us on to add to it. We want to get on stage, do our thing really well, and then be down partying with everyone else.”
“Supporting DJs was our first step on the ladder,” notes Danny: “We’ve played with some pretty big names now – Ashley Beedle, Norman Jay, 4Hero – and that sets the scene for the people we’re aiming for. But we fit into any situation, from a cabaret to a club night.”
Three years ago Matt, Danny and bassist Gavin Lloyd squeezed into keyboard player Sam Davis’ living room for their first jamming session. When the chance arose to support drum-and-bass pioneers 4Hero at the Halfway House pub they wasted no time in planning their first instrumental set.
By stroke of fortune, Devonshire diva Jo Palfrey was on the other side of the stage that night – their grooves hooked her immediately, and one rehearsal together was enough to cement her soulful vocals as an integral part of their sound. Five since swelled to an impressive nine members – including MC Dass, Richie Fingers on sax, conga-player Joel Essex and sound engineer Bill.
“We’re like a family. It’s not just about playing instruments,” insists Matt. “We’re lucky to have Bill: he’s always on the other side of the speakers making sure what’s coming out is right.”
“We all bring our bit to the table,” adds Danny. “Matt usually lays down the grooves he’s got going round in his head, and we play around it. We’re putting together a collection of tracks later this year – it’ll start off as an EP, but owing to our perfectionism will probably come together as an eight-track album.”
They’re as yet unsigned and unmanaged, although admit to racking up plenty of dodgy post-gig offers to help them ‘crack London’. “We’re very protective over what we’ve got, and don’t want a third party stepping in and giving orders,” asserts Matt. Fortunately a diverse range of skills honed in their day jobs has enabled the Whitmo’s to keep everything in-house and build things their own way.
“Dan’s a great promoter and organiser; I do the website and poster design; Sam’s great at making videos,” reels off the guitarist. “And then Gary works in PR; Bill’s knowledge of sound and production is great; Jo’s very good at making people move their ass, and Gav… Gav plays rugby,” he chuckles.
So with their first album on the cards for late 2006, will they be pushing it out on their own label? “We have all the ingredients to do that with our various skills, but would have to make some sacrifices,” reasons Jo, while not ruling it out. “I think we’ll continue to grow organically like we have done.”
They’ve built their name on a live reputation – word-of-mouth testimonials from foot-tapping fans – and aspirations to support musical touchstones Poets of Rhythm, the Meters and Quantic Soul Orchestra will widen their fan-base further. “Music’s a great release for us, and it just so happens people are feeling it,” concludes Danny. “We sold four tickets for a gig once, and when we turned up they were queuing down the street.”
© Nick Carson 2006. First published in Issue 3 of TEN4 magazine