St. Paul soul-rockers Sepia Tone are a talented bunch of fellas: tight musicians doing tasty material. They’re pretty smart, too. Opening up their EP Sepia Tone, they lay down a chicken-scratch roots groove, air-tight, straight out of the James Brown handbook of bona fide funk—then take it some very interesting places.
“Funkin’ A” is classic, strutting funk. It sounds like every other soul cut you ever heard, while at the same time, it doesn’t sound like any of ‘em. The band members show nice chops as well with the slick shuffle, “One Night Out”—stepping quite nicely into jazz territory. The reggae undercurrent in “Progress Note” gives the ballad a world of drama, underscoring a jam that would be a veritable anthem if it got the airplay it deserves. As it is, the song stays in heavy demand at their gigs. “She never walked so lightly / not like this before / and I didn’t hear her enter / when she walked right through the door,” goes the verse as the band lays down a salty, pulsing rhythm. At the chorus, we get, “and I’d walk the desert mile to quench her thirst / fly through the sky to please her first / and to look down from above / I’d swim the highest mountain / but I’d climb the deepest sea / if it’d bring her back to me.” Any woman who’s got a man ready to swim mountains and climb seas must be something else.
Any woman who’s got a man ready to swim mountains and climb seas must be something else.
How these guys got together is, last year drummer Anthony Bloch decided to get serious about something: grad school or a band. He chose a band. Singer Aaron Brostrom—a former wedding (and funeral) singer—and rhythm guitarist Nick Johnson—who holds a degree in music therapy—had been in a band with Bloch five years back. Bloch also brought in clasically-trained jazz guitarist Kyle Tennis and the fusion/rock bassist Jason McLean. They all woodshedded together long enough and, at length, decided to establish themselves as a band. Good thing.
It is very easy to forget just how many incredible bands there are roaming around loose in the clubs and bars of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Sepia Tone are one kick-ass-and-take-names reminder.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet.