Hood Smoke mixes a bit of groove with pop music

SHARE Hood Smoke mixes a bit of groove with pop music

Hood Smoke | GUERIN BLAST PHOTOGRAPHY

BY SELENA FRAGASSI | SUN-TIMES MEDIA

The thing about smoke is — when it clears, there’s a chance to see something for what it really is. In the case of groove-pop band Hood Smoke, it is the portrait of musician Bryan Doherty. The bandleader and accomplished bass player started the project — a mix of George Clinton and Sly &a the Family Stone with Aretha-style vocals — in Chicago in 2010 although, in reality, both should have been born years earlier.

“The music I like totally pre-dates me. Everybody has a laugh over it and jokes that I should have been around in the ‘70s,” Doherty says, blaming his parents’ record collection of The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, James Brown, Herbie Hancock and Weather Report for the type of music he best relates to — “It has everything to do with who I am.”

Doherty is not a native Chicagoan; he grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Glendale where he attended the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music at age 13. His family was supportive the entire way, a group of modest musicians themselves including a vocal aunt who introduced him to Brazilian music, and his father, an amateur drummer, who gave Doherty one of his prized possessions: a rare 1950s green sparkle Slingerland drumset. “My friends offer me money every time they come to my apartment,” he jokes.

In 2002, though, Doherty packed up the kit and everything else and moved to Chicago to attend Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of the Performing Arts. Here he met guitar teacher (and member of Kurt Elling’s band) John McLean, a particularly influential mentor who got Doherty his first gig at the old Velvet Lounge and has played alongside him in various projects “for years,” as well as Umphrey’s McGee drummer Kris Myers who Doherty now works with in the live EDM band Digital Tape Machine. The experiences culminated in opportunities to play with the Afro-Cuban band Orquesta Ranura, work with Chuchito Valdes on his 2009 Latin Grammy-nominated live album, and form his own eponymous and mostly instrumental Bryan Doherty Band, which had a release on the Origin Records label.

But in all of that fortune, there was still a missing pearl. “I wanted to have a band that was more focused on songwriting with music that lends itself to having a good time and not just sitting down and being too intellectual,” says Doherty, “which can sometimes happen when you come from the jazz school.”

And thus Hood Smoke was born, recruiting members Chris Siebold (electric guitar), Rob Clearfield (keyboards), Michael Caskey (drums) and incendiary vocalist Sarah Marie Young, all of whom Doherty has known from previous bands or met through gigs or during courses at Roosevelt. The focal point being that “we want to make people move.”

The band played its first gig at Reggies several years ago and has since found footing in the summer festival circuit, with a marquee performance at Taste of Randolph in June. In July they released their second album “Regular Neurotic,” which follows the 2012 debut “Laid Up in Ordinary.” Although it still has that Rufus bent, Doherty compares the songs to the more modern repertoire of bands like Dirty Projectors or The Flaming Lips who are skilled at turning retro modern. “I think they take from the same place, with good timing and melody and something totally unique that makes the song not predictable but also not random.”

The dream, says Doherty, would be to follow in the footsteps of Dirty Projectors and work with his dream collaborator, David Byrne. Until then, there are shows to book, rehearsals to perfect and lots of trips to Doherty’s hangouts, Reckless Records and Dusty Groove, where he continues to build that collection.

HOOD SMOKE

“Regular Neurotic” Release Party

When: 10 p.m., September 12

Where: The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia

Tickets: $10

Info: (773) 227.4433; hideoutchicago.com

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