In their early days, the Budos Band distinguished itself by expanding its classic funk and soul influences to include Ethiopian jazz discovered on the influential “Ethiopiques” compilation series. Exotically named singles like “Aynotchesh Yererfu” and “Adeniji” were propulsive and catchy, led by the punch of Andrew Greene’s trumpet and Jared Tankel’s baritone saxophone. The elements were familiar to western ears, but the songs were rooted in another culture.
Guitarist Tommy “TNT” Brenneck describes the Budos’ evolution from a prior band called Dirt Rifle and the Funky Bullets that included current bandmates Daniel Foder on bass and Brian Profilio on drums. “We were a funk band that was really influenced by the Meters and by Dyke and the Blazers,” says Brenneck. “Then we got turned on to [Afrobeat pioneer] Fela [Kuti].”
“The first Budos record is truly our blending of Fela, James Brown and those funk influences,” says Brenneck. “The second record was when we got into Ethiopian music and Mulatu Astatke. By the third record we really found ourselves as songwriters and were doing our own thing.”
Fast forward to 2014 and the band’s fourth album, “Burnt Offering.” The songs were still hip-shaking party starters, but the grim title cut brought Brenneck’s guitar forward with dire minor-key guitar riffs designed to scare people onto the dance floor.
Instead of influences like the Cairo Jazz Band, “Black Hills” and “Tomahawk” evoked Native American tribal rhythms and hard rockers like Black Sabbath and Pentagram.
Brenneck is proud that ‘Burnt Offering’ was made on the Budos’ own terms. “We wanted to make a raw, rocking, fuzzy, tough, f—ed up sounding record,” he says.
In time for its Reggae Fest appearance, the Budos have released a 7-inch single with two songs from an upcoming album. Previously, the band named instrumental songs after neurological disorders: “Aphasia” and “Vertigo.” “We’ve moved on to natural disasters,” says Brenneck with a laugh.
“Maelstrom” swirls and surges like its namesake weather phenomenon. Slashing horns punctuate spy-movie guitar behind sheets of Mike Deller’s spookshow organ. If Rob Zombie remade Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” as a B-movie, this would be the soundtrack to the infamous shower scene.
“Avalanche” is a tumbling rush of energy propelled by Profilio’s thundering drums and Foder’s careening bass. Comparisons to East African club music are nonexistent.
“We’ve fully embraced psychedelic rock,” says Brenneck. “Afrobeat turned us on 15 years ago. Now, that’s one part of what we do. We also love Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, cumbia, Greek music and a million other things. We play what turns us on, and bring the fans along with us.”
The Budos’ sound may evolve, but you’ll still be scared to sit down. If Mother Nature tells you to dance, you dance. “A performance from the Budos is always off the rails,” says Brenneck. “The genres we’ve played over the years make it something different, but the spirit of the band is rock ‘n’ roll, no doubt.”
* The Budos Band, 5:15 p.m. Aug. 13, Reggae Fest Chicago, North Stage, Addams Medill Park, 15th and Loomis. Admission: $45-$100; reggaefestchicago.com. SPOTIFY playlist: http://tinyurl.com/BudosSPOT
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org