Funky Bonz

by Tina Alvarez

1997 Entertainment Magazine On-Line (EMOL)

If I had to choose a group that really and truly epitomizes its name, without a doubt I'd pick Funky Bonz.

A self-proclaimed funk-punk-rock-grunge-reggae-blues band, this five-member group has the tenacious ability to set the blood a-tingling through your veins, electrifying it with powered sparks of energy, and beckoning -- nay, luring -- your presence onto the dance floor.

Meeting up with the guys at a local college bar, lead singer and percussionist Brent Kort said he picked the name because it was easy to illustrate.

"We played one show under 'Bowels of Movement' and then it turned to 'Funky Bonz' because it was really hard to illustrate 'Bowels of Movement,'" he said, as laughter rung out.

"I think in the beginning I tried to get the attitude of putting fun back in music," Brent elaborated. ìI wasn't an angry grunge singer. I wasn't, you know, the angst punk. I wasn't any of that. I liked music. It was fun and I just wanted to have fun with it. So I did kind-of know that when I was naming the band that I was headed in that direction."

Funky Bonz formed in the summer of '93 when Brent and guitarist Tim Starmer teamed with bassist Demetri Enriquez and drummer Greg Barkulis. The group underwent various changes in line-up, with drummer Aaron Bonsall (Greasy Chicken), horn players Tony and Dante Rosano, drummer James Couzens (Simpletons, former Propaganda Child) and bassist Brandon Gonzalez (Lord Primate, former Propaganda Child).

Now, with a new CD under their arm, "Nightmare on Groove Street," Funky Bonz is ready to descend upon the masses once again. Besides Kort, the members include bassist Thomas "TJ" Ferrugia Jr., guitarist Doug Floyd, saxophonist Tom "TK" Kennedy and drummer Jim Pavett. Also lending a hand on the album are Jeff "Fruitpie" Marchant on trombone and horn arrangements, trumpeteer Bill "Slab" Bacon and Richard Katz who's playing keyboards on "Restless."

The album was recorded at Pavett's own Allusion Studios in June 1997.

"We've reformed as you see and we've been playing a lot of shows in and out of town and making money," Brent explained. "So we finally got enough money to put out this CD. Now that the students are coming back, we've finally decided to promote it and actually do our CD party."

Tucson's CD release soiree was held August 22nd at O'Malley's. The Phoenix date was recently cancelled and no new date has been announced.

Of the 15 tracks, four numbers -- "Jah Is Good," "Baba A Loo Loo," "Groovy Man and the Disco Kid," and "The Race" -- have appeared on previous works.

"We've changed some of the songs. They're the same songs but they're different,"Brent clarified. "Theyíve got a composition to them and they're played very cleanly and very well. They've got a different structure and I thought it would be a shame not to put some of these songs on with the way this band is playing now. Plus, it's our first big release. Some of our old songs are still some of the most favorite crowd pleasers."

"That's the one thing we didn't want to take away from the fans that have been following us since day one," guitarist Doug Floyd said. "We figured since we're finally going on CD, we want to give them the best product of that tune."

The new numbers carry their weight as well,. "Cherry Pop Tart" features a jazzy feel spruced up with ample harmonica. "Restless" boasts strong horn arrangements. The bluesy "Superstitious" culls solid guitar work and horns topped off with Brentís gruff vocals. Listen for the two mystery tracks.

"One thing about the CD is that itís really diverse," added Tom Kennedy.

"You can tell the transformation -- where things worked previously, where they are now and where they're gonna be in the future. Things are just more tasty. There's a little bit more thought put into the tunes and the whole process is pretty much more diverse."

Brent conceded the group really got it's boost when former Four Pigs member, saxophonist Tom Kennedy, joined the entourage.

"We had a different sound all of a sudden," Brent recalled. "We weren't just an electric guitar rock band. All of a sudden we got some funk. We got that horn and the extra vocals really helped out. The horn lines just enabled us to make the blues bluesier, the funk funkier."

Indeed, with the present line-up, Funky Bonz is made up of individuals with experience that goes back when they were very young.

Tom "TK" Kennedy has been playing saxophone since the 5th grade. In fact, he and fellow bandmate Doug Floyd have been playing together since the 7th grade.

"We played in the high school jazz band, for the Marine Corp. Ball, played big band stuff -- Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, stuff like that," he recounted.

"It was a lot of fun. We listened to a lot of Iron Maiden at the time too, drank a lot of Old Milwaukee. I listened to all different kinds of things, from John Coltraine, Miles Davis, Bob Marley, Phish, Parliament and James Brown, any kind of good music."

Guitarist Doug Floyd (another former Four Pigs alumni), on the other hand, has been playing since he was 10, growing up in Sierra Vista with Tom, doing the big band stuff.

"This band was the only opportunity to play everything," Doug enthused. "The funniest thing about doing this is that we do jazz, we do blues, we do rock. I'm influenced by everything. I've played a lot of everything."

He revealed that both his parents were gospel pianists and he's been exposedto sounds ranging from Elvis to gospel. At school he performed big band material and played in the marching band.

"I didn't actually start appreciating it until I was a little older," he admitted, laughing. "I started on other instruments. I think it helps that all of us are actually pretty good musicians so we have an appreciation for whatís going on with the other instruments too, which I think has a big influence on how tight things really sound now."

Bassist Thomas James "TJ" Ferrugia has considerable experience as well.

"I started playing about the day after graduation from high school, about eight years ago," TJ said. "I've been playing professionally for about four years. I've played with Plastic Museum and Prairie Dog. I've done lots of studio work in and out of town. My main influence is Mark King of Level 42. Not too many people know about him, but he's a helluva bass player."

TJ took music lessons from Louis Torres, who was the founder of Tucson Jazz Orchestra, and also from Jervonny Collier, who's now the touring bassist with Bruce Hornsby. Musical training-wise he attended Pima Community College and the University of Arizona, where he sang in operas and choirs.

Drummer Jim Pavett was born around the Lake Forest suburbs of Chicago and moved to Scottsdale in 1983. As a youth he played trumpet since he was in the fourth grade. Since his dad was a drummer, it was natural that he took up that instrument.

"I came down here for college back in '83, started recording and now after I graduated, I've opened up a professional recording studio. I've been playing with a bunch of different bands and also filling in for a lot of different bands," Jim said. "As far as influences, I listen to all different kinds of music. Back in the old days I listened to a lot of technical bands -- Yes, Rush, stuff like that. But my ear is open to anything, especially when I'm doing my clients in the studio. I could do anything from choirs to heavy metal. I don't have a preference, you know. So from that, being diverse in what I listen to helps out playing-wise. I try jump into different modes and this band allows me to do that."

Frontman Brent Kort hails from Kansas City and relocated to Tucson in 1989 to attend the University of Arizona.

"I used to play back in Kansas with this cat named Billy Teagel who got voted the best flatpicker in the State of Kansas in 1995. We used to do this little acoustic thing and a little, local radio station called Alpha Music put us on a tape and distributed it in a few places. My parents still tell me they hear the song on the local community radio station every once in awhile," he divulged.

"Other than that," Brent continued, "I was in plays and sang a lot when I was a kid. I was always a ham, so being in the limelight was just kind of a natural to me. I came out to the U of A and didn't do much until after I graduated."

After graduation he joined up with Jim Pavett in a now-defunct band called Broadside.

"I came in at the end of their illustrious career," said Brent, with laughter ringing from those present, ìand that didn't last long, I think one party maybe. Yeah, one party I remember and then after that just pretty much formed the Bonz. I just wanted to play all the different kinds of music that I like -- reggae and funk and blues and a little hip-hop because it all influences me. I like to play it all. I think people get bored listening to one type of music for three or four hours at a time."

With their combined experience, TK noted that the professional training they received at various times in their lives is being put to good use.

"There's a lot more jazz-influenced things we do now," noted TK. "It seems the majority of the band has some other knowledge of composition material-wise, so it's a little bit more intelligent too."

For the present, Funky Bonz is eager to get on the road and start spreading their good-time, grooving sounds. Brent said the band does best in smoky, dingy bars as opposed to getting on a big stage.

"We had some pretty funny trips, like going to San Diego and booking ourselves -- they still have a heavy metal scene down there and we booked ourselves at a couple of heavy metal bars, and it just wasn't for us, per se," he said, lapsing into a Southern accent.

"So we want to go back to all the places we've played that like us, where we have a great crowd. Itís always a great time. We want to promote the new CD that we're really proud of and hope that a lot of people will pick up on it and help support us so we can make more of these CDs," Brent concluded. "The ambitious circle goes on."

Send e-mail to [email protected].

See Tina's other article on Funky Bonz.

Music Entertainment Magazine

1997 EMOL Reprinted, with additions, from Music Voice Magazine, Phoenix, AZ. Photo courtesy of DesertNet. All rights reserved.