The Southern Retro Soul band, Bonneville’s debut classic funk, soul, r&b self-titled album, ‘Bonneville’ is out on all digital platforms. This compilation of work reflects their Southern artistic roots, passion to preserve the music legacy of this historic era, and tireless effort to reignite the appreciation and celebration of classic soul grooves. Both men recall the time of hand-crafted, ‘analogue’ music, sung from the soul. It’s a beautifully imperfect sound that makes you want to go along for the ride. Atlanta based friends, co-songwriters lead vocalist Wes McGee and guitarist Jeff Hayashi contribute to Bonneville’s instantly recognizable style and sound – raw, deep, greasy, swampy, classic soul grooves with a R&B, funk, blues edge.
The Ttitle track ‘’66 Bonneville,’ is a groove-oriented, fun, funky, party track with a southern rock edge and blues influences, that sets the tone for the band. It draws inspiration from the old school early 60s funk era synonymous with James Brown’s initial works. This was also a significant time in the history of music similar to the attitude conveyed by the iconic automobile. Those were simpler times and they wanted to capture some of that nostalgia in their music. Hayashi shares, “This track focused on tightness and groove. I wanted to do justice to the genre by recreating the feeling one gets from groove oriented funk. The groove came to me quickly, and I pictured a classic car rolling down the avenue with its inhabitants looking dapper, and a little bit dangerous. I envisioned a tight horn section and crisp drumming, which is exactly what we ended up with. This song is about conveying ‘attitude’ and swagger.” McGee adds, “‘66 Bonneville’ for me was based on the need for open air freedom; the power of autonomy that a car can bring. Nobody is keeping you locked up when you’re in a muscle car! Opening with this track, symbolic of ‘freedom,’ is significant to our own personal stories and journey; the freedom to choose our musical path. Also, a lot of the old soul vocals we were going for could only be done by fully feeling the music. So I just kept reminding myself ‘what would James Brown do?’ or envisioning myself hauling ass in a car with a monster engine and the paint job of a black tuxedo to get me there.”
While Bonneville band members bring to the table their unique style of musicianship, they wanted to focus on the throwback vibe that differentiates their music from what other contemporaries are currently putting out. Hayashi elaborates, “While it’s important to innovate, I think its also important to pay homage to the techniques and elements of this style of music that got us to where we are. Also, playing and executing this tight counterpointed style of funk is a great exercise in honing a musician’s chops. On the guitar, it was important to ‘get it in where it fit in’ and not overplay any of the other accompaniment. I wanted it clean, tight, and swinging. In funk and soul, I find that arranging the instrumentation in counterpoint arrangements best serves the song, and more importantly, the groove the listeners feel.” And on ‘’66 Bonneville,’ the live instrumentation paired with the strong, dynamic, soulful vocal delivery comes through loud and clear.
Staying true to their Southern roots and paying homage to the funky r&b style that has been so influential to these artists’ musical journeys, Bonneville returned to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the heartbeat of American music and the birthplace of ‘the Muscle Shoals sound,’ to cut this song and their debut album. Channeling the energy of the legends – Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Jason Isbell – before them who recorded at FAME Recording Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound, Bonneville tapped into the sonic footprint that gave birth to this flagship track and their first album. Furthermore, McGee expounds, “‘66 Bonneville’ is what we named the band after because of its strength and autonomy. Some things always stand the test of time such as ‘the Muscle Shoals sound.’ This track has that sound, which is timeless and gritty.”
We’ve loved having Bonneville in the house recording this project! They have definitely tapped into the SOUL of the Muscle Shoals Sound. – Rodney Hall, Fame Recording Studios
To achieve their vision and sound for ‘’66 Bonneville,’ Bonneville joined forces with GRAMMY®-recognized producer, Starita, a collaborator that isn’t foreign to pushing the envelope of sonic ranges and unique genre blending styles (recognized for his work with Childish Gambino, A Tribe Called Quest, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Third Eye Blind, Madame Gandhi, Rebelution, Los Amigos Invisibles, Michael Franti and Spearhead). “My approach with this album was to put the right people in a room together and stay out of the way. Having been to Muscle Shoals once before, I knew that it was going to be crucial to let things flow as they needed to. We intentionally went in with very basic sketches of the tunes…no charts, no hard arrangements. The entire reason we were there was to let the spirit of Muscle Shoals guide the recordings and it did. There is a freshness and new energy that’s captured when you don’t beat a song to death rehearsing it over and over the same way,” Starita reflects.
The full production team on ‘’66 Bonneville’ include band members – Jeff Hayashi, songwriter, guitar, background vocals, co-producer; Wes McGee, songwriter, lead vocals; Otis McDonald, bass, background vocals, percussion; Wil Blades, organ, piano; Ernest ‘Boom’ Carter, drums, percussion; Brad Guin, Vinnie Ciesielski, horns, Starita, producer, mix engineer; Wes Sheffield, recording engineer, mix engineer; Chase Brandon, recording engineer. The album was recorded at Fame Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Muscle Shoals, AL. Mastered by Richard Dodd Nashville, TN. Creative direction by Tam Starita. Released by Starita Records, a division of Starita Music.
‘Hearing this track for the first time, I want people to have a good time and get lost in the groove. Something really cool happens to people when you get them in the same room and start laying down the funk. No matter whether they came there sad, uptight, or angry, all of that goes away when the backbeat and the bassline punch you in the chest and put your ass in motion. I hope they leave feeling energized and hopefully sweating,’ McGee closes.