Bringing a little “Uptown Funk” to Southwestern Florida, Reverend Barry and Funktastic Soul featuring The Hellacious Horns (RBFSHH) start the party wherever they go. Merging together the missing pieces to the puzzle in 2013, in an effort to pay homage to the legendary funk bands Earth, Wind and Fire and Tower of Power, “Reverend Barry” Nicholson, band leader, lead vocals and bassist assembled the winning team featuring a power-packed horn section. While initially not an easy road to finance what it takes practically to put together an eight-piece band, their established and local loyal fanbase reps full force, selling out shows.
Although clearly inspired by the 70’s and 80’s funk and soul greats that came before them like James Brown, Zapp, Stevie Wonder and The Commodores, RBFSHH can also rock hard as you can hear on tracks like “You Better Know” on their latest effort ‘SxyGdLuv’. It’s almost impossible to stay seated as your body instinctively wants to dance on hot songs like “Play By The Rules” and “Say You Love Me”. After one listen of the album, it’s easy to hear the “tight, funky horns, and other classic funk elements like Talkbox, Moog bass, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, clean guitar and slap bass” bandleader Barry highlights, that make the songs stay in the groove and never let go. As Montana reared producer (who interestingly once helped his dad as a child birth a llama) and jack of many trades musician Chet Gass adds, they took care to include tracks that are “well-written with catchy melodies and hooks” and it shows.
Demonstrating obvious prowess and expertise, it’s not hard to see why it works when you add components like Grammy-nominated lead singer Yaya Diamond to the mix. Born with music in her blood, with platinum chart topper Evelyn Thomas as her mother and Bobby McFerrin as a cousin, she followed her family into the biz and carved her own destiny. Nominated for multiple Grammys, when asked about the experience, Yaya happily states “It was great! I had always envisioned being nominated. I was on cloud 9, and rightfully so, 8 nominations was never something I had thought would happen to me all at once. I still get excited when I think about it.” Experiencing a similar high the first time she heard a song of hers on the radio, she recalls “the butterflies, shock, excitement and whirlwind of emotion” of the moment.
Taking it back in time to give practical advice to give his 16-year-old self, bandleader Barry Nicholson keeps things in good perspective and would remind himself to appreciate what he currently has. As he further explains “You’re in a band; enjoy it today. Don’t think to yourself “I’ll enjoy it more when we get a record deal, or I’ll be successful when I’ve sold a million records. If you have people who like your music, you’re successful already. Just get out there and entertain people, and enjoy it now. This may be as good as it gets, and that’s OK”. As anyone who’s seen them live or on YouTube can attest, they certainly “take you there”.
When considering the untimely passing of musical genius Prince this year, his loss is immense. If able to spend a moment with Prince, Barry would “listen to some of his favorite albums together, not just his stuff, but other people’s material, just like I do with my music-loving friends. I’d want him to point out what parts he likes most about such-and-such hook, this riff, that harmony, etc. Music lovers can talk about music for hours. And since Prince was the ultimate musician, I’m sure he was no different”. Lead singer Yaya would instead offer assistance and tell him “Forget for a second you are well known, a star, and remember you have needs just like every person on this planet. I understand the loneliness, the need to have a real relationship, real love, a family, and a life outside of business, I get it. I am here for you, I will be that person who will love you no matter what, outside of your fame, not wanting anything but to be there for you in your time of need. Please let’s go get you the help you need so we can grow to become old friends with long history and great stories to tell.”
Although several greats left us too soon in 2016, Reverend Barry and The Funktastic Soul featuring The Hellacious Horns will do their part to continue the enduring funk and soul legacy and look to hopefully hit some fest stages and expand their reach worldwide in 2017. With talent galore and the natural ability to make listeners “feel good”, the future knows no limits for Sarasota’s soul stars.