Evolfo- Last of the Acid Cowboys

Last weekend, Mick talked with Matthew Gibbs, Rafferty Swink, and Kai Sorensen of the Garage-Soul band Evolfo about their new EP,  Last of the Acid Cowboys.

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MT: How did you guys get your start?

MG: I started the band in College. We were all living in Boston, going to school living in and around Allston, Brighton, and Brookline. I wanted a band where we could play glammy funk and soul and do house partys and basement shows and things. And we did. And we had a good time. And I tricked them into thinking it was super casual. I knew I wanted to demand a lot of time of everyone and I think everyone was having a good enough time that they bought into it.

MT: Can you guys attest to that?

R: Yeah! I met Matt through my first roommate's boyfriend's cousin was Matt's roommate. And he was the first drummer in the band while I was in the band. They were our next door neighbors, so we started hanging out our freshman year.

K: I think it's funny because we each have our own story meeting Matt and coming into Evolfo. And mine was an invitation from Rafferty to come jam. I knew Rafferty cause I lived down the hall from him. I was 23 at the time while these guys were 18, and I'd hang out with Rafferty and hook him up with beer and vodka and the next thing I knew I was at a rehearse with a trumpet and the rest was sealed.

MT: So what about the other guys? Were they shanghaied into joining the band as well?

R: The core of the group was brought together pretty quickly. We did a recording session as a quartet without horns, then the next month we booked a gig and Matt got the horns and that was pretty much when we came together. It's been a rotating cast over the last five years we've been a band.

MT: A seven man band is a large group. Are there any challenges that come with having so many people collaborate at once? Are there any advantages? 

R: It was bigger at one point. We used to have a percussionist and sometimes a four or five man horn section. Sometimes Matt would invite other guitars as well and so there would be a bunch of people on stage.

M: Long story short 12 people was the maximum on stage at the same time.

R: That being said, it's not as if all 12 of those people are contributing to the actual music writing. In the beginning it was basically all Matt. On the first EP, he wrote all but 2 songs. As we've gotten older, we've gotten more collaborative. I think we're still trying to make it more of a group thing, cause with the Acid Cowboy stuff it was mostly Matt and I writing the songs and we'd bring it to the full band and arrange it together and I think we're trying to get it where everyone is contributing at the same time, but yeah, it's hard.

K: Yeah, they've shared like 95% of the song writing. What I think is really cool is for someone like me, who's a total rookie at song writing, is that there's an open environment to bring in an idea and hash it out. It might turn into something and it might not, but you never know. I think it's really important to have that.

R: Ideally, I think everyone in the band is making music. Sometimes it's for Evolfo and sometimes it's not. Everyone is just creating and I think that creates a good atmosphere because everyone around you is doing stuff and that makes you want to do stuff.

M: I would say that it's a huge advantage. 

MT: You guys describe yourselves at Garage-Soul. Can you go into detail about what defines this genre and possibly name some other acts that would fall under such a category?

MG: King Khan and the Shrines are definitely a current band that carry the torch. I think King Khan would absolutely hate my guts, but I love his show. As far as other influences, The Seeds, The Sonics are sort of the old-school rock influences.

R: Even The Stooges in a way.

MG: The only thing I struggle with in that respect is I want the 4 horn section, which you don't see much in groups like that. That's where I think you see more Soul than Garage. 

T: I think when we started the process, we had a vibe and aesthetic in mind. We liked the blown-out lo-fi thing and I think we've stayed true to what we've grown up on. I love to just keep the dance going, and maybe that's the Soul part, and the Garage is more the badass metal-rock thing.  It's just a really cool combination that's emerged from the combination of the seven of us.

MT: The new EP The Last of the Acid Cowboys has a different sound from your other works, in that it has a more somber, bluesier sound to it compared to the more upbeat funkiness of other songs, like "Wild Man". Can you guys talk about the direction you are moving in creatively?

MG: I think we just want to tell more stories. The songs I was writing earlier on, I didn't feel like I was writing songs, I felt more like I was writing a cool groove and saying “let's play this until a song pops out”. Now, I feel much more imaginative, like I'm writing stories instead. I don't want to be stuck, since we're not beholden to anyone at this point. So, we're still crafting our story and what makes people interested in our band. I want to tell stories and I want to be dark and crazy and wanted to move away from the groove writing.

R: I think that ties into the idea of genre. In the beginning, it felt like we were letting the idea of genre and our instrumentation affect the songs we were writing. We were saying “Oh, because we have horns we need songs that sound like James Brown,” when actually, we can do whatever the fuck we want. Like Matt said, we're just trying to take the song writing aspect more seriously and making that more of a unified aesthetic. 

K: We've headed into a more genuine direction. I think we're staring down the barrel of whatever a music career means today. It was an important departure for us. At the end of the day, the creativity and imagination and whatever we're doing for ourselves is for an audience. When it's genuine at its core, it will be received better in a long term.

MT: You guys keep using the word story. Is this a concept album?

MG: Yeah, I would say so.

MT: Based on what's written about you guys in press releases, it seems like you all approach your work with serious creative intention. Can you all go into detail into how songs come together both musically and lyrically? Is there any kind of message behind your music?

MG: It goes along with the lines of what I was saying before: we're not beholden to anyone. I feel like I can get imaginative and that's really liberating. I can write a story. We can write about whatever the fuck we want, and that makes me really excited. Raff and I realized we can draw from other influences like other great songwriters and right now we're interested in Western stuff and folk and Americana as well as funk and soul and blues. The creative process got more focused by becoming more broad. By drawing more influences, we were able to decide what we really wanted to do.

R: I agree with that. Instead of broadening, I think it's more like not limiting yourself. I think before we were limiting ourselves to writing songs in the first person where the narrator of the song is the singer. We did that for a long time. We played a lot of gigs for a lot of years before we went back to the studio and I think over that time we got tired of that. We just realized that if we stopped limiting ourselves in this little box of what songs we think we're supposed to create.

K: For me, I think it's been a process of uneducating myself. I did 8 years of music in college. And so originally, creatively, I was bringing in charts and feeling like you have to go to a certain chord. Through the help of these guys and listening to other things, this idea of doing whatever the hell you want is really important to the creative process. And Rafferty, I think you've been telling me this for a while now, but you need to write so much more than you think you need to because only a little bit of that is going to stick to the wall. And that's so important to our group and our process.

MT: What words of advice do you have for aspiring artists?

K: Climb through all the BS. It's so important just to put yourself out there and make the experience happen. Take the gig. I've taken a lot of trumpet gigs and through that I've realized there are a few gigs I would never do again. But I learned about myself and my art through those experiences. So my advice for anybody is to gain experiences. 

MG: Don't be afraid that you're annoying people. I think I lost so many opportunities because I was afraid I was bothering someone.  Being self-conscious has no place on the stage. It has no place in an industry that relies on you giving your music to people. You gotta be ready to entertain. I want to entertain people. I don't want to make people pay for a ticket and then make them wish they spent their money on beer. So I'm not afraid to annoy people.

R: For musicians, trust your ear. Think about what you like and what you think sounds good. That's one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself. If it sounds good, it sounds good. Noone can tell you. There's all these rules, but at the end of the day most of the people who stand out are those who learn the rules and then disregard them. If you just trust yourself and trust your head, you can save yourself a lot of time.