By ERIC SCHELKOPF
While much has been said about Chicago being the blues capital of the world, The Heard represents the its funky side.
The six-piece instrumental band has built up a following in the city, in part through its weekly residency at aliveOne in Chicago. The Heard, www.theheardfunk.com, is bound to pick up some new fans through its appearance at the Taste of Randolph Street festival.
The Heard will perform from 7:45 to 8:45 p.m. June 14 at the festival's East Stage. More information is available at www.tasterandolph.com.
I had the chance to talk to guitarist Taras Horalewskyj about the band and its current activities.
Q - Great talking to you. I see you guys recently were in New Orleans. Judging by the videos, it looks like the band had a good time. How was that experience? Would you say that New Orleans and its music has had a big influence on The Heard's music?
We had an incredible experience in New Orleans! We learned so much being down there in that hotbed of incredible music and people - I have a feeling that it will be a yearly trip for the band from now on.
Aside from catching so many great shows, we had a blast playing five times in the week we were there. The music of New Orleans is a huge source of inspiration, and it definitely has a great influence on The Heard, especially the older legends like The Meters, Dr. John, and Allen Toussaint.
We try to add some of the elements of their feel and sound into our modern style of funk.
Q - Speaking of New Orleans, The Heard has backed former Galactic vocalist Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet. How is it working with artists of such caliber and what did you learn from the experience?
Playing with Houseman was an honor; it was great. We couldn't believe that we had those opportunities to back him up.
It was a huge learning experience playing with him and even just hanging out and talking about music. We learned to listen more as we played, not to just to Houseman leading things as the singer, but to each other at the same time.
It was also a lesson in the virtue of maintaining a degree of looseness in order to achieve certain feels. We really had a blast working with him.
Q - What made the band want to form in the first place? Did you find that the members clicked from the very beginning?
I wanted to form a funk band right out of college after I had gotten into and been inspired by a lot of the newer funk that was coming around. I started The Heard with Mike, who I have been good friends with and played music with for about 12 years now.
Having made music together for so long and knowing each other's playing so well, we already knew we clicked and were able to pick up momentum pretty easily. We didn't have a more fleshed out and complete line up as a band until about a year in - we met great players who eventually became crucial band mates through word of mouth.
Our aliveOne residency really helped out in this respect.
Q - Who are the band's musical inspirations and how have they inspired the band?
We have a ton of musical inspirations ranging from the old cats like The Meters, The Ohio Players, Sly and the Family Stone, Roy Ayers, Earth Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, etc., to some of the "newer" acts like the New Mastersounds, Lettuce, and Karl Denson.
We strive to approach this music the way the greats do - we learn from them, and from the way we blend all these sounds together and throw our own personalities into the mix is how we try to create our own flavor and style.
We appreciate and pay close attention to studying the different take on pocket and groove that all these musicians have - this is something we put work into all the time.
With there being many funk and groove oriented bands in Chicago currently, we would like to think that the attention and care we put into striving to develop genuine and authentic pocket sensibilities helps us stand out. Back to the question of inspiration though, when it comes to our heroes, it's having the maturity and taste to get out of the way when needed and to serve the music as much as possible that inspires us the most.
Q - You guys are regulars at aliveOne Chicago. What do you like about the venue?
We love aliveOne, it's our favorite bar in Chicago! This is one of the only bars that has weekly music with no cover. The atmosphere is phenomenal, such a great vibe.
The staff is great. The place is all about music, and you don't have to spend a lot of money there to have a fun night. There is free FUNK. What more could you ask for?
Q - How do you see The Heard fitting into the Chicago music scene? How would you rate the funk scene in Chicago?
When I first wanted to start The Heard I wasn't really worrying about fitting in the Chicago funk scene, I just wanted to start a tight band that people could dance too.
Now I see us fitting in very well having a weekly residency and getting fun opportunities to open up for some larger national acts that come through Chicago. When the band first started there either wasn't a whole lot going on in terms of a funk scene, or we just weren't aware of what was going on.
Now, a few years later, it seems like funk is on the rise and there is definitely more of a scene. We are friends with a lot of great musicians that perform music on the funk/soul spectrum - there is a tremendous amount of inspiring talent in this city - but by design, the vision for The Heard has been to lean quite heavily towards funk and a super deep pocket, and I think we occupy our own niche because of that.
Q - What are the band's short term and long term goals?
Short term we hope to get into the studio and record this summer. We look forward to keeping the aliveOne residency going strong and to continuing to improve as a band as a result of it.
Long term, take The Heard on the road when ready and spread our Chicago funk far and wide.