The Funky Groove of Kung Fu
16 Jul 2014

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An Interview with Tim Palmieri of Kung Fu

Electric Forest Music Festival

Rothbury, MI

Written by Alex Kratzert

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At about 3:00 PM on Sunday, June 29th 2014, I was sitting in the media tent flipping through photos, guzzling water and nursing down a chicken quesadilla. There was a threat of rain for that day and photographers became very anxious and curious as to how their gear would hold up. Then the band Kung Fu – Adrien Tramontano (drums), Chris DeAngelis (bass), Rob Somerville (saxophone), Todd Stoops (keyboard), and Tim Palmieri (guitar) – who had played a one o’clock set, rolled heavily into the area glazed in sweat and exhaustion. I doubted that a sudden downpour would prove as much of an annoyance to them as it would to the visual members of the media, but it wouldn’t end up raining until later on. I introduced myself to the band, and Tim- a tall, humble and very intelligent man – promptly joined me for an interview. The following was transcribed from a recording.

SBL: When did you get here?

Tim: We rolled in today; we drove straight from Vermont last night and it’s just uh…wow; it’s a haul. This is my first time getting to sit down since the set and driving in, setting up and playing, but what a great turnout for a Sunday afternoon; that was sick.

Yeah, you guys started off with a pretty small crowd and drew everybody right in.

It’s been a collective effort, you know; the way we even formed was we just got five guys from different bands with everyone unitingIMG_1345 their wisdom; it’s just worked in such an efficient way.

Are you going to kick it for the rest of the night?

We’re probably going to drive immediately back to Connecticut; we’ve been hitting festivals just about every weekend and a lot of babies are coming in this year for the band, so it’s definitely been a transitional year in the personal realm. Just maintaining the rock n’ roll presence, you know? If it takes driving like a ninja seventeen hours to play a set at Electric Forest, we’re going to do it.

Definitely; get as many in as you can. I noticed that you’re popping up on all kinds of festival lineups; what else is on the list for this summer?

Coming up we have Gathering of the Vibes, Phases of the Moon in September, and Catskill Chill in the Northeast, which is always a lot of fun. We have Camp Barefoot in West Virginia and we just did Wakarusa; it’s been good making the rounds without actually being on the road for an extended period of time.

How long have you guys been playing together and who are your biggest influences?

I think this November will be six years. As a band, I guess we channel Herbie Hancock…all the good stuff; just the funk side of fusion, you know what I mean? Be technical; be Jeff Beck, but like funky: Herbie Hancock; James Brown; P-Funk…meets Eddie Van Halen.

You just released your second record, Tsar Bomba; how long did it take to record and what was the process like?

This album actually took a bit longer than the first one did and that’s because we went through a member change, which seems like forever ago now, but at the time it was like, okay: find a new guy, what’s our sound, catch him up with the material, et cetera. So it was like, we started a record but didn’t get to finish it, we re-recorded all the parts, and now it’s come-to. Besides a little setback we’re happy with it; it’s still relevant in our sound and where we are artistically. But yeah, Tsar Bomba: get it anywhere…buy records!

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What is it about your music that sets it apart from others?

Well, a lot of bands funk and a lot of bands play technical but I think our niche is doing both; as technical as it could be, we’re still just trying to keep people dancing and keep it funky, which is still a discipline like Lettuce, Soulive, or Karl Denson meets Garaj Mahal; just finding that middle ground. Sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t; when we get it oh, we’re surfin’.

Do you dig electronic music very much?

Sure, I like all kinds of music. The electronic music I like is more old school; I don’t like a ton of new artists, but I love the idea of old school stuff like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, like the artistic side of digital electronica meets repetition. It is about repetition and flowing and creating a mood and you get taken through a slower journey sometimes, while fusion is very action-packed. We like both.

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I noticed you guys had a great meld; you’d get real funky and keep everybody dancing and then you’d bring the ripping psychedelic jams that were incredible.

Psychedelic music is awesome; because it means you’re listening, and you’re all pushing the boundaries, too; like you’re playing something that’s never been played before.

How do you like the crowd at this festival?

Well, for the time being here it was great: they were there in front of us; they were dancing; they looked happy; I was watching people in hammocks, jealous of how comfortable they looked; wanted to jam the Ewok celebration song, but was not able to fit it into the set. At one point, though, when the trees started going back and forth I felt like they were dancing; they were in rhythm with us, like a certain bunch. These trees over here didn’t like us as much, but these ones really dug it; that kind of thing…I don’t know how this will read later, but that’s what I experienced.

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For sure, this venue is amazing and the people and the sounds are really in-tune with it.

Yeah, very natural. I’m always happy to play in beautiful, natural, gorgeous settings like Bear Creek at Suwannee in Florida, which has that old Spanish moss tree, amphitheater-vibe. This was actually more in the middle of really dense woods in a great way; you’d see structures off in the distance and wonder, “What’s over there?”

So on the topic of nature, Sparkleberry Lane is a project not only dedicated to live music but also conscious living, sustainability and all the like; I was just wondering if there’s anything you’d like to say to festival goers and people in general regarding our actions toward the environment?

IMG_1391Well, actions always speak louder than words. You don’t have to preach the gospel of naturalism or whatever, but when you pick up garbage when you see it, you’re doing the world a favor. I think action and activism is always the best way to go; to lead by example. I’m guilty as much as anyone of not always following through, but the goal is to do what you are saying you’re doing. We get apathetic; I like to think that the recycling I put in the bin is going to where it needs to be recycled. You get the cynical types who would say, “You think that’s actually getting recycled?!” and, well, I guess I don’t really know. I just want to trust people.

Well put, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just find us on Facebook; find us on our website; keep coming to shows; buy our records; invite us to do wonderful, splendid things with you, and let’s keep making fusion cool.

Cheers – keep rockin! For more information on the band check out their website and Facebook page, and be sure to make Tsar Bomba your next album purchase. Musicians need help to be able to keep us dancing and feeling well and alive, and this is a group that most certainly deserves the support. For a look into Kung Fu’s set as well as the rest of the fun and madness behind Electric Forest, read Sparkleberry Lane’s review here; otherwise, go see Kung Fu the next time they’re around!

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