New album "Oozy" out on Nat Geo Music - April 2011
If ever a band could boast having a complex genealogical tree, that band is Brownout. The eight-piece, Latin funk ensemble based in Austin, Texas, is both offspring and germinating seed to Grammy-Award winning Grupo Fantasma. The latter in turn traces its roots to when Austin based Blue Noise Band and The Blimp, from booming border town of Laredo, Texas, converged in its conception.
Brownout may well be Grupo Fantasma’s psychedelic Latin funk little brother, an offshoot of the collective that regularly backs Prince, its latest incarnation, or even its alter ego. What they are not is the sprawling conjunto’s side project. Brownout has taken Grupo Fantasma’s funk roots and blown them up. In the process they’ve taken on a life and developed a unique sound all their own. Aguilas and Cobras, the group’s new album on Six Degrees Records (9/15/09), stands as testament to their one of a kind evolution.
The band member’s musical journey began as a revolt against the Mexican cumbias and Tejano music of their parents. Opting instead to immerse themselves in the worlds of Sly Stone, James Brown, and Mandrill, they were nurtured by soulful staccato drums, deep-in-the-pocket guitar riffs, and bawdy bass lines, elements that would provide the overriding arch for their sundry musical explorations. Eventually they migrated out of the garage and flocked four hours north into Austin's thriving music scene. Away from home they embraced their Latino heritage and as Grupo Fantasma they explored the cumbia rhythms they shunned as teenagers.
Playing over 150 shows per year, including backing Prince at Coachella and on the “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Grupo Fantasma has performed in eight countries, in music festivals such as Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and played for U.S. troops stationed in Kuwait and Iraq. Somehow they even found the time to release a Grammy-nominated full-length, Sonidos Gold.
Then came Brownout, a return to their coming of age forays into funk. Mostly instrumental, the band takes its cues from James Brown's J.B.'s and San Francisco's Malo, the Seventies act fronted by Carlos Santana's brother Jorge, but they infuse it with their particular vibe of border music hybridity and generous brushstrokes of trippy psychedelia.
“It’s funny because we can be rehearsing with Grupo Fantasma one night and then the next night the same group of guys can go back to the rehearsal room and rehearse as Brownout and the music is completely different,” Guitarist Adrian Quesada says. “We’ve been lucky enough to be performing sometimes, where there’s a whole audience that’s not even familiar with Grupo Fantasma when Brownout is playing and vice versa. We’re definitely trying to keep the two separate. At the same time there’s no point in trying to hide the fact that it’s the same band.”
With soulful backbeats, psychedelic exploration, tough grooves and brassy streetwise accents, Brownout can already claim the kind of bona fides needed to stand on their own. 2008 saw the release of the crew’s critically acclaimed debut album Homenaje, on the influential UK label Freestyle Records. Three years in the making, the album is a nod to the group’s musical influences, hence the name, which means homage in English. To Brownout’s surprise Homenaje became a cult-favorite and sparked the attention of international DJs, tastemakers and fans of cutting-edge music. The Austin Chronicle called it “the sleeper hit of the year” and lifestyle magazines such as Wax Poetics stated, “Brownout has elegantly bridged their multiple musical universes,” while XLR8R touted, “A band like this restores faith that all may not be lost…If this doesn't get the party started, y'all must be D.O.A.” Even the online urban authority Okayplayer weighed in, "Reverence for the music of the Latin diaspora equal to that for dusted Funk, Soul, Jazz & Rock.”