2014 Schedule
Interactive: March 7–11  •  Film: March 7–15  •  Music: March 11–16

Spirit Animal


It might sound strange, but it takes some serious soul to discover rock music's spirit and an absolute animal to find its superhuman funk.  Luckily, the modern listener has Spirit Animal.

The NYC-based band's 2013 single, "The Black Jack White," earned MTV Buzzworthy status when the site called the dance-funk anthem, "an animal all its own." The accompanying video -- flashy and ballsy in black and white -- went into rotation on mtvU ahead of the band's second EP, Kingdom Phylum, which premiered on USA Today. As with 2012's This Is a Test, the band brought together decades of disparate elements to craft party-ready rock. "These boys are the future," proclaimed ARTISTdirect, "it's the kind of fiery and ferocious music that the world rarely gets anymore."  

Spirit Animal frontman Steve Cooper is a D.C. area-born talent, uncoiling a multitude of skills that go beyond the realm of melodies, production and body sweat into the worlds of cheffing and web content craftsmanship.  Cooper, whom KCRW calls "unbelievable," met Spirit Animal bassist Paul Michel in the nation's Capitol in 2002 where the Libyan-born army brat spent much of his youth.  Michel has toured with multiple bands including Georgie James (Saddle Creek Records) and it's his bottom -- he's the best dancer in the band-- that propels Spirit Animal into otherworldly realms of low end theory. Upon that astral plane, guitarist Cal Stamp provides sterling pop sensibility and face-melting solos that recall an era when guitar gods were the real pop stars.  Battening down the hatches is drummer Ronen Evron, an Israeli transplant by way of the technically unrivaled Berklee College of Music in Boston. The fearsome foursome adds up to an organism with one mission, and one mission only.

"Rock n' roll embodies the whole of modern music's spirit, but you can't have one without the other," Cooper says. "The roll is the part people sometimes forget, and that's sad since that's the party part."

The list of influences that Spirit Animal rolls with is expansive, as pieces of familiarity peak out behind a smorgasbord of original ideas.  Their new school nonchalance is balanced by a fervent bombasticism reminiscent of early 90s era Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the stomp-along breakdowns and sing-along hooks of This Is a Test only grow stronger on Kingdom Phylum.  "Best One" is perhaps the band's deepest dive into pop to date, with Cooper's James Brownian screeches bounding atop the band's signature pocket grooves once the intro riffage gives way.  Riffs abound throughout the EP, no doubt, with "Radio Brain" switching from head bang to head bob at the drop of a hat before the EP's sleeper, "Come to Christmas," takes the listener home with its lighters-in-the-air-at-Red-Rocks bridge.

Live, the band is at once manic and precise with a non-stop show full of calisthenics, call-and-response and commitment. Their passion for performance is apparent in every move they make, a concept as reminiscent of another time as their mean blues licks.  This is why they've been called an "unmissable live act," poised to not only stand the test of time, but to help the masses re-live it.

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