Five Questions with The Fritz

“Funk reigns supreme!” wrote local electronic funk/rock band The Fritz in a recent website post. “Music unites us in an unprecedented way, regardless of extraneous conditions.” The Fritz has parlayed both that sense of unity (as a social concept and as a musical style, marrying funk, soul, groove, jazz and improv) into its new album, Bootstrap. The band will introduce Asheville to those new tracks at Asheville Music Hall on Friday, April 12. Jahman Brahman also performs. 10 p.m., $8 in advance or $10 day of show.

Here, singer and keyboard player Jamar Woods talks to Xpress about Florida roots, training versus improv and why that April 12 show will be so special.

Mountain Xpress: The Fritz got its start in Jacksonville, Fla. What inspired you to move to Asheville, and how has your adopted hometown impacted your sound?
Jamar Woods: We had a lot of success in Jacksonville, but in order to take this band to the next level, we needed to get out of our comfort zone. Most of us had been to Asheville on separate occasions and really dug the climate, scenery and the overall vibe of the city. Its location made it possible for us to travel farther north without being so far away from home-base. Asheville’s music scene really inspired us to take our playing to the next level, both individually and collectively. When you’re in a town full of great musicians, you have no choice but to rise to the occasion. As far as the actual sound, the addition of my Moog Little Phatty allows us to explore more electronic styles while keeping our strong funk roots.

The band is made up of “schooled musicians.” Tell us about where you each went to school and what areas you studied. Also, since The Fritz’s sound has elements of fusion and improv, does classical training ever get in the way of that organic expression?
We all went to college in Jacksonville, Fla. Mike Evans, our percussionist, studied classical percussion but with a heavy emphasis on hand drumming and Latin and African styles. Our drummer, Michael Tillis, studied with renowned drummer Danny Gottlieb and learned a variety of styles with a focus in jazz. Our bassist, Jake O’Connor, studied jazz as well as a number of other styles ranging from funk to bluegrass. Our guitarist Jamie Hendrickson’s training spans a wide variety of genres as well. My training focused heavily in the classical side of things but also focused on abstract improvisation and composition.

I think that our training helps us to express what we feel, just as a child who learns more words is better able to articulate exactly what it means. Our training gives us the vocabulary, but the sentences come from the heart.

Your set list is mostly made up of originals. But if you were going to pick a cover or two to really get the show going, what are some favorites and why?
Our originals have the uncanny ability to appeal to a variety of ages and musical tastes, and we try to do the same when we pick covers. Because we play so few of them, it’s important to pick the right ones to fit the crowd and the mood of the room. One of my favorites is “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath because it’s generally unexpected and gets a great reaction every time. We also do a few Prince songs because they can get people from 9 to 99 dancing. We’ve played everything from Cee Lo to Pink Floyd to Primus to Jimi Hendrix, and every time it elicits a great response from the audience.

Your album Bootstrap just came out a couple of weeks ago. Tell us about some of the themes on that collection of songs — was the idea more about telling a story or setting a mood?
Each song on this album tells a story. Whether it be love and loss or hard work, they are a snapshot of where the band was mentally and emotionally when we recorded the album. Collectively, the theme is “No matter what happens or what situation you find yourself in, grab a hold of your bootstraps and move onward and upward.”

Since your April 12 show at Asheville Music Hall is part of your album release tour, what can we expect?
While every show we play is important to us, this show is special. Asheville is home and we are so thankful for all the people here who welcomed us with open arms. I think this energy will be reflected in our show. Expect a high energy, over the top show that will have you dancing all the way home.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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