While North Alabama might be an epicenter for the neo-soul movement in America, one must not forget that England serves as the birthplace for this revival. Musical acts like The Heavy and Amy Winehouse brought back the classic sounds of the old school several years ago.
London’s The Filthy Six chose to concentrate on a different facet of ’60s music culture. Comprised of hired guns who have performed with everyone from Jack White to Beck, this group of talented musicians decided to focus on the organ-rich, funky jazz grooves of the late ’60s/’70s.
Started by trumpeter Nick Etwell (Mumford & Sons), what began as a side-project has exploded into a full-time band for this line-up. They are now making their way through the U.S. for the first time. Before getting the OGD moving and grooving, Etwell was excited to give the Azalea City a peek inside the vintage world of The Filthy Six.
SC: To me, The Filthy Six is like a living, breathing sonic time capsule.
NE: Thank you! I’ll take that as a compliment!
SC: With the style of ’60s/’70s acid jazz that you guys play, what do you think makes it still relevant to music lovers of all ages?
NE: Well, good music is good music. That’s always going to appeal to people. In the past few years, people have gone back to vintage equipment and gear and recording on tape in studios with ribbon mics. That whole thing has gone full circle. The whole digital thing has gone out of fashion in way.
Everyone is craving to get back to the old school again. The reason is that it sounds great, and it sounds warm. It sounds fat and rich.
SC: As far as the vintage equipment that The Filthy Six uses, how did you guys get your hands on that stuff? Were you already collectors?
NE: Yeah, like anything collectible, people are, and I hate to use the word, nerds. People who are fans of that stuff will seek it out and find a way. The studio that we use in north London is run by a friend of mine, and it’s an old fish factory that’s been converted into a studio. They’ve got an old Tascam deck. It’s rather fun. You’ve got a great, big open space with these beautiful old RCA mics from the ’50s and a great 2-inch tape recorder, which is fantastic. It’s too good to be true. They’re just fans of making good music, and that’s what we have in common. Some people are into recreating that sound.
SC: It seems like The Filthy Six has evolved from a side-project from a group of professional musicians to a full time job. What made you guys want to concentrate more on The Filthy Six?
NE: It’s only been a side-project because that we were so busy doing different things. We are session musicians, for want of a better word, and everyone makes a living playing in people’s band and touring the world. It’s fantastic that we get to do that, but at the same time, you have your own thing. I got the band together years ago, now. Actually, it’s our 10-year anniversary this April with The Filthy Six, as it stands. It’s a good way to celebrate by coming over for our first U.S. shows. I got a bunch of guys together, because I wanted to make some music like they use to in the late ’60s like Lou Donaldson and Jimmy McGriff. We started playing out some of those old tunes like “Blackjack” and “Turtle Walk.” We just had a great time doing it. We started playing gigs around London in bars and at parties. It was always a bit of fun. Then, after a few years of doing that, more and more people started showing up for gigs, and more and more people started asking, “When are you playing again?” We started saying, “Actually, maybe we could do something with this.” It started to grow, and we started to write original stuff. Unfortunately, or I say, fortunately, I’ve been on tour with Mumford & Sons over the past few years, and it’s been fantastic. The Filthy Six has been pushed to the background, somewhat. Coincidentally, we released our first album around the first time that Mumford released theirs. Any ideas we had of really touring and doing something with The Filthy Six went away with the Mumford boys. Once they went on break, I jumped on the chance to bring it forward and make it a priority, which is what we are doing with these shows.
SC: With all that said, how does it feel to finally bring the sounds of The Filthy Six to the States?
NE: I can’t wait! I love the South. I love the people and the culture and the atmosphere down there. I love their music. Some of the best music was born and created there. You’ve got New Orleans, Nashville and Alabama. It’s got a real history. To have the chance to come over and play our music in some of the towns where some of our favorite tracks were created, it’s an opportunity that I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time. I’m very excited.
SC: How’s the new album coming along?
NE: Well, we recorded during a touring break last May, but we didn’t get the chance to do anything with it until October or November of last year. We got in and did a bit of tinkering. We’re gonna finally put the finishing touches on it and get it mastered soon. We hope to have it out in the autumn.
SC: I can only imagine what the live show is like. How would you describe a live performance from The Filthy Six?
NE: It’s just a lot of fun. It’s six guys making music that they enjoy making. They have a lot of fun playing together. That’s one of the main things people say when they come up to us after a show. They say, “You guys look like you’re having a lot of fun up there.” We really are. We also have a lot of respect for each other as artists and friends. The chance to create good music with friends is something special. It usually doesn’t happen so easily, but when you have a connection like that, it’s a great feeling. It should be a great show. We’ll hopefully get people up to have a bit of a dance and enjoy themselves. They’ve certainly leave with a smile on their face. I can guarantee that!
The Filthy Six
Date: Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $10 at the door