Don't ever accuse The Budos Band of "jamming."
"We can be put into a jam band category," says saxophonist Jared Tankel, a founding member of the Staten Island, New York-based instrumental ensemble. "We do play the jam band festivals, but if a song starts to get past six or seven minutes and someone is doing a five minute solo that goes off into space, that's not what we're about."
Since 2005, Budos has fused different spectrums of sound, from American funk to British stoner metal to Ethiopian jazz. But it's not aimless exploration. Budos try hard to keep their carefully arranged tunes to five minutes or less. "We like it tight," Tankel says. "We like to keep things moving." The band will perform at the Broadberry on July 31, part of a tour that is its first extended outing since before COVID-19 struck. Tankel says they will concentrate on songs from their sixth and most recent album for Daptone Records, "Long In the Tooth."
Being away from live gigs has stunted the band's creative process, he admits. "We like using soundchecks to write together and test out material. They can be mini writing sessions where we might record some demos and take those back for a recording session. We used to hang out for days on end and come up with stuff, but now we're living in different places and have families and we have to be surgical about how we use our time."
The aggressive "Lost in the Tooth" sees the band strip its sinewy, brooding tone down to its funky essentials -- pressurized grooves, vampy guitar and stabbing horns. “In some ways, it’s reminiscent of our first two albums 'The Budos Band' and 'Budos II,'” says guitarist Tommy Brenneck in a press statement. “We branched off on 'Burnt Offering' and 'V.' Now, we’re still moving forward. You can play these songs on the dance-floor."
The unit's beginnings involved another dangerously funky outfit, Antibalas, the Brooklyn-based Afro-funk band. "It was at an Antibalas open mic session that I got to know everyone," Tankel recalls. The members bonded over common influences - namely James Brown, Fela Kuti and Curtis Mayfield -- and, while the band itself has shrunk from nine to seven members, it has expanded its scope to include other colorings and influences.
"We started integrating West African funk and Ethiopian jazz by the second album," Tankel says. "By our third, the heavy rock influences started coming through … groups like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Love, Jimi Hendrix."
Budos has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Daptone, the Brooklyn-based, neo-soul label responsible for releasing classic discs by soul singers Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, both now deceased. "Daptone has changed a lot, but it's surviving," says the saxophonist, who was one of the label's first interns, and helped to build its recording studio in Bushwick. "Twenty years on, we're still friends and it's like a family. We've experienced amazing highs and suffered tremendous loss together."
Budos is still feeling the 2017 passing of soul singer Bradley.
"Charles' first tour was with Budos Band and we did a couple of records with him too. He was such a beautiful person. He was full of love for all people and that came through onstage." Tankel reminds that the singer performed as a James Brown impersonator named Black Velvet for much of his career. "He was grateful to have gotten to a place where he could finally be Charles Bradley."
The band's stint with the singer was one of the few times that Budos has worked with a front person. Has there been a temptation to put words to the music and add a permanent lead vocalist?
"It's come up as a possibility a number of times," the saxophonist admits. "But we are going to remain an instrumental group. Having a frontman just isn't the right fit for us. With the exception of Charles, there's never going to be a vocalist that we all can agree on and get behind... we're playing an interesting mixture of genres, but we're not playing straight Afro-beat, or funk and soul, so we could never find somebody that could fit well with us."
With their scene-setting atmospherics, the band's instrumentals have appeared in films such as "The Doom Patrol '' and "New York, I Love You," but Budos Band has also earned a reputation for making soundtrack music for movies that don't actually exist. Oddly, critics throughout the years have used Quentin Tarantino's films as a reference when describing Budos' evocative, sometimes sinister sound, even though their work has never appeared in his movies.
It almost happened, Tankel says. "When he was making ‘The Hateful Eight,’ we heard that Tarantino was looking for music for the trailer. And we also heard that the only way he listens to music is on cassette driving around L.A. in whatever vintage car he has. So we had someone make a cassette tape of our stuff and deliver it to his house."
The director ended up using a Black Keys song instead. But the references continue. "I think a lot of writers just like to say that this song or that song sounds like it should be in a Quentin Tarantino movie," Tankel says with a laugh. "It might be lazy but we don't disagree."
The Budos Band w/ Rogê at the Broadberry on July 31. For tickets and info go to thebroadberry.com