Seeds sits down with Lucky Chops
Before Lucky Chops took the stage at the Bourbon Theatre on Oct. 28, Seeds Entertainment spoke with tuba player Raphael Buyo and saxophone/bass clarinet player Daro Behroozi. Lucky Chops has been kicking for 11 years.
How did playing in the subways of New York City help you develop? What’s different about the subway versus the stage?
Buyo: In the subway, we’re playing maybe four or five songs in the span of maybe like 45 minutes, but only those songs because we have a constant flow of traffic. That gave us the opportunity to really hone in on getting grooves down for a lot of these songs and being able to practice these songs so we can master them for when we go on stage.
Daro: One of the biggest differences for me is performing for passers-by versus people who are actually coming to a concert. It’s cool because they’re very different things but they’re very connected as well. When we’re in the subway, people aren’t going to the subway with the idea that they’re gonna go check out a performance. They’re going to work or whatever. I hate to admit it, but I’ve had to walk past some musicians that I thought were absolutely amazing, just because I was like, “Ugh I don’t have time.” To actually get people to stop and pay attention, you have to really learn how to connect with people through your performance. And then that translates to what we do onstage because now when we’re on stage it’s like, “Well the people are here to actually hear us play.”
Your newest EP is a world away from your previous releases. What inspired this latest release?
Daro: It was a fairly gradual, organic evolution. We were touring for a year in between that [and our previous release]. Our sound was shifting and evolving over the course of that year doing these live shows. One thing that I experienced personally that was really exciting, and I feel took our sound in a different direction or contributed to the evolution of it, was the energy that the crowd had in some of the places we would play in. Like when we were in Paris for the first time playing at New Morning Jazz Club, we played “Funkytown” and people were moshing and stage diving, and I was like, “Holy sh*t,” because I grew up as a punk and ska kid. I actually started playing saxophone in a ska band. [Getting] that energy from the crowd then informed the way that we were playing. And then that energy kind of creates something new. So when we went in to record the songs, we just kind of gave it that energy that was just naturally there.
On a lighter note, what music did you listen to growing up that helped influence your sound?
Buyo: I actually listened to a lot of pop music. I can’t really say that’s influenced my style of playing, though. If anything, what’s really influenced my playing is the New Orleans brass bands and their sousaphone players and hearing how they articulate or like how they express themselves on their horns. That’s had more of an impact on my playing style than even the music that I still listen to. And I don’t casually listen to New Orleans brass band music, which I guess is kinda weird. I think in my mind I do have some pop sensibilities where I find myself whistling or humming a lot of very catchy, accessible melodies.
Daro: I gravitated more towards really raw-sounding music, recording-wise, production-wise and even performance-wise. Like the raw sound, not the produced stuff. I was into Crass, some of that older stuff. I had a period where I was really into The Oppressed, Angelic Upstarts, a lot of really political bands. Actually kind of going through what we seem to be going through now in the U.S. where a lot of these bands were really explicitly anti-fascist, and with all the media buzz about the Antifa stuff now, and I’m like, “Hey wait a second, I was thinking about this stuff when I was like 14, like from the 80s.” And so that really influenced my playing with a really raw sound.
And the ska stuff I was into was like Leftover Crack, Choking Victim, and also a lot of traditional stuff, like Jamaican music and all the different iterations of that like rock-steady, dance hall, reggae. When I started getting more serious about jazz, I got really into Lester Young and people kind of coming out of that side of things that were more understated and very sweet and melodic. But then I also had this punk influence and that energy, which got me more into free jazz and avant garde stuff and more experimental, kind of weird-sounding stuff.
There are no chordal instruments (guitar, keyboards) in the group. How do you arrange your songs to get around that?
Buyo: A lot of these guys went to school for music, so they’re able to really go in depth with their music education, so they have a really strong foundation in chords and harmonies. They will set up the chord and I’ll just play the base and I’m good. But you’ll have brass bands that actually do have guitar players and keyboard players, but that’s been something we’ve just been able to do without and be successful and be able to create strong foundations of chords for the melody to really sit on.
Daro: We’ll have three horns on the melody and one playing the bass, or three horns playing harmony and melody. So a lot of it is figuring out the best way to make all the different timbres, ranges and frequencies that come from each of our horns sort of sit in their best possible and most resonant range. It’s always kind of a challenge and it’s exciting to be able to figure it out every time you’re trying to write a new song.