“This band is like the soundtrack of my childhood, like what my dad used to listen to,” said Corey Fonville, who plays drums in the Richmond-based groovy instrumental quartet, Butcher Brown.
Fonville, along with Devonne Harris (DJ Harrison, keys), Marcus Tenney (saxophone, trumpet), Andrew Randazzo (bass) and Morgan Burrs (guitar) make up the group. Fonville, Harris and Randazzo recently sat down with RVA Mag to chat about their latest album, The Healer.
The 10-track record is a melting pot of rock, jazz and funk and although we’re just getting to hear it now, it was originally composed in 2015.
With various musical influences such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock and D’Angelo, the band has what Fonville calls a “musical kinship.” The Earth, Wind & Fire influence is perhaps most apparent in songs like “James River Tunnel Vision” and “Moses” with a blend of funk, jazz and soul. The Healer’s eponymous song then takes a slower tempo as a melody laces through it. Much of the entire album feels like a resurrection of music from another era.
”It’s a funny thing though because we play these songs so much that we start adding new sections to them,” Harrison said. “So a few months after we’ve recorded, the songs sometimes start taking new directions.”
In the original composition period, Harrison usually kept a recording of jam sessions for the other members to access via Dropbox for note taking.
“The release of The Healer was tough,” Randazzo said. “That album is indicative of what we were doing in 2015, but that’s not us now. We’ve changed a bit, but we really liked it so we just wanted to have it out there for people to listen to.”
The band held the release due to being in a transition period. One of the guitarists, Keith Askey, had recently lent his talents to a backing track for Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy award-winning song, “i” and decided to relocate to Los Angeles. Butcher Brown itself was shifting to new management at the time as well.
“This just kept pushing it back and then two years later, we just decided it needed to be out, even if it’s just on bandcamp,” Randazzo said.
The band’s name is derived from a video game called Ready To Rumble in which one of the characters was named Butcher Brown. The friends/bandmates were in agreement that it was a “cool character” and a cool name to use.
“We’ve been playing together for 10 years now,” Randazzo said. “It’s almost like we grew up together.”
The men met at the cusp of manhood. Fonville was a teenager attending a jazz program at Virginia Commonwealth University when he heard Harrison play, so he kept up with Harrison’s work in the golden era of Myspace. This was in 2006. By 2009 a mutual friend Jason Arce had connected the two, along with Randazzo. It’s been tours and performances ever since.
Presently Butcher Brown has plans to record new albums. Currently, they’re loosely touring the east and west coast where they interact with other musicians, some of whom they are fans of, such as Questlove and Thundercat.
“It’s cool to just brush shoulders with these guys that we’re fans of,” Randazzo said. “Getting recognition but also get to meet the people you idolize and not just being ‘some kid.’”
Photo credit: Joey Wharton