No one knew that a film-school project would spawn not just a pic but a P.I.C, one of the city's great party bands playing what it calls hiphopunkfunkmamboska.
By JOSHUA TANZER
The first P.I.C song I heard was "PB&J" (hear it on RealAudio or MP3), about how much these heavy-duty rappers love a certain sandwich:
I like peanut butter on my white bread,
|Sulu (trumpet, vocals)|
DJ Un-g (turntables, sampler, vocals)
Horny Jeff (saxophone)
Rick Fingers (bass)
Mark Concerto (guitar).
Related links: Official site
| AUDIO |
|Happy Song || RA|| MP3|
|Hiphopunkfunkmamboska || RA|| MP3|
|PB&J || RA|| MP3|
|Sometimes Y || RA|| MP3|
| © 2000 Riding Mower Records. Used by permission.|
I like jelly in my butter.
Jelly with the peanut butter on my white bread.
Jelly with the peanut butter on my white bread!
My first thought was: This is so dumb.
When I tell the band this, deejay Un-G punches the air and says, "Yeah! It's working!"
And it was working. The second time I listened, I decided the song was actually kind of funny. After about 150 more times, I decided P.I.C is a hell of a band.
P.I.C has stylistic roots everywhere, a natural result of its diverse, evolving lineup. "There are seven guys in the band seven writers in the band and everybody's got their own influences," says singer J-Bomb. "We call it 'hiphopunkfunkmamboska.' " (For a sample, listen to the cut of the same name on RA or MP3, from the band's CD, also titled "Hiphopunkfunkmamboska.")
What the heck does that mean? You could classify the music as hip-hop, but unlike most rap it's backed by a kickass live band, combining the funky musicianship of Tower of Power, the one-big-happy-family spirit of Sly and the Family Stone, the unpredictable stylistic onslaught of Fishbone and the easygoing attitude of De La Soul. With horns, bass, keyboards, and a deejay filling the role of drummer, P.I.C comes from all over the musical map to deliver a loose, fun, off-the-wall of sound.
The band, which has had anywhere from four to 12 members over the years, formed about eight years ago around a core of NYU students who shared a love of music but were actually studying subjects including film, drama and business. Un-G, a film student, was making a "Spinal Tap"-style mockumentary about a really bad band.|
"We assembled an audience for people to heckle us and people pretty much liked it," recalls Sulu, the band's trumpeter-vocalist. "That became the basis for our band."
Late-night jam sessions followed, with a loose grouping of people who still weren't a full-fledged band until 1997, when they put together a demo and started playing clubs, ready or not. The bandmates remember it in tag-team fashion as if still trading rhymes:
"We had a collection of about five songs we knew " says the keyboardist, Rice.
" that would miraculously last 45 minutes " adds Un-G.
" and people loved it!" Rice finishes.
Now the band has more than a set worth of songs some, like "PB&J," that have more to say than you think the first time you hear them. That one sounds almost like a little kids' song, but it's not just about a passion for PBJ's it's also about how tantalizing that sandwich looks when you can't even afford a loaf of bread. Oh, and it has a couple of four-letter words in it too. The silly kids' stuff is just a first impression.
By way of illustration, Rice remembers how he bumped into a friend at a bookstore: "And he said, 'Here's my little daughter, and she can sing it!' So she starts singing it: 'I like peanut butter . . .' He called me a couple days later and said, 'I read your lyric sheet on the web. I don't think I'm going to have her singing that anymore.' "
You might also be fooled by "Sometimes Y" (RA, MP3), which sounds like a "Schoolhouse Rock" ditty about vowels, until you check the lyrics.
P.I.C has come a long way from its beginnings when it was hard to get a gig in the city's best-known clubs, once the programmers saw that the band had no drums and, at the time, no guitar. "Pearl Jam was pretty much the thing at that time," Rice says. "People would see that [P.I.C's lineup] and say, 'Oh, we don't want any hip-hop in here.' "
Now the club gigs are coming, and the band has an audience that crosses all boundaries, whether you call them hip-hop or anything else. "The people who come to our shows are just looking for a good time," says J-Bomb, "because we're basically a party band."
|OCTOBER 8, 2001|
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