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    Yes Virginia

    For funk's sake

    Yes Virginia puts on that '70s show — a whole repertoire of groovy originals borrowing sounds affectionately from classic funk and soul.


    That '70s decade was a major formative time for Matt Stone. Something from that time — or to be more exact, the decade starting in the year Sly Stone and ending in the year Prince — got in his blood and it's never gotten out.

    Matt Stone (vocals, guitar)
    Jill Seifers (vocals)
    Why Not Jansveld (bass)
    Bennett Paster (keyboards)
    Jamie Moore (drums).

    Related links: Official site
    Available from

    DaWaDeToMaYoLoMoFu   MP3
    Deedee Wants to Come Over   MP3
    Thank God for That   MP3
    © 2000 Yes Virginia. Used by permission.
    Stone is the singer, guitarist and main man behind Brooklyn-based Yes Virginia. With keyboard-based originals that don't exactly mimic the likes of Billy Preston, Stevie Wonder, the Commodores and Parliament but pay clear homage to those heroes of '70s soul, the band has a bit of a rock edge but still spins grooves so nasty they could very nearly make a jaded, black-wearing, supercool New Yorker get up and dance. This is music that just plain feels good.

    To give you an idea how much funk is going on in this band's songs, I've seen hundreds of guitar players make faces while pouring their hearts into their music but Bennet Paster is almost the first keyboardist I've seen do likewise. He plays with an involuntary wince that comes from waiting, waiting, waiting, arms stretched and fingers poised just above the keys, and finally hitting a beat exactly right. The beat, and the tantalizing spaces between beats, get under the skin — the musicians' as much as the listeners'.

    So what kind of soul-altering '70s experience gives a person the inner need to play this kind of music?

    "I think it was Stevie Wonder's 'Songs in the Key of Life,' " Stone says. "I had heard some of the hits on the radio, but when I heard the double record . . . it just did something for me."

    That's it?

    Well, okay, there is a little more to the story. That's also the record that was playing when Stone had his first, um, formative experience. Naturally, you wouldn't forget a thing like that.

    Another album whose sound had a big impact was Sly and the Family Stone's "Fresh."

    "That just blew my mind," Stone remembers. "The organ, the thumping — not slapping but just fingered bass. It's all about the one [beat]."

    Besides impeccable influences, the band has a sense of humor and just enough of a nasty streak. As with the soul music of old, songs about God coexist right alongside songs about sin, such as "Thank God for That" (hear it on MP3). Besides the ironic chorus ("I found another sinner — thank God for that. I found the devil in her — thank God for that"), there are tongue-in-cheek lines like:

    When we head back to  . . .
    What's the place you came from?
    Pocatello, Idaho?

    You and me and the baby turns three  —
    We're gonna give 'em quite a show.

    Yes Virginia plays the usual New York rock clubs, and also has a scaled-down three-man version dubbed the YesV Creeper band that does more improvisation and plays most anywhere, from clubs to coffee shops. Colleges are a favorite gig too.

    "Sometimes you go to them and there's nobody there," he notes. "But the money's much better, and when you do get a good crowd you're sure to have a good crowd. College students are just a whole lot less jaded than your typical urban audience."

    APRIL 18, 2002

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