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GoNOLA Jazz Fest Interview: Flow Tribe

In this GoNOLA Jazz Fest interview, K.C. O’Rorke from New Orleans funk band Flow Tribe talks about playing in New Orleans and why he loves playing Jazz Fest.

Flow Tribe is a New Orleans-based funk band. K.C. O’Rorke recently discussed the joy of playing Jazz Fest, bringing the funk to people around the country and the musical sense of community in New Orleans. Discover more about Flow Tribe and check out our other Jazz Fest 2013 interviews! See Flow Tribe play Jazz Fest at 11:10 a.m. on Friday, April 26 on the Gentilly Stage.

McClain: What have you been working on? You guys have been gigging a ton lately.

K.C. O’Rorke: Yeah, gigging, working. We’re grinding as much as we can. We’ve got a new EP coming out for Jazz Fest. It will officially drop around the second week in May, called Painkiller. It’s five tracks. We’re really excited about them. It’s some new stuff. It shows the evolution of the band. It’s got some funky stuff, some Latin grooves. It’s been good. We’ve just been playing three or four times a week, locally and on the road. Colorado, New York, just staying busy. It’s been a really good year so far.

M: I’m sure gigging that much, you guys are tighter than ever.

KCO: Yeah, I would say so. You’re out there all the time. You are getting the stage show tight. We’re definitely progressing nicely. We are getting out there more and more, getting some good opportunities. It’s our second year at Jazz Fest. We’re excited about that. Wakarusa.

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Flow Tribe (Photo courtesy of flowtribe.com)

M: Did you approach writing these songs differently than you have in the past?

KCO: Probably, a little bit of the same. We worked with with Eric Heigle, who is a longtime collaborator of ours. He’s just opened this brand new studio in New Orleans, called The Parlor Recording Studio. It’s along with him and his business partner Matt Grondin. It’s really state-of-the-art. It’s a really massive, massive building. It’s really cool the way they have it laid out and everything. We just worked with him. The thing that we struggled with in the past is our biggest asset. Our live show is really energetic. How do we translate that into a studio album? The approach we took with this one was, well, we’re not going to try and do that. We’re just going to make a solid studio album that will just stand on its own. You won’t have to be like “I had to see the live show to really get it.” I guess we just kind of took a different approach. Whatever we are laying down, obviously, we want to be able to recreate it onstage. At the same time, we want to do something that is undeniable. You put it in and you’re like, “Oh, ok. This is solid.”

M: It’s fun to take a different approach with the studio album. Live, you’ve got to smash it. In the studio, it’s hard to recreate that energy.

KCO: Yeah, like you said, with New Orleans bands, you’re coming up in an environment where everybody puts on a killer show. You’re brushing shoulders with George Porter and all these cats. You’ve got to bring it. It’s the best musical education, starting a band. I’m from New Orleans, but starting a band in New Orleans and having it grow was great. Any given night, you’re going up against great bands, like The Revivalists, Johnny Sketch, all those guys. Those are our contemporaries, and you want to make sure you are holding your own and everything else. It’s great, because the New Orleans music scene is like one big family. There’s not like competition. I want to see those guys do well. It’s great for the city, to see those other bands out there touring and doing good things. It raises the level of awareness of what is going on down here.

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K.C. performing with Flow Tribe (Photo by Instagram user ladylunanola)

M: It’s amazing to see everyone blowing up.

KCO: It’s great, man. One of the other things is that we are all around the same age. We went to college together. It’s kind of like, this is it.

M: It’s good you’ve been able to get out there and hit so many different places. What have been some of your favorite places to play?

KCO: Brooklyn Bowl was awesome, in New York. That was cool. We actually played at the Chicago Cultural Center, which was really nice. It was for a private party. It has so much history. Festivals and stuff, obviously playing Jazz Fest was huge for us. It was amazing. I’ve been going to Jazz Fest since I was 11. Being able to look out and see it packed at 11:15 in the morning. It was crazy. It’s really nice to share that with your family and everyone else that comes out there for that. It’s a great celebration for the city. We’ll tour all over, and then we’ll come back. During things like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, a lot of the crowd is made up of people we’ve played for in Key West or Atlanta, something like that. It’s really cool to see how we’ve planted those seeds in those other places, but they’ll all come back to New Orleans for these big events. It’s cool to see them come down.

M: Starting out, you would never imagine something like that happening. You’re not just going to the people, they are coming to you.

KCO: Yeah, that’s great. Things like Treme, and so many other things in the past couple of years, have helped raise the profile of New Orleans. They’ve given people pause to take a second look. They learn that maybe it’s not all traditional jazz, or whatever their preconceived notions are. It’s really a cool time to be in New Orleans. There are so many other cool bands coming up right now, Naughty Professor and some of these other guys. You can see the next generation coming up. If we can have a role in helping these guys navigate through some of the music industry BS, then that’s great. There wasn’t necessarily that infrastructure even five or ten years ago, when we were starting out. After Katrina, everyone was just grasping for what we were going to do. Now, it’s great. We’re working with a friend of mine, Lionel Milton, who is a great artist in New Orleans. He does a lot of artwork for us. He recently did an app, Mardi Brah, which is like a New Orleans version of Angry Birds. Being able to work on that was really cool. It was kind of the next stage. It’s new media, meets art, meets music. We wrote the Mardi Gras theme, that’s out. You can get that. No one has ever really looked at New Orleans as a tech center. Now, there is so much new blood and new people coming down. It’s opened up a lot of avenues and opportunities. Even with movies and stuff. There are so many more opportunities to get your music played. We’re just super excited about the future. Everybody is on the same page. I feel like we are making the best music we could possibly make, and still keeping the live show fun and high energy. We’re really, really excited.

M: It’s nice too, because in NOLA, people are open to so many different sounds. NOLA has always been that way. People just get down on their own thing. NOLA doesn’t care what the rest of the country thinks. The rest of the country will catch up eventually.

KCO: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. People will come around to it. If not, we’re still going to be doing our thing.

M: You’re still going to be slamming the Maple Leaf.

KCO: Exactly!

M: It’s not a bad way to live.

KCO: No, it’s fantastic. Coming from New Orleans, it’s all about that quality of life thing. We want to take that and we want to push the brand of New Orleans out there. We don’t go around being like, “We’re a New Orleans band.” If you listen to us, it’s obvious. We can’t help it. We’re born and raised here.

M: You can’t help that you bring the funk.

KCO: If you’re boiled in a funk pot, you’re going to come out a little funky.

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