The Bamboos are a deep-funk soul band founded in Melbourne, Australia in 2000 by guitarist Lance Ferguson. Originally formed to play a series of shows at a local night club, the band found success through a series of singles that led to their signing to Tru Thoughts Records in 2005. The Bamboos released their debut album Step it Up in 2006. Their second album, Rawville, was released the very next year and earned praise as one of the best Funk albums of the modern era by IDJ magazine. The group then released four more studio albums and two live albums before their most recent album, Medicine Man, in 2012. The current lineup consists of Ferguson, Kylie Auldist (Vocals), Ella Thompson (Vocals), Graeme Pogson (Drums), Yuri Pavlinov (Bass), Ross Irwin (Trumpet, Tambourine), Anton Delecca (Tenor Sax, Flute), Phil Noy (Baritone Sax), and Simon Marvin (Hammond Organ).
There’s often a negative stigma attached to calling a band “retro” — the implication being that these groups merely echo previous decades with minimal originality. But Australian funk and soul band The Bamboos wear the retro badge with pride, deftly reimagining early 70s American funk with a southern hemisphere mix of trade wind warm production, head-spinning drumbeats, and trumpets so bright you’ll need sunglasses. Founded in 2000 as a four-piece band by guitarist Lance Ferguson, The Bamboos now feature eight members including a horn section, keyboards, and the powerful vocals of Kylie Auldist. The group saw their popularity rise quickly in 2009, when they released their album, 4. More recently, the grooving, playful funk rock of album opener “On the Sly” was featured on the soundtrack for the Steve Carell romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. “On the Sly” rides a slippery bass line as Auldist sings about a deceptive lover (“I don’t know who you are seeing on the sly/today I got to know who you been calling”). It’s hard not to notice the flirtation in her voice as she coos, sounding half perturbed, half absolutely infatuated with not only her stalling lover but also with the pitch-perfect 1-2-3 stabs of trumpet and keyboard that punctuate the song. Whether you’re fuming mad or just want to dance, The Bamboos have you covered. The declarative, retro funk of “Step It Up” shows The Bamboos at their most assertive. As guest singer Alice Russell shreds through her vocal lines (imploring a lazy significant other to step it up), you’ll be hard-pressed to find an excuse not to get up yourself and shake it out with the rest of us. But The Bamboos don’t always need a great singer to carry their tunes, proven by the standout cut “Another Day In The Life of Mr. Jones” from their 2006 album Step It Up. A slice of up-tempo instrumental funk anchored by a skittering drumbeat and nimble guitar work, the whole song is lighter than a summer breeze (and cooler, too). We all know funk music no longer dominates the pop charts like it once did in the 60s and 70s. But thanks to the groovy, soul power of Australia’s The Bamboos, it’s not hard to imagine another world (or maybe just another hemisphere?) where funk music still reigns supreme.