Halfway through an energetic set during last month’s SPARKcon festival, the sound went out during Outside SOUL’s performance. A five-piece funk outfit from various areas of the Triangle, you’d think they would stop until the technical difficulties were resolved. But apparently these guys refuse to stop once they get a good groove going. Bass player/vocalist Matt Grady’s amp was still working, and drummer Barrett Certoma was hitting hard enough to keep the beat happening. These guys managed to keep grooving as tech guys scurried around, figuring out which switch to turn on before the rest of the members got back into the game.
As founders of the band, Grady and Certoma have always believed that if they get the right groove going, the music should keep rolling no matter what. “We started jamming in [Bennett’s] parents’ house in Zebulon,” says Raleigh resident Grady, of the band’s early beginnings. “And it took awhile before we were able to find, like, committed people that were really ready to, like, hit the ground running with this band.”
Outside SOUL started four years ago, with Grady, Certoma, Durham saxophonist Devin Rauson and a guy – just named Drew – on keys. A year later, Raleigh guitarist Chris Macon jumped on board for guitar/vocal duties. And just a few months ago Drew was replaced with Raleigh keyboardist Nate Myers.
They all came together for one purpose: to be the Triangle’s definitive funk band. “When me and Barrett first started the band, we always wanted to be a funk band,” says Grady. “He and I both listened to not only the old-school, original funk bands like Parliament and Earth, Wind and Fire and Ohio Players. But we also listened to more obscure, contemporary funk bands like Lettuce and Soulive.”
In the band’s early stages, they played wherever and whenever they could.
“Basically, we played anywhere,” says Macon. “We would just try to play as much as possible.”
Adds Grady, “That’s really how it just got started, playing anywhere you’re allowed to play – anywhere that you wouldn’t get arrested.”
Of course, now that they’re in veteran mode, they play familiar spots (like the Southland Ballroom Friday) and festivals like SPARKcon.
It helps that the band is dedicated to being a funk band that traffics in fresh, original material.
“We just kind of wanted to explore styles that not a lot of bands were writing new music for,” says Grady.
“You know, there are a lot of funk bands. Most of them are, like, cover bands, and they’re playing stuff that was 30-40 years old.”
So how do these boys come up with their material? “What usually happens is Matt has some type of foundation most of the time,” says Rauson.
“And then amongst the rest of the members of the band, we’ll add our own individual style to it, or we’ll add our own individual little parts and we’ll tweak it. And then, before you know it, we have an actual song.”
Since the band has found a formula for collaborating, the shows must’ve gotten better, right? “Well, for the main thing, we have a tighter show,” says Grady.
“We have more of an idea of what we’re gonna do.”
They’re hoping their well-oiled precision as live performers will translate well once they record a full-length album.
“We really want this recording to capture the raw nature of the band,” says Grady, who says the band has a demo EP out. “But at the same time, we want to make it listenable to people that aren’t just your throwback funk fans, you know what I’m talking about? We want it to sound raw, but we also want it to sound contemporary.”
“We don’t wanna just go in the studio and just go anywhere and drop our instruments and drop tracks,” adds Macon.
“We want them to sound good. I think we’ll try some different things. We’re trying to see what works. But it’s coming together.”
The multiracial men of Outside SOUL feel that if they can get together and create some authentic, relentless, unstoppable funk, getting people to join in and enjoy it shouldn’t be a problem.
“I think what it does is that we get to play – all of us – places we normally wouldn’t play,” says Macon.
“I mean we get to play all these different places that would normally cater to one specific type of group. But since we’re so – just looking at us, you may draw your own conclusion, you know. Like, you may think, ‘Oh, they’re a funk/soul band,’ or you may think, ‘Oh, they’re a funk/rock band,’ or you may think whatever. And it’s really up to the perception of that person that’s looking.”