The George Tisdale Band is a Triangle-based group that takes pride in its distinctiveness. “It’s experimental, alternative funk,” lead singer and co-founder George Tisdale says of the band’s sound. “Basically, we’re like an edgier version of Cee-Lo Green, or the male version of Janelle Monae. I mean, we’re just, like, in your face – just high-energy, explosive music.”
Tisdale certainly seems like a man who wants to put an unconventional stamp on the local music scene. The Dallas-born, Raleigh-based Tisdale (nephew to the late, great jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale) came to North Carolina after serving in the Air Force for four years. He later went to N.C. Central, where he majored in jazz studies.
But Tisdale doesn’t appear to be getting in the business of slinging out jazzy grooves. He’s launched a rock/funk outfit that’s original not only in its sound, but also in its look. Along with Tisdale doing vocals and playing acoustic guitar, there’s fellow co-founder Donald Parker III playing – wait for it! – a tuba.
Tisdale recalls how he convinced Parker and his big, brass instrument to join him in this endeavor. “I was like, ‘Hey, man, I want you to be a part of this band I’m putting together. We’re gonna be a rock band, but we got a tuba player in it, younowhaimean.’ Because it’s all about visual – I believe people see music before they hear music. So, when they see us onstage, they see a tuba and they’re like, ‘Man!’ They don’t know what to expect, you know.”
Another thing that definitely sets the six-piece band apart is Tisdale’s voice. A lyric tenor, Tisdale sings at such a high pitch, if you were listening to a song of theirs, you’d swear you were actually listening to Janelle Monae. “That’s who I am, younowhaimean,” he says. “That’s what separates me from anybody else, you know. It’s the same thing, like, with Prince or Maxwell, you know. You have to be comfortable in who you are and your voice, younowhaimean. And that’s what separates us. I mean, the tuba and the voice – that’s what people know.”
He says he loves it when people – especially guys who have listened to their music, hoping to get close to the gal they thought was singing the tunes – roll up to him at shows, flabbergasted by his voice. “I get that all the time, and I love that, younowhaimean, because most males can’t sing like me,” he says.
“I’ve heard he sounds a little like Macy Gray and all that,” adds Jeffrey Mason, the band’s manager. “I mean, to me, that’s a compliment.”
Like any band, the George Tisdale Band has been working like crazy to get their music out there. (They’re currently doing a mini-tour in and around the Triangle, doing shows this week at Casbah in Durham and the Pour House Music Hall in Raleigh.) Tisdale submitted the band to The Grammys “Gig of a Lifetime” competition, in which the winner would be flown to Los Angeles to play a Grammy weekend gig in front of music-industry heavyweights. Tisdale says, for a while there, the band ranked No. 1 out of the 234 artists and groups that were competing in the South Atlantic region.
Unfortunately, they didn’t win and earn the chance to compete against other performers who won their regions. Tisdale still boasts that his crew was unlike any other band that was competing. “We’re the only band in the whole 1,500 bands, in this big competition with Microsoft, CBS and the Grammys, with a tuba player,” he says. “And, so, that really makes us special, to have this rocking tuba player. We’re just diverse musicians in a whole.”
The band is working on showing off their diversity with a new album, titled “Problems vs. Solutions,” scheduled for release sometime this year. They’re working on another project called “Rock Tuba Journalism,” where Tisdale and Parker will go all over the country, armed with their respective instruments, listen to people’s problems and write songs that’ll hopefully solve those issues.
“In short, man, our whole goal is to produce life-changing music to set people free,” says Tisdale. “And that’s what we do – we’re life-changers, man. Every time we hit the stage, we touch peoples’ lives.”