Next Wednesday Earphunk will bring their New Orleans progressive funk sound to New Mountain Theater in Asheville, North Carolina. With a busy summer behind them and a new album to be released in early October, the band is in the midst of an exciting year. The Poke Around was able to catch band member Mark Hempe over the phone for an interview this week to talk about the band’s endeavors, their upcoming album titled Right Where I Belong, and how he became a guitarist for Earphunk.
The Poke Around: How has summer of 2016 gone so far for Earphunk?
Mark Hempe: We played a few festivals; we did Summer Camp, Electric Forest, and Homegrown Music Festival, which was started by some friends of ours. A lot of festivals, but a lot of the summer has been taking time to work on our new music and planning for this album release.
TPA: Can you talk about this album release?
Hempe: Sure, the album is going to be released on my birthday, October 7. So that’s a nice little birthday present which will also be the beginning of a second [tour] run we have this fall. We did the album in Chicago. It took five days in the studio, and we recorded for four of those days with Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio, it was very cool working with him. We recorded our first album straight from tapes on a 1987 tape machine, so I think minimizing the screw ups and keeping it clean in the studio really stepped our game up for this album and gave it a little more real energy.
TPA: Can Asheville expect any sneak peek tracks at next week’s show?
Hempe: We’ve played a couple of songs live for about a year, but a couple of them we’ve kind of held off on just to be fresh for the release.
TPA: What do you guys think of Asheville?
Hempe: We love Asheville. It’s tough to compare it to anything because I think it’s a pretty unique town. There’s really good food, really good culture and really good music. In a lot of ways it’s similar to New Orleans in that respect. Asheville has treated us well and we definitely enjoy playing there.
TPA: So you guys have a pretty unique sound. Could you put into your own words the definition of what genre Earphunk plays?
Hempe: Hmm. Yeah, it’s tough to do but if anything I would call it prog-funk because it’s kind of a mixture of progressive rock elements with a bread-and-butter funk heartbeat. We started out playing pretty much straight funk and maybe a few classic rock covers here and there, so the funk will always be our backbone. That’s why this album is different in that it leans a little bit rock-ier, different than albums passed. The songs we’ve been writing lately have just been a bit heavier and more prog rocky.
TPA: What was Earphunk’s writing process for the upcoming album?
Hempe: A lot of songs are written by either Paul or I. We’ll come up with a general idea for a song and then we’ll work it out together as a band, and everybody adds their little flavor to it and makes it into an actual song. Paul wrote a lot of tracks on this one, and I wrote some lyrics to go with it, but generally our writing process involves one of us coming to the band with an idea and together we turn it in to a living, breathing song.
TPA: When you were eight years-old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Hempe: Let’s see. That was my second year playing baseball, and you could say that was my thing at the time. I wanted to be a professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals because that was my family’s team. For a while I wanted to play baseball, but I always kind of dabbled with music for fun. Big hopes, big dreams at that age.
TPA: So when did you really start getting into guitar?
Hempe: I guess in college, when the band first started forming up. We were kinda playing together, just jamming. Up until then I played just as a hobby, but once it got to that point I started really getting a lot more serious with it.
Earphunk’s new album, Right Where I Belong, is available for preorder via Kickstarter, and will be available on Spotify after its release. Tickets to see Earphunk at New Mountain Theater are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and can be purchased here.
Written by Meredith Warfield