In the event you haven’t yet settled on something to do for New Year’s Eve, Brandon Barker has a humble-if-slightly-biased suggestion.
“We all just wanna play hard, and make it stanky, and make people dance, and throw a party,” said Barker, the group’s bassist, vocalist and co-founder.
If a funky, hard, stanky dance party isn’t the recipe for a memorable New Year’s Eve, then maybe nothing is.
Rob Drayna, who founded SuperBubble along with Barker and serves as the group’s co-vocalist and one of its guitarists, added that the band’s motivations are simple: “People wanna dance, and people like to dance to funk music. And it’s fun s--- to play!”
Indeed, putting the fun in funk is important not just to keep audiences happy, but is SuperBubble’s modus operandi, as well.
“One thing that I’m really serious about, personally, is we do this s--- for fun,” Drayna added.
“He’s very serious about fun!” Barker confirmed with a laugh.
Which makes it all the more ironic that the band was, in part, born out of naked ambition.
Barker had been on the local music scene for several years as a solo “loop-station artist” under the moniker “Simply B.” And while he was a popular figure on the festival circuit, he could never get beyond side-stage relegation, finally being told that if he wanted to make it to the main stage, “You need a band.”
He and Drayna had met some years before at the now-defunct “Old Woodshed Jam” in Salt Lake City, and had an instant chemistry. So, in February 2016, when the bassist in Drayna’s band moved away and the group “fizzled,” Barker reached out to see if he’d be interested in teaming up on a new project.
Then at Sundance, Barker met Tim Ouburg, a Dutch-born pianist who came to reside in SLC after meeting and marrying a local woman, and who was, coincidentally, looking to join a funk band. Ouberg, in turn, recommended guitarist Max Webb and drummer Wyatt Richards. Barker’s roommate, percussionist Dan Muir, also joined up.
“We got this one gig and we ended up jamming Sunday, Monday, then just played that show on Tuesday with that core crew of six,” Barker said. “That’s how we jumped into it. That’s how we got all six pieces together, just by basically throwing together a show — slapping it together in two days and then just jamming it out.”
SuperBubble subsequently added trumpet player Dave Terran and saxophonist Sterling Wootton, whose roles have grown from playing occasional solos to contributing horn lines interwoven into the central fabric of the band’s songs.
The end result is that SuperBubble is now a symbiotic musical organism — a combination of guys who are “self-taught and just kinda jam it out” and “super-crazy theory guys [that] actually know what they’re doing,” according to Barker — whose onstage proficiency has evolved beyond even what appeared on the six-song self-titled EP the band released only a few months ago.
“Listening to the EP doesn’t tell the whole story with how a live show looks for us,” Drayna said. “ … We’re able to keep it down in the groove, we’re able to do solos, we’re able to rev a jam up to wall of sound, just like high energy, really pushing hard. Everyone in the band listens real hard, so in that split-second, we can drop it back down.”
After finally headlining Ogden’s Fall Equinox festival, the band now has bigger ambitions. They’re planning to record five or six new tracks that will combine with the EP to form a full-length album to be released this spring or summer. They’ve also booked a monthlong European tour that will include stops in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and a headlining gig at the Paris Independent Film Festival.
They’ll also be looking for a replacement for Richards, as the drummer is about to embark on a piloting career — though his bandmates are still monkeying around with ways to change his plans.
“Here’s my gameplan,” Drayna said jokingly, “I’m going to point all the lasers that we bring to our show toward his eyes. That way, he’ll fail his physical and we’ll get to keep him!”
With or without Richards, though, the goal for the band going forward is straightforward enough: Keep funkin’ on wherever they can for as long as they can.
“We’re lucky enough to have people super-stoked about SuperBubble. I just hope that we can continue that stoked vibe, and we can continue playing raging shows. And can just continue spreading the roots. I just want people to grab onto it,” Drayna said. “It’s one of those ‘I hate to say too much too soon’ things. In a way, you have to take it for what it is, with what you’ve got going. We have some big stuff ahead of us.”
Happy Funkn’ New Years
With SuperBubble, Funk & Gonzo, Clay Cleezy, On the 1’s & 2’s
When • Sunday; doors at 5 p.m., show at 8
Where • The Royal, 4760 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $8; Smith’s Tix