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The Bamboos

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Australian soul group the Bamboos progressed from bare-bones deep funk revivalists to a more ambitious, mature act, stepping up the production values and scoring radio hits in their native country. On their early singles and 2006 debut album Step It Up, the band played old-fashioned, primarily instrumental funk with a strong emphasis on repeated grooves, simplicity, and low-tech recording techniques. They gradually began working with more vocalists, particularly Kylie Auldist, who has sung on all of their subsequent albums. Releases such as 2010's 4 incorporated hip-hop, psychedelic pop, and cinematic music into the group's sound, and later efforts like 2018's Night Time People contained their most radio-friendly material. The band returned to their earlier deep funk sound with 2021's Hard Up. Bamboos founding member and guitarist Lance Ferguson, who also releases electronic side projects under his DJ name Lanu, began the group as a four-piece in 2000 to play a string of concerts in Melbourne club The Night Cat. Joining him for this initial version of the band were Ben Grayson on Hammond organ, Stuart Speed on bass, and Scott Lambie on drums, playing straightforward New Orleans funk in a style heavily influenced by the Meters. After this string of concerts, the Bamboos expanded to add a horn section consisting of Ross Irwin on trumpet and Anton Delecca on tenor saxophone and flute. Drummer Danny Farrugia and bass player Yuri Pavlinov completed the shaken-up lineup. Following the model of Daptone founder Gabriel Roth, their first independent releases were vinyl 45s, which attracted the attention of the Tru Thoughts label. In 2005 they worked on their debut full-length for Tru Thoughts, Step It Up, which appeared in 2006. While mostly instrumental, labelmate Alice Russell sang on two cuts. This was followed by Rawville in 2007, a much more vocal-heavy effort featuring rapper Ohmega Watts and singers Tyra Hammond, Fallon Williams, and Kylie Auldist. The group brought Auldist on tour with them, and Tru Thoughts was so impressed that they signed her as a solo artist. The group backed her up on 2008's Just Say: The Bamboos Present Kylie Auldist, and she also appeared on their live album, Listen! Hear! Live!!!, and the Northern soul-influenced studio offering Side-Stepper, which also featured Melbourne singer Megan Washington and British rapper TY. By this time, Phil Noy had joined the band on tenor sax. The Bamboos' work on the soundtrack to Nintendo game De Blob exposed their music to the greatest number of listeners when the game went multi-platinum, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. They also placed songs in TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Ugly Betty, and Underbelly, as well as the film Crazy Stupid Love. In 2010, their fourth album, 4, was released, with rapper Lyrics Born guesting on one song, and more of a psychedelic influence than their earlier material. 2012's Medicine Man featured a greater range of vocalists, with Aloe Blacc, Tim Rogers, and Megan Washington joining, in addition to regulars Auldist and Ella Thompson. The Rogers-sung "I Got Burned" became the band's biggest crossover radio hit, reaching number 14 on the ARIA Australian Singles Chart. 2013's Fever in the Road was released through Ferguson's own Pacific Theatre label, and was sung entirely by Auldist and Thompson. Simon Mavin played keyboards on the album, but he left the Bamboos in order to focus on his other band, Hiatus Kaiyote, and he was replaced by Luke Saunders. The Bamboos toured with Rogers following the success of "I Got Burned," performing arrangements of songs by his former band You Am I, as well as original material. Collaborative full-length The Rules of Attraction was released by Atlantic in 2015, and the Bamboos performed with Rogers throughout 2016. Ferguson released solo album Raw Material in 2017, and the Bamboos went through several line-up changes before their much-delayed Night Time People appeared in 2018. By Special Arrangement, an album containing orchestral arrangements of Bamboos' songs as well as a few covers, was released in 2019. Tenth studio album Hard Up was scheduled for a 2020 release, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic halting live performances, it surfaced in 2021, as the band was able to return to the stage with two performances backed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. A return to the band's initial raw funk sound, Hard Up included seven songs sung by Auldist in addition to guest appearances by Durand Jones, Joey Dosik, and Ev Jones.
© Jody Macgregor & Paul Simpson /TiVo
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