Fat Night has been working to keep Orlando soulful since 2010. At first a power trio including bassist Ted "Cornbread" Issen, guitarist/vocalist Daniel "Chicken Wing" Hanson and drummer Nik "Sweet Potato" Ritchie, they've since expanded to include keyboardist/vocalist Gabriel "Dirty Rice" Gundacker. They currently have three releases streaming online: a four-track album, In the Shed (February 2012); a seven-inch single, Things You Do (Colemine Records, July 2012); debut full-length, Fat Night (September 2013). By the year's end, they hope to release new songs and take short tours throughout the fall. Most recently, Colemine Records released a compilation Colemine Singles that spans seven years' worth of soul singles, including Fat Night's "Things You Do."
We caught up with Fat Night on the occasion of their recent live recording session for North Avenue Studios' video series, Off the Avenue. North Avenue Studios chooses a range of regional and touring acts to feature for Off the Avenue with one common thread - every band/artist gives an electrifying live performance. And that's what Fat Night delivered, performing two songs, "Things You Do" (above) and "Mr. Sun" (below).
Orlando Weekly: What do you think is an important quality of a memorable live performance?
Issen: I think the most important thing in a live performance is to become extremely quiet at the exact right moment.
Gundacker: A musician who has played a song at hundreds or thousands of shows but can still find a ways to make it sound fresh is the kind of musician that survives. I think funk, soul, and R&B especially allow for songs to develop endlessly.
Hanson: My favorite thing to see in a live performance is no fear from the artist. When someone has no fear they can do anything. That, and trust in your fellow bandmates; with that, the whole group can breathe as a single unit.
Which comes first: the lyrics or the music?
Issen: For us, the music, and particularly the sound made by blending all of the instruments with vocal harmonies, is most important and receives the most attention. For instance, Gabe is meticulous about finding the perfect keyboard tone specifications for each passage of each song. Having said that, we have some lyrics that we are very proud of.
Fat Night at North Avenue Studios
What’s your favorite venue to perform in?
Issen: The audience and management at Will’s Pub have always made us feel very loved and supported, which in turn has brought out some of our strongest performances. They also like to party (HARD) at the Space, which suits us just fine.
What is the best band you’ve ever seen live?
Ritchie: Toss-up between Radiohead, Snarky Puppy and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.
Gundacker: I saw organist Joey DeFrancisco play at a tiny jazz bar. It was the most tasteful, personal organ-playing I’ve ever heard.
Hanson: Gabe, Ted and I went to New Orleans Jazz Fest a couple years ago and out of the tons of artists we got to see (loved the Beach Boys’ banter), Seun Kuti & Africa 70 was something that will resonate with me for a very long time. We saw this performance:
Which band would you most want to tour with, past or present?
Issen: There’s no way being on Parliament Funkadelic’s "Mothership" tour wouldn’t have been a time. It also would probably have been relatively easy to sneak up on stage and sing back-up vocals.
What exactly is wrong with the music industry?
Issen: One possibility is that the music industry is just following the example that has been set by many industries over the past 35ish years, which has made it socially acceptable to care only about the immediate bottom line and to pay people very little to work very hard (this includes many live venues as well). This coupled with recent research that has uncovered the exact tempos and melodic sequences that will be infectious to the most ears give executives and researchers little reason to change their tune (literally).
Ritchie: Ted nailed it.
Gundacker: While the music industry seems fucked from the top of the pop, there’s a lot below and around the radio that’s not only really exciting but more accessible than any other decade. I hate a lot about what the “music industry” is telling me to listen to, but I love so much the enormity of music I can find on my own.
Issen: Yeah, I was gonna comment on that, too. Since FM radio has less influence over which music gets listened to and discovered, more artists are enjoying modest success and many old artists are experiencing resurgences.
Fat Night at North Avenue Studios
What local Orlando band deserves more attention?
Issen: Our friends, Buster Keaton, are monster musicians who routinely take us to school on all manners of funk, jazz and more.
Hanson: Agree with Ted. Also Slim Walker and His Orchestra.
What you’re listening to/loving most in music right now?
Hanson: Mac Demarco, Gregory Porter, Parquet Courts and Luke Temple all have some relatively new releases that have been tickling my toes.
Gundacker: I’ve been listening to James Blake lately and anything he plays on his BBC Radio playlists. His knowledge of old and new soul is scholarly.
Issen: I listen to the Scott Aukerman’s ‘Comedy Bang Bang’ podcast more than any music right now, but I can never get enough of Lee Fields and the Expressions, on Truth and Soul Records.
Ritchie: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Vulfpeck, Emily King, Willie Evans Jr. and +’Justments by Bill Withers
What’s the best live music video you’ve seen?
Issen: There probably no need to look past "Life During Wartime," performed by the Talking Heads and directed by Jonathan Demme: