By Anita Stewart, Creative Director-Tampa, Florida
I love this band’s jazzy vibe and listening to their two new songs is a mellow escape into a super cool blend of genres and some peaceful vibes! They call themselves “Indie-Fusion-Funk.” With the anticipated and fully produced and engineered EP “Neon Souls” released in February 2020, the band is continuing their upward momentum with the release of two new songs in July and August 2020. Two more singles are planned for later release–all coming from a debut, nine track album that will be released this Fall. This band formed in September 2017 and comes from Charlotte, North Carolina, but will soon be spreading their wings even further as they are planning to move to Clearwater, Florida in November of 2020.
RAN: How did you all connect?
BadCameo/Lando: The backstory to our band is pretty interesting and kooky! I (Lando) and Geoff both went to Wake Forest University for our undergrad years. When I was a freshman, Geoff was a senior, and we actually didn’t meet until a year later through our mutual friend Byron McClendon of Eagle Nest Management/founder of the SoFar Charlotte chapter. Byron played drums, I was on guitar, and Geoff slapped some mean bass, so we’d get together and play some of your classic grungy basement jams. Byron ended up moving but Geoff and I kept in touch, exchanging musical ideas by an old upright piano with the occasional impromptu two-man band appearance in town- fun fact, Geoff and I were the very first performers for SoFar Charlotte, and now it’s one of the biggest chapters in the country!
Anyways, while the two of us would get together to play some music, Geoff had a side project with a cover band called the Wingmen. The drummer for this cover band was our very own Dan, but the way Geoff and Dan got together is pretty hilarious. While surfing through Craigslist for either a motorcycle part or a vintage piano, Geoff found a post from a drummer seeking out people to jam with- “NO METAL OR COUNTRY MUSIC” was made explicitly clear in this post! Before Dan connected with Geoff, he met up with some other musicians that responded to his Craigslist post, but it was finally when the two of them got together that he could finally take the post down and settle into some funky tunes. After one of the Wingmen practices, Geoff asked Dan to stick around since I was coming over to play some tunes I wrote, and the three of us immediately clicked and never stopped playing!
RAN: What do you call your genre and blend of music? What artists are your main influences and why? Who is doing the writing or is this a collaboration?
BadCameo/Lando: The three of us come from different musical backgrounds. Dan played in marching bands, jazz ensembles and big bands in high school and college. Geoff majored in music at Wake Forest and studied composition and jazz, but he grew up playing all sorts of instruments. From saxophone to guitar, even a little viola da gamba in college, Geoff’s played them all, but at the end of the day it’s piano and bass where he’s spent most of his time. Lando grew up strictly as a classical guitarist until his family moved from Italy to North Carolina, where he made some friends in high school who enjoyed playing bluegrass, but it wasn’t until arriving at Wake Forest that he found a true passion for Bossa Nova and samba.
So as you can tell, just based on our musical backgrounds we all have our own approach, but we all ultimately share an affinity for anything that lends itself to jazz. We also have gone beyond just jazz, as we like to mix in funk rhythms, blues licks and tones, and even the occasional free-style rap. We call this “indie funk fusion”, and in fact the band’s motto is “Fuse Whatever You Got Into This Music” and we stand by it! That’s why our performances involve also some theatrics like crazy dancing, jokes, and acrobatic stunts!
Artists we look up to are Steely Dan (especially when it comes to recording and arrangements) and The Doors- a lot of our live performances feature Geoff playing keys and bass at the same time just like their Ray Manzarek, crazy rhythm patterns like John Densmore, and the antics of a young Jim Morrison. We also LOVE the neo- soul trio comprised of Tom Misch, Yussef Dayes, and Rocco Palladino. From the Bossa Nova movement we look up to João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and Astrud Gilberto’s silky smooth vocals! The list goes on though (Snarky Puppy, D’Angelo, Albert King, Aretha Franklin, etc.) but that should be the case for any musician!
When it gets down to writing songs, usually Lando will come up with a chord progression to which Dan and Geoff will add their own rhythmic and harmonic flares. These ideas get played in a variety of styles to see what fits, where the song could progress, and ultimately allowing us to explore more of our musical abilities. The lyrics to any of our songs tend to be improvised in our practices, so Lando will just sing whatever comes out, but usually with an image or theme in mind, and what sounds best tends to stick around! At the end of the day, a very organic way of going about it, where everyone gets to weigh in their own thoughts.
RAN: Your first EP came out in February of this year, titled “Neon Souls.” How involved were all of you on the tech side of this project? Who did you work with to get this recording out?
BadCameo/Lando: The EP is our first fully produced studio project and it was all done in-house, meaning we did it ourselves, no outsourcing! We are fortunate enough that Geoff is a sound engineer/wizard and so he’s able to handle a lot of the technical side to music recording, mixing, and producing. When it’s recording time, he knows everything about how the room should be set-up, what mics need to be used for each instrument, and the finer details that I am a bit clueless on. Once we’ve got the basics recorded, the mixing process starts and we let Geoff lead the way, but Dan and I chime in with our own thoughts. We’ll send notes back-and-forth to each other commenting on things such timing, parts we’d like to add, levels of certain instruments, the overall feel, and much more. We are aware that a recording will often sound a bit different from how we play it in a live setting, so we have to adjust to that kind of listening experience and think of how we can arrange it appropriately. We all contribute to these ideas, and although it takes a bit of time, we like how organic of a process it is.
Ultimately, that’s just the BadCameo way! For “Neon Souls” we also owe a lot to Will Huesman, former lead guitarists and back-up vocalist for BadCameo. I met Will in college through a bluegrass band made up of students, faculty, and staff. I’d bring him along to some of the those jams with Dan and Geoff and it was a nice blend of musicians.
RAN: How have things changed for you all as a band and personally since the lock down?
BadCameo/Lando: The first thing that hit hard with COVID-19 was the cancellation of our ten day tour going up the east coast- Dan and I’s birthday are only a day apart and they were going to both be on days we had shows for the tour. Starting from Raleigh and going up to New York and back, we were scheduled to play some really greats shows with a variety of different bands. When it got cancelled we had to really start thinking how this would impact the near future. We had all this time blocked off to go tour, so we decided to make the most of it and use it to our advantage to record the preliminary aspects for a debut album.
We drove down to Clearwater where we recorded nine tracks in ten days in a nice little beach bungalow. The salty breeze, the crisp water of the gulf, and the beautiful Floridian flora were the perfect inspirations to get all these tracks recorded. With quarantine we’ve realized there’s a lot more time on our hands, so since that recording session down in Clearwater, we’ve been practicing a lot more so we can hone in our skills for when live music is fully back. We’ve also realized that time is precious, we can’t just let it slip by in front of us without being involved in its passage, so starting this August, the band has quit all their “nine to fives” and we’ve decided to go full-time with music. This passion is something we want to use as a medium to trail blaze our path through the United States, exploring different musical communities and artists. So while we tend to this passion, carving our own road, we hope to also see a lot of the natural wonders of this country, letting it all become an inspiration for musical ideas.
RAN: Has this whole situation made you more creative; did any new songs come from this? Your next song, “Great Outdoors” will be released this week on August 27th…tell us a bit about that song.
BadCameo/Lando: We’ve definitely been influenced by the quarantine when it comes to writing new music. Our single “Great Outdoors” is dropping August 27th and we wrote it at the very beginning of the lock down. BadCameo obviously has had some of its best times on stage playing for others, but other memorable moments have been when we’ve been out hiking and camping. Being outside is a huge source of energy, entertainment, and fuels so much of our music, so we wrote this song as an ode to Mother Nature. She is often taken for granted in the droll routine of modern life, and this song is about relishing in her subtle beauty. She is both nurturing and destructive, and embracing her temperaments helps us discover ourselves and the rhythms of the cosmos. This song is our humble tribute to her, and we hope it inspires you to “step on outside!” We also have another song on our debut album called “Butterfly” with a similar message, but you’ll have to follow BadCameo for more updates on it!
RAN: You just released a single called “Pink Leather.” Who or what inspired that song?
BadCameo/Lando: Pink Leather is an ode to spontaneity – it originated as a Soundcloud jazz-hop beat which was composed, recorded, and produced in a frenzied burst one balmy July evening. Geoff and Lando were just messing around but little did they know this would be a tune that would open new musical possibilities. Dan added a killer beat to it for live performances and it quickly became a fan favorite at live shows due to its thumping rhythms and seductive vocals. The song has multiple genres coming into play, with some old school rap tones, 80s synth vibes, neo-soul articulations, all packaged in a pop presentation. You could say that the finished product explores uncharted sonic avenues and experimental ideas, while paying homage to the original by keeping the 100% improvised lyrics and jazzy chord structure.
RAN: You have done Sofar, tell us a bit about that experience.
BadCameo/Lando: SoFars have been some of the best shows we’ve played! We’ve made cameos at all the chapters in North Carolina and we were scheduled to play many more up the east coast, but with COVID things changed. As mentioned earlier, Geoff and Lando were the very first act for the SoFar Charlotte chapter before BadCameo was forged- the music was so bumping that night the cops got called on for a noise complaint… but they kept rocking! When you’re at one of these shows, you enter a room with a very attentive audience, so you can easily make new fans and relationships with other artists. It’s how we came across bands such as The Orange Constant and Wildeyes, so we are always on the lookout for more SoFar shows, especially since it gives us the opportunity to explore new cities and their artistic hubs. (Extra note: There’s a Sofar Tampa – if you haven’t checked out what “songs from a room” is about, we highly recommend)
RAN: What is easy and what is challenging about maintaining a social media presence with your music?
BadCameo/Lando: With social media you have a platform to do a lot more than just purely music, so we like to incorporate a bit of our goofy side in how we promote our music. If you go through our Instagram (@badcameomusic) you’ll see a lot of short comedic skits in an effort to promote ourselves in a variety of ways. It’s all very raw, but the main point is to leave a fan or someone scrolling by with a different taste of who we are. Musicians are entertainers, beyond just making music we want our creativity to grow and surface in different artistic ways, and by doing so it helps us thinking out of the box for when we do sit down to write new songs. Social media allows us to do this in a very easy and efficient way, but that also means a lot of people are trying to do the same, so standing out in this digital age can be a bit of a challenge. That’s why we seek out alternatives to depicting the BadCameo experience, whether it be blending genres unlike any other band has before or promoting through crazy comedy skits that keep us laughing at ourselves!
RAN: What is next? A full length recording, a tour once venues open up again? You all will be moving to Clearwater, Florida, my hometown in November. What is bringing you further south?
BadCameo/Lando: “Pink Leather” and “Great Outdoors” are the first two singles from our upcoming debut album, with two more singles to follow. The album will give you a taste of all the kinds of music we enjoy playing and listening to. You name the genre and we guarantee it will surface on this album. This is our major focus right now, but we hope to explore the country and play in as many venues as we can. All three of us want to have a period of our life where we truly live on the road, going from city to city, making new fans to share music with, and most importantly leading a creative life style we create for ourselves.
As we embark on this crazy journey, our first stop will be moving into Clearwater. Geoff is from there, so he’s going back to his roots, but for Dan and Lando, and really the band as a whole, this is a new place for us to be inspired by. We want to immerse ourselves in the music flourishing in these parts, and our love for Latin rhythms will pave the road for us to get acclimated in no time. And as we’ve mentioned already, we are seeking out an adventure, a desire to explore new cities and their arts community, so we want to learn from Clearwater as much as we can and provide some of our own!
RAN: Where do you see the band in five years?
BadCameo/Lando: In five years, we hope to be hopping around the country, playing for all sorts of venues and making even more people dance. We hope that our music will continue to be become more intricate and thoughtful while still being approachable for any music lover. Personally, we want to dedicate ourselves to our practice, to really see what our true potential is, and I think we’ve started to answer that call already. More importantly, we’d like to think back about these five years and say “Yes, this had made life all the more worth it and meaningful… we can’t stop now”, and as we say this, we’ll probably be driving down a highway in our sturdy van, looking out towards a rosy sunset, knowing that there’s a lot more music to be created, memories to shared, and a sense of adventure that will never die.
Anita grew up in a rock and roll radio station that her father owned and has a musical family. Spent a few years singing back up. Now sings in the shower! She is a USAF veteran and was elected to local office and worked as staff on three presidential campaigns as a Social Media and Virtual Outreach expert. Plays a variety of musical instruments including ukulele and she loves drum circles. Her favorite music genres are all of them--Alternative to Zydeco. Promotes bands and independent artists through ANITA STEWART PROMOTIONS. She also brought SOFAR SOUNDS to Tampa. When she is not writing, she is knitting, painting, attending concerts and live music jams and exploring nature with her camera. She has recently retired but no rocking chair for her! She has been reporting for Rock at Night since 2014.