Funkle Sam Wants You... to Listen to The M.F.B.

Jun 10, 2017

"Whenever the music scene overlaps with each other's camps, you start building new relationships with people who wouldn't have had the chance to meet otherwise. It's a win-win for everybody."

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting and A Change of Tune, this is 30 Days of #WVmusic, the interview series celebrating the folks who make the West Virginia music scene wild and wonderful.  

And today's interview is with arguably the most interactive, costume-loving, party-hopping band out of Cabell County. This... is The M.F.B.

How did the band start playing music together?

The M.F.B. got together by an idea between Jeremy Martin, Shawn Hesson, and myself [Parry Casto] to put together a funky band with me as the front man in January of 2012. Originally based out of Point Pleasant, we started as a four-piece and quickly added a keyboard player to make a five-piece. After headlining a local festival near Point Pleasant that early summer, we knew we were on to something good.

After going about three years with the original lineup and some internal band turmoil, the band folded. But I wasn't satisfied with the band's demise. I never felt that the band had played to its potential and fully realized its concept. After about three months, I started getting together the entirely-new lineup, version 2.0. This new lineup was sharper, more professional, and more agreeable personality-wise. After undergoing a few more lineup changes along the way, here in 2017, The M.F.B. finally is living up to its name as a snarling funk-rock beast in the Tri-State.

What previous bands have The M.F.B. been in?

Too many to mention! There’s been Boulevard Avenue, Hurl Brickbat, Friendly Fire, Michael Smith Band, The Boatmen, Slugfest, and Hybrid Soul Theory, just to name a few.

It's a funk-for-all with The M.F.B.
Credit Emilea Burgh

Where does The M.F.B.’s name come from?      

The band name idea came from our second drummer (out of a total of six drummers along the way) Paul. He always liked it and wanted to name a band that. After considering other names at the time, The M.F.B. was the only one that we felt gave us endless possibilities to do as we wished creatively. The other ones we considered limited us creatively in our approach.

But seriously. What do the M, F and B stand for?

It's whatever you want it to be [laughing]. I never truly reveal. When peeps ask, I always ask them what they think it means. Then whatever they say, I respond that that's the name [laughing]. When I tell my grandmother, it's My Favorite Band or MiMi's Favorite Band. You can see why I leave it up to the listeners' imagination. But The M.F.B. is the official name. Everything else is conjecture.

How has your sound changed over time (if at all)?          

The band's sound has definitely evolved over time. We started off move as a cover band, which was pretty rough and limited in focus. Also, I was the primary and sole vocalist back then. We’ve now evolved into a multi-vocalist band now, although I'm the de facto lead singer. Everybody provides backup vocals in the band now. When we changed lineups over three years ago, the focus shifted to original compositions. Even though we still play the occasional cover, we would all prefer to work originals into the set list. And the quality of soloing and musicianship has really developed over the past two years. After adding Christian Tanzey (trumpet), Randy Gilkey (keys/guitar), and most recently Chris Clark (sax) and Johnathan Smith (synth, when we get him), this band is a soloist's dream job.

Funking faces and moving bases with The M.F.B.
Credit Candance Evans

What’s been the highlight of your musical journey?       

So far, the highlight of the band's journey has probably been the most recent string of gigs in 2017. There isn't one particular show, but it’s an overall feeling that the lineup is finally jelling and is reaching its potential. There have been many high-water marks along the way such as playing New Year’s Eve at the V-Club with Qiet and Downtown King, playing with Freekbass, and playing the Rock & Roots Fest in Fayetteville, but I think the best of the band is still ahead of us. We played Live on the Levee in May, Mountain Music Festival in June, and Fletcher's Grove's homegrown festival Groovin' With The Grove in July. Those will be prime opportunities for us to expose ourselves to a much greater audience network. We're very excited!

What’s the band’s to anyone starting to make music?   

Be true to yourself. Work hard. Take your craft seriously, but never yourself too seriously. Have fun. Create fun for other people. Don't be judgmental. Push your boundaries whenever possible. Surround yourself with people more talented than yourself. Expect the best in yourself and other people around you. Be supportive to the people you love. Support each other. Network. Network a bunch. And most importantly, don't compromise your vision!

What’s it like making music in West Virginia?

Wild and wonderful. Playing music in West Virginia is a labor of love, but expect more labor than love. That's just the nature of the beast. In some instances, expect to put in an 8-hour workday with very little in return. We do it not for the love we receive, but for the joy we get in creating it. It's wonderful to get a little respect from other peers, bookers, venue owners, and journalists in WV and beyond, but we really do it and continue to do it because that's who we are. We're lifers. We create because it's what we all do, and we will continue to do as long as our health and constitution allows us to do so.

Cover art for The M.F.B.'s single "Funkin' Up the Neighborhood."
Credit Jeremy Duncan

Do you feel held back by being in West Virginia? Or does it feel like a musically-supportive place?

No, I don't think we're being held back by being in West Virginia, but some places are definitely more supportive than others. We've literally been asked to play again at every venue we've played in WV. That's a pretty good track record. So the amount of support is remarkable, but in some areas it doesn't resonate like we'd like for it to; some people don't "get it" sometimes. Which is okay. In a lot of ways, we live in a backward and traditional setting in West Virginia; those outside of the norm aren't welcomed so much from time-to-time. It's part of the whole bag though, and you just have to continue to be positive and give the fans everything that you've got.

What, in your opinion, needs to happen in the West Virginia music scene for it to move forward?           

Like I said before, West Virginia's music scene is moving forward; probably its vitality now is at a high-water mark. But there is a bunch of potential that just needs to be fully-realized, fleshed out, or just placed in front of the right eyes, which usually means that we need to take it on the road and into another market. It's always a risk whenever you embark into the great wide open, but it’s very necessary in order to expose yourself to a larger market. That's what we're experiencing right now, that we need to take more opportunities that put our band into a different set of eyes, market, or setting that will help launch our brand in competing markets. The other thing that needs to continue is everybody supporting each other’s creative endeavors. I completely get that certain people like certain local acts and have a genre/act preference to them, but since we're in such a little market with a digital media landscape that has changed how we approach live music, musicians and music fans alike need to try to support each other more, both digitally and in-person. Whenever the music scene overlaps with each other's camps, you start building new relationships with people who wouldn't have had the chance to meet otherwise. It's a win-win for everybody. Instead of a competition-type mindset, we all need to develop a cooperation-type mindset where artists influence local bands in all genres.

What’s next for The M.F.B.?      

Follow up release to Thrust If You Must. Singles due out late summer 2017. Album due 2018. Tours in your neck of the woods.

The M.F.B.’s latest release is Thrust If You Must. Keep up with the band on social media as they prepare to release a new music by the end of 2017. Hear more #WVmusic on A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Connect with A Change of Tune on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic and subscribe to our RSS / podcast feeds.

Support for 30 Days of #WVmusic is provided by Made in WV, a specialty apparel company made by and for proud West Virginians. Online at madeinwv.com.

Support for 30 Days of #WVmusic is provided by Kin Ship Goods, proud supporter of DIY music and the arts. Locally shipped worldwide at kinshipgoods.com.