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Published: 2014/04/20
by Sam D'Arcangelo

Boogaloo Bowl and The Filthy Six

The Filthy Six will be kicking off their first American tour later this week, but it won’t be bandleader Nick Etwell’s first time hitting the road (or the rails) on this side of the pond. The English trumpeter has worked with a variety of top-notch artists like Tom Jones and David Axelrod and he’s been around The States with his former student Ben Lovett’s group Mumford and Sons. Etwell’s own band, on the other hand, is a decidedly more funky affair. We spoke with Etwell about The Filthy Six, touring the United States, New Orleans, the difference between the American and British soul/funk scene and more.

How would you describe your band the Filthy Six?

We’re a soul jazz organ sextet. I think of us as a soul band for jazz fans and a jazz group for soul fans. We look back to the late 60’s Organ groups of Jimmy McGriff/Lou Donaldson, Jack McDuff, and put our own spin on it. We throw the occasional Gospel tune in there and there’s a lot of blues in our playing but it’s always funky. It’s all about the groove.

Let’s talk about your connection to Mumford & Sons. How did you end up working with those guys and what do you add to their shows?

I was actually Ben’s piano teacher in high school for a few years. I met him when he was a teenager and we just connected well. I used to coach him in a jazz group at the school with Marcus [Mumford] on drums and kept in touch with Ben. His girlfriend from Los Angeles asked if I could play some trumpet on a track with them. I said, “Yeah, of course and we went down and we played “The Cave” and “Winter Winds” and that was that really. But I didn’t quite expect it to blow up quite the way it did. [Laughter]

Well you’ve always worked with a number of other big names, Beck, Pee Wee Ellis, Tom Jones to name a few. Can you talk about some of these other collaborations?

Well all of the guys in the band have played with lots of different people, that’s how we’ve had our bread and butter. I had a gig recently with Ronnie Spector, which was really fantastic because I love The Ronettes and I love working with the older generation. She’s 70 now and she’s still got it. She’s still sassy, she’s still dancing on stage, she’s still got a great voice and you know to hear the whole backstory and watch her. The energy they still have is fantastic. I did the Beck show last summer. I think we did the first live performance of the summer album that he put out with the sheet music, which was fantastic. Beck himself, Jarvis Cocker from Pulp, it was quite an experience. And it’s quite nice being in the background of most things because you get to watch people do their thing. You’re backing them up but you get to join in. It’s great fun.

So your band the Filthy Six just had their first Boogaloo Bowl over at the Brooklyn Bowl London. How was that and is it something that we can plan on seeing more of in the future?

Yeah we just started up this new night down there every Monday with the Boogaloo Bowl show. I met Peter [Shapiro] last summer in Brooklyn up at the Brooklyn Bowl. I randomly went down there on a night actually with Ben from Mumford & Sons and met Peter. I saw the band play and I was thinking, “Oh I recognize those guys,” and realized it was Galactic, who I met and jammed with down in New Orleans the previous year. I went up and said hi to the guys and they said, “Have you got your horn? We’re playing tomorrow night. Come back.” So I went back the next night and sat in and it was a great show. Those guys are fantastic, so the chance to play with them is an exciting opportunity any day of the week. It was great to experience. To see the Brooklyn Bowl in full swing over there and meet Peter. And then I bumped into him again in January when I went down to see the Antibalas guys, who were playing and their fantastic trumpeter Jordan McLean, that’s who stuck out when I went back to New York for prior commitments. So I ended up doing an Antibalas gig on the Saturday night there because it was great, obviously to meet those guys and play with that great band.

I got to talking with Peter and I said, “Look you know I’ve been looking for a place to do a night thing again. I used to run a monthly night about 10 years ago. We used to do it for 2 years and it was fantastic. It was a fantastic thing to do, but it kind of stopped when the venue got shut down. We never confirmed a new place and then your wife and career gets in the way but I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to do something again.” And Peter said, “Well look, we’re just starting up and we’re looking for nights. Do you want to put something on?” And I said, “Okay.” So there we go. Boogaloo Bowl was born.

So you guys also have an American tour coming up soon later this month.

Yes we do, starting on the 24th of April in Dallas. We’re going through a guy Dave Conway, who I met on the train tour that Mumford and Sons did with Edward Sharpe and the Old Crow guys a couple years ago. Dave Conway was part of the production team on that putting all of that together and we met and hung out, talked about music and talked about Filthy Six and he said, “Oh I want to hear you guys.” So I gave him an album and he came to a show, a monthly show that ended last year and he said, “Well I want to book you guys for this festival we got going on in Texas, the Texas Crawfish and Music Festival. Would you want to come and do it?” I said, “Yeah, absolutely.” And we agreed to do that. And I said, “Well if we’re coming over for one gig, we might as well come over for a few.” So I just got in touch with a good friend of mine, John Michael from New Orleans. I talked to him about venues, where to play, where he thought was good and he just gave me a list of venues and said, “Check these guys out.” And I got in touch and suddenly a tour began. So yeah it’s exciting.

I’m looking at the dates here and I’m a bit surprised you guys aren’t swinging through New Orleans for Jazz Fest.

Well we are swinging through Jazz Fest in New Orleans but because it was kind of a last minute affair, I couldn’t secure a gig down there. But we’re going to hang out for two days. We going to swing by and check it out because when I realized it was going to be very close to the dates we were doing, it was very high on my list of priorities for us to go to New Orleans. I think I went the first time in 2010 with Mark [Brown], the saxophone player from Filthy Six and we went down to the Jazz fest and had an amazing time. And I’ve been back pretty much every six months ever since.

I love hanging out in that city and soaking it all up. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out on Frenchmen Street just wandering along, sitting in at various spots. It has such an amazing openness to everything and everybody. I even wrote a tune off the last album called “Down Frenchmen St.” Can’t wait to go back and catch up with all the friends I’ve made there—Robert Mercurio and Ben Ellman from Galactic and my friend John Michael. They’re all playing at Jazz Fest. John Michael has his new band Tysson and the Galactic guys are hosting their Jazz Fest By Nite thing over at the Sugar Mill. And there’s the Royal Family Ball Masquerage that the Lettuce guys are putting on down at Mardi Gras World on the 1st of May. Those guys know how to throw a party It’ll be a highlight of the trip. No doubt.

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