“Back-bone cracking music.” That’s how the New Orleans natives in Flow Tribe describe their sound. It’s a groove-based gumbo, a mixture of classic Louisiana traditions (funk, jazz, electric blues) and modern-day influences (rock, hip-hop). It’s music that moves. Music that hits you in the heart and the feet. Music that sounds as celebratory as the Big Easy itself.
More than anything, though, it’s music that gets you dancing.
“It’s a genre of movement and rhythm,” says John Michael Early, one of six childhood friends who formed the band while attending high school in the Crescent City. “We’re rooted in funk. We move a lot onstage, and we want the audience to move, too. You won’t hear us do a lot of ballads. We’re not gonna cry with you, but if you are crying, we’ll help you forget whatever’s troubling you.”
Coincidentally enough, Flow Tribe’s career took off in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while New Orleans was still recovering from one of the most devastating floods in history. Early (harmonica, washboard, vocals, keyboard), K.C. O’Rorke (vocals, trumpet), Russell Olschner (drums), Chad Penot (bass, vocals), Bryan Santos (guitar, timbales) and Mario Palmisano (guitar) had technically formed the band back in 2004, using Penot’s back porch as a makeshift rehearsal space. After high school graduation arrived, though, the boys went their separate ways… only to return two years later, drawn back to New Orleans by the need to rebuild and revitalize.
“At the time, there were a lot of questions in the news,” Early remembers. “People were saying, ‘Is it worth rebuilding New Orleans? Should we send all this money to a city if a disaster might happen again?’ There was a big debate going on about the importance of New Orleans. We thought about our love of the city’s music, the history, the culture. We were just a bunch of 18 and 19-year old kids, rebuilding our parents’ houses during the summer… and we knew the only way we could contribute on a bigger level was with music.”
Eager to be ambassadors for a city that hadn’t lost any ounce of its spirit during the flood, Flow Tribe hit the road, playing shows for music fans and displaced Katrina survivors throughout the Southeast. As their touring took them further and further away from Louisiana, they saw the love and appreciation that Americans had for the culture of New Orleans. They also learned that one of the most New Orleans-ish aspects of Flow Tribe’s sound — the combination of different styles, sounds and genres into the same melting pot — appealed just as much to people who’d never visited the Big Easy. After all, Flow Tribe’s genre-spanning “back cracking music” had a little bit of something for everyone.
The sort of wide-ranging appeal has allowed Flow Tribe to share the stage with groups like Galactic, Juvenile, Trombone Shorty, and John Fogerty. They’ve played the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival three times, too, earning praise for their “outstanding… rollicking performance” by USA Today. Meanwhile, the staff at America’s best-selling jam-band publication, Relix Magazine, became fans of the group, deeming the band’s live show as “bizarrely irresistible.”
Flow Tribe’s latest release, Alligator White, is the crystallization of a sound that’s been brewing since those early days on Penot’s porch. The hooks are bigger. The production is crisper. The results are an EP that bounces between funk, rock and Latin music. There’s no better representation of Flow Tribe’s wide-ranging capabilities… apart from the band’s live show, of course.
Alligator White released on September 9th.
Preview Alligator White here:
Flow Tribe 2014 Tour:
9/5- Tipitina’s (record release concert)- New Orleans LA
9/12- Martin’s- Jackson MS
9/13- Proud Larry’s- Oxford MS
9/18- City Bar- Lafayette LA
9/20- Watershed Music Fest- Destin FL
9/26- Blue Nile, New Orleans LA
9/27- Bayou Fest- Houma LA
10/3- Bourbon St Bar- Auburn AL
10/4- Zydeco- Birmingham AL
10/11- Greater Good Festival- Pensacola FL
10/17-19- Green Parrot- Key West FL
10/23- Kress Live- Biloxi MS
10/24- Chelsea’s Cafe- Baton Rouge LA
10/30- Funky Blues Shack- Destin FL
11/1- Voodoo Music Fest- New Orleans LA
11/12- Holy Mountain- Austin TX
11/13- Sundown @ Granada Theater- Dallas TX
11/14- Last Concert Cafe- Houston TX
11/20- Asheville Music Hall- Asheville NC
11/22-Smith’s Olde Bar- Atlanta GA
For more information on Flow Tribe: