There are few bands out there that have a magical ability to walk into a venue in whatever part of the world and simply play music that gets feet moving. The Pimps of Joytime is one of them. Since 2005, the group, led by frontman Brian J, has grown from playing basement parties in Brooklyn to playing over 100 shows per year, including stops along the festival circuit at Bonnaroo, High Sierra, Outside Lands and more.
Despite a grueling, seemingly nonstop tour schedule, the band — Brian, Chauncey Yearwood, Mayteana Morales, Clark Dark and Eric Bolivar — puts on show after show of high-energy, danceable and bone-shakingly funky music.
“Most of the time, because there’s a lot of heavy grooves going on, it turns into a dance party,” Brian explained in a Skype interview from Costa Rica, where the group is playing a few shows before coming to Ann Arbor on the 21st.
“I know when I go to see a band, one of my favorite things is if you can make me dance and hit me with some cool melodies and cool songs at the same time. I just love that,” Brian said. “That’s something I strive for — not just to make it a dance party, but we’re also sneaking bits of quality in there.”
The origins of the band’s distinctive multi-genre sound, which includes elements of funk, soul, rock and world music, were part of Brian’s childhood. His father listened to a variety of blues and soul music as well as early 1960s and 1970s rock ‘n’ roll. He grew and immersed himself into funk, heavy rock and, later, a variety of world music from Latin America and Africa.
This eclectic musical growth was only further compounded in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Brian and his future bandmates were making music in New York City. “(Brooklyn) just got to be this ultra-hip place. In 1999 or 2000, it really started to be this special place where you had kids of different cultural backgrounds all sort of mixing together,” he said. “And for me, that was really cool. I had never experienced that.”
“In most places,” Brian added, “the cultures wouldn’t mix together. But (in Brooklyn) there were those couple places where everyone got together and partied and got down to the same DJ. That was special.”
Given the band’s frantic tour schedule, recording can be drawn out. The group laid down Janxta Funk — a follow up to the 2008 debut, High Steppin’ — on-and-off over the course of the year in Brian’s own studio and on the road.
The frequent touring hasn’t stopped Brian from thinking ahead, however, and a third record is taking shape.
“I have the feeling it will be the fall by the time it comes out, because we’re really trying to do this one right,” he explained. “I’m trying to make it the best album yet,” he added. “Just the most powerful album we can do.”
Ultimately, at a time when artists appear increasingly focused on commercial success, the Pimps of Joytime concentrate on one basic thing: music.
“My philosophy is I want to make good music. Just the best music I can make that I love,” Brian said. “I really want to be successful, but I’m not going to sacrifice any integrity musically.”
“To be aware of what’s happening around you in the era that you live in but to make music that comes from your heart, that is really a statement, that is unique to you,” he added, pausing for a moment, “that’s what I’m doing.”