Dumpstaphunk's Ivan Neville Talks Funk, Family
New Orleans’ Dumpstaphunk are an all-star band of sorts, featuring a funkdafied gumbo of ace Crescent City players, including drummer Nikki Glaspie (Jay-Z, Beyoncé) and the two-pronged, low-end thump of bassists Tony Hall (Dave Matthews) and Nick Daniels III (Neville Brothers, Cyril Neville). It also boasts a pair of Nevilles, guitarist Ian and keyboardist Ivan — the sons of Art and Aaron Neville, respectively. Celebrating their 10th anniversary and with a new album, Dirty Word, due out in July, Dumpstaphunk is touring the country this summer. That includes a stop at the Waterfont Bayou Tent on Thursday, June 6, as part of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.
In advance of that show, Seven Days chatted with Dumpstaphunk founder Ivan Neville by phone from New Orleans. We asked him about his band’s new record, his unlikely stint with a certain pop band and what it was like growing up Neville.
SEVEN DAYS: Dumpstaphunk seems like a descriptive name. Was it meant to be a definition of your music?
IVAN NEVILLE: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, exactly. But everything we do, whether it veers into a little more rock, or a little more soul, a little more blues, it’s all got some elements of funk in it. We try to express a lot of what we’re influenced by. And that’s a lot of different stuff. But it all ends up somehow with some funk on it.
SD: I look at the name and picture you picking through the trash, snagging discarded bits of this and that.
IN: That’s a great analogy. Absolutely.
SD: The new record is great, and features some interesting guests, like Trombone Shorty, Flea and even Ani DiFranco. How did that project come together?
IN: We just went into the studio whenever we were all around, a couple of days here, a couple there. It was probably about a month in the studio all together. But it was over a period of time. We had a few ideas beforehand, and there were some other ideas that developed in the studio. We were just doin’ what we do. You go into the studio and it just does its own thing once you’re there.
SD: Do you approach the studio differently than you do your live show?
IN: We never try to duplicate either or. And we played live in the studio as a band. So right there, you’re getting some of that live vibe, playing music all together. But the difference between live and the studio is that when you’re playing live, you’re getting another energy. You’re getting help, inspiration from people who are listening. And in return you put something else out there. In the studio it’s just you, the instruments and whatever powers that be … whether it’s energy or whatever you like to call it.
SD: You come from a famously musical family. Was there ever any thought about you becoming something other than a musician?
IN: Not really. I kinda knew. Early on, as a young kid, I liked sports a lot, playing football. But when I was about 15, I started playing piano, and pretty soon after that I knew that’s what I was gonna do.
SD: So you were never like, “Maybe I’ll be an accountant?”
IN: [Laughs] Not anything like that, ever. But that’s not a bad thing to know.
SD: I would imagine we’ll be hearing from the next generation of Nevilles fairly soon…
IN: Oh, there’s a lot of them. My nephew, my little cousin. I’ve got a little brother doing some stuff. But we’ll see what happens. They’re definitely coming down the pipeline.
SD: Most people probably don’t know that you briefly fronted the Spin Doctors.
IN: Oh, man. It’s not one of the things I really like to point out. [Laughs] It was something that just happened and it pops up from time to time. But it wasn’t a big deal. I was playing with the Spin Doctors and Chris Barron injured his vocal cords. So we had to finish up two or three shows, tops. That story is exaggerated a little. But it was fun playing with those guys.
SD: So playing with the Rolling Stones and touring with Keith Richards was maybe a bit more exciting?
IN: It was an absolute blast. I played with them on a record or two. It was fun. And I made a couple of records with Keith. Those guys know how to do what they do, you know? It was a thrill.
SD: You play a bunch of instruments, and you’re a songwriter and bandleader. Is there one thing you enjoy doing more than the others?
IN: Well, one thing about Dumpstaphunk is that we take turns leading. We take turns driving, so to speak. That’s the beautiful thing about this band. I do enjoy playing a little rhythm guitar now and then. But I enjoy listening. That’s the most fun thing to me, listening to them. And that determines what I’m going to play anyway. So that’s probably my favorite thing.
The original print version of this article was headlined "Dumpsta Diving"