Funk for the whole family


Courtesy of Jameson Midgett

Funkelstiltskin performs at Boone Saloon on Thursday, April 14. (left to right) Nick Lawrence, Travis Shoulder, Joshua “Bizkit” Upchurch and Erik Brandt.

Aleah Warner

What started out as a jam session between three strangers in 2013 has since evolved into a funk band on the rise in Boone.

Erik Brandt, Patrick Garnier and Jeff Carney had only recently met each other when the three decided to play music together one afternoon. It was their first time jamming as a group, but when two students heard their music and approached them about playing at a house party later that evening, they agreed and quickly picked a band name: Funkelstiltskin.

“It was definitely a trial by fire band,” Brandt, guitarist and lead vocalist, said. “We had no songs practiced or memorized at all so we were pretty much just jamming for these drunk people at a party for hours and hours.”  

In the three years since Funkelstiltskin’s impulsive beginning, both Carney and Garnier have left the group and new band members have replaced them to create an almost completely different lineup. Now Funkelstiltskin has four members: Brandt, Travis Sholder, Joshua “Bizkit” Upchurch and Nick Lawrence.

Sholder and Upchurch joined the group in September 2015. Sholder, a bass player from Raleigh and a junior sustainable technology major, transferred to Appalachian State University in August and posted an ad on Craigslist looking to play for a band. Carney was still in Funkelstiltskin at the time and responded to his ad, inviting Sholder to join the band.

Upchurch is the third percussionist that Funkelstiltskin has had after Garnier and Landon Powell, the band’s last percussionist before he moved to Charlotte in August 2015. Upchurch said he had only been playing the drums for a short time but Brandt encouraged him to join. Powell is still considered to be a member of Funkelstiltskin’s, and he still returns to Boone occasionally to act as a second drummer during performances.

Nick Lawrence is the newest addition to Funkelstiltskin, a guitarist and vocalist who replaced Carney in February 2016. Brandt said he and Lawrence had different guitar playing styles that blended well together and Lawrence fit in with the group immediately.

“We’re just an eclectic crew of dudes who want to share the funk with me and you,” Brandt said.

With a name like Funkelstiltskin, funk music is implied, but the band doesn’t conform to one genre of music. They also incorporate a mix of blues, jazz, reggae and even country into their songs.

“I’d like to believe there’s no bars on the type of music we play,” Brandt said. “It’s originated in funk but then we stretch out from there into pretty much anything we can get our hands on. We’re just trying to play as many different things but still have our brand of style on it, but not really have a genre slapped on it.”

Each of the band members have helped add to the variety of genres that Funkelstiltskin covers. As new musicians have come and gone, the band has adapted to each individual’s playing style and interests. While Carney inspired more jazz influences, Sholder’s has experience playing in a metal band and Lawrence has helped to bring more country influences to the group.

“We still like to hold true to how we sound as individuals,” Upchurch said. “We are all exposed to different kinds of music so we can pull it off.”

Brandt is Funkelstiltskin’s primary songwriter, but the band collaborates on each song to make it their own. They draw influences for song writing from Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Kurt Cobain, and look to bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish for inspiration on instrumentals. Sholder said the choruses to their songs typically don’t have lyrics.

“It’s a jam along, not a sing along,” Sholder said.

By calling themselves a jam band, they give themselves the freedom to improvise in their songs as well. Paige Shaffer, senior exercise science major and a friend of the band since November 2015, said Funkelstiltskin writes set lists for each show but each set has room for the band members to get creative and change things up depending on the excitement of the crowd.

Funkelstiltskin typically performs their original songs at shows, but lately they have been learning and performing more covers. The band has performed with local rap duo Pragmaddix to perform hip hop covers or to play instrumentals while Pragmaddix freestyles over them.

With its current lineup, the band has gained more recognition in Boone’s local music scene in the last eight months than ever before. Upchurch said that when he and Sholder joined, they were excited to hit the ground running in a band that was already making a name for itself among college students. Funkelstiltskin had already graduated from house party shows to booking performances at local bars like Murphy’s, The Local and Boone Saloon, and on April 18, the band opened for Jonathan Scales Fourchestra at Boone Saloon to kick of his tour.  

The band’s recognition has also started to extend outside of Boone. They have performed shows in Raleigh, North Carolina and on April 19 they traveled to the Blind Tiger in Greensboro, North Carolina to open for Imperial Blend, an electronic rock group.

“We’re gaining momentum,” Upchurch said. “We’re getting together a bunch of merchandise, and summer is coming up so we’ve got a lot of opportunities to play with some bands. The ball is rolling, I’m not going to say we’re about to blow up or anything but we’re here.”

The band is hoping to carry that momentum into the summer, and they are booked to perform at Boone in Blossom, a music festival in Butler, Tennessee from April 29 to May 1. Brandt said he would like to see Funkelstiltskin perform in more cities in North Carolina, mentioning Asheville and Wilmington, as well as going out of state to venues in Virginia and Georgia.

Funkelstiltskin’s next project is finishing their EP with the goal of releasing it by Appalachian State’s graduation weekend on May 13-14. They have been recording a four track EP with Daniel Boney, a recording engineer at The Office recording studio in Tennessee. The band is still working out a title, but in the meantime Lawrence joked that it would be named “‘Subject to Change,’ so when it changes we can be like ‘We told you.’”

It is the musicians’ personalities and sense of humor, Shaffer said, that contributes to their success as a band. The guys joke around about their favorite songs being “the ones that smell like deviled eggs, that kind of funk,” and being “not only the hottest group, but also the hottest group.”

Even with the recognition Funkelstiltskin is starting to get, the musicians operate on the idea that their main goal is connecting with their audience members on a deeper level, and reaching as large of an audience as possible. Lawrence said anyone can listen to and enjoy their music because, “Funk is for the whole family.”