By Jim Morrision
Ivan Neville is in Boston this afternoon, having just arrived for the second of a series of shows with his band, Dumpstaphunk, on what could be called the Masters of Funk tour, but is George Clinton’s long, fond farewell. They’re out with Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Fishbone, Miss Velvet and the Blue Wolf, and fellow New Orleans favorites, Galactic.
Neville, the son of Aaron Neville, brings Dumpstaphunk to Norfolk for the Bayou Boogaloo Music and Cajun Food Festival, three days of aural and culinary bliss at Town Point Park from June 28-30. Others on the weekend bill include J.J. Grey and Mofro, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, New Breed Brass Band, Jonathon Long, and Cyril Neville, his uncle.
VEER: Tell me about how the band got together.
NEVILLE: The band started at the Jazz and Heritage Festival in ’03. We started out as a one-off. It was kind of a side project. We all had other gigs that were more like our bread and butter jobs. I was playing with The Neville Brothers as was Ian (Neville) and Nick Daniels. Tony Hall was playing with a few different people. I believe he was playing with Trey Anastasio on the side and the Dave Matthew solo project. We did a few festivals and numerous gigs over two, three years.
I think one of the gigs that kind of cemented us into really thinking we could do this might have been Bonnaroo in ’06. It was this great set. The vibe of it. Everything just came together on that night. That led us to wanting to play full time as a band more and more. After Hurricane Katrina out of necessity we were out on road a little bit more and we became a full-time band.
VEER: Your most-recent release is “Justice” with Trombone Shorty. Tell me about that.
NEVILLE: We put that song out as a single. We wrote that out of necessity. There was a lot of shit going on. Every time you turn around a black guy is getting killed by the cops. It was just the political climate.
We had a groove we were working on and it turned out to be this song. We’re really proud of that song. We like playing it to this day. Unfortunately, not a lot has changed. This stuff still goes on. I thought things would be a lot better at this point. Things are still kind of messed up. We have a lot of work to do. Hopefully we can make some people dance and be happy for a little while and get through another day in this crazy world.
VEER: And maybe dance together with people they don’t know, people not like them?
NEVILLE: Yeah. We all have to believe in the same thing. We don’t all have to look alike. We don’t all have to be in the same bracket financially. We all come from different walks of life. But that’s the one thing we love about making music. Music is the common ground. Everybody loves music.
VEER: I saw you with Anders Osborne and Samantha Fish at night during JazzFest at Howlin’ Wolf last year. I wondered if living in a city with so many places where musicians collaborate fuels your creativity.
NEVILLE: During Jazz Fest there’s nothing like it. Your creative juices are flowing. Everybody is hanging out. Lots of musicians you admire. You want to hear them perform. They want to hear you perform. It’s a beautiful thing especially during that time of year. There’s nothing like it.
VEER: How much does the band improvise live? How much changes from night to night?
NEVILLE: We have some songs that are set in their arrangements, but there are certain aspects of every song that can take on its own little life in a different performance. That’s always a possibility. We really dig that about some of the stuff we come up with. There’s always room for expanding and a little more improv on any given song. We’re blessed to get to do that.
VEER: You come from musical royalty. Your dad is Aaron Neville. Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
NEVILLE: Pretty much. I didn’t really start playing realizing that ok, I could do this, until I was maybe mid to late teens, 15, 16, 17. By the time I was 18, 19, it was on. I was doing it. I picked up a guitar when I was about 10 or 11. I didn’t keep it up then I started playing piano when I was 15, 16 years old.
VEER: Was there music from those days that influenced you?
NEVILLE: The stuff I listened to in the ’70s. That was an amazing time. Soul music and rock and roll music and jazz all was so good. A beautiful time to be listening to the radio.
VEER: Your uncle was in The Meters, a funky band way back. Is funk in your DNA?
NEVILLE: Without a doubt. That was in the DNA. We were hearing it. I was listening to it. And I was seeing it firsthand watching my Uncle Art and hearing that stuff they were coming out with. That was a huge part of the initial spark that was lit early. That was definitely in there.
VEER: You are out on the road. The Rolling Stones are going to be out on the road. Any plans to hook up?
NEVILLE: I played on some of their stuff (in the studio) and I played on the X-pensive Winos with Keith. Dumpstaphunk is opening up for the Stones in New Orleans on July 14. It should be a fun time. I sat in with them one time some years ago, long time ago. Maybe the Voodoo Lounge Tour. I’m looking forward to being there and getting to hang out with those guys.
WANT TO GO?
BAYOU BOOGALOO MAIN STAGE
FRIDAY, JUNE 28
3:30 PM: Gregg Martinez & the Delta Kings
6 PM: Chubby Carrier
8:30 PM: Dirty Dozen Brass Band
SATURDAY, JUNE 29
3:30 PM: New Breed Brass Band
6 PM: Chubby Carrier
8:30 PM: JJ Grey & Mofro
SUNDAY, JUNE 30
12:30 PM: New Breed Brass Band
2:15 PM: New Orleans Suspects
4:30 PM: Dumpstaphunk
For info at www.festevents.org