Photo: Jimmy Fontaine
Coheed and Cambria
Coheed And Cambria Teased A Key Character In Their Last Album, 'Vaxis: Act I.' But Who Is Vaxis, Really?
As the leader of the rock band Coheed and Cambria, Claudio Sanchez has been steadily building a science-fiction world that has fascinated scores of fans. Now, he reveals more about their upcoming album, where we get to meet the mysterious character Vaxis.
At its core, science fiction is about engendering magic, anticipation and connection — the notion of reality being deeper and wilder than the naked eye can perceive. Coheed and Cambria know this all too well: Despite its knottiness, the sci-fi mythology surrounding the prog rock band has been unfolding over two decades, attracting scores of devotees in the process.
Now, they're offering a clue as to what makes it all click — and it may change fans' perception of their futuristic fiction forever.
“This time around, we get introduced to the character of Vaxis,” bandleader Claudio Sanchez tells GRAMMY.com of the group’s forthcoming album. Wait, wasn't that the name of their last album, 2018's Vaxis — Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures? Correct, but Vaxis was only then alluded to as a mysterious child.
Now, in Coheed and Cambria's as-of-yet untitled new album, which drops next year, dedicated fans are going to see this key character for who he truly is. And, as it turns out, he's the skeleton key to everything in The Amory Wars, the band’s long-running series of sci-fi comic books and novels, which conceptually intertwines with their lyrics.
The album’s themes — of hidden fortitude, of family bonds, of overcoming adversity — are part and parcel with Sanchez’s feelings as a husband and parent. These stories may deal with fantastical beings, but they're really for the humans who make up their community.
“I think being a parent — or anything — is going to have its hand in my creation,” he says over the phone from his Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. “Most of The Amory Wars is that. It's sort of me taking my life and putting it into fiction.”
Back in July, Coheed and Cambria dropped the first taste of their new album, the hyper-melodic “Shoulders.” The song deals with themes of not judging a book by its cover: “Maybe all things have their misconceptions / That's the life you chose / Everyone is laughing at you, out to get you / But change is the exception,” Sanchez sings.
Today, fans can check out the premiere of an acoustic performance of “Shoulders” below. After that, read on for a revelatory interview with Sanchez about Coheed and Cambria’s upcoming album — and how it relates to the mysteries and origin of Vaxis and his larger narrative.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How's your day going?
It's good! I'm back in New York, redesigning my office space. That's pretty much it. I've been doing this for a couple of days now. Today's the last day. I think it's done! I think I'm all together!
I'm into interior design. I actually used to write for an interior-design site. What's your vision for the new space?
However I can cram all my stuff in here is the vision! [Laughs.] But also, freeing up a bunch of floor space — primarily modular synthesizers and full synthesizers. They're enormous and they've been taking up all of the space!
My wife and I, before the pandemic, moved into this house, and one of the big reasons was that my workspace was tiny in the apartment we were in. I'm like, “Why does this room all of a sudden feel so small?” I just wasn't using the space properly. So, a lot of storage for things to get them off the floor, a lot of table space for the things that need to stand. Racks. A place for monitors and computers. It's “Star Trek” meets a 100-year-old house.
So, what can fans expect from this upcoming record? How does it continue the story of The Amory Wars?
This time around, we get introduced to the character of Vaxis. In the last story, we alluded to him. This couple of Nostrand and Nia were going to have a child — it was told to them by this fortune-teller, basically. So, we're getting to see him finally, in this stage of the story.
To try to explain him at this stage, you'd have to understand planning — or the desire to be a parent. For Nostrand and Nia, parenthood doesn't come the way they envisioned it. There's a series of hurdles they have to navigate.
They want to help their son, Vaxis, who, to them, seems to be in this catatonic state. But the reality is that he's quite the opposite. They're unaware of who he really is, that he's present in everything. He can access wavelengths that they can't even comprehend.
One of the things that I guess I can reveal at this point is his name, and the mystery of it. If you break “Vaxis” into two parts, the “V” refers to the Roman numeral for five, as the fifth story of The Amory Wars. And then the second part of his name, “axis,” is the axis in which all of the Amory Wars revolves.
That's the mystery of this pentalogy: Well, how? That's the answer we're looking for: How is he this thing?
If you were to describe this character like you would a friend of yours, how would you do so?
I don't know if I know anyone like Vaxis. At this stage, Vaxis is in a completely catatonic state. His parents almost fear that — he's dead, I almost want to say. He doesn't show much of his personality at all. He's frozen, and their wish is to try to find a solution: “Why is our son this way?” And in actuality, they realize that he's quite the opposite.
So there's infinite power or potential, but with an exterior that's static, or frozen?
Has there been a lot of interest in this character from hardcore fans who follow The Amory Wars story?
I think so. In the first story, we just sort of alluded to the character. He was just brought up as this future for the two characters, Nostrand and Nia. But at no point was it expressed that he's this powerful being or how he's going to be presented to you. It's just, “You're going to have a son.”
So, I think they had this idea of what parenthood would look like. And then it came this way, and they immediately thought, “Well, something's wrong.” But there's nothing wrong, you know? Just because you perceive it this one way doesn't mean that's got to be the right way. That gets unlocked as we come to the conclusion of the story.
How did this story materialize in your mind? As a parent yourself, I'm sure there are autobiographical elements, as far as the feelings of impending fatherhood go.
I think being a parent — or anything — is going to have its hand in my creation. Most of The Amory Wars is that. It's sort of me taking my life and putting it into fiction. So, there's a little bit. But this is so much more, I think, than anything I've experienced. Clearly, as it's science fiction!
Can you tell me how this story is weaved into the music? What can fans expect musically in the next album?
Musically, it's a little different, just because of the circumstances we were all presented with over the past couple of years. I just approached it in a way where I tried to keep all limitations out. The ones that live in your subconscious as a creator: “Oh, we can't do this certain thing because we're known for doing that.” I tried to embrace every avenue of what came. I didn't throw things away because I felt they didn't necessarily fit.
I think at this point in my life, Coheed has afforded itself the luxury to explore some of these different avenues. I think that kind of plays into the idea that Vaxis is everywhere and everything. We can maybe reach a bit and try to do everything we feel is right, creatively, for us.
Coheed and Cambria. Photo: Jimmy Fontaine
Can you talk about the business of Coheed? The universe of comic books and weighty physical media you guys have nurtured on your own terms — and apart from the mainstream — is kind of staggering.
It has a lot to do with my desire and the team that I have around me. Blaze [James], our manager. My wife, Chondra. Everybody feels very strongly and loves this project in every facet of what we do. It's taking that initiative. In 2004, I'd never done a Comic-Con before. I'd always been interested in the medium, but I never knew it was a place [where] people gathered.
And that's what we did. We got ourselves a booth and started to promote this story with our own imprint. I think a lot of that has to do with my upbringing, both in comics and music — being on that independent level.
It always interested me, the idea of somebody owning their property. Whether it be Todd McFarlane creating Image Comics back in the day or Texas is the Reason on Revelation Records or whatever have you, it was always interesting to me that not everything had to be done under this major facade.
I know, that being said, that we are on a major label [Roadrunner, a division of Warner Music Group]. But I guess that DIY attitude has always been in my blood.
What was the vibe of the music industry like when you broke out in the early 2000s? Was it more conducive to affording you guys that freedom?
When I think of who we were then, we were just as perplexing as a band. But there was something interesting to, say, Equal Vision, who had signed the band. The only thing I think they asked us to change was, at the time, the name of the band [Shabütie] was ridiculous. That was about it;that was the only limitation that we were met with.
But I think it happened the way it was supposed to happen. By adopting the name Coheed and Cambria, we brought this science-fiction epic with it. That's why it is what it is now: Because of this one choice that was made by the people who were willing to invest in us.
Creatively, when I threw that idea out there — this is this science-fiction mythology that will play off my life — I'm sure everyone was like, “That's nuts.” But over time, I met with counterpart believers — not only the band, but, again, management and my wife. Together, we built this thing.
Despite the byzantine nature of this project, you manage to pick up new fans year after year. Is there something about Coheed and Cambria that's very inviting, perhaps in a Star Wars or Tolkien way?
I think it has a lot to do with that family is one of the recurring themes. Sometimes, the idea of Coheed and Cambria — the ampersand, or the word “and,” the togetherness of two beings trying to overcome obstacles — I think those are themes that everyone can get behind.
When I think of the lyrics, that was always my intention. When it came time to write lyrics, it was like, I understand this plays out in this world that needs to be described to the listener, but I also don't want to overburden them. I want people to listen to the words and find something they relate to.
Because that's what music was to me. I wanted to find the thing that resonated. That's why it's so funny: We always get compared to Rush, but Rush was never a band I liked. I just felt like I was pushed by these conceptual songs, and I want to see myself in the song. I think most people are like that.
The band has been teasing this record incrementally. Is there anything else about its essence readers should know about?
I mean, it's so funny. It's the beginning of me talking about it, so I get so apprehensive and so nervous. Because this is the first time I'm actually bringing up the character of Vaxis. Me telling you the meaning of his name — splitting it into two — I don't think anyone really knows that. And now they will.
I think that part, to me, is very cool. Because nobody truly knows where this story falls. I think that's the big mystery. That's the thing: I know where this story's going up to part five, so I feel so [Sputters into nervous laughter]. It's so wild that I'm here now: “OK, here's who Vaxis is!” Not so much in a detailed way, but when people find out who he truly is in the overarching story, I think it's going to be so rewarding.
As characters come out of the woodwork, especially for fans of Coheed who have embraced the concept — they're going to be so thrilled to see these things. A lot of things get left up to interpretation in the original five stories, and a lot of answers are coming to questions that a lot of fans have.
I'm honored to receive this little-known information about this key character. That's really special.
Thanks, man. Like I said, he is the axis on which all these stories revolve. How is that possible? It'll all get revealed as the stories and records come out.
There's a lot of heft to Vaxis, I can tell. There's a lot of importance there.
I guess the idea is: Never judge something by its physical stature. Strength isn't just physical, if that makes any sense. This character is everything within this mythology.
I'm reading NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman, a wonderful book about autism. It contains that very message: Don't consider it a disability, but something beautiful waiting to be understood.
Absolutely. Funny you say this, Morgan! I read that book! I loved the [Henry] Cavendish part — the scientist who would walk through the night. The beginning of it. It was a very, very interesting book, and very inspiring.
When I came up with the concept of Vaxis I and the potential of this pentalogy, that was a book I was reading. I think it had a lot to do with the influence in these stories.
I don't know if you have people in your life who are on the spectrum, but this story must have come from a place of compassion, or concern, for the misunderstood.
Absolutely. I mean, I feel that way.
Photo: ZIK Images/United Archives via Getty Images
15 Reissues And Archival Releases For Your Holiday Shopping List
2023 was a banner year for reissues and boxed sets; everyone from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones got inspired expansions and repackagings. Here are 15 more to scoop up before 2023 gives way to 2024.
Across 2023, we've been treated to a shower of fantastic reissues, remixes and/or expansions. From the Beatles' Red and Blue albums, to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, to the Who's Who's Next, the list is far too massive to fit into a single article.
And, happily, it's not over yet: from now until Christmas, there are plenty more reissues to savor — whether they be mere vinyl represses, or lavish plumbings of the source material replete with outtakes.
As you prepare your holiday shopping list, don't sleep on these 15 reissues for the fellow music fanatic in your life — or pick up a bundle for yourself!
X-Ray Spex - Conscious Consumer (Vinyl Reissue)
Whether you view them through the lens of Black woman power or simply their unforgettable, snarling anthems, English punks X-Ray Spex made an indelible mark with their debut 1978 album, Germfree Adolescents.
Seventeen years later, they made a less-discussed reunion album, 1995's Conscious Consumer — which has been unavailable over the next 27 years. After you (re)visit Germfree Adolescents, pick up this special vinyl reissue, remastered from the original tape.
That's out Dec. 15; pre-order it here.
Fall Out Boy - Take This to Your Grave (20th Anniversary Edition)
Released the year before their breakthrough 2005 album From Under the Cork Tree — the one with "Dance, Dance" and "Sugar, We're Goin Down" on it — Fall Out Boy's Take This to Your Grave remains notable and earwormy. The 2004 album aged rather well, and contains fan favorites like "Dead on Arrival."
Revisit the two-time GRAMMY nominees' Myspace-era gem with its 20th anniversary edition, which features a 36-page coffee table book and two unreleased demos: "Colorado Song" and "Jakus Song." It's available Dec. 15.
Coheed and Cambria - Live at the Starland Ballroom
Coheed and Cambria is more than a long-running rock band; they're a sci-fi multimedia universe, as well as a preternaturally tight live band.
Proof positive of the latter is Live at the Starland Ballroom, a document of a performance at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey, in 2004 — that hasn't been on vinyl until now. Grab it here; it dropped Nov. 24, for Record Store Day Black Friday.
Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark Demos
Joni Mitchell Archives – Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972–1975), from last October, is a terrific way to do just that; its unvarnished alternate versions strip away the '70s gloss to spellbinding effect.
Which is no exception regarding the Court and Spark demos, which got a standalone release for RSD Black Friday.
P!NK - TRUSTFALL (Deluxe Edition)
The dependable Pink returned in 2023 with the well-regarded TRUSTFALL, and it's already getting an expanded presentation.
Its Deluxe Edition is filled with six previously unheard live recordings from her 2023 Summer Carnival Stadium Tour. Therein, you can find two new singles, including "Dreaming," a collaboration with Marshmello and Sting. Pre-order it today.
Snoop Dogg - Doggystyle (30th Anniversary Edition)
After his star-making turn on Dr. Dre's The Chronic, 16-time GRAMMY nominee Snoop Dogg stepped out with his revolutionary, Dre-assisted debut album, Doggystyle.
Permeated with hedonistic, debaucherous fun, the 1993 classic only furthered G-funk's momentum as a force within hip-hop.
Revisit — or discover — the album via this 30-year anniversary reissue, available now on streaming and vinyl.
As per the latter, the record is available special color variants, including a gold foil cover and clear/cloudy blue vinyl via Walmart, a clear and black smoke vinyl via Amazon and a green and black smoke vinyl via indie retailers.
Alicia Keys - The Diary of Alicia Keys 20
Alicia Keys has scored an incredible 15 GRAMMYs and 31 nominations — and if that run didn't exactly begin with 2003's The Diary of Alicia Keys, that album certainly cemented her royalty.
Her heralded second album, which features classics like "Karma," "If I Was Your Woman"/"Walk On By" and "Diary," is being reissued on Dec. 1 — expanded to 24 tracks, and featuring an unreleased song, "Golden Child."
The Sound of Music (Super Deluxe Edition Boxed Set)
Fifty-seven years has done nothing to dim the appeal of 1965's The Sound of Music — both the flick and its indelible soundtrack.
Re-immerse yourself in classics like "My Favorite Things" via The Sound of Music (Super Deluxe Edition Boxed Set), which arrives Dec. 1.
The box contains more than 40 previously unreleased tracks, collecting every musical element from the film for the first time, along with instrumentals for every song, demos and rare outtakes from the cast.
Furthermore, an audio Blu-ray features the full score in hi-res plus a new Dolby Atmos mix of the original soundtrack. And the whole shebang is housed in a 64-page hardbound book with liner notes from film preservationist Mike Matessino.
ABBA - The Visitors (Deluxe Edition)
With their eighth album, 1981's The Visitors, the Swedish masterminds — and five-time GRAMMY nominees — stepped away from lighter fare and examined themselves more deeply than ever.
The result was heralded as their most mature album to date — and has been repackaged before, with a Deluxe Edition in 2012.
This (quite belated) 40th anniversary edition continues its evolution in the marketplace. And better late than never: The Visitors was their final album until their 2021 farewell, Voyage, and on those terms alone, deserves reexamination.
Aretha Franklin - A Portrait of the Queen 1970-1974
A Portrait of the Queen 1970-1974 compiles her first five albums of the 1970s: This Girl's In Love With You, Spirit in the Dark, Young Gifted and Black, Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky), and Let Me In Your Life.
Each has been remastered from the analog master tapes. The vinyl version has a bonus disc of session alternates, outtakes & demos. Both CD and vinyl versions are packaged with booklets featuring sleeve notes by Gail Mitchell and David Nathan. Grab it on Dec. 1.
Fela Kuti - Box Set #6
From the great beyond, Fela Kuti has done music journalists a solid in simply numbering his boxes. But this isn't just any Kuti box: it's curated by the one and only Idris Elba, who turned in a monumental performance as Stringer Bell on "The Wire."
The fifth go-round contains the Afrobeat giant's albums Open & Close, Music of Many Colors, Stalemate, I Go Shout Plenty!!!, Live In Amsterdam (2xLP), and Opposite People. It includes a 24 page booklet featuring lyrics, commentaries by Afrobeat historian Chris May, and never-before-seen photos.
The box is only available in a limited edition of 5,000 worldwide, so act fast: it's also available on Dec. 1.
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love (The Baskerville Edition) / Hounds of Love (The Boxes of Lost Sea)
Kate Bush rocketed back into the public consciousness in 2022, via "Stranger Things." The lovefest continues unabated with these two editions of Hounds of Love, which features that signature song: "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God.)
The Rolling Stones - December's Children (And Everybody's), Got Live If You Want It! And The Rolling Stones No. 2 (Vinyl Reissues)
These three '60s Stones albums have slipped between the cracks over the years — but if you love the world-renowned rock legends in its infancy, they're essential listens.
No. 2 is their second album from 1965; the same year's December's Children is the last of their early songs to lean heavily on covers; Got Live If You Want It! is an early live document capturing the early hysteria swarming around the band.
On Dec. 1, they're reissued on 180g vinyl; for more information and to order, visit here.
Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother (Special Edition)
No, it's not half as famous as The Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall — but 1970's lumpy Atom Heart Mother certainly has its partisans.
Rediscover a hidden corner of the Floyd catalog — the one between Ummagumma and Meddle — via this special edition, which features newly discovered live footage from more than half a century ago.
The Black Crowes - The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
After endless fraternal infighting, the Black Crowes are back — can they keep it together?
In the meantime, their second album, 1992's The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, remains a stellar slice of roots rock — as a sprawling, three-disc Super Deluxe Edition bears out. If you're a bird of this feather, don't miss it when it arrives on Dec. 15.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Alexandra Gavillet
Watch: Coheed And Cambria Reveal Animated Video For "Ladders Of Supremacy" From 'Vaxis: Act II'
A highlight from their most recent album, 'Vaxis: Act II — A Window of the Waking Mind,' the video for "Ladders of Supremacy" got the animated treatment and just premiered on an anime site.
On behalf of his band, Coheed and Cambria, Claudio Sanchez has led GRAMMY.com readers through fantastical realms, regarding the story behind their 2022 album Vaxis: Act II — A Window of the Waking Mind.
Now, we've received yet another window into Sanchez's imagination. A new, animated video for "Ladders of Supremacy" just dropped — not on a music site, but the online anime bastion Crunchyroll.com.
As director Darin Vartanian, a.k.a. Pixelface, explained in a statement, "The animation seeks to interpret chapter 8 of Vaxis 2 in a collage of high-fidelity 3D scenes, employing the subjective perspectives of each character's mind's eye.
"In this frozen moment in time," he continued, "the characters bear witness to a comprehensive array of past and future events, intricately woven into the very fabric of their most crucial decisions."
Check out the mind-bending clip below:
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.