Longtime local groove scene favorites the Space Neighbors are funking up a frenzy in anticipation of their new album’s release at Bombs Away Cafe, Saturday, Nov. 19. The Neighbors have dubbed their new and second CD Crucial Pie, featuring eight live and four recorded tracks that fans will finally get to play from groovy gadgetry.
The Space Neighbors have been funking things up in Corvallis for seven years, since the band got its start in 2009 when bassist John “Yohan Solo” Nevarro posted on Craigslist, looking to form a reggae/hip-hop group—ultimately leading him to drummer Rigel “VII” Woodside.
Over time, some Neighbors have come and gone, and the band now consists of eight members, six of which—including Nevarro and Woodside—I had the utmost pleasure of sitting down with to get the spew on their new album, their bigger picture fixins, and how the Space Neighbors define themselves within the local Corvallis music scene.
The Space Neighbors ‘Coalesce’
“You’ve used that word 12 times already,” vocalist Melanie Reid quips.
The Space Neighbors are indulging in a boisterous round of witticisms as we sit in the lounge area of their studio, while percussionist GalxC, in an upbeat and impassioned manner, describes the band’s synergy of sound as a coalescence, composed of synchronized vibes that produce an oozing force of positive energy on crowds as they perform.
As a dedicated fan, I know these vibes, and am reminded of my first encounter with the Neighbors’ “disco gypsy jam funk” sounds—I remember being transported to an otherworldly plane of boogie, where the get-down jives feverishly spread whole body through all in the crowd.
“It’s really been fun how the crowd likes this music, and it’s a big part,” said piano player Brent Carmer.
Guitarist Nick Revard later explained the band and crowd dynamic as “a really push-and-pull kind of scene,” where the band and the audience feed off of each other, letting the funk feels free-flow between them.
“When I’m singing as a performer on stage, I make a lot of eye contact… it makes a lot of impact,” said GalxC.
Revard added, “Sometimes I’ll be taking a solo and I’m like totally distracted looking down… and I’m trying to end it and Rigel’s, like, not having it.” The others confirm an improvisational technique on stage and in the studio.
“It’s definitely that improvisation and working off of the old, and that’s where the retro-future classics comes to mind, because it’s very old and absolutely building off tradition, but also new,” GalaxC explained.
“Yeah, it’s all original but everyone feels like everyone’s heard it before,” said Revard.
At its core the band maintains a traditional funk beat, while implementing varying styles of music and sound, from hip-hop and R&B to jazz, disco, and rock.
“We all come from really different musical backgrounds,” said Carmer, who described Nevarro and Woodside as “hardcore funk,” while he and Rivard share jazz roots. GalaxC has meddled in heavy metal, grunge, and a whole list of other genres.
Intergalactic Creation (or Coalescence, If You Will)
The Space Neighbors practice and record for two or more hours twice a week in their studio, paying critical attention to detail and finetuning their music.
“Usually what happens is we bring it in and we run through it … [and] someone will interject something that makes it shift a lot, and then we’ll keep working it until it becomes a song that it was meant to be,” said Revard.
“It also seems like no matter who wrote the song we all lyrically rotate around Melanie.” Revard cops to stealing Reid’s harmonies and her having to continuously create new ones, pointing to (in my opinion) one of the most exciting aspects of any Space Neighbors song. Each shifts seamlessly between bouts of distinct sounds and harmonies.
The band records during each studio session, and will often take breaks to stake out any prime parts. “We go back and we listen to the good parts… and take some seed that will become a song,” Woodside explained. Woodside is the master of this particular trick.
“He seems to remember like, ‘Oh, it was minute 53 that we got to the real groove,’” said Revard.
“Well, because he’s a scientist,” added GlaxC.
Revard grinned, expanding, “He’s a groove scientist.”
Woodside shrugged. “I have a PhD in Groovology.”
“Yeah, definitely his PhD in groovology comes in handy,” Revard confirmed.
How ‘Bout That Record?
“Oh, it’s gonna be settin’ records,” said Revard.
The band has been sitting on a sizable stash of songs, composed since releasing their last album, Escape Pod, in 2011. The band admits to being slow when it comes to releasing their music and lists people giving them a hard time as their number one incentive in creating Crucial Pie, featuring such Space Neighbors classics as “Higher Power” and “Little Green Man”.
“A lot of people are banding our music and getting mad at us for not releasing,” said Woodside. The songs on their newest album, he admitted, were recorded “like a year ago.”
“We’re so slow!” Nevarro exclaimed.
“Hey, that’s fine,” said GalaxC, “That’s how you do good space barbecue—every vegetating barbecue needs time to marinate.”
Revard nodded. “It takes a minute.”
The Space Neighbors already have enough songs recorded for a third CD and plan to pump up production.
“We’re gonna be on a new tight schedule here, so we’ll be crankin’ ‘em out at least yearly,” said Revard. I can’t tell if Revard is being serious, but am assured that the Neighbors are set on pumping up production.
Livin’ In The Moment
The Space Neighbors don’t have merchandise or swag to offer fans, and they don’t often travel far outside of Corvallis for gigs, but not out of laziness. The Neighbors are simply a “live in the moment” type of band.
“I think a lot of it is about the live show,” said Revard.
“Yeah, we really try to bring a party,” Carmer added.
“We don’t have enough time to tell the crowd when the next shows are cause we’re just really in the moment for them,” said Revard. When the band finds time to browse their Facebook pictures, “It’s like a religious experience or something,” said Revard, “[like] some crazy church,” seeing the funk taking over the band and their crowds, the fervid release in their postures.
The Space Neighbors have a steady base of supporters, some of whom they are proud to say sing along to their songs.
“They show up and they’re there and they sing! They know the songs!” said GalaxC.
“It’s amazing cause it’s like a 19th-century band where you can’t find their lyrics online, which means [people] can only learn them live when we’re playing,” said Woodside.
“It’s a very hard town to make it in as a band.” Revard and the others can think of only a few other artists that have lasted as long as them.
“We’re kind of like the barnacles, we’ve stuck around for a long time,” said Navarro.
As far as local venues, they’re not naming any favorites, but fondly remember gigs spent at Tyee Wine Cellars, Thyme Garden, and Sky High rooftop in August. However, Bombs is the band’s home base, and where they play most often.
“It could just be some street corner and we’d be super happy,” said Revard. “We bring such a positive vibe, it doesn’t matter what your age is, you just listen to our music.” The band reaches a wide demographic and has played for diverse crowds, young and old.
“We really are community-focused in that we spark some life in the people we are reaching,” said Nevarro. “There’s a lot of important social issues right now and really the dream would be that we can make a big impact, at least locally.”
The Space Neighbors will be projecting light years of positivity come November 19, during the release of their album at Bombs. They will also be playing at OSU’s CGE Brew-Off, hosted at Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Corvallis, Saturday, November 12. The Brew-Off will feature 30 local homebrewers and kegs from local breweries, and all proceeds will go to the Linn-Benton Food Share.
Join the Space Neighbors for the official release of their new album, Crucial Pie, at Bombs Away Cafe, Saturday, Nov. 19, 9 p.m. to midnight. Don your tinfoil hats and spacesuits and get ready to funk the freak out, fellow beings.
For more information on the CGE Brew-Off, visit http://cge6069.org/brewoff/. Tickets are $15 a pop.
By Stevie Beisswanger