You know who had a helluva a 2013? Al-motherfuckin’-D, that’s who. The dude has been playing all sorts of shows — art, hip-hop, whatever kinda shows you’ve got — dropped a dope mixtape, and won a Best of Nashville. But 2014 has ushered in the same old plan for ol’ Al-to-the-D: Hustle, hustle, hustle. His first gig of the year features some of the city’s finest and funkiest bands and DJs, plus a whole slew of MCs, all throwing down in one giant orgy of a hip-hop night. Plus it’s all hosted by Music City’s Sultan of Suave, the Duke of Dashing, the one the only Grand Marshal of Gummy Soul, Mr. Wally Clark. Which is a damn solid way to start off your new year. The show is free, and it’s presented by Nashville Fringe Festival.
—Sean L. Maloney
Already playing for the Deep Fried 5, as well as Nashville neo-soul outfits DeRobert & the Half-Truths and AJ & the Jiggawatts, Andrew Muller has long-since earned his place in the Nashville music scene as one of the city’s most prolific and dextrous funk-inspired guitarists. Recording and performing with his new group, the Grips, only goes to show that despite being stretched thin, he’s as passionate about music as ever.
For anyone familiar with DeRobert & the Half-Truths, the new band might look and sound a little familiar: Comprised of Nick DeVan (drums), David Guy (bass), Austin Little (trombone), Andrew Hagen (saxophone), and Muller on guitar, the group is the Half-Truths, minus the band’s lead singer. “We just don’t want to confuse people by calling ourselves ‘The Half-Truths’,” says Muller. “People might show up to shows and expect DeRobert to be there and be singing, and we don’t want to send the wrong signal.” Whether signals become mixed or not, the Grips continue the “smooth and creamy” sound set forth by their mainstay – a personal passion that evolved out of Muller’s pre-DF5 days, with the short-lived group Nuclear Toast.
By Muller’s own account the “jam-tastic-reggae-funk” band “really never went anywhere.” It did, however, lead to the formation of the Deep Fried Trio. “They played similar house parties as Nuclear Toast did, so I would show up and bring my guitar and amp and jam with them.” The vibe was right and the friends continued to bond. “After a few parties, they asked me to come start practicing with them. We started writing songs right of the bat and then a few shows later realized that we wanted to be a funk band, and that meant, we needed keys and/or horns.” The decision to expand led to the formation of the Deep Fried 5.
DF5 started playing “rich, soulful disco funk” shows together in 2008, and eventually released Saturday Night Funk / Sunday Morning Soul in 2010. It wasn’t long thereafter that Muller met, and began jamming with, another group of musicians that would become AJ & the Jiggawatts. “Shortly after, [Grips’ drummer Nick Devan] asked me to go on the road with DeRobert & the Half-Truths and Magic in Threes. The weekend went smooth and then I kept playing with them, our relationships grew, and we became tighter as musicians, together.” As a member of numerous groups on G.E.D. Soul Records, Muller had found his home.
This began Muller’s tight relationship with the label, where he would moonlight doing promotion and booking work. Through his various evolving groups, he would go on to open for Black Joe Lewis (w. DeRobert & the Half-Truths), Here Come the Mummies (w. DF5), and Cody ChesnuTT. “I’ve been on two separate tours with Myron & E (Stones Throw Records) with the G.E.D. Soul All-Stars,” he says. “The first time was of August 2012 […] The second time around was a 10 day tour in late-September/early-October, with us opening up for Cody ChesnuTT.” And if circumstances were different, Muller might have another full-time gig on his resume. “I love those dudes (Myron & E) and wish I could play with them more often, but [we] are separated by physical distance.”
Despite another new Deep Fried 5 album scheduled for release this year, Muller’s sights are currently on the Grips, who will be performing a free show Saturday, January 11 at The Basement along with Al-D, Swap Meet Symphony, DJ Rate, and Gummy Soul’s Wally Clark. And as if his schedule weren’t full enough, he performs “freelance with other groups that want some funky guitar” and is open to playing with bands that “need him for a night or two.” The passion never ends.
The December 23 edition of the Fringe Radio Show with Al-D features music by the Deep Fried 5, Wally Clark of Gummy Soul, Poe Mack, Swap Meet Symphony, DJ Rate, D.O.U.G.H., and DeRobert and the Half-Truths.