Released: 4th Jun, 2012
Label: Tru Thoughts
‘Medicine Man’ is The Bamboos’ fifth album, out 4th June on Tru Thoughts. A revelatory, forward-looking record, with guests including Aloe Blacc, Daniel Merriweather and Megan Washington alongside the powerhouse stylings of regular singer Kylie Auldist, this stunning LP marks another twist in the tale for Australia’s kings of the groove. Masterfully blending blues, pop, soul and psychedelia influences with fresh ideas and stellar performances, they have forged a multi-layered pop sound they can truly call their own.
An upfront taste of the album came in December 2011, with the limited edition release of “The Wilhelm Scream” feat. Megan Washington on The Bamboos’ 10th Anniversary 7”; this soul-gospel reinvention of James Blake’s dubstep ballad won over tastemakers including Rob da Bank (BBC R1), Steve Lamacq (6Music) and John Kennedy (XFM). Next up, the first official single on 21st May will be the summery and laid-back “Where Does the Time Go?” featuring the inimitable Aloe Blacc; this digital double A-side also brings the snaking, swampy guitar groove of “I Got Burned”, with vocals from rock ‘n’ roll royalty Tim Rogers of legendary Australian band You Am I. The early Australian release is already a smash, with national radio playlist additions including Triple J.
Bandleader Lance Ferguson and his Melbourne nine-piece have come a long way since forming in 2001. Initially inspired by the raw funk of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s they were labelled one of the greatest funk bands of our time. But while many would be happy to just keep soaking up the praise, The Bamboos delight in confounding and exceeding expectations. A seasoned DJ and solo producer (aka BBC 6Music Rebel Playlist winner Lanu), Ferguson’s myriad influences and passion for artistic progression ensure each new release is a discovery for devout fans and newcomers alike; and the wide ranging media support over the last decade, from MOJO to Rolling Stone and BBC Radio 2 to NPR, proves that The Bamboos are much more than a great funk band – they are a great band. With the last LP, ‘4’ (2010), Ferguson hinted that The Bamboos had cut loose from the retro labels; ‘Medicine Man’ cements that, and then some. “We may still wear our influences on our sleeves”, he says, “but it’s definitely music for now”.
To write the album, Ferguson retreated to an isolated house in the Victorian high country, where “It was stormy and lonely, and I was able to lock myself up and get to the bottom of all the ideas I had.” Returning to co-producer John Castle’s studios, he assembled the band members and a bevy of guests; the calibre of vocalists on ‘Medicine Man’ is testament to the pop smarts and expertise now at the forefront of Ferguson’s songwriting. He describes US based Melbourne native Daniel Merriweather as “the Melbourne boy done GOOD – a boy from the Eastern suburbs with a voice like magic”, and the UK Top 10 singer simply shines on the emotive “I Never”. Platinum selling ARIA winner Washington shows a perkier side in the girl group-inspired “Eliza”; new band member Ella Thompson enchants on the title track and the paisley tinged “Hello Stranger”; and Kylie Auldist smoulders and burns across four tracks, including the gritty, “What I Know” and moving album closer “Window” (dedicated to the late Amy Winehouse).
In addition to their acclaimed recordings, The Bamboos’ reputation has been furthered by their ridiculously enjoyable live shows that draw the links between hip hop, soul, funk, breaks, and increasingly a more guitar-heavy rock, pop and psych sound. With regular gigs and festival headlines on home turf, they have also undertaken three full band tours to the UK and Europe. The Bamboos were recently voted Australia’s fourth best band in a poll by the Melbourne Age newspaper, just after AC/DC and ahead of high profile bands including Jet and Empire Of The Sun.
Celebrating 10 years of The Bamboos recently allowed Ferguson to recognise and revel in their past, but also to wipe the slate clean for their next phase: “I’m proud of the arc of evolution; I think it’s a natural progression of songwriting. I’ve always been conscious of pushing the music on, taking risks, and I think the day I stop doing that, I’ll just stop the band. Everything has to keep changing and moving.”