Photo by Daniel Topete
Cool as funk
Yesterday, Jamil Rashad got an early birthday present: News broke that the Raleigh funk revivalist had landed a deal with Captured Tracks
, a vogue New York record label whose promotional and industry cachet stand to push Rashad to bigger audiences rather quickly. That’s already started to happen for Rashad. Since his debut single, “Got to Go,” first began to land on national music blogs in January, the name has been near the top of many bands-to-watch lists. With the new deal, an excellent EP, NPR love
, a much-buzzed Hopscotch appearance
and a South by Southwest slot confirmed for next year,
such predictions seem to be coming to fruition.
I spoke with Rashad this morning, on his 31st birthday, about his big year, the big news and his big plans. He was at home in northeast Raleigh.
: Are you in Raleigh right now?
: I’m here, then I’m going back to New York on the 16th. We’re getting the LP mastered and then playing two shows up there at Mercury Lounge and Baby’s All Right. It’s been productive stuff.
The LP is almost finished?
It’s 90 percent done. There’s still some mixing and some slight tweaks, but it’s very, very close. There’s just some things I wanna get straightened out.
Did you write and record at home?
I started this record’s writing process about four months ago, so it was before I got signed. Obviously it started with “Got To Go”
and a couple of other tracks, before Captured Tracks was interested. I already had my producers in line, already writing. Then when Captured Tracks came, it solidified the project because they believed in what I was doing. I started writing my demos here at home. I had demos on my computer, my iPhone. That’s how I write. I have a little studio in my bedroom. I send demos to my producers. We go back and forth, and then I go to New York, which I did a couple weeks ago, and we record everything there.
Tell me about the New York studio.
It’s Submarine Studios, with a guy named Dan Walker, or Nine Lives. He’s in an Australian band called The Death Set. It’s an amazing studio. The vast majority of every song I’ve recorded, he engineered, except this last LP. I had my producer, Leroy, actually engineer this LP. He engineered and produced. I had Rollergirl! on a couple of tracks, this young cat and producer I got together with. I worked with those two guys on this LP. Everything was done at Submarine.
When did Captured Tracks first approach you? Was it Mike Sniper himself?
That’s a crazy story. So, the day the video dropped on Complex, I was already going to New York.
I remember I was rushing, running late to get my flight. He Facebooked me, and he was like, “Yo, what’s goin’ on?” I was like, “Hey, what’s up?” I didn’t know who this guy was. I didn’t know he was the Captured Tracks president or he was actually the founder of it.
So he hit me up and talked about funk music. It was very organic. He didn’t mention the label at all. His wife, who’s A&R of the label, sent him the video. He reached out to me and started talking about funk and boogie and sending me all these rare boogie tracks through YouTube. I’m running late for my plane, and I’m like, “I’m actually gonna be in New York this week.” So we actually got up in New York, chopped it up, went to the office. I loved everybody at the office. We discussed “marketing” plans, and we just clicked. It was the kind of place I wanted to be, with someone who understood my vision, which is very, very rare. He knew exactly what I wanted to do in my career. It all happened through Facebook friendship, and then we exchanged numbers and met in New York.
Was the EP already out?
I was recording “Honesty” at that point. That was before the EP was even an option. I was just dropping singles, just putting my songs out. I didn’t care too much about press. I was making music for my homies and my friends. I wanted to make funk music and put it out. And then I got obviously helped out by a couple of writers and publications that liked what I did. For me, I did my own press, getting the songs out there and seeing if people bit, and obviously I had a couple people bite—Noisey
Were you already thinking about LPs and labels and this transition into becoming a full-time musician?
Nah, I wasn’t. The thing that’s been really crazy about how I put out my music is everything just happens in a happy, natural, organic way. The idea was to just record singles and put them out. I didn’t care at that point because I didn’t even have a label. But I knew I wanted to make an LP. At that point, I was still writing songs. When I was recording “Honesty,” I had all these other songs written. I was waiting for an LP, but I had no idea I was gonna be on a label. I had some labels in my mind that I maybe I wanted to pursue, but I didn’t know it was gonna happen this quick. When I did the “Got to Go” video, I just put that out, not to be on a label. But it came out great, and the feedback’s been very positive.
How many tracks will be on the LP?
It’s to be determined. I have a total of 13, but not all 13 will make it to the final cut. It may be 10 or it may be 12, but it depends on what we decide collectively makes the best record.
When do you hope the LP will come out?
Ah, man, 2016. We’re in between late winter or spring. Obviously, I’m doing South by Southwest, and me, personally, I’d like to release it before SXSW. If it’s ready, it’s ready; if it’s not, it’s not. [Laughs] I will definitely have some singles out before then, so people will have a taste of what’s to come.
We keep calling it the record and the LP—any idea of the name?
Ahh! I have a name. I can’t say it just yet, but I have a name. It’s a pretty simple name. It’s not Funk, but it has something to do with what I write.
Speaking of funk, people already have expectations as to what Boulevards sounds like. Will the LP affirm those expectations or surprise people?
Oh, it’s definitely gonna surprise some people because I’m exploring a lot of things vocally that I didn’t know I could do. I’ve been rehearsing a lot, and it’s been a lot of training of my voice. It’s gotten a lot stronger over the last couple months. When people hear a lot of these songs, they are gonna be like, “Wow, I see progress.” They’re gonna hear progression and growth in my vocal ability.
As far as songwriting, it’s still me. There are moments of Boulevards, but I’ve matured as far as the songwriting process. I got to, like, writing really cool funk-pop songs that can connect to people in a funky, groovy way. The songwriting—even the production value, the instrumentals—show a lot of maturity, too.
It’s been a pretty surprising and interesting year for Boulevards. Ideally, what would the next year look like?
I’ll be playing a lot. I would love to tour. I look up to bands like Future Islands and see how hard they work, how much they tour. I wanna tour a lot and spread the funk by playing a lot of shows for the kids. My parents, your parents, they had funk when they were growing up. There’s not a generation with that type of music anymore. You have have trap, some really cool indie and folk or rock music, EDM. Funk hasn’t crossed over to mainstream or out to the masses as much anymore, like it used to. I told Mike when he first decided to sign me that I want to tour. Obviously being in some cool publications would be cool, but for me it’s about performing.
I’ll be working on my next LP, too, which I already started writing already. I’m trying to get ahead on that.