When members of The Fritz originally moved to Asheville in 2011 after graduating from the University of North Florida School of Music, they joined the city’s music scene as a kind of rocking jam band outfit.
But everything changed when vocalist and keyboardist Jamar Woods got his first Moog synthesizer.
“That honestly really changed the direction of the band,” says Mikey “Spice” Evans, one of the band’s two percussionists.
The guys ended up embracing a more aggressive but highly danceable groove, which they will bring to Lynchburg when the group plays at The Glass House on Thursday.
“It's funk, it's soul, it's rock, it's jam,” says Dave Henderson, managing member and co-owner of the Jefferson Street space.
“It’s all of these things all at once,” he says, noting the band’s “high energy, powerful vocals and climactic solos.”
Since finding its sound, The Fritz, which released a new EP in 2018, has gained a following through an aggressive touring schedule and regular festival appearances.
“There’s a skillful balance of taut musical interplay, top-flight musicianship, groove and thoughtful lyrics on ‘Natural Mind,’” Bill Kopp wrote when he reviewed the band’s most recent full-length record for the alternative newspaper Mountain Xpress in 2017.
Before The Fritz brings the (glass) house down, Evans talked about the change in sound, the high energy the band brings to shows and the resurgence of funk.
How did the Moog synthesizer change the direction?
“We were kind of doing some acoustic songs, some bluegrass sort of things. Once the Moog came in, it was very obvious we were going in a more electronic direction, maybe not genre-wise, but timbre-wise as [to] what sounds we wanted to have in the band. Because the synthesizer is a very pure electric sound, just having that within the band and highlighting that sound with Jamar soloing with it, using different layers with it, that solidified us as ‘OK, we’re definitely not an acoustic band here.’”
What sets you apart from other funk outfits?
“We are funky, but we're more rock. We certainly shred. There’s some shredding guitar and peaking solos. Not every funk band features that.”
I've heard your shows are high-energy. In what way is that the case?
“Just Jamar’s voice and his presence onstage, he really engages with the crowd. He’s definitely a very high-energy person.”
In listening to your music, there seems to be a lot of room for improvisation within each song. Is there a strategy for that?
“There’s some improvised points, but we plan stuff to come back in [to the melody], so everything sounds cohesive together from the top down.”
You're big in the festival circuit. Does working so much in that space affect The Fritz's music at all?
“Most people going to a festival like the idea of, ‘OK this band’s going to play the hits, perhaps, but they’re going to play songs differently or different songs rather than what I heard last night.’ That’s certainly had a big impact on us, just [in] taking improvising a little more seriously to a point [and] taking more chances in that realm.”
What can you tell me about the latest EP, "Echo?"
“We wanted to do a project with some horns. This was all a very, very nebulous thing to us. Like, ‘OK, who are we going to bring in? What music are we going to play? What are we going to write?’ Honestly, it seemed not possible at first but the pieces all came together for it.”
Where do you think the genre of funk is right now in 2019?
“I think bands like Lettuce, bands like Ghost-Note, they're really taking the genre to the next level. I think in a lot of ways, funk is starting to become stronger than ever. The festival scene is driving it in a lot of ways. People are really supporting these bands, and there’s certainly a resurgence ... that’s happening right now. And I think it’s a good time for the genre.”