Huntertones: Horns you can dance to
Huntertones’ trumpet player Jon Lampley grew up in the Akron suburb of Tallmadge. He attended the Ohio State University, playing sousaphone in the Best Damn Band in the land. While at OSU, he also joined the jam band O.A.R. and still tours with the group as a featured horn player. The Huntertones have evolved into something of a force. Members have collaborated with artists such as Ricky Martin, Phillip Phillips, Red Baraat, Eric Krasno, Fred Wesley, Rashawn Ross, Jeff Coffin, Micky Dolenz, Hadden Sayers, Lew Soloff, Sean Jones, Felix Pastorius, Tony Monaco, Byron Stripling, Bobby Floyd, Christian Howes, Norbert Leo Butz and Lena Hall. They’ve jammed with ensembles such as the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and many others. The band’s forthcoming self-titled EP is out November 20th. Lampley spoke to us via phone from Colorado, where he was attending a cousin’s wedding.
I saw a performance you did on a Rochester TV program. Do you always do some beatboxing?
About a year or two into being a band, we have the horns/rhythm section format down. But in addition to that, I play tuba and Chris [Ott] does beatboxing and Dan [White] plays saxophone. We were on a trip to New York and we were in the subway trying to kill some time. We started playing some songs in that format. It went so well that we have incorporated it into we do as a band. Everyone goes crazy. We try to have one or two songs every night that we do in that format. It’s such a unique thing and no one has done anything like that. People really dig it or they’re like, “Holy cow, what is this?” Both reactions are good.
What made you first want to pick up the trumpet?
Man, I grew up in a really musical family. I grew up in the church. All of my cousins and aunt and uncle either sang or played piano or bass or drums. They were all older than me. When I was young, I was surrounded by that. As I got older, I wanted to play music. Trumpet was the instrument that was natural for me to play. It worked out conveniently for me that way. I was in the fifth grade band and I liked trumpet and trombone better than the reed instruments. I’ve been a huge Ohio State fan and was a fan of the band. I learned how to play tuba because I wanted to dot the “i.”
You played in the Ohio State marching band for three years. What was that experience like?
It was amazing. It was one of the biggest aspects of my college career. I studied music but the marching band was a whole separate thing. It’s a rigorous tryout and heavy rehearsals. It’s a huge time commitment but it’s one of the best experiences ever. Getting to be out on the field in front of 105,000 people was something I always dreamed of doing. Getting to dot the “i” was a really special day. I play a lot of tuba now and I studied trumpet so all of the tuba stuff is directly attributed to the time I spent with the marching band.
Did you start playing with O.A.R. when you were at Ohio State?
I did. It was the summer after my junior year of college. A teacher was friends with their saxophone player Jerry. He was looking to add a horn section. He wanted to find some Columbus guys who could play the gig. I was a junior in college and freaking out. Two weeks ago, I finished my fifth summer with them. It’s been an awesome experience to play with those guys. When I was still in college, there would be some gigs on weekends. I would be backstage doing homework at the O.A.R. show. That’s been a great experience.
Talk about how the Huntertones first formed.
We all went to Ohio State together. Me, Dan and Chris met in the Art Blakey ensemble. We would play the music of legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey. We were playing music out of the jazz tradition. We would get together outside of that and write music. Dan had started to write most of the music and was doing most of the logistics. We just met through music school at Ohio State. We all lived in this house on Hunter Avenue when we changed the name. That’s where “Huntertones” came from. We got tight through playing music at Ohio State. We became friends through music school and started playing shows around town. It grew from there. We live in Brooklyn. Our bass played moved to attend NYU and our drummer had moved to New York. The guitar player we play with lives in Columbus but he joins us when we tour.
Where did you record the EP and what was that experience like?
We recorded it in Columbus. We were doing a tour. We had a show in Cleveland on Thursday and a show in Toronto on Saturday. We had day off on Friday. We had all this new music we wanted to record. We booked a day at Vital Studios in Columbus. It’s where we recorded our second album. We recorded five songs with the seven-person version of the band. It’s three horns, a rhythm section plus keyboards. For the trio format song we recorded at a studio in New York. We’re excited about this record. It’s original music and we tried to capture the live energy of the band, which is hard to do in a studio. This album does it better than any of the others. On this tour, we’re doing two nights in Columbus and we’ll be recording those shows for a live album we’ll release later next year. We’re doing lots to promote it.
The opening tune, “Rumpus Time,” is really funky.
Chris wrote that one. It’s funk and soul inspired. The title comes from the movie Step Brothers, which we love. It defines what we’re trying to do. It’s high energy and funky. There are parts that are flashy. We want to keep it to the point that you can dance to it. We don’t want to have solos that are so long that it becomes inaccessible to someone who just wants to rock out. We want it to appeal to someone who just wants to dance. It will get you moving.
Do you think jazz is alive and well? How did you get to know Stephen Colbert and what’s it been like sitting in with his band?
The art form itself is one of the only music genre that’s truly American. It’s inspired by African rhythms but the music was born here. The equivalent of top 40 is now is what jazz was in the ‘30s and ‘40s and ‘50s. Today it’s hard to use that one word to define groups that produce music in the genre. There are bands that still play straight ahead jazz and they’ll always appeal to an audience that wants that. Younger musicians are making music that appeals to people who like jazz and the history and tradition but also has as much appeal as pop or soul. Bands are starting to do that successfully. Snarky Puppy does that really well. Different groups are trying to do that. The play rock, hip-hop and jazz. We’re trying to do that because we don’t just listen to jazz. We listen to rock, hop-hop and singer-songwriter stuff. When you write music, it’s influenced by what you listen to.
Moving to New York through mutual friends I was connected to Jon Batiste, who’s the band leader. We did a few shows four or five months ago. That band is super fun to play with. They asked me to do some dates. I’ll be back for a three week run after the Huntertones tour winds up. You move to New York and try to make things happen and I was fortunate enough to meet the right people and I’m looking forward to playing with them again. It’s really cool to be part of that scene.
How did you get to know Stephen Colbert and what’s it been like sitting in with his band?