The Cactus Channel
Pop Haptics, the debut record from Melbourne ten-piece funk ensemble The Cactus Channel, into your hi-fi stereo system. Turn the volume knob up to its highest setting, sit back and soak in the tasty stew of raw and nasty funk served up alongside the sweetest soul-drenched RnB, then watch, bewilderingly, as your legs begin to shake uncontrollably. By then, you’re standing up and dancing like a mad person, seemingly possessed by the desire to move.
The music, both technically proficient and fundamentally funky, is brilliant. But that’s not the surprising bit. It’s is the age of these ten Melbournian funketeers. The Cactus Channel have just graduated from high school, and at the tender age of 18 are poised to take over the world with their sweaty, nasty, funky sounds. Funk-soul masters The Dap-Kings’ Tom Brenneck and Tennessee soul legend Charles Walker are big fans, and back in March The Cactus Channel had an incredible opportunity to play with one of their heroes, Charles Bradley, in Sydney.
Cactus Channel guitarist Darvid Thor laughs as he recounts this experience to me over the phone. “It was awesome,” he says understatedly, “And I think, ‘Wow, that actually happened!’ We had been listening to a lot of [Charles Bradley’s bands] Menahan Band and Budos Band, and to actually meet with him and play with him was absolutely unreal. And he’s such a lovely man, too.”
The seeds that would become The Cactus Channel were first germinated in Year Eight in the confines of Princes Hill Secondary College, where Thor and his mates were jamming away in the Junior Stage Band, exploring their shared love of nitty-gritty soul and classic funk. “Yeah, we were mucking around in the music department,” he recalls.
“After [playing together] for a while we started heading in our own direction, more or less. We decided to get a few more horn players, to bring our sound out a bit more, and then [added] another guitarist. Then that was the complete lineup; that was towards the end of 2008, which was Year Nine.”
After jamming for a while, the idea of becoming a bona fide band began to gel for the young musicians. “We started writing our own material, which was pretty bad back then,” laughs Thor. “We realised early on that we wanted to write our own songs rather than just be a cover band. I think we’ve come a fair way from some of those early crappy recordings I don’t want anyone to hear,” he laughs again, and it’s easy to tell that he and the rest of his partners-in-funk are having the times of their lives.
So with ten individual voices, what’s the writing situation like? Do they just break out into jams and see what works best? “Sometimes,” admits Thor, “but it’s quite hard to break out into a jam with ten people. With horn players it sounds a bit funny when they play over each other. Generally, someone will bring an idea to the band, and then we’ll all see where it goes from there. People will add parts to where they’d play, or ideas might get changed around. But either we write songs where there’s been half an idea and the rest just happens, or [one] brings in a full idea and plays it how [they’ve] imagined it. Yeah, it’s a big collaboration too.”
And it’s that collaborative effort that shines through loud and clear when one hears the sonic goodies that litter Haptics, their gleamingly exciting debut LP. Thor laughs fondly when I ask him what the highlights of recording it were. “I think it’s pretty funny that we recorded it a couple of weeks before our final school sessions,” he admits. “I think back on it and I think I should have been more stressed out. But yeah, I just [got] into the music and didn’t really care about the whole ‘English thing’ at the time. I mean, we recorded it in a whole week, going into the studio pretty much from nine to five. It was pretty tiring, but thinking about this album and making our debut…” Pretty damn exciting, isn’t it? “Exactly,” he states emphatically.
One recurring theme that has consistently shone through the course of our conversation has been one of friendship. Early on, when I mention to Thor the inherent soul that’s evident in their music, especially considering their relatively tender ages, he’s quick to point out how incredibly close they are. “I think it all comes back to the fact that we’re all amazing friends,” he says affectionately. “When we’re not rehearsing and whatnot, we’re actually just hanging out and having a good time.”
Now that Haptics is out, they’re preparing themselves up for their album launch next weekend at The Toff In Town. “It’s coming up really soon actually!” he exclaims. “There’s going to be a lot of dancing, and a really great vibe.”
Then the planning for a national tour. “We’re actually organizing that at the moment,” Thor informs me. “We’ll have it all locked in by the end of next week. And that’s really exciting, we’ve never really done a tour like this before – the only other show we’ve done out of Victoria has been [the one with] Charles Bradley in Sydney.” Listening to him, I’m thinking they’re on the cusp of taking on the world.
BY THOMAS BAILEY
The Cactus Channel hold their album launch at The Toff In Town on Saturday August 4. Their debut Haptics is out now through HopeStreet Recordings and Fuse Music Group.