The Cactus Channel
Not all teenagers are slaves to the hit machine; there are a select few who are carving out their own musical paths that lead them to worship far more credible genres and idols. The Cactus Channel belong to this select few, displaying tastes and talent befitting for a far more mature musical outfit. The soul revival is alive and well in Melbourne and The Cactus Channel are its newest and youngest champions. The ten-piece funk/soul orchestra has been building interest gradually over the last two years and the timing of the 7” inch single at The Evelyn Hotel this Saturday comes only a month or so after the last member turned 18.
From humble beginnings in a school ensemble band, the founding members of The Cactus Channel quickly realised that they wanted to shake off the shackles of playing other people’s music and develop their own sound. "We just sorta started jamming at lunch time and thought we should do it more often and when the time came for our first school gig we thought we should fatten up our sound and we got the girls in, two tenors and a trumpet. It just kinda kept evolving and then we had ten people!" lead guitarist and key songwriter David Thors says. And how did a group of tender aged teenagers end up producing such a seasoned and authentically vintage sound? "Stepping towards the soul direction, it just sorta happened, the bass player Henry handed round this album, New Orleans Funk – it was a compilation series from a couple of years ago and that’s what started us listening to the genre,” David muses. The album had a profound impact on The Cactus Channel and proved to be the launching pad for the band, as they soon discovered a world of ’70s funk and soul but it wasn't a straight path to nailing that authentic sound. “Our first few songs that we wrote not as the full band were pretty strange, but yeah let’s never them surface! " laughs David. "But now I think we have our own sound to a certain extent and we have influences from Daptone Records, Sharon Jones, The Menaham Street Band, and then we go back to James Brown, and New Orleans cats like Eddie Bo.”
The band recently had the chance to play with one of their idols, Tommie Brenneck (guitarist for The Menahan Street Band) who was touring as part of Charles Bradley’s backing band. “Lots of us have been following the band and even more specifically the guitarist Tommie Brenneck – he’s the band leader and songwriter, so to actually meet the guy and talk to him – I even played his guitar!” David exclaims. “It was just really surreal and was such an amazing experience for us, they’re at the top of the food chain in the whole funk/soul world and just to get that opportunity to play with them…And they really dug us as well, which was an even better feeling!” The Bradley show was the third time The Cactus Channel had graced the stage at The Corner, with 2011 seeing them support the likes of The Cat Empire, and Public Opinion Afro Orchestra but it's the first time the band had played there all being of legal age. While their underage status was something that venue owners weren’t always aware of, there were certainly times where it was an issue. "A couple of times we’d start the sound check and the people at the bar would sorta realise that we were underage and they would start to flip out. They’d get really scared and worried and tell us to hide in the shadows before we play and then just leave as soon as we’d finished. So it’s nice not having to worry about that anymore!” David comments.
Being such a young band, The Cactus Channel luckily haven't had to go it alone, with the majority of support coming from their record label Hope St Records, a relationship that developed organically. "One of the people that helps runs it was our bass players teacher, he was getting bass lessons off this guy, so he sorta found out about the band off the bass player Henry and he just came along to see one of our shows. It just kinda started from there, he told some other people, ‘You should check out this band, they’re really cool!’ and then one day he just asked us, ‘Do you want us to record you?’” David recalls. The most recent fruits of this relationship are being launched this Saturday March 31 at The Evelyn Hotel in the form of a 7”, Emanuel Ciccolini/Budokan, from the band’s forthcoming album due for release later in the year, so dress to the nines, and prepare to burn up the dance floor to the funk/soul sensation that is The Cactus Channel.
BY KRYSTAL MAYNARD
THE CACTUS CHANNEL launch their new 7” Emanuel Ciccolini/Budokan this Saturday March 31 at The Evelyn Hotel with support from Saskwatch and Sleeping Bag.