On a hot summer night in July, a few hundred tastemakers and members of the press willfully jammed themselves into the sweaty, overcrowded, diminutive 105 Rivington lounge in NYC’s Lower East Side to revel in a new experience more akin to a church revival than a rock show. This experience was provided by The Phenomenal Handclap Band, an impressive hodge-podge of various accomplished musicians simultaneously channeling the energy of !!!, Tom Tom Club, Can, Cerrone, and Giorgio Moroder in a surreal explosion of sound.
The energy conduits in this pulpit are Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand. Both DJs on the New York City funk and soul scene, the pair also helped reinvigorate the careers of Salsoul pioneer Joe Bataan and ’70s Brazilian funk band União Black by producing their comeback albums (2005 ‘s Call My Name and 2006’s União Black, respectively). Yet the duo felt compelled to forge uncharted musical paths. “Both of us are really into soul records,” remarks Marquand. “But with this [project], we tried to open up with a range of different styles of music.”
Collás offers a more practical reason for their latest collaboration. “The initial idea was to get our feet wet as producers a little more,” he concedes. “Then I thought to myself, I have all these friends who are in bands that are doing well now. Why don’t we use that resource and get those people involved with it?”
On paper, juxtaposing the talents of alt-rockers such as TV On the Radio’s Jaleel Bunton, Jon Spencer, and Mooney Suzuki’s Reno Bo with the funk and R&B chops of bassist Nick Movshon (who works with Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse) and guitarist Luke O’Malley (Antibalas, Mary J. Blige)
sounds like a recipe for genre suicide. Throw in Carol C of Si*Sé, Tiombé Lockhart, and L’Trimm’s Lady Tigra–who lays down a rhyme scheme reminiscent of Indeep’s 1982 hit “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” on the delicious funk romp “15 to 20”–and the result is a savory mélange of dance-rock, soul, and fuzz funk peppered with Italo-disco’s spacey synths and elements of psychedelic and Eastern European prog rock. The whole affair tests the limits of even the most eclectic music snob.
A year and a half after starting the project, Collás and Marquand are more than prepared to put their Frankenstein on parade. “We’d like to make it as big and epic as possible,” states Marquand. “We’re definitely going to make it more of a spectacle as it goes on.” Collás chimes in. “[We want to be] more like a collective or some commune or cult, versus just a bunch of people up on stage playing guitars.”