Soul/funk outfit Roxy Roca to make stop in Aztec
FARMINGTON — Most touring musical acts feed off the energy of the crowd to one degree or another. But in the case of the Austin, Texas-based funk and soul sextet Roxy Roca, there’s no substitute for having a highly responsive audience and a crowded dance floor.
That has led Taye Cannon, the band’s front man, to become adept at sensing when he’s got his work cut out for him in terms of getting listeners out of their seats and on their feet.
“Every city has its own vibration,” Cannon said during a telephone interview last week from Cleveland, where his group was getting ready to perform that night in a city that also was playing host to the Republican National Convention. “I can usually tell pretty quickly whether they’re ready to party or if I’m going to need to coerce them.”
Roxy Roca’s high-energy brand of music is infectious, mining the same powerhouse vein carved out by such artists as James Brown, Joe Tex and the Reverend Al Green. But on those occasional nights when a collective malaise hangs over the audience, Cannon knows the buck stops with him in terms of generating the desired response.
“I’ve got to put them on my back to reel them in and get ‘em up,” he said. “Some nights, you just have to go deeper. Maybe they’ve got something hanging over their minds, but you’ve got to find a way to convince them to give themselves over to the music.”
Cannon has had plenty of practice at learning how to do just that. Roxy Roca was on the road for 220 dates in 2015 and is on pace to eclipse the 200 show mark again this year — a demanding schedule for any group, much less one that performs such a physically taxing style of music.
But it’s been that way since Cannon founded the group six years ago, even if the players have not remained the same. Roxy Roca — which performs Tuesday, Aug. 2 in Aztec — quickly established itself in the ultra-competitive Austin music scene, and Cannon said slowing down and running the risk of seeing that momentum evaporate has never been an option.
“In the beginning, we were just playing in Texas, and we had the same band for about three or four years,” he said. “But as soon as we started touring heavily, the people with (regular) jobs weren’t willing to leave. So there was a changeover period when our touring really ramped up. We were going throughout Texas and the Southeast, and after that, we started going out (on the road) for 100 days at a time.”
As Roxy Roca went through the growing pains that are not uncommon among bands on a rapid upward trajectory, Cannon knew he couldn’t afford to be sentimental and accommodate the band members who weren’t willing or able to up the ante in terms of their involvement.
“It can be challenging with jobs and personal relationships,” he said of life on the road. “It’s also a grind. … It’s an adventure, but it’s not for everyone. I just feel we need to be out there to make an imprint.”
Cannon acknowledged that he was worried about how the new lineup would jell, especially since Roxy Roca is a group that relies heavily on onstage chemistry. He said it was very much a sink-or-swim proposition.
“With our schedule, you just kind of get thrown into it,” he said. “It’s definitely a (concern), but one of the interesting things about the group we have now is that we did a lot of touring at the beginning of the year, then we had a small break at the beginning of summer. Over the period of a month, we did a lot of work banging out and writing new songs. There was a lot of bonding and building of camaraderie, energy and flow.”
That experience has landed Roxy Roca in a groove, Cannon said, and the members of the current lineup — with a two-member horn section, drums, bass, guitar and vocals — are very much into the traveling lifestyle. The band also relies heavily on two other elements to reach fans.
“Really, the strength of this band is our videos,” Cannon said, citing the videos for “Try My Love” and “Love Maker DeVille” as being especially effective. “They’ve opened a lot of doors for us. And the decision to press our last album (2015’s “Ain’t Nothin’ Fancy”) on vinyl was big. Vinyl is big these days, especially for funk and soul fans. For the most part, we cut that record live, with horns and everything.”
Cannon isn’t exaggerating. “Ain’t Nothin’ Fancy” was recorded in only four days, a breakneck pace for a recording by a band with such complicated sonic elements.
“That was crazy. … It was a fun experience, but it was go, go, go,” he said, explaining that the group went into the studio fully intending to record the album that way. “We wanted to get a sense of what it was like in the sixties, when soul and R&B were big, and they were always trying to save some money by running into the studio and banging it out.”
As nerve wracking as that can be, the advantage of recording a disc that way is obvious, he said.
“You really have the energy of a live show on the record because you are playing it live, not overdubbing it,” he said.
Roxy Roca took a slightly less-frenetic approach when it went back in the studio earlier this year to record its new, as-yet-untitled album with Grammy-nominated producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith, best known for his work helming records by such acts as the Toadies, the Meat Puppets and JET. Cannon and Smith already had known each other for several years by the time they got into the studio together, and Cannon said he long had hoped to talk Smith into producing an album for him.
“He’s a real joy to work with,” Cannon said. “He has a passion for music, everything from rock ‘n’ roll to pop music. We wanted to experiment with more stuff on this record, so we threw a lot of ideas around, and he helped us figure it out.”
Cannon said the new recording is not a sharp departure from “Ain’t Nothin’ Fancy,” but it does stake out some new territory.
“It goes more in a rock direction, more in a pop direction, and there’s some slide guitar,” he said.
The biggest difference, he said, is that the new disc is a true collaboration among all six members.
“Everyone had their hands in it, and they were feeding off each other,” he said.
Cannon expects the new album to be released this fall. Roxy Roca will take approximately 10 days off during the holidays, Cannon said, but other than that, it will stay busy for at least the next year. The group already is planning its first European tour in the summer of 2017, with stops in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Greece planned.
After all, this is no time to slow down.
“We’re going to hit it hard at the top of 2017,” Cannon said.
Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.
If you go
What: Roxy Roca concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2
Where: Crash Music at the Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave. in Aztec
Tickets: $15 at crashmusicaztec.com or 505-427-6748
For more information: Visit roxyroca.com