What in the funk is happening here?

Our People talk pop, funk and the transgression of genre

An emo, a punk and a funk­­—oh my!

An emo, a punk and a funk­­—oh my!

Photo courtesy of our people

Check out Our People September 24th at the City Of Trees festival at Papa Murphy’s Park,1600 Exposition Boulevard, on the Sacramento Stage. General admission tickets are $44.50 presale and $49.50 regular price.

Surrounded by the unforgivable heat of an August afternoon, Our People fall deep down the rabbit hole of figuring out what exactly to call the music they play.

Keyboardist Michael Skelly announces with a proud inflection, “I call it alternative funk pop rock.” Skelly grew up learning classical piano, but moved toward jazz keyboards as he got older.

Vincent Adorno, lead vocalist and admitted metalhead, counters, “I call it emo funk.”

Bassist Tristan McNay chimes in, “In recording we’re probably closer to an alternative poppy band, but live I’d say we’re definitely more of a funk band.”

For almost two years, Skelly, Adorno, McNay, guitarist Patrick Hennion and drummer Branden Coleman have been playing together as the funk-pop-jam group Our People. In this short period of time, they’ve found a good amount of purchase in the Sacramento scene.

McNay, Adorno and Hennion have a history of playing in metal bands. Hennion and Adorno played together in one eight years ago called Ten After Two. McNay laughs and says, growing up in Sacramento, it’s almost a rule that “you have to be in at least one terrible metal band.”

Skelly says that he doesn’t identify as a metalhead, but the others are quick to point out that he is a huge Metallica fan. “I love Metallica,” he says with a smirk.

Their background isn’t too surprising given Sacramento’s legacy with the metal genre, but it is strange given that Our People dwells in a realm of funk and pop without much of a nod to its members’ headbanging pasts. Hennion says this is a result of the band consciously seeking out common ground amongst their shared influences: Stevie Wonder, ’70s pop, Pink Floyd and Fall Out Boy.

“A lot of people come up to us and say, ’I don’t know what sound you guys have, I’ve never heard music like this, but it’s super fun,’” McNay notes.

By defying genre classifications, they open up a unique arena for their various influences to butt up against one another with electrifying results.

This clash of styles is obvious in the song “Tragic Reality.” It opens with a smooth guitar strum that is immediately swallowed up by a psychedelic distorted electric guitar. As the song progresses, a grooving keyboard synth comes into the mix and starts a call-and-response with the guitars, a spirited stylistic tension. The song avoids feeling disorganized with its consistent levity and pop sensibility provided by Adorno’s vocals: “Slow stroll with me baby / Tell me what you’re thinking lately.”

Over the past two years, the band has released a few singles, “Can’t You Stay,” “The Story” and “Love Me,” all of which are included on their first EP, Her Love, His Karma, which dropped in July. They seem to be chomping at the bit to get back into the studio and work on a new project. In the meantime, they will be playing at the City Of Trees festival on September 24th.

The music comes from a place of individual authenticity, Hennion explains. “It’s a mix of all our personalities. We all come from different backgrounds and it all melds together.”

This seems like a deceptively simple formula, but the result is a complex and fresh sound that Sacramento should keep on the lookout for.