Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Frontman and producer of Philia, Dan Giffin, has been known to many as the "Ableton Superhero." Actually on second thought, I think I just gave him that name myself. It's a well deserved title. Dan brought me into the producing world and answered my many calls at all times of the night when I was ready to throw my laptop across the room. Luckily he has a website, Live Producers Online, where I was able to vigorously take notes and gain insight to some production hacks.
I suppose I should put a little disclaimer for those of you who don't know; Ableton Live is a music production software amongst many other softwares commonly used in electronic music but has capabilities for all genres. It's virtually impossible to speak about Dan without mentioning Ableton. So an apology is due to those who have no clue what the hell we are talking about at times. That being said, let's get to the music.
Before Dan ever found his passion for production he was a Jazz Camp kid with roots in percussion. His life has been one of exploring different music backgrounds and expanding his horizons. Following his undergrad in college, it was off to New York City to dive into the deep end of underground electronic music. Dan recounts how his friends in NYC always seemed to be ahead of the curve on all these new genres of EDM hitting the market. Fast forward to January of 2020, and now Dan Giffin is an Ableton Certified Trainer as well as very successful with his original project, Philia.
Philia can't really be pigeoned holed into a corner but if you had to define them (in Dan's words), it'd be as if Big Gigantic, Griz, Snarky Puppy and Lettuce all had a baby that came out of the womb bumbin' jazz infused bass music. Based out of Indianapolis, Philia consists of keyboardist Andy Greenwell, saxophonist Curtis Williams, bass player Frank Stemen, and of course DJing and Drumming, Daniel Giffin.
When I asked Dan if he always wanted a live band he replied promptly, "It gets lonely on stage. I began just live looping with Ableton. I was jumping from guitar to electric kit, and then I'd hop over to my DJ controller. It was all a lot of fun and I received great feed back. I even took that solo act to the stage at Electric Forest, but I saw all these other solo acts with full bands backing them and I knew that's what I wanted. I came back to Indianapolis and just began scouting jazz and blues players from the scene. I basically began stealing musicians from bands until I had my own."
I'm lucky to know these players in the Philia band and truth is, these players are no joke. Andy has got to be one of the best keyboard players I've shared the stage with, and he brings energy and life to a live performance, which is hard to find sometimes. Curtis is an incredible sax player who knows where to fit in behind the melody and where to take lead. Him and Curtis have a vibe together that is quite easy to see on stage. Finally, Frank has a whole collection of tasty bass lines hidden underneath that luscious beard of his. The tones are perfect for Philia's music and not to mention he's assisting with the engineering of the shows quite a bit for in-ear monitors and things of that nature.
I've been lucky enough to share the stage with Philia on a number of occasions. We'd run my guitar through Ableton, throw an amp simulator on that bad boy, and Dan would DJ whatever I was playing live through his APC40 and Push 2 (for you production nerds who care.) I have to say that performing and tracking with Dan has completely changed my view on creating music. I was so old school before we met, and being around him showed me the endless possibilities of sound that can be created if you're open to them.
I interviewed Dan on my podcast for this specific article and we dropped into more specifics with production, marketing strategies, etc. I encourage you to go and listen to the full podcast and really get to know Dan and the other groups interviewed for this. You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or on this website under the "Podcasts" tab.
You can find Philia's music on Spotify, Apple Music, and more as well as connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. While your at it, you need to give a listen to keyboard player Andy Greenwell's solo project on Spotify.
I think anyone who knows Dan can say with great conviction that he is a very morally driven person. He's been an inspiration to me on and off the stage to be a better person, to value other's belief systems, and to keep a kind heart in a highly competitive industry. In true honesty, I can tell you Dan Giffin is probably one of the true souls I've met on this Earth. He means what he says and says what he means. With his talent and his kind heart, I'm confident that his success will continue to grow and grow.
All that being said, you NEED to go listen to him now.
My next choice for what I consider three up and coming Indy bands you NEED to hear is without a doubt, Huckleberry Funk. These guys have been absolutely killing it on and off the stage. Their presence is one of extreme professionalism and you always feel a warm welcome when the vibrant soul of frontman and lead singer, Dexter Clardy enters the stage.
I got to sit down and chat with Dexter and really explore the depths of the band's history and how they are moving forward. Due to a recent racial attack aimed at a black man in Bloomington, IN; our conversation immediately started with a passionate Dex explaining his views on the matter and talking of how as a leader and musician, he is having thoughtful conversations with those who have opposing views. This kind of insightful perspective reflects that of my favorite song from the band, "Unity."
Of course the totality of the music from this band has me an absolute fan but Unity is one of those tracks that really just hit deep into my soul and anyone I know who's heard it has felt the same. You can clearly hear the pain and calls for justice in such a poetic and profound way. The way the band holds off and lets the lyrics shine on their own for so long proves the band's knack for dynamic.
Dexter recalls playing for a room full of well dressed white people just sitting in with Huckleberry Funk for his very first time. After a cover of "What's Goin On?" by Marvin Gaye, he just started spitting out the lyrics to Unity as a spoken word poetic piece. As uncomfortable as this audience may have been, the band knew this new frontman of theirs would help pivot the band to new heights. If you haven't heard that song, please stop reading this right now and just watch this video.
"...they took a pen, made up they own prophets and false doctrines and a bunch of other shit and then called it a declaration."
Originally called "The Band Sweeny," Huckleberry Funk has had several member changes over the years. Each member has brought their own style and pizzaz to the music. As it stands now, the band consists of guitarist Elias McDermott-Sipe, keyboardist & saxophonist Alex Dera, bass player Matt McConahay, drummer Byron Boler, and frontman Dexter Clardy.
Elias is one of Bloomington's best guitar players, not to mention he can grab the mic and blow your mind with his ability to freestyle rap. I also recommend you follow him on instagram @elias_mcdsipe for some hilarious content. Alex is a multi instrumentalist and producer who thickens up the bands' sound with his seamless ability to switch from keys to sax. Matt slaps the bass like no other, has a sweet sweet tone, and also helps to craft the itineraries for band practices. Finally, Byron is easily one of the best drummers I know of in the state. I know I'm making some big claims here but I stand by them. I've hardly seen anyone take their craft as seriously as Byron has taken his. He stays in the pocket and has immense technical abilities.
As my conversation with Dex went on, I shifted the conversation's focus to how the band has been handling quarantine and what they've done to stifle the creative anxiety that comes with being forced to sit at home. I was pleased and eager when I found out that the band has been working on new music that they will be gearing up to release in the near future. I've never heard a Huckleberry Funk song I didn't like so I'm ready to get these new jams on my playlist the second they drop.
Since we were on the topic of new music, we decided we'd take this moment to announce that last month, Dex and I collaborated on a brand new track that will be released under the Dacota Muckey Spotify. I'm keeping the release date and details around it kind of a secret for now but man I'm excited to share this song with you guys. Our voices mold together is such a unique way.
Clearly there will be major things from this band. I'm grateful to have known and jammed with these guys on a few occasions before they blow up beyond reach. They certainly deserve all of the opportunities coming their way. Full of talent and an obvious focus on branding and marketing their product effectively, I don't think theres any stopping the wave that is Huckleberry Funk.
I first met these cats a few years back while performing at drummer Brandon Gick's backyard festival in Muncie, IN. I vaguely remember anything it is that I do remember but I certainly have a clear recollection of watching Porch Kat's set that night. I remember thinking to myself "Who the hell are these guys and why haven't I seen them at The Mousetrap or any of the festivals around here?"
It was pretty obvious to me that these guys were going to make a splash in the scene and they certainly did just that. Since that first set I saw, I've seen these guys at The Mousetrap numerous times as well as the Hi Fi, The Vogue Theatre, and several music festivals. Every time I've seen them I witnessed an incredible set. The way Matt and Tyler blend their guitar tones is quite a luxury to the ears.
They say if they absolutely had to define their genre, they'd call it something like 'Psychedelic Fusion Rock.' Drummer Brandon Gick has roots in the punk rock and hip hop scene. Bassist and Singer Alex Kilmer is a big time Rush fan. Guitarist Matt Keyser draws his major influence from Led Zeppelin and Guitarist Tyler Padgett finds his styles forming from genres such as Jazz, Jam Band, and Hip-Hop (especially J Dilla).
In my discussion with the guys I posed a very deep question..."What artist would you be so excited to play with that you'd shit your pants and cry at the same time?"
Their response...one of my favorite jam bands in the scene right now, Goose. Hell I'd shit my bands to see Porch Kat open for those guys. Among the other shit-in-pants-opening-slots were bands like Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Tauk and Primus.
That was enough shitting in our pants talk so we transitioned the conversation to the band's most recent major show. Anyone in the Indianapolis music scene was very aware of the Battle of the Bands that the HiFi hosted with rounds that lasted for months until finally just a few bands were left competing at a sold out Vogue Theatre. This 950 person capacity room was packed wall to wall with fans lined down the streets waiting for hours as fans of other groups shuffled out and made space for new ones.
Members of Porch Kat say though it was an amazing experience, they felt very bad for their friends and family that had driven to see them and waited outside to never be able to catch their set. I was actually one of those friends..I came to see everyone but was really hoping to see Porch Kat. Unfortunately I missed their set, but even just from the snapchat and instagram stories I later saw, it was clear they killed it. (Not a surprise.)
Not long after that, they were invited back to The Vogue to open for Pink Talking Phish. Tyler recollects how the energy in that room and on that stage just has something special to it. That was the last show the band played before Covid shut down the live music scene. One hour on that stage seemed like one of the best ways to play before quarantine hit.
It's been several months since then and as things are starting to open back up in Indiana, Porch Kat wasted no time getting back to performing live. Rules are super strict where I'm at in Colorado (for good reason) but I listened with envy as the guys described how shows had been returning to Indy. Packed bars with nobody wearing any masks were a bit worrisome but some other shows outside handled social distancing well. Strange times for music, but times in which we really need it the most.
Lead singer and bass player Alex Kilmer also doubles as an artist and lyricist for the band. In my conversation with Brandon and Tyler, they really spoke of Alex with great reverence. His bass lines are intricate and his vocals have wit, humor and soul. You can certainly hear the influence of Primus is his writing.
One thing I always take in about a band is their sense of brotherhood as well as their sense of friendship with other bands. Being in a band can involve a lot of different personalities and having lots of love for each other and building each other up is crucial to a band's long term success.
We've been lucky enough to perform on a handful of occasions with these kittens and we've always witnessed such positive attitudes and an eagerness to work with other bands. Such talent combined with a great vibe to work with, make these guy's unstoppable.
Every show we've played with Porch Kat has been one that we looked forward to and you can see how their love for teaming up with other bands has shown through their show lineups recently. Another Indy band, Pushing Daisy's, seems to frequently accompany the Porch Kat name on lineups.
This friendship of bands is one that I truly appreciate. Competition and music just don't belong together. Porch Kat truly embodies a band that is an absolute pleasure to work with both on and off the stage. They've made leaps of success and released several projects and music videos throughout the past few years. It's very clear that they have no intention of slowing down, so make sure you get your cat onesie ironed and ready, because Porch Kat will be coming to venue near you very soon.