Bambooville: Sub Groove
Within the segregated and genre-induced field of the South-Florida music scene, there are some bands that radiate a distinct originality and fresh ear buzz. Sub Groove is one of those bands. The group’s musical style is underpinned by funk, layered with rock, jazz, hip-hop and soulful blues influences. Performing with definitive rhythmic intensity, soaring vocals and kaleidoscopic guitar sound, this act is propelling its own hip trajectory as an undeniable “move to this” musical outfit.
Sub Groove formed in the fall of 2012 as the result of unique chemistry and symmetry. Lead vocalist and keyboardist MC Kal El, guitarist SK1 and bassist/vocalist Dre had recently finished playing together for several years in a seven-piece R&B act that had dominated the Treasure Coast area of South Florida for the previous decade. Seeking to downsize, streamline and modernize, their missing puzzle piece proved to be drummer, percussionist and vocalist TimeX, who had actually been in on the ground floor of that band’s mid-1990s inception. The fact that Dre and TimeX had also previously worked together in an alternative rock outfit from 1996-1998, added to the quartet’s simpatico mixture of talents and personalities. Together, the team drew both from significant past touring experience as well as providing support for artists such as Bad Company, Little Feat, 38 Special, Jason Bonham, Molly Hatchet, and The Georgia Satellites.
Seeking few if any limitations, Sub Groove immediately began crafting original music to go with an almost-unfathomably diverse list of cover songs. A live show can feature everything from modern pop (Bruno Mars, Maroon 5), hip-hop (Flo-Rida, Q-Tip), rock (Kings of Leon, Blink-182) and R&B (Anthony Hamilton, John Legend) to classic funk (Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown), pop (The Police, Michael Jackson), and rap (Run DMC, Beastie Boys). By the winter of 2012, the band had already ingrained itself into the regional music circuit, playing clubs, festivals and large public venues across South East Florida, drawing and holding audiences through the band’s range of influences and clever songwriting. And even if “funk” has become a four-letter f-word within popular music since its inception 40 years ago, “groove” has remained a constant necessity in popular music during that time frame. Like Los Angeles icons the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who rose to fame by uniting influences from James Brown and Parliament/Funkadelic to Led Zeppelin and The Police, Sub Groove is its own creative synthesis.
So, by April of 2014, Sub Groove went all in, beginning the recording of its debut album. The self-titled disc features 11 original compositions by various members of the band. There’s the inside-out funk beat of “Recipe,” hip-hop elements on “Modern Times,” the marauding, Rage-like groove of “While the Sun Shines,” a Chili Peppers reggae tinge on “Last Shot,” slow blues a la Zeppelin on “Where You Belong,” a Van Halen-esque rocker in “The Money Cries (When You Smile),” straighter rock-to-funk vehicles like “Red Wine, Dirty Mouth”, “Slide You Up” and “Dancing on the Moon,” and even jazz nuances in “Just Keep Running Away” and “(I’ll Be) Moving On.” Yet the broad range of styles is always balanced by a funky foundation befitting the name Sub Groove. MC Kal El’s lyrics seamlessly flow from direct to slightly veiled depending on the subject matter, and his lead vocals and keyboard playing unite Stevie Wonder with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen through influences from jazz to gospel and R&B. Timex’s background in funk, blues and improvisational music furthered the diversity factor, and his backing vocals with Dre allow for three-part harmonies with the lead vocalist. The bassist and SK1 both came from more metallic rock backgrounds, which only served to widen their groove swaths — as well as the band’s — into the 21st Century.