A Conversation With Mary Frances of Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
Interview & Photos By Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)
Words By Lena Brodsky
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band is a name that is hard to forget, and if you’ve had the pleasure of “getting the funk down” with The Booty Band, then that’s something you will not forget either. I had the pleasure of chatting with Mary Frances, aka Mama Funk, while the band was on their West Coast tour through Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. When I spoke to Mary, the band was on their way to Oregon, kicking off an impressive 12-day run of shows to wrap up the tour.
For anyone who’s not familiar with “The Booty Band,” the outfit consists of Lee Allen (Drums), Mary Frances (Keys), Al-A Ingram (Bass), John-Paul Miller (Guitar) and Derrick Johnson (Trombone). The group pretty much has one mission: to deliver the funk. They’re best known for having a heavy funk/rock sound with influences from hip-hop. Their live shows often have an entire audience shaking their booty and feeling the funk.
The band proudly calls Asheville, NC home and this mountain town inspires a great deal of their songs. Asheville has a strong music scene that the band is highly involved in. For instance, at Asheville Music Hall’s “Tuesday Night Funk Jam,” members of Yo Mama’s and other musicians in the area participate in an improv session. According to Mary, those jams inspire ideas for songs and help with the songwriting process. She also credited the outdoor scenery of Asheville with helping her writing; she mentioned doing a lot of her writing by the rivers that go through the town. Since Moog Factory is in Asheville, that close proximity boosts Mary’s set-up, so it includes many different moog keys and pedals and she also rocks Mother Vintage Keyboards.
The band’s upcoming album, “Funk Life,” was recorded at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC; it’s the band’s fourth studio album. Mary described the record as “feel good funk” that will have you singing along in no time, and I have to agree with her. The title track “Funk Life” jumps out at you within seconds, and that pattern continues throughout the whole record. Drummer, Lee Allen, helped produce and engineer the record along with Julian Dryers and others. There were various inspirations for the songs on the new record, and Mary says two of songs actually came to her in her dreams. While in Chicago she awoke one night with all of the arrangements to “Wake Yourself,” and quickly got up and recorded her ideas with her phone. “Living in a Dream” was another dream-inspired tune where she met George Clinton & Garry Shider during her slumber and they taught her the song.
Just listening to this record, it is obvious that many different genres influence the band. Mary said while on the road the driver always controls the radio, so they have been listening to a variety of music. She mentioned Kendrick Lamar, Bonobo, Quanitic, and D’angelo’s new record, along with others. Sola Rosa is a New Zealand-based band that Yo Mama’s stumbled across on Pandora that they have really been enjoying lately, and I recommend giving them a listen.
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band wraps up their West Coast tour with a string of shows in Colorado; the last night is on April 19 in WinterPark. The group will then take a couple weeks off to rest and enjoy the springtime weather in Asheville. They hit the road again in May for Phunkberry Festival in Arkansas, followed by a North East run as well as many summer dates to follow. Be on the look out for Yo Mama’s in a town near you, and make sure you don’t miss a band with the one of a kind sound of North Carolina funk.