Mixing together funk, blues, soul, jazz, and whatever else happens to be on hand, THE FANTASTICS! have released 45s on Freestyle, Raw Wax, and Tramp, performed live BBC sessions for Mark Lamarr and Craig Charles, and released albums on Freestyle Records and Soul Cookers (as Rev Cleatus & The Soul Saviours). Like their incendiary live performances around the UK and across Europe, the last album, ‘Mighty Righteous’ (Freestyle Records) ripped up the rigidly defined genres of ‘the funk scene’, and threw decades of hip swinging musical influences into the mix. The latest album (due for release on Freestyle Records in summer 2011) takes these themes further to create something fresh and engaging, whilst still keeping dancefloors shaking, and hips swinging.
“Thank god for The Fantastics!! Not only should you buy their records, go and witness them live!” – DJ Format
01 How did the band get together?
Originally the band (then known as Rev Cleatus & The Soul Saviours) was formed from the remains of the Longo Allstars in 2003, when Greg (Hammond) – previously of the Soul Destroyers, and Ray (bass) both joined up with Pete (guitar), and the other remaining Longos. And, Mark (sax/flute/harmonica) joined up after the departure of a makeshift horn section in 2005. We changed our name to the Fantastics! (don’t forget the “!”) in 2009, and since then we’ve had a few new people join up; James Smith (drums) replaced James Rule in 2009, and there’s our very special guests; Sulene Fleming (vocals) and Mark Claydon (percussion).. So I don’t think the band ‘got together’ as such, it’s been more of an evolution over about seven years or so.
02 Where did your name come from?
It didn’t… We just liked it and changed it!
03 Who were your major influences and inspirations and who do you despise?
Too many influences to list here – let’s just say decades of groovin’ and soulful music; blues, soul, funk, reggae, jazz, even a bit of groovy rock – it’s all in there somewhere. Who do we despise? Anything soul-less, over hyped, over technical.. You’d have to ask individual members really!
04 What drove you to make music together?
Just the love of music, especially this kind of music I suppose. We’ve got a lot in common, and we have some great times, so why wouldn’t we want to do it?
05 What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your live shows then & possibly even now?
Music to dance to.. Music to have a good time to.. Plenty of groovy funk rhythms, and some sweet soul; music aimed at people on the dancefloor, not the musicians standing at the bar watching with crossed arms! It’s just good-time hip music really…
06 Who writes your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?
All songs are written collectively – somebody might have a particular idea or part which kick starts something, but overall they are all worked on and written as a band. Themes and subjects? Ermmm…. Sex and drugs and funk and soul hahaah! But then again the majority of the tunes are instrumental so nobody knows what they are about anyway (or cares!).
07 How did your music evolved since you first began playing together?
It’s become less straight ahead ‘funk’ since 2009, and more of a mixture of all our influences; more ‘natural’ if you like – we play our own music in our own style. It’s not something we’ve contrived to sound like the JBs or the Meters, or the whatever is fashionable at the moment… well we hope so anyway..
08 What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Were you been able to overcome this? If so, how?
There’s been a few, but it’s just part of playing music. If you really want to do it, then you overcome anything that gets in the way, one way or another!
09 Do you play covers? If you could pick any song, which would you like to cover most and why?
Yes we play some covers – it’s good to have a few to throw into the set, and I think we pretty much do play any songs that we collectively feel we’d like to.. Current favourites are probably Sweetback (Boogaloo Joe Jones), and Home Is Where The Hatred Is (Gill Scott-Heron), we’re looking at doing Anti Love Song (Betty Davis) sooner or later too.
10 Where did you envisage the band being in five years time?
On the M1, probably half way between London and Leeds, possibly stuck on the hard shoulder with a broken fan belt.
11 Who would you most like to record with?
Too many to list here, but nobody in particular either – a strange answer I know!
12 What should we be expecting from the band in the near future?
We’re just putting the finishing touches onto our next album, which should be out in June or July – on Freestyle records. More gigs being booked as I’m writing this; check our links for updates.