New Orleans, funk, and more: A Chat with Naughty Professor

New Orleans, funk, and more: A Chat with Naughty Professor

Coming in hot out of New Orleans is Naughty Professor, a horn-driven funktastic six-piece. They’re making waves all over the scene, having just played Summer Camp and Taste of Randolph. I squeezed in a quick conversation with drummer Sam Shahin, trumpet player John Culbreth, and alto/baritone saxophonist Nick Ellman at Summer Camp, where we talked about New Orleans music, collaboration, accessibility, and more.

First of all, Shahin brought up the style and focus that the band draws from one of the most famous musical cities in the world: “I would say we really fit into New Orleans funk since our horns are out in the front line. We’ve been an instrumental outfit for the last six years as well, and we just recently recorded an album that features a bunch of vocals. But I would say we draw inspiration from New Orleans funk, but that’s not exactly what we are. We just try to do our thing, branch out, and play a lot of different genres.”

Though they may all have met in New Orleans, their origins are far and wide, as Shahin explains: “We’re from around the country, you know, California, Vermont, Chicago, Texas, all over. We met at Loyola in New Orleans. We all had such tremendous respect individually for the history of New Orleans music, be it funk, jazz, or any of the other styles that get combined within the city.” He went on to explain bits of the origin story, “I’m actually not the original drummer, so I’m telling this story from perspective, not from experience, but they just got together in a Loyola practice room to have some fun. Young cats who were getting to know each other, and there was an instant chemistry that drew them together. I think maybe two years later Danny, their previous drummer stepped out, and they recruited me and we fit immediately. I knew these guys already from Loyola and had worked with them in different capacities, so from there it was a real easy transition.”

We moved on to the topic of the music business, and upsides and downsides of having a label vs. independently releasing music, and they had good perspective on a multifaceted issue. As Shahin says, “[Using the internet] is definitely helpful, but I think a lot of bands tend to use social media somewhat begrudgingly, just because it’s necessary and something everyone looks at, but it is the best way to get whatever message you have out there. It takes some practice to use effectively, but we want to communicate with as many people as we can.”

Ellman added, “It’s just nice to be an open book sometimes. I mean there are things we keep to ourselves, like working in the practice room, but it’s nice to be more personal with the way we release music and social media gives it that inside look.” He was also quick to point out, “We did, for our last record, sign with a label, but we’re releasing this new album independently. It’s a really great time to be an independent artist.”

Their newest album, Identity, is out June 23, and they were clearly excited about it. “We recorded the vast majority of the songs at The Parlor, a beautiful spot in New Orleans, and we also did four songs at a spot called The Music Shed. We had a ton of professional guys working on the record, Qmillion, a Grammy winner. That was pretty sweet to have him put his hands on the project, and it sounds really good, we’re really proud of it.”

The list of featured artists (every song features a guest artist) is a who’s-who of leaders in the music scene: “We got Chali 2na, David Shaw (of The Revivalists), Eric Bloom from Lettuce, Ivan Neville from Dumpstaphunk, members of Soul Rebel, Mike Dillon, Dexter Gilmore, just a bunch of cats. It was a collaborative project, we wrote the songs together. Totally different experience.”

Naughty Professor is a group of dudes who just throw it down, bringing hard-hitting, expansive funk to a city near you, and their upcoming record is sure to be a doozy. They are not a show to be missed, so don’t miss them the next time they’re in your area.

For show info, music, and more, check out their website: https://www.facebook.com/NPFUNK/

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