Austin’s psychedelic soul group, the Black Pumas, are in this happy and exciting place in an artist’s career: right in the middle of preparing for the group’s explosion, before they become household names. , then that they cannot shop without security. . They have toured the world and performed at various music festivals, including locally at Pickathon in 2018, and most recently at Lollapalooza.
âBut you know, a lot of people don’t know us,â singer Eric Burton said in an interview with the Mercury earlier this year. “So it’s like I always felt like a normal guy walking around and not really getting too much attention in a way that got in the way of doing normal things.”
I spoke to Burton on the phone the day before he and his bandmate, guitarist / producer Adrian Quesada, embarked on their headlining tour, for which the Portland dates were finally pushed back from August to December. Burton was still stunned after throwing the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game in June, one of his proudest moments of the past two years. The group was also recently honored with three Grammy nominations for their self-titled debut album, including Best New Artist, Album of the Year and their hit single “Colors”, Record of the Year and Best. American Roots Performance. Their songs have been placed in Target commercials, and they’ve performed in almost every late-night show and major platform imaginable, including the Grammys, NPR’s Tiny Desk, Tonight’s show, and CBS this morning.
Burton said connecting with people through the group’s live performances was “one of his favorite things to do.” As someone who was introduced to the Black Pumas fandom during their set at the 2018 Pickathon, and who has since also had the good fortune to see them live a few other times in Portland, I can say with certainty that the feeling is mutual. I was impressed and easily sold as a band by their electrifying stage presence on guitar, their vintage soul-inspired sound, and Eric Burton’s tireless, soul-infused vocals. Raised by his musician uncle, Burton has all kinds of rituals to preserve and care for his voice: read Stanislavsky’s book Singing for the stars, swearing by the pre-show warm-ups and drinking something hot with honey in it.
For so long, the band toured with only a few singles, like “Black Moon Rising”, “Fire”, “Colors” and “OCT 33”. Now, for the first time, the band are on tour to support their first full album, having pushed back – and pushed back again – the company due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even without the additional editions, the self-titled album is all their audiences could have prayed for. These are pretty much continuous highlights, no jumps, and the leads that stand out are questionable. My personal favorites are all the versions of “Colors” that exist, “Stay Gold”, “Touch the Sky” and “Know You Better”. Some other favorites can be found on the Deluxe and Expanded Deluxe editions, which include some of their best live recordings, as well as crisp covers like “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles and dramatically updating and smoothing. the proto- The poignant “Politicians In My Eyes” from punk band Death, culminating in Burton’s throaty soul scream.
Noting that Black Pumas’ music sounds both like old soul and like nothing else the audience has heard, Burton attributed the sonic feeling to Adrian Cassada and the fact that he and Cassada are around 10 years old. difference.
“I think Adrian came to the table with a lot of nods to the heyday of old school soul music incorporated into hip-hop, with how long he’s been a fan of that music.” , did he declare. “Me, I had never sung on an album or at any time the way I sing on the recordings of this projectâ¦ I had to do my research and being a younger person, like different things, I think that it’s also happened, you know, at a level that has provided a certain freshness and a certain novelty to what is familiar.
Burton added that he had studied the voice of Al Green, as well as that of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett.
âI think those vocal tones are built into where I come from as a songwriter listening to people like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and the Beatles, and different American songwriters while injecting my own personality. ”
Burton told me that when the Black Pumas started, Quesada told him, âI always wanted to be a guitarist in a soul band. “
âI think we’ve just concluded that we’ll just keep working together until it’s not fun anymore,â Burton added. “So far the songs and the opportunities continue to multiply.”
During their Pickathon set, I remember a good friend of mine (and die-hard Beatles fan) who was there to watch Pumas’ cover of the Beatles classic “Eleanor Rigby”, and said it “had blew his fucking mind “- although he normally doesn’t like covers, especially ones that try to tackle Beatles songs. Burton said there were definitely covers on the setlist for their new tour.
Before the Black Pumas took off, Burton said he spent time near the ground here in Portland, playing solo as an artist and getting to know the city’s vibe and culture.
âI think Portland is wild in the coolest way, man. I had such a great time there, âhe said. “I think the best time I had there, even though I performed in respectable places, my favorite time was when I was making music.”
The Pumas will play two concerts at Roseland next week.
âIt was pushed back quite a long time,â Burton said in the summer, before the Portland shows were pushed back again. âFor a whole yearâ¦. On the one hand, we missed being in touch with people in a live setting, and we hurt ourselves as a band and as artists who do this for a living, and on the other hand , we had time to remember ourselves and make more music, start different ideas and now that we’re out again we have some momentum for the second album as well. So in some ways the pandemic has uplifted us, professionally and creatively. “
The Black Pumas perform on December 8 and 9 at the Roseland Theater. Both shows are sold out, but resale tickets start at $ 50.