Arts, Music, Arts Features

The Shapes, Ideas, and Flow of BC’s Funk Rock Band Funky Giant

Few groups at Boston Colleges drip with the kind of indelible, odorous passion that Funky Giant does. Channeling its passion for aural pleasure into the hearts and minds of its audience, Funky Giant was a pervasive force in the music scene at BC. The alternative funk-based jam band took the University by storm when it won Battle of the Bands in 2016. Marked by its unique funk rock sound and lack of vocals, Funky Giant headlined for T-Pain at Modstock. Such successes were met with praise and recognition for its contributions to the arts community, as well as its instantaneously recognizable stage presence.  For this band, they see their sound as the embodiment of their name—big, groovy, and chill all at the same time.

But, just as many friends in college experience, the trio was soon separated by land and sea. As members went abroad in subsequent semesters, Funky Giant seemed fractured, but astute in regards to its future. For this band, however, such barriers do not spell an end for its run—rather, they serve as a period of growth. The future of Funky Giant is bright. Looking to this intermittent period to hone its skills, Funky Giant aims to return fresh, rested, and more, well, funkier than ever.

Comprised of bassist Nick Rocchio-Giordano, MCAS ’18; drummer Mario Borges, MCAS ’18; and guitarist Henry Ricciardi, CSOM ’18, Funky Giant possesses a spirit and synergy like no other. And, despite miles of distance, the band brims with excitement over its everlasting chemistry.

“The biggest thing is the energy we have as Funky Giant,” Rocchio-Giordano said. “Mario is ripping on the drums, Henry is just playing his heart out, and I am yelling into the microphone and slapping the bass.”

This kind of simple view about what makes the band great—the interpersonal relationships between its members—is refreshing in an age of overly complex notions about what makes bands objectively good. And Funky Giant’s harmony is inarguable to any person who has ever seen the band, in fiery, charismatic fashion, take the stage.

Speaking further on the band’s essence, Borges described that they did not coalesce into a singular entity. They are individuals, but they foster a deep connection between one another through a shared passion of musical beauty.

“If you just have pure individuals that do not connect with each other, it is not going to function,” he said.

This kind of connection is important to Funky Giant, as it is through this that their individual talents can create the sounds that make the stage theirs. Each pluck of a string and hit on the drumkit is not enough to garner them success. Their individual musical stylings are varied and compelling, but when brought together, they reach their fullest potential.

“When you put ketchup on french fries—they just go together,” Borges said.

In an interjection indicative of the kind of free-flowing energy at the heart of the band, Rocchio-Giordano furthered the analogy saying, “Like butter on lobster.”

But such high spirit and charismatic funk do not come about unless the band behind the noise knows how to carry itself as musicians. Their excited, unrestricted, and free-spirited manner of speaking may fool some into thinking this band is not serious. But where there is passion, there is also a penchant for execution. In the conversation held with Rocchio-Giordano and Borges, it was clear that they possess a considerable amount of technical prowess. In describing how they come up with songs, they show a considerable level of aptitude regarding the musical process.

But, as also would be expected of a band like Funky Giant, the songwriting process adopts a manner of ebb and flow.

“Typically, it follows that we, especially with Henry, play till we hear something we like, then put it on the board, then play till we hear something we like,” Rocchio-Giordano said.

The songwriting process never resembles a strict narrow-minded vision, but an organic progression of distinct musical ideas that fuse to form an overall song. Fitting the pieces of the puzzle, these smaller musical licks become the technical task and the band uses its wits as the glue to do so.

“Henry brings the riff, I see the strumming and flesh out the hits,” Borges said. “If there are hits or emphasis on chords or certain notes, I feel like those bring out the sound and make it sound really cool.”

Rocchio-Giordano described the process in more poetic terms, as looking at a collection of structures and reforming them into useful shapes. Morphing ideas and welding them into one another in song form is fueled by a forge of passion for music and things that sound cool in general.

One would be remiss if not to mention a large part of the band’s creative process. One of the greatest deposits in their musical coffer comes from its jam session, which, again, demands a free-form heart to strings to sound approach. In fact, Rocchio-Giordano said that some of the band’s earliest songs come solely from this process. The band will just go out in a jam session, get pumped about a song’s sound, and memorize it.

Much of the onus within Funky Giant is put on the instrumental aspects of its performance. Though the band is open to the idea of a singer, Funky Giant feels that it would have to be an individual who embodies the same kind of kindred spirit the band already possesses. But in many ways the band does not need a singer as they fill the space that would otherwise house lyrics with more earthy notes and tantalizing grooves.

“There might be this idea among people that an instrumental band is not a legit band, because you think of a frontman,” Borges said. “I think we play in such a way that we don’t need singer.”

The two described how they compensate for this void by filling the space with heightened instrumental movement, audience interaction, and more upbeat sections in their songs.

But, as may be felt this year on campus, Funky Giant has been noticeably absent. As Rocchio-Giordano went abroad to Ecuador in the fall and Ricciardi is currently away in Vienna, Funky Giant finds itself separated by space. Though the band members have been supportive of the choices to experience life abroad, the band has sorely felt the effects.

“It does mean we don’t have the sauce with us anymore” Rocchio-Giordano said of Ricciardi’s departure. “It just means that we have to be legit about it and think hard about what we want to do [as a band].”

This kind of roadblock was slightly frustrating, but, as with most things for Funky Giant, positivity overwhelms the negative.

“We had this momentum going,” Borges said of 2016. “But we just make up our minds, and will come back more powerful than ever senior year.”

This intermittent period serves to beef up personal abilities and continue to explore new musical pathways. Referencing the Music Guild at BC, its members found there were many opportunities to collaborate with other BC bands and continue to build a rapport with the community. Though this is all for the express benefit of a triumphant Funky Giant return, members found that the infrastructure and networking in place kept the artist dream alive.

“Funky Giant still exists and Funky Giant is coming back,” Rocchio-Giordano said with a fiery gaze.

Quipping that last semester they went under the name ‘Oh,’ Borges suggested that this semester they may adopt the name ‘Eh.’ Collaborating with Juice’s Chris Vu, MCAS ’17, and Matt Chilton, CSOM ’18, Borges and Rocchio-Giordano will perform at upcoming shows this semester in the place of Funky Giant. Whatever name they adopt, and whoever they share the stage with, it will represent a piece of a funky giant on the horizon—of the things to come for this band in the coming semesters.

In any case, Funky Giant is fondly remembered, missed, and will most likely be the talk of the campus come a fateful senior year reunion. During an autumn day, not so long from now, emanating from the practice rooms about campus, the undulating rhythms of chipper beats and soulful solos will shake the campus. Like a T-Rex jolting a glass of water, like a roll of thunder in the sky…

Can you hear that? Funky Giant is coming.

Featured Image By Francisco Ruella / Heights Editor

February 9, 2017

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