Dumpstaphunk, the quintet from New Orleans with two bassists led by Ivan Neville (son of Aaron), has a few cards stacked in their favor. There’s that last name, Neville, shared by Ivan and guitarist Ian (son of Art). There’s the fact that you’ve probably already heard at least one member of the band play, given that they’ve worked with a wide array of artist ranging from The Rolling Stones to Trey Anastasio to Beyoncé. The biggest advantage that they may have, though, is their decision to take their combined decades of experience in the music industry
and become an actual band.
In 2003, veteran musician and singer Ivan had booked a New Orleans Jazzfest gig. “I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to do the typical solo gig,” he says, wanting to do something “more with like a band.” So he set about assembling some musicians that he knew he’d like to play with, starting with his cousin Ian on guitar.
However, when faced with the decision of who to choose as the bass player, he came to an ingenious conclusion. “It was either going to be Tony Hall or Nick Daniels and I was like, ‘Fuck
it. I’ll call both of them.’ They both can sing and I know Tony plays guitar as well. I already had some songs in mind to play that could incorporate the two bass thing, and that’s how it started.”
Adding original drummer Raymond Weber to the mix rounded out the group and started the process that would see the band transform from a side project doing one-offs to a full-time gig for everyone in the band.
It was one of those convenient one-offs that led to the gig that everyone in the band points to as the one that really set things off. In 2006, Bonnaroo had already booked The Neville Brothers
and Anastasio to perform at the festival. With Ivan and Ian playing in the Nevilles, and Hall and Weber then active members of Anastasio’s solo band, most of the group had already committed to attending the festival when the promoters pitched the idea of a late-night set with Dr. John and Rebirth Brass Band to Dumpstaphunk.
“That was a key performance where a big buzz generated for us,” says Ivan. The rest of the band agrees that was the turning point where they all felt like they could commit to the band as their main priority.
Constant touring surrounded that performance, necessitated in part by Hurricane Katrina displacing the band members from their hometown of New Orleans. During that period, they
recorded their debut full-length, Everybody Want Sum, and continued to solidify their unique dual-bass sound. Despite the uncommon nature of having two bassists in the band, the band
members agree that it’s the most natural thing in the world.
“Describing it is kind of weird,” says Hall. “It just happens. It wasn’t really hard from the jump; it fell into place.”
“The bass thing—it just works out,” adds Daniels, noting that “we work the parts out and make sure there’s space and everything breathes.”
Referring to the tandem low-end, drummer Nikki Glaspie, who joined in 2011 after her run in Beyoncé’s live band, says, “It’s awesome because they’re both ridiculous on their own. So
[having] them [play] together is like a whole other thing.”
“If it was any other two bass players, there would be the potential for a train wreck at any given second. But with those two, they naturally go for different areas,” Ian adds.
“And it just works,” concludes Glaspie.
This kind of universal ease with everyone’s role in the band is rare in a group comprised of journeymen, especially one with a large age gap—between the ‘50s-born bassists and Ivan and
the ‘80s children Ian and Glaspie.
The key is that everyone contributes to the songwriting process. Ivan, Daniels, Hall and Glaspie generally split vocals.
“For the most part, [it] comes naturally,” says Ivan. Glaspie agrees, adding, “Nick is the harmony guy. I’m always on top.”
Everyone is also conscious of the decision to pursue success with this band in favor of the plethora of for-hire gigs available to this accomplished group of musicians. Despite some differing
opinions regarding the sales potential of their forthcoming album, Dirty Word, featuring guest spots from a diverse pool of artists, including Ani DiFranco and Flea, the band is unanimously in it to win it.
“We are so fortunate that we get to do this shit,” says Ivan. “‘Cause I could be doing some other shit and be going gray.”
Hall finishes the thought saying, “All I could tell you is I wouldn’t do this for anybody else. Nobody could hire me and tell me I’m gonna ride in a van somewhere.”
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