Dig Baton Rouge

The Best of the Pot

By Ty Simmons

It’s not easy to make good gravy. It takes focus, concentration, and a willingness to get dirty. The best gravy is made from many different things, but is so consistent it’s hard to imagine it as coming from anything else.

While I don’t know if New Orleans’ Marcus Burrell, Stephen Kelly, Aaron Walker, or Chris DiBenedetto know how to cook, they certainly know how to make a good band.

Gravy’s progressive funk rock has been pouring over the streets of New Orleans for ten years, and they’ve done so with music and musicians from every walk of life.

The current lineup is two years old and features Burrell on bass, Kelly on guitar, Walker on drums, and DiBenedetto on keyboards. All four band members help with vocals.

The newcomers, DiBenedetto and Walker, jumped on the boat in the fall of 2012, and are from Baton Rouge and Toronto, respectively. After joining Gravy’s originals, Kelly and Burrell, they haven’t looked back.

After their show at Chelsea’s this weekend, they’ll be playing at Tipitina’s Free Friday concert series and gearing up for their second East Coast tour which will kick off in early August.

DiBenedetto says that there’s “very warm people up there and [we] can’t wait to make some noise for them again. There’s nothing more satisfying to us than to tour and have people smiling night after night.”

Gravy’s relentless touring schedule is evidence of this. They’ve played at Jazzfest, Hangout, the French Quarter Festival, and countless notable venues across the South. They have built a solid fan base and cemented themselves as one of New Orleans’ finest.

Real gravy is the lagniappe of food; it’s a much appreciated addition to whatever else is already going on. But when Gravy takes the stage, they’re the meat of the whole operation. They are what’s going on.

Gravy is deft at creating soulful vocal melodies and hooks that stick to your ribs. Their New Orleans influenced style is splashed with a love of Talking Heads, Radiohead, and hip hop, and it’s evident in the way they develop melody and groove.

But ultimately, “making people happy is at the core of what we love to do,” DiBenedetto said.

Gravy has shared the stage with artists like Rebirth Brass Band, George Porter Jr., Johnny Vidacovich, Bonerama, and Cyril Neville.

“Being in New Orleans you just gotta get out there and play,” DiBenedetto said. “Then you just meet people you idolize and realize they’re just a person like you and me.

“One of my favorite people to work with is George Porter Jr. from The Meters. We’ve gotten a couple opportunities where he sits in with us at Tipitina’s and it’s pure joy. Just magic.”

Recently, Gravy has been working on their new album with Ben Ellman and Robert Mercurio of Galactic as producers. They begin recording in June, and the album’s slated for release in the fall.

This new record will be their third, following up 2008’s Said & Done and 2011’s The Hard Way.

“We’ve crafted a sound that I can honestly say no one else will be able to do like us,” DiBenedetto said. “We wanted to push ourselves past the limits of where we couldn’t even dream we could go, and have fun doing it because of the love of the music. And that’s exactly what happened.”

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