Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
For 10 years, Yo Momma’s Big Fat Booty Band has been on a quest to spread funky fun wherever possible. This epic undertaking has resulted in an especially demanding tour schedule, and according to saxophonist Greg Hollowell, bringing the funk can be quite exhausting.
“Touring is a love/hate thing,” says Hollowell. “Sure, you’ve got your nights that make you feel like everything is worthwhile and you’re on the right track; then you’ve got nights that are real ball-busters, and then there’s everywhere in between those… It’s a good job. It’s a fun job. But it’s a hard one.”
Earlier this year, one of the Booty Band’s tour stories made it into Another Nightmare Gig from Hell, a book featuring a compilation of "interesting, weird stories from the road.” Hollowell recounts to Flagpole the band’s briefly utilized, sometimes on fire (literally) 1966 GM bus getting stuck atop a Colorado mountain pass during wintertime, flying to Alaska to play a series of shows that felt “like a vacation in the middle of a big tour” and working/playing with artists the band deeply admires, namely George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.
“That whole school is a huge influence on my life and music,” says Hollowell, “and I think a lot of the other guys in the band feel the same way… [Clinton] set the tone for a lot of it, I feel—carrying it further from that tight band, James Brown-style, adding a lot of psychedelia and taking it to those next few levels.”
This tour’s principle focus is the new album Doin’ It Hard, the Booty Band’s first studio release since its 2007 debut, Now You Know. Although Hollowell admits that the band waited “way too long” between releases, he’s happy with the aspects that distinguish the two albums—mainly, “the personnel and the feel.” Guitarist/vocalist JP Miller, bassist/vocalist Al Ingram, trombonist Derrick Johnson and Hollowell have been together since the beginning, but vocalist/keyboardist Mary Frances and drummer Lee "Insta Funk" Allen joined in 2009.
“[Frances and Allen] have been a touring electronic duo for about seven or eight years called Eymarel, so they brought years of playing together to the table… and kind of a harder edge, which is nice and refreshing. Obviously, the songs and songwriting have developed. I think there’s a difference in vibe.”
The band made a daring move by using a “pay what you want” model with Doin’ It Hard, and according to Hollowell, the results have been artistically and financially satisfying.
“I’ll always feel that I’d rather somebody have it than not,” he says. “If somebody downloads it and doesn’t pay anything, we get their email and hopefully gain somebody who’s giving us some attention and digs it. So, I think it’s a win-win… we took a long time making that decision. Obviously, we put a lot of resources into producing that album. We’re independent all the way, so we paid for it all [with the help of a Kickstarter campaign].”
It’s not surprising that Hollowell gravitated towards funk from an early age; to him, being a musician is all about bringing joy and good times to others. “To me, that’s the mission,” he says. “There’s a lot of things everyone has to deal with every day. It’s important, number one, to have a sense of humor, and number two, to be able to forget your troubles, let loose, enjoy sounds, enjoy life and celebrate—even when there’s nothing in particular to celebrate but life itself.”
According to Hollowell, the Booty Band is essentially “six people putting their 100 percent everything they’ve got into trying to play the best music they can so you can have the best time possible.” Their music serves as a vehicle for funk’s heavier and more soulful sides and, most importantly, brings unadulterated enjoyment. Thus, as for a “message to the world,” the artist keeps things simple:
“Our bass player cracked me up the other night. We’d had a really good show in Rock Hill, SC, and he just said, 'Be excellent to each other,' a quote from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. That was a great final statement for the crowd there… I think Bill and Ted said it all.”