The Pendletons, by Robert Alleyne

Funk/soul group the Pendletons spent a few weeks touring Europe this summer. Eric Boss, Trailer Limon, and Ishtar spent time in Spain, Germany, and England supporting their new album, Funk Forever.

I caught up with them on a sunny afternoon in Camden, London, to talk about touring, the differences between playing in Europe and The Bay, and how they spread The Pendletons’ sound throughout the world.

This was vocalist Ishtar’s first trip to Europe. She sang karaoke in Berlin’s Mauerpark and in London visited Violet Bakery, the makers of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding cake. While The Pendletons make '80s-influenced party music, Boss explains how their music sometimes features a political edge and the messages, like on “Funk Forever,” work outside the US. “Somebody came up after the show [in Spain] and...this girl was telling me how much ['Funk Forever'] hit her,” he says. “We need to analyze, we need to organize; she was saying those lines...Even though it's party music, I think people are listening to the message.”

TBB: What have you guys been up to since you got to Europe?

Eric Boss: Really, we've just been playing, man. Started in Barcelona, and then from Barcelona we went to Madrid and we had a few days off in Madrid, which was cool. I'd been to Madrid a couple of times and played, but it's always been in and out. This is the first time I really got a chance to have a little time to hang out in the city and get to know what it's all about.

From Madrid, we went to Berlin. We had two shows in Berlin and an in-store in Berlin, which was really cool. We left in Berlin and now we're here [in London].

Ishtar:  We also did a really great radio show with NTS live. For me, that was really awesome. I think it was the highlight of my trip. Just being on live radio, some guy cooking jerk chicken, and we're live on the morning radio: singing, spinning, just embodying what tour should be.

TBB: I know the Pendletons have a good relationship with Europe. Gilles Peterson plays your music and featured it on the Brownswood Bubblers compilation. What is it about Europe that makes the music connect here?

EB: I don't know, I think it connects well all over the world. Australia is being really receptive as well. I know Japan has been really receptive also.

I: I saw how the crowd reacted in Spain, to our first show at Café Morilla, they just loved it! It felt free. I think the Pendletons’ music...is a way to be free.

TBB: Thinking about the experiences you are having in Europe, do you take those back to the Bay? And what do you think the Bay can learn from these experiences you are having in Europe?

EB: I think moreso than anything, just watching us move around the world and do music. I think that experience, moreso than anything, is what people can see and [they can] say it's possible.

It probably is possible to do without being derogatory, or being violent or vulgar in your music. That's the main thing. I think that I learned from being with Blackalicious: You don't really have to be violent, you don't have to be vulgar, you don't have to be disrespectful in your music in order to take on a worldwide appeal.

TBB: Do you feel that it is that vulgar, disrespectful music that is having a worldwide appeal right now?

I: Of course, you turn on the radio and you hear. There was a time when you could turn on the radio and couldn't hear such explicit language, now it's just the only thing you can't say is probably ass.

It’s important for me, for my nieces and nephews, that I continue to do soul music. So they see that there is another side to this music game. To see them see me going across the world doing music, that there must be something to this. There must be something else to this, not just that type of music. It's really, really important for me to show them that. I'll die trying.

TBB: What do you think changed [to make that kind of music so popular]?

I: The internet, reality TV, fashion, it all changed it. Everyone wants to — believe it or not — they get a kick out of watching other people's lives and so when reality TV came around, people would do anything to get on TV, to make a quick buck. If that meant showing everything, then everything is what got the ratings and would make people pay attention.

Reality TV came and if you were pretty, you were able to get a single. Now all you gotta do is have one hot single...that changed the game of music. You don't need to go in and do the creative process and make an album and let it be natural. You go in for a couple of hours, hit the Auto-Tune button, repeat the same word 20 times, and you've got a smash single. My goal is to show something different. I think by us coming on this tour, I think that a lot of the people that I have in my corner are definitely waking up, like Wait a minute, I knew she sings, but this must be a big deal if she's going [to Europe].

TBB: What do you think you'll be telling people about your experience in Europe?

I: That it's not over, that I'll be going again. I think I'll start from the beginning, tell them the process, how I got there [through] playing music.

TBB: Are there any tips for bands trying to make that first step outside of the Bay Area?

EB: You just have to work your friendships. You have to work your connections. If you find that somebody in a different country is playing your music, then you should try your best to be in touch with those people; find out exactly where your music is being played in a different city, or if there is a venue in that city that sort of homes in on your type of music. Internet, blogs, all kinds of stuff — any time you get press or radio in a different place, especially if it's overseas, you really have to reach out to try and build that bridge.

I: Good ol' networking.

The Pendletons’ latest album, Funk Forever, is out now on Bastard Jazz Recordings.

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