A good measuring stick to use when it comes to how enjoyable a band is can be the impression it leaves after a performance.
Johnston jam band Tai Chi Funk Squad has a knack for leaving concert-goers with an energy and enthusiasm that resonates long after they leave the stage. The group’s primary goal is to make sure everyone at the venue is having a blast, and its brand of rapid-delivery funk typically does the trick.
After starting out as a trio, the band is now a quartet consisting of guitarist and vocalist Jake Anderson, drummer Dylan Butler, bassist Rob Anthony and keyboardist Thomas White.
I recently had a talk with Anderson about his love for kung fu films, mixing up the setlist and playing all over the Ocean State.
ROB DUGUAY: How did Tai Chi Funk Squad start? Did you guys come from different bands?
JAKE ANDERSON: Tai Chi Funk Squad started in spring of 2014 in the basement of a commercial building in Johnston with my good friends Joe Zangrilli on bass and Patrick O’Brien on drums. It started just for fun but soon turned into more than just jamming in the basement. Rob previously played in the bands Uncle Everett, Snailias, Full Atoms and Tic. Thomas also plays with the Phil Adams Group and Four Agreements, and Dylan plays in bands throughout Rhode Island, including Steve Malec and the Electric Flood and Sun Gun.
RD: It seems like you have some seasoned vets in the fold.
RD: Does the band name come from a love of kung fu films or is it just a random idea you had?
JA: It’s a bit of both. I am a huge fan of kung fu and Asian martial arts movies, with “Ong Bak II” and “Ip Man” being among my top favorites. When we got our first gig and needed a name, we all sat around coming up with funny band names. I came up with the Tai Chi Funk Squad and we laughed the hardest, so it stuck. The John Brewchevski Trio was the runner-up.
RD: The band usually incorporates a mix of originals and covers when you perform live. Did the band play just covers at the beginning or did you start off writing original songs?
JA: We started with playing covers from artists like Kool and the Gang, James Brown, Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. I have been writing music since I was young and had a whole bunch of song ideas and finally decided that we should create our own music. Right now, we are working on several new original songs and are looking forward to playing them at our upcoming shows.
RD: I’m sure a lot of people are looking forward to hearing the new material.
JA: Let’s hope so! (laughs)
RD: The band has played all over Rhode Island. Do you find certain regions of the state to appreciate live music differently than others?
JA: I think the northern and southern tips of Rhode Island make for some of the best crowds at gigs. Places like Cady’s Tavern in Foster, Tavern on the Hill in West Greenwich, Proof Prohibition Pub in Narragansett and Pump House Music Works in Wakefield really seem to draw people out, possibly due to these areas not having as dense of a bar or venue presence. With that said, the Providence music scene has always had a strong appreciation for live music. We enjoy playing at places like The Parlour, Fete Music Hall, Nick-A-Nee’s and Dusk, just to name a few.
RD: What are some goals for the band this summer?
JA: We are very excited for the Block Island Music Festival in June, which will be our second year there. We are in the selection process to play PVDFest and hope to get the chance to perform at that this year. This summer, the band hopes to finish new original songs and video content to go along with it. Since this lineup has only been together for one year, we are looking forward to playing out together and growing as a band. There are a lot of great shows that are coming up, so be sure to stay updated by following us on Facebook and Instagram.
To learn more about Tai Chi Funk Squad or check out the group’s music, follow the band on Facebook and Instagram (@taichifunksquad) and on Twitter (@TaiChiFunkSquad).