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Asheville's The Fritz hones in on its funk-rock sound

Return of the Krunk

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On opening track "Sounds. Habits. Blame." off the Fritz's most recent offering, Bootstrap, the quintet briefly flirts with electronic dance music, throwing some synthesized bleeps and bloops over an otherwise straightforward slab of danceable funk-rock.

There are several such stylistic detours on Bootstrap. There's a bit of salty organ jazz ("Sawbones"), a dip into mid-tempo, bottom-heavy Widespread Panic-style jam-rock ("I Can Be"), and even a little prog-rock experimentation ("Return of the Krunk"). But as with the opener, the basis for every song on the album is gritty funk with heavy-rock riffing, brought together by the soulful vocals of singer/keyboardist Jamar Woods.

Since that album came out in 2013, the Asheville-by-way-of-Jacksonville band has dispensed with the occasional stylistic experimentation and gotten down to business. "Over time we've discovered our sound a little more," says Mikey Evans, one of two percussionists in the band. "We've discovered what works in terms of instrumentation and what our strengths are: We're a funk-rock band. We focus on the funk-rock aspect now."

The band formed in 2009 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. "We all went to the music school at North Florida, and we'd all played in different ensembles there," Evans says. "But we didn't really know each other that well until we formed the band."

After deciding to make the Fritz their full-time profession, the band decided they needed a better home base. "We graduated and got to the point where we wanted to move somewhere more central to tour out of," Evans says. "So we chose Asheville."

And that's where the Fritz's real training began. Asheville's arts scene immediately welcomed and encouraged the band, and they forged a special bond with a popular and similarly funk-oriented outfit called Yo Momma's Big Fat Booty Band.

"The guys from Booty Band became really good friends of ours," Evans says. "They really helped us get on our feet when we got there. But Asheville as a city has really influenced us, also. When we arrived we were accepted by musicians, and Jamar and myself started playing at funk jams and different gigs around town. Living there for five years and getting to play with different ensembles, it's helped us grow so much individually, and we were able bring that back to the band."

They're not as jam-happy as a lot of the Asheville bands can be, however, even in moments when it might seem that way. "When we're writing, it's the five of us in a rehearsal room," Evans says. "And the arrangements we come up with are pretty set in stone. There are some sections where we can improvise, but the purpose of those arrangements is to make it seem like a lot more improvised than they are. For the most part everything's composed. We have some sections that are pretty open-ended, and we're able to build off of each other musically and work from there."

The Fritz is anxious to record a new album that fully displays their full-on funk-rock chops, and the guys have set a goal to write as many new songs as possible before they begin recording a new album in January. "We've been cranking out a lot of new music lately to make sure the album is a representation of what we're doing right now," Evans says. "Putting those constraints on ourselves has brought out a lot of great new stuff that we're looking forward to putting on record."

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