On High -Never Die
With On High, a powerhouse team of virtuosic creatives have come together to create a debut release that is righteously, vibrantly alive. A bold declaration of intent, Never Die crackles with the diffuse background electricity that permeates their adoptive home town of New York City. Kareem Bunton and Konstance Patton unfurl sinuous lyrical poetry over music that ripples with confidence; their philosophical declarations and workaday ruminations floating above a muscular backbone of syncopated, in-the pocket shimmering jazzy rock. Intelligent, nuanced, and undeniable, Never Die is the sound of post-millennial tension, bound for a place of honor in the canon of political music.
Built around the painterly tale-telling of primary songwriter Kareem Bunton (who also handles vocals, guitar, and bass duties), Never Die was recorded and mixed by Scotty Harding (Wu-tang, Prince Paul, Dan the Automator, Medeski, Martin and Wood) at his studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Bunton first rose to prominence when he founded late-90’s EDM / funk group Pleasure Unit along with Jaleel Bunton (Tv on the Radio), Tada Hirano (Blonde Redhead), and Torbitt Schwartz (Run the Jewels). Following his work with Pleasure Unit, Bunton started a solo blues project. Dubbing it The Juggs, the sound quickly evolved into full-blown rock in the style of ZZ Top and Freddy King. Bunton recorded two EP’s under the name with a varying cast of players: 2010’s The African Queen, and 2014’s Midnight Shine (released via Converse Rubber Tracks.) He also found the time to appear in the role of Bo Diddley on HBO's Vinyl.
Yet, while The Juggs had found some success, Bunton was unsatisfied. “The blues/rock genre is very limiting and stigmatized in the indie community” says Bunton. Feeling the Juggs had run its course, Bunton decided it was time for a change in sound and some new blood; three of the rotating Juggs members became permanent additions. Vocalist / percussionist Konstance Patton brought – in additional to her powerful voice and deft percussion work - a visual aesthetic honed at the prestigious Parsons School of Design to the party, while bassist Charles Becker’s (Eve's Life, Etro Anime) funky, acid jazz approach filled out the bottom end, and guitarist George Devoe’s fuzzy sound aligning with Bunton’s vision for the future.
Joining this core quartet in On High are composer and pianist Emanuel Ruffler, and drummer Russell Carter II. Ruffler, born in Munich, Germany, was captivated by New York City’s breathtaking creative environment and rich music scene when he first visited in the early nineties. He relocated 1996 to study with legendary pianists Jaki Byard, John Hicks and Mulgrew Miller, and went gone on to work with Don Byron, Bill Evans and more. As a composer, Ruffler‘s work has been recorded by artists including Meshell Ndegeocello and drum legend Joe Chambers. Carter II graduated of Howard University with B.A. in jazz studies in 2006. He has performed with Jean Carne, Doug Carne, Marc Cary, Fred Thomas and more.
Most of Never Die was written as Bunton moved through his reality in Brooklyn. “I sing, hum, and talk to myself constantly” he explains. These sketches are digested and honed holistically by the group. While thematically the record embraces the emotionally wrought subjects of social justice, inequality, and post-November ’16 depression, the overall is feeling is one of catharsis and solidarity. “I'm just trying to purge all of the nastiness that my news feed is dumping on my head” says Bunton. “I have never been one to fall into cynicism. When I was a teenager and my friends were full of angst and despair I would usually bounce on the pity party. When I got home I'd put on a hippie record (Blind Faith, Love, Neil Young) make a PB&J, crack open a book and chill. My adult life is much the same. I've pulled the Irish goodbye so many times people aren't even offended anymore.” Bunton continues, “I exist very much in the present. I would suggest anyone listening try and do the same. Compare your experiences and live vicariously through us. We will release more music, and continue our travels together.”
Never Die will be released in the spring of 2018 on Rufftone Records.