So funky you can smell it
Who the heck are those guys?
It’s a question constantly asked about Porch 40, a Sylva-based funk/rock outfit barreling out of the Southern Appalachian woods like a black bear on speed.
“We’re like a ’69 Corvette, fire engine red, revving the V8 at the starting line, gripping the wheel and the stick, knuckles shinin’ white,” said Drew Duncan. “The light turns green and we gun the sucker, skin gathering at the back of your head.”
Lead singer/guitarist and defacto leader of Porch 40, Duncan, alongside Mitchell Metz (violin), Spencer Bradley (drums), Scott Burr (saxophone) and Carter McDevitt (bass), has been bouncing around Western North Carolina and beyond with a unique style that is as catchy as it is original.
“We want to play music — it’s that simple,” Burr said. “Porch 40 exists to perform and play music that gets you excited and energized, and to have a good time. We love what we do, and the magic that comes from a live band rocking out is something else.”
Gotta have that funk
Over the last year, Porch 40 has transitioned from a college act bumming around on the weekends to a well-oiled machine. At a recent show in the Essence Lounge of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, the quintet took the stage and immediately made their presence known.
In an overwhelming environment of bells, whistles and blinking lights, casino patrons trickled into the lounge one-by-one, wondering who and what was attached to the mesmerizing sound echoing throughout the space.
“It’s nothing but pure excitement,” Burr said. “When I’m onstage, I feel like I have a limitless supply of energy, and getting involved with the crowd and my fellow band mates only stimulate the feeling. It makes me feel like I’m on fire, like I’m being electrocuted.”
And that vibrant sensation felt onstage spills onto the dance floor for all to soak in. One moment your ears pick up on a thumping bass beat going for a stroll, then there’s the manic pace of the drums, only to be matched by the swampy saxophone and sharp notes from a violin that, when put through a whammy pedal, acts like a lead guitar.
Watching a Porch 40 performance, one can see a true grit rock-n-roll band with threads of funk, pop, hip-hop and reggae running colorfully through their tone. The sound moves across the musical spectrum like a fast-moving train, making stops at influential acts like The Black Keys, Maroon 5, Stevie Wonder, The Roots, Galactic and Red Hot Chili Peppers, amongst countless others.
“We all love music, and we love what we do,” Duncan said. “Our original mission, and still is today, is to get down and make people happy with energetic dance music. I would like to make a living making people happy through something as creative as music.”
School of rock
Porch 40 came to be on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, sort of. While studying abroad in Wales, Duncan and Metz crossed paths. They started tinkering around and playing music, ultimately deciding to put together a band once they returned stateside.
During the spring semester of 2012, the duo moved into The Farmhouse, a Cullowhee residence where live music and beer flowed from large-scale parties. Soon, word spread that there would be an impromptu jam session at the house.
“Not even two weeks into getting back home did we succeed in bringing together a lineup of guys that has evolved into what it is today,” Duncan said. “There was a definite date for a jam night, and Mitch and I set out to find some musicians to have fun with.”
The initial jam night evolved into more get-togethers, which organically transformed into a single entity — Porch 40. As parties at The Farmhouse grew in popularity and size, so did the demand for the band and the notion of making the group into something more, something with legs that could hit the ground running.
“For us, it’s about sharing an experience,” Metz said. “As an audience member, it’s invigorating to know that you’re an equal to the band — a variable that is crucial to the show’s success. The band is there to guide everyone into cutting loose and giving up on the norms we construct society with.”
Recording your dreams
With some of the band members still attending school at WCU, Porch 40 remains in Sylva, a town that not only gave them their start but also continues to be a location of creativity and encouragement. Local music venues like No Name Sports Pub and Soul Infusion were key incubators in carving out the sound of the ensemble.
“This area is very inspiring and supportive of live music,” Duncan said. “It’s been an honor and pleasure to start something great in Sylva.”
Porch 40 has recently released its debut album, “Spread It Heavy.” With the record out, the group is preparing for the next step — taking what they’ve learned and applying it to new music markets and audiences who will have no idea who they are and where they’re from. In every show, in every town, they will have to win over fans one at a time, a hard-earned reality the band is well aware of.
“There are plenty of challenges ahead, with writing more songs, sustaining ourselves, social media,” Duncan said. “But I think the hardest part is over and that’s finding the right group of guys to join a band with. I love all my band mates and I feel, together, we really have a shot at this thing.”