Miami seven-piece Ketchy Shuby is a young act that, often, sounds purposefully old. With a style the members have dubbed “downtown soul,” the group often sounds like a dusty shelf of vinyl come to life — vintage funk gives way to early reggae, ska, and psychedelic rock, then back again. It’s a type of brew heard rarely in Miami, but one that, thanks to its breaks-driven, neck-snapping beats, appeals to a crowd ranging from hip-hop heads to hippies.
It’s the same kind of diversity you might find in the line-up of the band itself, whose members bonded over a love of crate-digging. “Some of us have been friends since elementary school and childhood, and some of us knew each other through mutual friends. We all have an affinity for soul, reggae, funk, and psychedelic music from the ’60s and ’70s,” says Jay Hernandez-Rodriguez, the band’s guitarist and singer. “We started jamming and collecting weird records, and taking it more serious once we started we getting more gigs.”
The earliest Ketchy-Shuby material was heavily rooted in reggae and ska, with a little classic soul flair. The band’s sprawling lineup lends itself well to exploring these genres — beyond the usual guitar, bass, and drums, the group also boasts an organ, congas, saxophone, and flute, and some four or five various vocalists. With so many different channels of creative input, too, that’s meant a decided evolution of the Ketchy-Shuby sound in recent months. “Our songs managed to get more soul, funk and psychedelic-influenced, with a classic rock feel,” says Hernandez-Rodriguez. “We don’t usually have a direction [when we set out to write a song], but the base has usually been through soul music.”
That improvisational feel has, recently, endeared the group to the jam band crowd, for whom they’ve played at festivals like Aura, held this past March in St. Cloud. “The jam kids really jam and appreciate good music,” he says.
But the loose-limbed approach also endeared them to crowds just looking to party and get crunk — especially at a recent show at Fort Lauderdale’s Green Room, Hernandez-Rodriguez recalls. “It was a night with crowd-surfing, and alcohol pouring everywhere,” he says.
As such, things might get rowdy tonight at Blackbird Ordinary, where Ketchy Shuby performs to kick off a two-leg mini tour that will take the group through the rest of Florida, as far north as Jacksonville Beach. After all that, the group plans to release two new 45s over the next two months, then a new album, and a mix tape after that. In other words, Ketchy Shuby’s relaxed, carefree approach to its music is paying off. “We’ve been just kind of trying out new jams,” says Hernandez-Rodriguez, “and sticking to the ones that stick to us.”
Ketchy Shuby, with DJ Contra and Aramis Lorie. Doors open 10 p.m. at Blackbird Ordinary, 729 SW 1st Ave., Miami. Admission is free; age 21 and up. Call 305-671-3307, or visit blackbirdordinary.com