If you have ever been to a “Fuzzy Wednesdays” open mic, then you probably have already heard of THE FUZZ BAND; however, if you have not yet been fortunate enough to have your eardrums flooded with their infectious fusion of jazz, rock, R&B, pop, hip-hop, and everything in between, you are in luck. The players, which initially met at Hampton University, include Duane Smith, Jason Jenifer, Michon David, Kabana Blaq, Nakia Madry, Tavis Simmons, and more, and they have staked their claim as one of the most entertaining groups from the 757 and beyond. I was fortunate enough to speak with Smith about his bands beginnings with Fuzzy Wednesdays, their passion for the local music scene, as well what they have coming up in the next few months.

Congratulations on winning Veer Magazine’s award for Best R&B Group of 2013. Have you been nominated for the award before?

Thank you! We won it last year too. This year we were also nominated for Best Live Performer and Best Open Mic, but we didn’t do so good in those categories. There was some very steep competition.

For those who are not familiar with your band, please tell us how your band was formed at Hampton University?

What put the band together was Fuzzy Wednesdays, which is the longest running open mic in Virginia, and it has been going on for the last 16 years. When it started out, our instrumentalists would play between different groups, but that’s how we found each other. I used to play bass, but then switched to trumpet. We would learn five new songs each week and perform them, and that went on for four years [before we officially started the band]. We all bonded really well.

I know that your band was originally the house band for “Fuzzy Wednesdays”, but how has that changed over the years?

It started as a Hampton University thing, but since then it has expanded all over the Hampton Roads area to pretty much every city except Suffolk. Some people got inspired and did their own thing, and it became the place to go to find new talent. Currently, we are looking for a new spot with more couches and chairs and stage. The place we had before was very tight, and we want to have more space so we can bring other signed and independent artists down for showcases. Right now that is on the backburner because we want to stack our chips up and do it right, but we are still rehearsing for the shows we have coming up like the First Fridays Granby Street Party on April 4th.

Yeah I heard about that! What can your audience expect from that performance?

Initially we will do originals, but we plan on combining soul and rock. We just want people to have a good time. It’s really hard to put us in one box. We love to play a fusion of good music, and later that night we will also be playing at Baxter’s in Norfolk, which will be more of a party crowd, so we will play more upbeat, party music. We are very versatile like that.

Who are some of the other artists or groups that came out of Fuzzy Wednesdays and did their own thing?

A few that come to mind are MYRA SMITH, SY SMITH-who is now a backup singer on American Idol-and ROMONTA & FRIENDS.

I think it’s awesome how supportive your band is of local musicians and artists. Has that always been a mission of your band?

For sure! I’m originally from Brooklyn, and up there the younger generation learned about music from the older cats, but when I moved here I noted that the community is very cliquey and the old cats weren’t very welcoming to younger crowds. That’s why with Fuzzy Wednesdays we wanted to give a safe, open space for any art form to perform. On any given night, the audience will range from 18 to 65-year-olds.

Wow, that’s a pretty huge age gap. I’ve also noticed there isn’t much crossing of genres at local shows in Virginia. Is your band open to playing with bands of other genres?

Absolutely! We met THE UNABOMBERS at the Veer Awards, and we are trying to get a show with them. It’s important for us to expose people to different genres, and we also want to broaden our audience as much as we can. We will play with anyone—reggae, rock, you name it. We are also trying to coordinate shows with THE HUNTS, which is a folk band, and REVERY for their album release show.

In your biography it says that your band has survived the ‘curse’ that tears bands apart. What did you mean by that exactly?

Egos usually, and people wanting to do things differently. We are more of a family than a band. We just want to keep the music going. Six of the original members are still with the band, and we are still going strong.

How many members are in your band?

Too many (laughs). Currently we have nine, and on occasion we like to play with DJ A1 and do battles with DJ BEE. He will play a song, and we will play it back. Or sometimes, we will lay down the beat and we will play over it. We’ve done that for all sorts of covers, and it’s always a lot of fun.

Currently, your band has recorded four studio albums. Have you been working any new material for your fifth?

We are in the studio now actually. We have been doing more corporate and club gigs to make as much money as we can for this next record. In the past, we came up short, and weren’t able to finish all the mixes exactly like we wanted them to be. With this record, we are trying to represent where we are now as a band, and we are trying to put everything into it. It has been six years since our last release! We also intend to do a live album with all of our songs. We want to reach out to our fans to pick a 10-song dream set, and if we like one, we will do it. If there’s more than one we like, maybe we will do more.

With spring and summer coming up, do you have any plans to tour or are there any festivals you are looking forward to playing?

May 30th we are trying to lock something in for DC. We are trying to get an opening spot for THE ROOTS picnic in Philly that same weekend. We are also hoping to get Essence Fest. We may have to create our own tour. It’s so hard to go out with a nine-piece band, but I would be down for it. We still need to plan out our summers since we are all older. We would also really like to do another tour with the USO. One of our greatest experiences on tour was when we went to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. It was the most dangerous, but they treated us very well and we had a lot of fun.

For more updates on THE FUZZ BAND, be sure to visit their website, follow them on Twitter, “like” their Facebook page, and check out their music on iTunes.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.

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