Buzzbox: Funk Revolution: Local duo's new release pushed acoustic boundaries
Take traditional elements of Charlottesville's music scene– Dave Matthews, bluegrass influences, the usual dedication and hard work– mash them together, and add in a violin. The resulting concoction is local guitar and violist duo Morwenna Lasko and Jay Pun, an ensemble that has unintentionally taken all aspects of C'ville's musical legacy and reconstructed an innovative, funky sound.
"The first thing that comes to mind when you hear 'acoustic guitar and violin' is bluegrass," guitarist Pun laughs. "But then they say to us, 'How do you describe your music? It's nothing we expected.'"
The duo came together after Lasko unhappily took a turn in a bluegrass band and Pun tried to do a solo act. Joining forces seemed only natural, as their organic energy and straight-forward styles made the songwriting effortless. Rather than confine themselves to the "folk-pop" niche prevalent in regional music, the two look to world and funk to deconstruct traditional acoustic sounds, according to Pun.
"I wouldn't say we're 'experimental'– we don't try, we just are," he says. "There's not one thing we're going to say no to... I'd love for a saxophone to come up with us, or someone playing a trumpet– it doesn't matter, our music is so open."
Pun, a Charlottesville native, ventured back into the local music scene after graduating from the Berklee School of Music alongside Lasko. Growing up in the pre-Dave-heyday, Pun remembers a Charlottesville full of talent, drive, and "an actual funk revolution"– all elements that influence his interactions with the city now.
"When I was growing up and Dave and them were getting big, it was a really different Charlottesville," he remembers. "I don't think the scene was as much about getting famous as it is now."
Fame and fortune is one motivation Pun insists rarely influences his work now. While both music teachers for a small studio of students, Pun and Lasko are first and foremost students, consistently striving to better their individual talents before dreaming of how to make it big.
"It's what many musicians lack, not practicing enough and just playing," Pun says. "There's something really raw about what Morwenna does– she makes me want to practice all the time and never stop learning."
Learning was key to the creation of their second album. Rather than attempt to fit a mainstream audience– they opened their first album with a traditional bluegrass-infused piece– Pun and Lasko turned up the funk on their acoustic rock, resulting in an album recorded alongside friends and internationally-renowned musicians (look for French guitarist Pierre Bensusan to show up on a piece).
"When I grew up in Charlottesville, there was an actual funk revolution here," Pun says. "Whatever we play, whether it's a slow beautiful piece or a rocking piece, it has got to have the funk."
Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun throw a CD release party Tuesday, October 6 at Live Arts. The Honey Dewdrops open. The show starts at 7:00pm, and tickets are $15.