‘I think, therefore, I funk’: Philosophunk grooves its way to Madipalooza stage

Philosophunk Rumble Down Under
Philosophunk's victory at Rumble Down Under earned the grooving philosophers a spot at Madipalooza in April.

After a fierce Battle of the Bands, Philosophunk comes out on top

While Nick White, a senior music industry major, cradles a gold cardboard mockup of a Grammy award, Alex Paullin, a fifth-year geography major, and Clifford Blum, a fifth-year music industry major, discuss the fate of the trophy, won by their band, Philosophunk, at UPB’s Rumble Down Under.

“Nick’s going to take pictures of it. Cliff and I are probably going to throw in some money to buy a mantle and then we’re going to put it on our mantle and just look at it,” Paullin says.

The Dawn Drapes, Madly Backwards, Philosophunk and Swell Daze performed 20 to 25 minute sets in the hopes of winning the trophy and the chance to perform live at Madipalooza at UPB’s Rumble Down Under: Battle of the Bands at Taylor Down Under on March 19, 2014.

Five judges were selected to assist in the judging process; the audience also assisted by submitting their votes for one of the four competing bands. DJ Ryan Slocum, a senior philosophy major, hosted the event and spun beats in between the bands’ sets.

Although the competition was fierce, Philosophunk came out as the victors.

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Philosophunk has been a band only since February. But Paullin and Blum have been jamming together since they first met three years ago in a jazz improvisation class. The band went through growing pains as they cycled through an additional drummer, who soon graduated, and Paullin studied abroad, forcing them to take a hiatus.

It wasn’t until Paullin and Blum found White, drums, and Cameron Spiece, bass, that the vision of Philosophunk became a reality.

Like the band’s formation, the name of Philosophunk was a spontaneous occurrence.

“Band names are always an epic tale. After band practice one day, we were trying to brainstorm and we were just throwing out random words and ideas,” Blum says. “At the core of it all, we’re all philosophical people, so the word philosophy got thrown around. And funk, it’s the core of our … compositions. So, we just merged the two words together, and Philosophunk was born.”

While Philosophunk may lack the experience of some groups it shares stages with, that has not altered its confidence nor its competence; Philosophunk has quickly gained a solid following.

“The two basement shows we did, we packed the house. We’re all seniors, so we’ve made a lot of friends over the years who like good music,” Blum says.

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Its loyal following could in part be due to its use of trademark phrases and Paullin’s ability to draw the crowd in with his stage presence and infectious ever-present grin, which resonated well with the crowd at Rumble Down Under.

After Philosophunk mounted the stage following performances by The Dawn Drapes and Madly Backwards, Paullin whooped into the microphone, “Ooh! Ow! Philosophunk.” The “Ooh!” and “Ow!” Blum later described as “a representation of the funk.”

Like a shepherd calling his sheep back to him, listeners flooded the small area in between the stage and couches. Providing listeners with a quick informational introduction to their band, Paullin concluded with “I think, therefore, I funk,” the band’s main catchphrase.

What followed could be compared to a musical trip to the beach. Listeners clapped and cheered as they were transported to Pacific Ocean waters, floating up and down on riffs of creamy sound waves. One of the songs the band featured at Rumble Down Under, “Waves and Waves,” held true to its name, beginning with the feeling of swimming in Caribbean calm aqua waters and then transitioning into surfing upbeat, faster rhythms, and back again — much like a journey through the ocean.

The band’s name and stress of the use of “funk” can be easily heard in their music. What sets them apart from similar mellow alternative rock sounds such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers is its use of Hendrix-esque guitar solos and riffs, giving their sound a jivey, jammy feel that listeners can dance to, as opposed to the typical swaying and head bobbing in reaction to others.

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Philosophunk performed roughly half of its songs with vocals and half without. It was just before the last song that the crowd began chanting, “Philosophunk! Philosophunk!”

To close its set, the band performed “Ticonderoga” — a fan favorite, judging by the uproar the crowd produced. Paullin’s rich, velvety, Mayer-esque vocals left the crowd chanting the band’s name long after their last song had concluded.

The band’s career will not conclude after its performance at Madipalooza, however. The band hopes to keep playing shows throughout the school year and summer and put together an album.

“We’re a little uncertain about our future. All of this positive reinforcement from friends and fans popped up fast,” Blum says. “Three of us – everyone but the bassist – we’re all going to be moving up to Northern Virginia for internships … I secretly have hopes that we might stay together if things pick up and pan out well for us. At this point, we’re having as much fun together as we can.”

But one thing is for certain – the golden trophy won at Rumble Down Under will be taken care of.

“We might have to do a ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ thing and pass the trophy around,” Blum says.

“As long as the mantle comes with it,” Paullin adds.