The Funky Mudbugs bring more than just a sweet song to the stage.
The Mudbugs are made up of eight ultra-eclectic musicians playing an array of rock and jazz instruments.
"The Funky Mudbugs are a collective of musicians playing a music we refer to as ‘transgenre,’ in that it encompasses essentially every sound you could possibly imagine," said Louis Falbo, guitarist and keyboardist for the band. "We do a heavy metal arrangement of ‘Helter Skelter,’ a really soulful arrangement of ‘Valerie’... some Michael Jackson and everything in between that."
The Mudbugs haven’t always been an ensemble, however. Falbo evolved the band from a much smaller group.
"We started out as an avant-garde jazz trio that I started a year ago and then I met our Singer Remy Black (Derrick Ward)."
With a style as unique as their set list, this big musical unit goes above and beyond the usual song and dance. Each member of the Mudbugs take on a dramatic stage persona during their live performance.
The idea of performance characters is more than just another theatrical element for these far-out artists.
"(Using onstage personas) was a decision that I made a long time ago when we had a trombonist named Rob, and he was a big fan of theatrics. And our singer Derrick is also a huge fan of theatrics," Falbo said. "He actually used to go around, when he lived in New York, as his character Remy Black. He brought this up to me and Rob and we completely embraced it and encouraged everyone including ourselves to take on personas as well. We have naturally gravitated towards exaggerations of who we feel ourselves to be when we don’t have to put on a mask around other people."
The eight-man group currently consists of Remy Black (Derrick Ward) on lead vocals, The Mad Scientist (Falbo) on guitar and keyboard, The Fearsome Hippopotamus (David Haley) on drums, The Gate Keeper (Chris Jones) on vocals and various instruments, The Friar of Funk (Cody Barcroft) on bass, Clairvoyant (Claire Wayne) on saxophone and bassoon, Sherlock Horns (Max Swallow) on saxophone and Andy Tuck from The Greens on guitar and vocals.
This unique group of characters uses their on-stage looks to have ultimate creative freedom and to add another element of excitement for fans.
"We want to be an audio-visual piece for the eyes," Falbo said. "We are up on stage so we might as well make that part of the show interesting."
With so many interesting characters performing, it’s surprising The Funky Mudbugs can settle on one cohesive sound.
"One of us will usually write a song and then bring in the lyrics and the chords and then say ‘alright guys, write your individual parts. Here is the basis, now write your individual parts and let’s create some Mudbug sound,’" Falbo said. "We come up with a piece of ourselves and everyone puts their own piece in, then we have that collective idea."
Though their "transgenre" motto makes them versatile, it’s apparent that jazz has a huge influence on their ever-changing sound.
"The fundamental core (members) of the band - that is me, the drummer and the bassist - we are huge jazz musicians," Falbo said. "Cody earned his undergraduate degree in jazz performance onstage, and I have just been fascinated with the music ever since I came to study at music school and the possibilities of sounds that weren’t available in the context of pop."
But not all members have their roots invested in jazz. Claire Wayne, a senior music student at West Virginia University, and Chris Jones, a doctoral music composition student at WVU, both hold a strong background in classical music.
"I think the special thing about the Mudbugs is that we are all independent musicians and we all have our own sources of inspirations and our own different characters," Wayne said. "I think that what makes us special is that we don’t sacrifice our uniqueness for a specific genre or a specific look or a specific sound– we are a melting pot."
The Funky Mudbugs’ wild personas will blend right in this Halloween weekend as they prepare to open for Dangermuffin at 123 Pleasant Street.
Their special showcase will feature all-new original songs from the band, who will have Tuck stand in for lead vocalist Ward. It will also feature a special guest performance from a local Morgantown rap act.
The Halloween showcase at 123 will also boast a costume contest. First place winner wins a bar tab worth $50 and the second place winner wins a tab worth $25.
The Funky Mudbugs take the stage at 9 p.m. this Saturday at 123 Pleasant Street. Tickets are $10.