Funk Trek

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Funk Trek
Origin Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Genres Jazz-Funk, Jazz Fusion, Soul Jazz
Years active 2008–present
Labels Funk Trek Records, Make Believe Creative Group
Associated acts Soulive, Lettuce, Frank Zappa, The Meters, Galactic, Miles Davis, Fela Kuti, Budos Band, After the Burial
Members Tom Murnan, Dan Pflug, Kevin Pflug, Cameron Blazek, Jared Dietz, Jake Reisdorff, Blake DeForest
Past members Jay Egger, Alain Hernandez, Rob Barr, Andrew Wahl, Mike Lovejoy

Funk Trek is a funk/jazz fusion band formed in 2008 in Omaha, Nebraska by cousins Tom Murnan and Dan Pflug, with guitarist and friend Andrew Wahl. Funk Trek has released two studio albums, the most recent being Purify, which was released on April 13, 2013. A third album titled Richard Balonanavich is scheduled for release in late 2014.

Voyager (2010)[edit]

The name "Funk Trek Voyager" lasted until late 2009 when the "Voyager" name was dropped and the band became known more famously around the Omaha indie music scene as "Funk Trek". Playing shows at various Omaha venues such as The Waiting Room and The Slowdown, Funk Trek eventually became noticed by more venue owners and started making their way across the Midwest at the turn of the decade. It was also around this time that Funk Trek's first album Voyager was underway.

The title was a tribute to the second half of their original name "Funk Trek Voyager", using it as the album name as a memento of their origins as Funk Trek Voyager, including some songs written early on in their career while Funk Trek Voyager was still active. Some songs included were written early on in the band's career while Funk Trek Voyager was still active. Recording sessions took place in bassist Tom Murnan's basement and it was completed using Murnan's and rhythm guitarist Jared Dietz's knowledge of mixing and mastering. Dietz is also credited as Engineer of the album. The recording was done in a multitrack fashion, recording all instruments separately and blending them together for the final product. "Genetically Modified Groove" and "Black Mamba" proved to be the singles off of the album and are frequently played at Funk Trek shows. In an interview with UNO's classical radio station KVNO, trumpeter Alain Hernandez described the inspirations for the album: "The music is influenced by jazz with a big funk influence too. What I like about this album is that every song sounds different. We have some hard core, hip–hop sounds, with no vocals just instrumental."[1]

The cover art for Voyager drawn by Justin Valentine.

The album art was a drawing by a friend of the band's by the name of Justin Valentine. According to bassist Tom Murnan, the bright colors were used to illustrate the brilliance and atmosphere of the band's live shows, with a face drawn near the top to depict the euphoria one feels upon listening to Funk Trek's music. The CD was released to the public on December 10, 2010 at the Waiting Room Lounge in Omaha, Nebraska. Only 300 copies of the CD were made, making the album rare to date. However, the tracks can be played on, the band's official website.[2]

Years of touring and Hedgestock (2011-2012)[edit]

The band spent the year after their first release touring in the Midwest, headlining in cities such as Austin, San Marcos, Sioux Falls, Cedar Rapids, Denver, Kansas City, and Lincoln. Funk Trek has participated in various renowned Midwest music festivals, including the Yonder Mountains Harvest Festival in Ozark, Arkansas,[3] Love Fest in the Midwest,[4] FestyFest in Lawrence, Kansas[5] and The Hullabaloo Music & Camping Festival in North Platte, Nebraska.[6]

Around this time, the band also was able to book frequent gigs at The Hive Lounge in Omaha.[7] Turnouts became so promising for their Hive shows that owner Jake Gardner, who has ties to the famous Omaha-native band 311,[8] offered them frequent opportunities for gigs which eventually turned into a bimonthly event for every other Wednesday. Funk Trek can also often be seen performing many shows at The Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska, and they often play with notorious Omaha music acts, including The Kris Lager Band, Andy Frasco & The U.N. and Satchel Grande.

In 2012, the band organized a Woodstock-type music festival and campout in Nebraska City, Nebraska which they called "Hedgestock". The concert drew in big local bands such as The Midland Band, Solid Gold, and The Kris Lager Band. Tom Murnan's cousin Matt, also headlined with his original rap music at the show under his stage name of Big Burn. Coincidentally, it was Matt's father Joe who allowed the band to have their concert on his acreage and ranch. Krystal Sidzyik for HearNebraska writes that "when members of the local band Funk Trek, including Joe's nephew Tom Murnan, needed a name for the first-ever, one-day festival on the farm, Hedgestock stuck" on account of the "hedgie" trees that dominate the property.[9] June 9 of that year resulted in the first annual Hedgestock Festival, and the band has aspired to keep the tradition going since then.

Since 2010, Funk Trek has been touring around almost the entire Midwest United States. With appearances in over 15 diverse cities, the band was able to be reserved a spot for many reviews in the Omaha metro. Shortly after the release of their debut album Voyager in 2010, journalist B.J. Hutchemann for the Omaha metro's independent newspaper "The Reader" published one such article. He opened up his article partly by describing his latest Funk Trek concert experience, stating that "Funk Trek tore it up with a lengthy set to celebrate the release of their new CD. This 10-piece band of young musicians features four horns and some multi-instrumentalists. It was a double treat to see The Waiting Room packed with a diverse crowd that ranged from band parents to folks in dreadlocks and a hula-hooper. Funk Trek definitely had the audience grooving to largely instrumental music, which was a bit of a surprise."[10]

Purify (2012-2013)[edit]

In April 2012, while the plans for their second album were still in the embryonic stages, the members of the band desired a new approach for the production of Purify. They sought out recording professional Rick Carson, owner of the local record company Make Believe Creative Group, and were recording by early May.[11] Carson's associates Jeremy Deaton and Noah James Mass also did a substantial amount of work for the album. As for the engineer, the band appointed mastering expert Doug Van Sloun, who had previously worked for Omaha's Saddle Creek Records before opening his own studio of Focus Mastering in 2007. With his experience in mastering for well-known Omaha-native bands in the late 1990s such as Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive, and his ability to give his artists a crisp but homegrown sound, Funk Trek eagerly entrusted Van Sloun to mix and master their new music.[12]

The album art is mostly credited to Tommy Hester, a friend of the band. Hester used his skills in laser cutting to create the visual on the screen of the aged Magnavox television for the cover art. The television was purchased at a garage sale by the band and was given to Hester, where he then took out the inside components of the television and placed the laser-cut artwork backed by colored cellophane behind the screen. As a finishing touch for an increased retro feel, a square of blue shag carpeting was placed under Hester's handiwork. The television was then placed in front a green screen for photographing. The same television was aesthetically placed on center stage at the CD release show and is still on the stage at many of their shows currently.

The cover art for Purify featuring the colorfully refurbished television crafted by Tommy Hester.

The album includes Funk Trek's first recorded songs with vocals, the songs in question being "Purify" and "Last Time". Bassist Tom Murnan is credited with the vocals for "Purify", while trombonist Mike Lovejoy sings the lyrics for "Last Time". "Last Time", along with "The B.K. Breakfast Heart Attack" were both released as singles for the album and were uploaded to YouTube by the band as a sneak peek for the new album a few weeks before its release.[13] Both songs can be found here:

 *"The B.K. Breakfast Heart Attack":
 *"Last Time":

After 10 months of recording, Funk Trek completed the album and scheduled it for release on April 13, 2013 with a special CD release show at The Waiting Room Lounge in their home town of Omaha, Nebraska.[14] 300 copies of the disc were made with mp3 downloads available from iTunes[15] and[16]

Opening acts & increased notoriety[edit]

Ever since the band's establishment, Funk Trek has been rapidly growing its fanbase by means of their live shows and originality. What has helped the band accumulate fans all the more has been its success in booking and securing opening acts for more noteworthy bands. Less than two years after their formation on January 30, 2010, Funk Trek earned the privilege to open for Dumpstaphunk, one of the more notable and famous Funk bands in the United States.[17] The concert was held at one of Funk Trek's main venues in Downtown Omaha called The Slowdown.

A few months later on June 26, 2010, Funk Trek also warmed-up the crowd for Euforquestra, who is nationally known for their blends of funk, salsa, afrobeat and reggae-dub.[18] The gig was played just over 50 miles away from Omaha at the Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Perhaps the most impressive opening act appearance for Funk Trek came on June 14, 2013, once again in their hometown of Omaha. A few months prior, the NCAA presented the band with once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to open for O.A.R. at the opening ceremonies of the 2013 Men's College World Series.[19] Not only would Funk Trek be given more distinction by opening for a mainstream success, they would also be subject to the most-attended College World Series to date.[20]

Richard Balonanavich (2013-201?)[edit]

Planned for release in late 2014, the band also plans to create their third studio album, entitled "Richard Balonanavich". It will be a concept album with more prominent use of vocals and lyrics. The album concept revolves around the story of Richard Balonanavich, who is a character created by bassist Tom Murnan. Richard's plight is to be told throughout the album as he goes through endless torrents of unfortunate events, with the attitude of positivity to be the uplifting morale of his story.