Six-piece "downtown soul" collective Ketchy Shuby is a rare local act that easily crosses genres and crowds. There are dashes of grinding psych for the garage kids, touches of reggae for the rootsy hippies, plenty of soul for the crate-diggers -- and basically everyone gets down to funk, right? "We generally play soul music," explains Jason Joshua Hernandez-Rodriguez, the band's singer and guitarist. "But we draw inspiration from other genres like Ethiopian jazz, psychedelic rock, and '70s music."
Songs like "Long Live the King" and "I'll Take Care Of You," for instance, play like heavy slabs of Southern, Stax-era soul, inflected with low-end horns and even flute. Others, like "Who Shot Ya," roll like updated late-period hippie fare laid over rolling drum breaks. The stylistic direction of an individual song is rarely planned in advance, though, according to Hernandez-Rodriguez. "We usually pick up a few chords and just go from there," he says. "A song either builds naturally, or we'll jam and save it and mesh it with a another bunch of chords that didn't work and make it work out of that."
Add to this that the group's shows are downright effusive, big, brassy, and tight, but just unpredictable enough to wander into the occasional jam. Ketchy Shuby has released a handful of EPs, singles, and "mixtapes" (unofficial albums) to date, but it's onstage where the group's amassed a hardcore following of fans. "Our shows are sacred to us," says Hernandez-Rodriguez. "We make sure before we play that any unnecessary vibes are not positive are left behind."
With the Miami circuit almost conquered, though, the group's headed to Austin this coming week to a new frontier: SXSW. The annual music-industry shebang is a proving ground for up-and-coming independent acts, who must apply to be selected for showcases and perform for crowds of bloggers, publicists, and other bigwigs. It could be a stressful experience for most, but Hernandez-Rodriguez says the hardest part for the band is already over. "Miami has some of the toughest crowds," he says, "so we're just going to do what we do best and have a great time."
Stream the band's song "Who Shot Ya" below. Ketchy Shuby showcases at SXSW at Easy Tiger in Austin on Friday, March 15.