Will Baumgartner of Pamlico Sound Talks Sobriety and Soul

The Pamlico Sound
The Pamlico Sound Photo by Derek Miles
The Pamlico Sound has served up its tasty stew of funk and soul to Front Range audiences for the better part of the past decade. The group's recent studio album, The Funk Is Not for Sale, captures the raw excitement that the band's energetic gigs have unfailingly delivered over the years. The 49-minute, punchy nine-song release dropped on vinyl in late August.

Horn player, vocalist, music journalist and house cleaner Will Baumgartner, aka the 61-year-old Reverend EverReady, put the current iteration of the outfit together in June 2015, after a year's hiatus following the original band's year-long dissolution in May 2014, when Baumgartner's alcohol abuse sabotaged his creative efforts and his ability to perform.

The Pamlico Sound will play a Halloween party on November 2 at the Larimer Lounge, where the band will perform new tunes and delve into material originally played at Woodstock by Sly & the Family Stone and Janis Joplin.

Westword caught up with Baumgartner ahead of the show.

Westword: How is the band's name pronounced?

Will Baumgartner: PAM-lick-oh. Emphasis on the first syllable, and the "i" is short. The Pamlico Sound is a body of water on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where I'm from.

How long have you been living in Colorado?

I've been living in Boulder for more than twenty years now. I moved here in September of 1998. I've led a handful of bands in those years, but the Pamlico Sound is the longest-running one. Technically, we've been active for eight years. We actually started nine years ago, but we broke up for a year, and then I re-formed the band in 2015. I basically lost a decade of my life, from ’89 to ’98, to hard drug addiction. Then I relapsed on alcohol, which broke up Pamlico for almost a year. Now I've been clean and sober for almost five years.

How is that feeling?

It's night and day for me. It went from being like, "Hey I'm partying. Yayyy, I might not know exactly what I'm doing, but I'm playing," to being absolutely 100 percent physically, mentally and spiritually plugged into what we're doing. I would not trade it back for all the money in the world.

Can you tell me a bit about your current band?

I'm the frontman and vocalist, and I write most of the material, but I share the lead singing. The other singer is an incredibly good female vocalist, Sarah Sariah, aka Sarah Jean Sariah Robertson. We have a fantastic four-piece horn section that includes Sarah Mount, who is getting really well known because she plays with so many local acts. She plays alto sax. We also have a trumpeter, Matt Wilkolak, who also plays a lot locally, and then myself on baritone sax, soprano sax and harmonica. We had tenor saxophonist Alex Cazet on our album release, but our current tenor player is Eric Natsuhiro Jordan.

Have you always been really into funk and soul?

Before this, I was in some rock bands that had elements of funk and soul, but it was more rock. With this band, I decided that, really, the music that makes me happiest and the music that I grew up with is more funk and soul than anything else. So I just decided that I'm going to start a band where that is pretty much what we do. We were purists in our first years, but in the last couple years, I've woven in some stuff that has an Afrobeat feel and some reggae and a little pop here and there. But still, we're primarily funk and soul. That's the music I grew up with.

And you'll be covering some Sly and the Family Stone and some Janis Joplin?

Yeah. This is going to be our Halloween show, and we'll do a couple originals, but our main set is going to be songs that Sly and Janis did at Woodstock fifty years ago. We can't do both of their full sets, because that would take a couple hours. But we're going to do songs like "Dance to the Music," "Wanna Take You Higher" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," which is a song that wasn't part of their Woodstock set, as it hadn't been recorded yet, but we decided to do it anyway as our encore. For Janis, who was touring behind her Kozmic Blues album at the time — which is perfect, because at that time she had a full horn section — we're doing "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder," "To Love Somebody," "As Good As You've Been to This World" and "Summertime," which was not from the Kozmic Blues album, but she did it with horns during her set. And the Otis Redding song "I Can't Turn You Loose," which she did not actually sing at Woodstock; the leader of her horn section, Snooky Flowers, sang it. So we're gonna do that, and that will be the one tune from Janis where I'll be singing lead. Otherwise, Sarah will be doing all the leads.

I saw that Sarah might be debuting a new original?

Yeah, that's super-exciting for me. It's a fucking great song. It's called "Gave It All." It brings in a jazzier element that kind of reminds me of Nina Simone, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott. We just did the first performance of it on the radio, on KGNU, a couple weeks ago. So this is going to be our first performance of it in front of a live audience.

How many people are in your band?

We are currently sitting at eight pieces. We sometimes add a keyboard player when we play live. We'd kind of like to have someone in a permanent keyboard chair, but it's been kind of catch as catch can for key players.

Do you have a day job as well?

Yeah, I clean houses.

What else might people want to know about you all?

The thing that a lot of people might not realize about us is that we've been doing this for a while. We're not the most popular people in the world, and we're not connected with a bunch of big-name people, but we've been steadily building our sound and our vibe and getting more and more of an audience. Another thing that makes us interesting is that we have a pretty theatrical stage show. I call it the Jive Church. I'm the Reverend EverReady. Sarah is Sister Sarah Sariah, the rest of the band are the Deacons, and the audience is the Congregation. We praise the funk and do funk baptisms. It's a whole bunch of fun and gets the audience into it and makes them feel like they're part of the show, which they are. 

FUNK'N SOUL Halloween with the Pamlico Sound, Moonglade and Leon and the Revival takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, November 2, at the Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Streets. Tickets are $15 and available at the Larimer Lounge website
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Nick Hutchinson writes about music for Westword and enjoys playing his guitar when not on deadline.
Contact: Nick Hutchinson