Spirit Animal will teach you to get the funk out

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When it’s suggested that the music of his band, Spirit Animal, doesn’t fit neatly into any current rock ’n’ roll trends, Steve Cooper doesn’t deny it. Reached somewhere on the long desert drive between Las Vegas and San Diego, the singer tells the Straight that he and his bandmates place more value on having fun than on being fashionable.

“We just found that having a good time is what really drives us, and where we all kind of gather around musically,” Cooper says. “So when you talk about a rock band, or a band with guitars, and you start to inject the party into it, there’s really only a few ways that that’s taken shape in the past, you know? And I think that’s kind of naturally evolved into a funk thing.”

That’s right; Cooper just dropped the proverbial F-bomb. Spirit Animal messes about in a myriad of genres—its latest single, “BST FRNDS”, is a pop-punk rager driven by a hepped-up-on-goofballs Motown backbeat—but the New York–based quartet almost always returns to the business of funking shit up.

And if you just can’t fake the funk no matter how hard you try, Spirit Animal is happy to provide instructions. The band’s most popular song to date is “The Black Jack White” (95,000 YouTube views and counting), which offers step-by-step booty-shaking instructions.

Cooper says the title is a non sequitur, and that the song isn’t actually about the musician born John Anthony Gillis, although if you follow the directions to the letter, you end up miming one of the things that made the former White Stripe famous.

“If you walk through the steps of the dance, you basically play air guitar,” Cooper says. “But it’s this real kind of swaggy air guitar. It’s not like this traditional, tongue out, foot-up-on-the-speaker air guitar that you would do in the air-guitar competition. It’s more of, like, an ‘in the club’ air guitar. And we’ve started to see people do it, for sure. Just the other night in Denver there was a crew of three. People really want to step up, I think, when they know the dance, and just get other people involved.”

And that, it would seem, is also what Spirit Animal aims to accomplish. Cooper notes that he and his cohorts—bassist Paul Michel, guitarist Cal Stamp, and drummer Ronen Evron—aren’t satisfied until the whole room is shaking ass. They are also savvy enough to realize that the party needs to start on-stage.

“There’s nothing like that, for us,” Cooper says of the band’s reputedly off-the-hook live performances. “I mean, that’s really our calling card. It just never gets old. The whole idea of people having a good time—they have to see you having a good time. We kind of look at the live show as a lead-by-example kind of thing. And if you’re not going to stand there and dance to the music, why should anybody else?”

Spirit Animal plays the Waldorf on Friday (June 13).

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