Creator Series: Herd of Watts

Mar 19, 2014

What do you get when you take Corey Peterson’s screaming sax; mix it with the chimed chords of brothers Ben and Matthew Strok, wrap it in the blistering baselines of Sean Thomas and serve it with the rhythmic percussion of Jamil Wright? The answer is “Junk.”

Not to be disparaging. The term was coined by Jacksonville five-piece group Herd of Watts themselves when classifying their unique blend of jam and funk music.

Herd of Watts playing the WhoCares Festival in St. Augustine, December 2013.
Credit Staged Right Photography

Starting off eight years ago in a Florida Southern dorm room, the funky fusion has spent the last year staking their territory in the southeast music scene, and with much fan acceptance, are ready to breakthrough.

“Now that we’ve gelled as a unit, we’re ready to turn the next page,” said keyboardist Matthew Strok. “We’re looking at One Spark 2014 as the opportunity to make that happen.”

Herd of Watts will perform at One Spark starting April 9 with an initiative titled “The Bandwagon.”

The campaign entails the minimal funding of $10,000 to procure a vehicle for the group to reliably travel as a whole with equipment included.

The band laughed when explaining their ambition to progress to national and international levels, blaming the impossibility of intergalactic travel for discontinuation.

“We’ve thought about it but the technology and the infrastructure hasn’t evolved to that point,” lead guitar Ben Strok joked.

The group describes themselves as alchemic, with every member contributing equally but with their own flavor, influence and inspiration.

Though there is no formulaic approach, the members take turns offering melodies, ideas and lyrics.

“While Corey’s a very compelling tenor sax player and Ben is an incredibly compelling guitar player, what they can do together is so much more powerful than either one of them by themselves,” Matthew Strok said.

While eclectic contribution is an underlying theme for Herd of Watts, human interaction is just as important. The members talk about bridging the gap between the artist and listener, an idea others say isn’t fully possible.

Credit Herd of Watts

This shared experience calls for equal participation from the crowd. The band says it’s similar to poets, painters and other artists’ outlook; they feed off of the audience’s connection and energy.

“Give it because we want to give it back,” said Peterson.

They also want to put an end to the one way transaction between the artist and listener. The band promotes dialogue encouraging fans to introduce themselves before and after shows.

“It’s not experimental for the sake of the experiment,” said Matthew Strok. “It’s saying that were going on a journey we want you to help shape it.”

Herd of Watts will be centered at Underbelly on Bay Street during the festival, but will play surrounding venues as well. The band has created an art installation sharing information, project objectives, schedules and more.

Unlike many other groups, they advocate burning their CDs as many times as the listener wishes. Getting their name out is a predominant aspiration.

“We’re in here for the long haul, we’re not just doing it for a quick buck tomorrow,” said Peterson.

Herd of Watts has two EPs projecting to be released early May.

You can get more information at HerdOfWatts.com or search #spreadtheheard on social media.

For more information on the One Spark festival, visit BeOneSpark.com.

You can follow Scott Harrison on Twitter @Sharrison983.