Fatbook blends genres

By Contributing Writer

by: Summer McCaslin, Contributing Writer

Local indie jazz band Fatbook has made its way from playing basement gigs at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., to selling out shows all around Chicago and the Midwest. Multi-instrumentalist Harjinder Bedi attributes the band’s interesting fusion of reggae, jazz, rhythm and blues and West African influences to each member’s world travels and experiences.

After winning Downbeat Magazine’s 2009 and 2010 Best Band in the National Student Music Awards, Bedi, Reed Flygt, Evan Jacobson and Ted Toussaint moved to Chicago to further their success. Despite their increasingly busy schedule, The Chronicle spoke with Fatbook about collaborating, shocking audiences and future plans.

The Chronicle: How and when did the band get together?

Harjinder Bedi: We started in college at Lawrence University in Wisconsin. Initially, I wanted to start up a reggae band, so I called up seven jazz musicians to start a new project. We started playing straight up reggae music, but what ended up coming from it was our sound. We played shows in the small town where our university is and eventually moved the group down to Chicago. It will be two years in May we have been officially together.

The Chronicle: How would you describe your sound?

HB: We are trying to figure that out. I would say our music is definitely influenced by jazz because most of us studied jazz in college. There is also a funk influence, a reggae influence, R&B influence, and there is kind of a pop/rock sound within our songwriting. I spent the last three months in West Africa, so that definitely had a huge influence on my musical experience. For us, studying and experiencing West African music has caused us to start to explore a lot more musically.

The Chronicle: Would you tie those experiences into the band’s

inspiration overall?

HB: I think so. We have a lot of different musical experiences happening individually, and there are seven people in the group who have different personalities and influences coming together. A lot of our band members have been traveling. Our trumpet player was in China for a year, and I have been spending time in West Africa and the Caribbean. So that has provided us with different influences from around the world.

The Chronicle: Is the songwriting


HB: Sometimes we individually write a tune or write lyrics, and we try to work with that. But a lot of times there will be collaboration between us in the group. Evan Jacobson, our trombone player, has done a lot of great collaborations for our band. Ted Toussaint, the trumpet player and singer, and I have been singing together since we were about 10 years old and have been together in many endeavors, so that has provided some

great collaborations.

The Chronicle: With so many bands trying to make it big, how does Fatbook set themselves apart?

HB: I hope the music speaks for itself, and a lot of times people come out to see us and are surprised with what they hear. People see a horn section with seven people on stage and a frontman with a turban on his head and these are all things people notice. What I hope is the music affects people in a way that makes them want to come back for more.

The Chronicle: What are Fatbook’s plans for the future?

HB: We are just working on establishing ourselves in the Chicago music community. We’re looking to really build that up here in town. We’re also working on a small summer tour for June and July so we can hopefully get some East and West coast dates. As far as a new record goes, I am hoping there will be one in the near future because we have been working on a lot of new music, but we haven’t set a date on that yet.

To hear more from Fatbook, visit their website at FatbookMusic.com.