Local funk band Durian is known for playing songs that usually guarantee a packed dance floor.
“It’s down and dirty funk,” says Durian bass player Christopher Rompre about the music the band plays.
In order to keep people on the dance floor, he says it’s important to have a heavy beat and a bass line that keeps people moving. Durian tries to play a mix of songs that people are familiar with as well as songs that might be new to them. “The important thing is to keep them dancing,” Rompre adds.
The band is happy to be part of a vibrant, growing and evolving ex-pat music scene that is seeing many new bands playing in bars and clubs across the capital, he says.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to do your own thing and have people come out and appreciate it,” Rompre explains. “Our audiences are a fine rowdy bunch of people, a mix of our friends and their friends and people at the bar who suddenly found themselves dancing. Just people having fun.”
Aside from Rompre on bass, Durian’s lineup consists of John Shakespear on guitar, Greg Lavender on drums, Nick Kelly on trombone, Justin Ringsak on the trumpet, Stephane Routtier on saxophone, and Rhiannon Johnson on vocals.
Aside from a previous gig at the FCC, Durian has played at various venues around Phnom Penh, namely Equinox, The Doors, Memphis, Mao’s, The Latin Quarter, and The Village.
The band members come from various backgrounds. Johnson, Lavender, and Routtier are actually professional musicians who can be seen playing gigs in a number of venues in Phnom Penh, Rompre points out. “We’ve also got a filmmaker, a web designer and teacher, a teacher who’s not so good at web design, and a guesthouse manager,” he adds.
With the exception of a collaboration with local poet Kosal Khiev, the band plays “carefully selected” cover songs, Rompre says. “We play some of the very best funk classics, but we’re also constantly searching out old archival tunes and underground contemporary tunes that people wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to otherwise,” he explains.
Durian’s influences include both funk and soul and R&B artists, including DÁngelo, Curtis Mayfield, Parliament-Funkadelic, Sharon Jones, Mark Ronson, Bill Withers, James Brown, Jamiroquai, Ottis Redding, Ray Charles and Etta James. “They’re artists who embody the fun, the soul, and the butt-moving powers that we aspire to as a band,” Rompre says.
While Rompre won’t completely rule out the possibility of the band ever producing a CD, he says the band currently has no plans to make an album.
“Our focus is really on creating a shared experience with the audience. We get up there and give them everything we’ve got, and if the crowd likes what we’re doing, they feed us their energy.”