May 13 2019

Annie O Presents: Kelly Finnigan

New York-Standard Sounds
Bay Area indie soul auteur Kelly Finnigan will be performing at The Standard, East Village Penthouse on May 21st. 'The Tales People Tell', Finnigan’s debut solo album, reflects on a lifetime steeped in the music and culture of soul, R&B, and hip-­hop. Before his solo debut, Finnigan, whi was the frontman of the Monophonics, toured with the likes of Charles Bradley, George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic and appeared at major festivals like Outside Lands and BottleRock. Our own Annie O caught up with him to discuss all his projects, including owning a record label and his performance at The Standard, East Village on May 21.

Where are you based, Kelly?
 
I’m from LA originally but live in the Bay Area. Marin County to be exact, which is just north of SF over the Golden Gate Bridge.
 
They call you a “Bay Area soul auteur.” Quite original; do you agree with that description of your work?
 
I would say that there is definitely a lot of truth to that. I’m a very hands-on artist, producer and writer.
 
This is your debut solo album—what is the meaning of the title?
 
Well it’s a phrase I like and I think it fits well with this group of songs. Being a songwriter and singer, I very much feel like a messenger and a storyteller. I also grew up in a house with two parents who were great at telling stories. The stories in the lyrics and compositions are a big way the listener connects or feels connected to the song. I’ve always loved that aspect of songs and music and it seemed like an appropriate title for this group of songs.
 
Tell us about the process and some of the musicians on this album?
 
During the down time after Monophonics’ last record and tours, I was feeling inspired and started writing some songs and working out ideas. I was just writing or co-writing with friends or musicians. Once I got an idea, I would work it out and get it developed. Then once those ideas developed, I would put them down to tape. After I got a handful done, I started to see these songs as a really strong start to making a great record. So, I kept on writing and recording until I had about 12 done. The first five-six songs I made with a very loose and fast approach, which I love, but as I wrote more songs, I really started crafting the last few with great detail to ensure that they all were unique with the right kind of character and they had something special.

I played most of the drums, keyboards, vibraphone, percussion and vocals on most tracks but made sure to get a lot of other great musicians on guitar, horns, percussion, bass, background vocals and strings. Having these great musicians and friends on the record was part of the vision once I decided to make a record. I wanted to get people I love, respect and have wanted to work with. I had my hands in everything from producing, recording, writing the songs, arranging them, playing on them, picking the other musicians and mixing it. Plus, it was all done at Transistor Sound studio, a studio I co-own and operate. The whole process was excellent. I love making records and I had a lot of fun during all the sessions.

The Standard
Is it true that you wrote and produced all the songs on the album?
 
I am responsible for producing it, recording most of it and mixing it. I’m the main songwriter but co-wrote some of the songs with friends on the record.
 
You were a member of Monophonics—can you tell us a bit about the band? Is it still around?
 
Monophonics is a psychedelic soul band from the Bay Area. I joined the band in 2010. We have toured all over the world since 2012. We also just finished mixing the new Monophonics’ record which I think people are really gonna dig. The record will come out at the top of 2020 on Colemine Records.
 
You also founded your own label, Transistor sound—does it still exist?
 
Yes, and it is still going strong and it’s run out of the Bay Area. We have put out some great 45’s by Monophonics, Ikebe Shakedown, The Sentiments, So Ons, Alanna Royale, Night People & The Dontells. And have some great future releases coming up!
 
Are you currently on tour?
 
Yes, I am currently on tour promoting my solo record. One show in New York and then the Midwest. We got KC, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago and Minneapolis.
 
What are you listening to these days?
 
A whole lot of everything. Old, new and everything in between. Richard Swift, OV Wright, Ebo Taylor, Neal Francis, Brian Bennett, Howlin Wolf, Neal Young, Curtis Mayfield, The Mizell Brothers, Rudy De Anda, Brothers of Soul, that new Marvin LP, Claude Fontaine, Studio One comps and a lot of old doo wop and soul.
 
What can we expect from your show at The Standard, East Village?
 
You can expect to hear soul. I will be performing mostly the record live. Staying true to the record and songs but some slight changes or surprises to give the songs a better vibe in a live setting.
INTERVIEW BY
Annie O