While Jon Batiste famously uses the term “social music” for his crowd-pleasing, genre-blurring approach, the music of Huntertones—the band co-led by Batiste’s Stay Human bandmate, trumpeter Jon Lampley—might better be called “social media music.” The group was founded by three Ohio State University classmates and has found success, first in Columbus and now in Brooklyn, by using social networks to generate virtual word of mouth.
The most famous example is the band’s tribute to Michael Jackson, with Lampley and co-founders Dan White and Chris Ott performing a medley of 16 songs by the King of Pop, which has generated more than half a million views on Facebook. A Snarky Puppy cover on YouTube led to Puppies Justin Stanton and Keita Ogawa appearing on the band’s new album, Passport.
“With the internet becoming the primary way that people are consuming music, having a presence on social media is a more direct way to direct traffic to your music,” Lampley says. “It’s a way to connect the dots and build a fanbase, and we’ve been trying to utilize it as much as possible.”
Social outreach of the more old-fashioned variety is central to the sound of the band’s new album, however. At Ohio State Lampley, White, and Ott bonded over their eclectic tastes and self-described “outrageous ambition,” a shared trait that has served them well since relocating to Brooklyn in 2014. Huntertones was founded on a lively blend of jazz, rock, funk, and soul, but recent opportunities to tour the world have led to the incorporation of a variety of globe-spanning influences.
“As we started to travel internationally, we were determined to stay open to anything and everything,” Lampley says. “Getting to play and talk with other musicians in West Africa and South America has had a profound effect on all of us personally, and it’s become a huge priority of ours to seek out musicians and immerse ourselves into different cultures.”
Passport is thus a travelogue in music, accented by sounds collected in locales as far-flung as Ecuador, Zimbabwe, and Ireland. Just as important as the music the band heard in those places were the experiences they shared, which also made a profound impact on their new compositions: White’s rollicking “Clutch” recounts the nerve-wracking cab ride down an Ecuadorian mountain with an engine confined to first and second gear, while Lampley’s “Bird Song” is built on the call of an exotic bird discovered in Zimbabwe.
Batiste approves of the results. “This is true world music, in that it is music for all people, no matter where you’re from,” he says. “By tastefully blending together generations of culture, on Passportthe Huntertones have crafted a truly universal offering with an underlying message of unity and celebration.”
Lampley’s work alongside Batiste on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has provided its own share of life-changing experiences. “You’re playing for millions of people on TV, but you’re actually playing for a studio audience that is not there just to hear you but to have an entire experience. That can be daunting, but at the same time it can be really exciting. Any time you join a musical family, the other musicians’ tendencies can rub off on you, and in the case of Stay Human and Jon, those are some of the best musical tendencies that you could hope for.”
Top photo (L to R): Josh Hill, Adam DeAscentis, Chris Ott, Dan White, John Hubbell, Jon Lampley, and Justin Stanton. Photo by Shervin Lainez.