Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings play at Sasquatch! on Monday. Dap King bass player and leader (as well as Daptone Records owner) Gabriel Roth checked in with us on the road from Vancouver to discuss how a full band like the Dap Kings rarely uses a set list, how Sharon’s energy level can be a challenge each night and the possibilities of working with Amy Winehouse again.
Randomville: You are a busy man with running the Dap Kings and your own record label, plus touring all over the world. When you’re actually playing up on the stage, is that kind of like break time for you?
Gabriel Roth: Well I wouldn’t call it break time, man. We’re definitely working up there. However it really is rewarding up there to get the reactions from the crowd and that’s why we play.
Rv: Well out of all of those things that you do, what would you say is your favorite?
GR: I guess it depends; on any other day you might get a different answer. I mean a great live show is probably the best part. I really enjoy working in the studio, but a great live show with Sharon (Jones) is really a moment.
Rv: She has a ton of energy for someone her age. When the road really gets you down and her energy isn’t up, do you feel like the energy really props her up and gets her moving sometimes?
GR: Well she has a lot of energy for anyone’s age. But there is a lot of give and take between Sharon and the band, and Sharon and the audience. You know maybe she has been singing for seven days in a row and has allergies, hasn’t slept for two days; but if the rhythym is right then she can feed off of that. And if the crowd is really into it and dancing, that can bring her to life too.
Rv: How does the road treat you specifically?
GR: The hardest part of the road for me is being away from family. I have two little girls and a wife at home, so I really miss them when I’m on the road. Other than that though I love it. I love traveling. If I didn’t have a business to run and a family to support then I would prefer to tour all the time, personally.
Rv: Let’s talk about the band. Do you have pretty high standards for the band and is there a long list of people that want in to be part of your band?
GR: It’s a pretty tight family and the list of people wanting in is pretty few, actually. Everyone knows exactly what their role is before we go on stage. You have to understand that working with Sharon isn’t always easy. If you have the right tempo with her one night, it could be the wrong tempo the next night depending on her energy level. So you have to be in tune to what is happening on stage and be able to adapt fast.
Rv: How do the songs come together then; do you write all of the music?
GR: Ten years ago when the band started I was the primary song writer, but now there are some really good writers in the band. Sometimes one of them will just bring in half of an idea and then we’ll all work on it together
Rv: Who chooses your set lists on stage?
GR: A lot of times we don’t have set lists.
GR: Yeah, we might plan songs for the beginning and end of shows, but again, it usually just depends on Sharon and the crowd’s energy to determine what we will play.
Rv: I would have figured with so many people in the band then everything would be very structured and exact.
GR: If we have newer people in the band then of course we won’t expect them to be ready to play 60 songs at any moment right out of the gate and that can be a little more limited. Most of the band prefers to not have a set list though.
Rv: One of my favorite things Sharon does is pulls people up on the stage to dance, in particular silly looking white guys, which is why I stay away from the front of the stage. What are some of your favorite moments like that that have happened?
GR: When we used to play smaller places, Sharon used to take the mic and go out into the crowd because she loves to let people know they are part of the show. We always had to make sure she had a 50ft mic chord, and she would go out and work the crowd. Eventually we had to tell her to stop doing that as the venues got bigger because the crowd couldn’t see her. So she decided that she would start pulling people up on stage then. People have done backflips on stage; others have proposed to each other on stage. It’s always a lot of fun.
Rv: Are there any other projects that the Dap Kings are working on?
GR: We have a lot of great stuff coming out. We have done some recordings with The Sugarman 3 and The Budos Band. Charles Bradley is another one who we have recorded with recently. [These are all bands on the Daptone label]
Rv: You guys have worked with Amy Winehouse in the past. Is there a chance of a reunion with her?
GR: We’d be down to work with her again. You know she was always really cool with us and easy to work with. But I don’t pretend to speculate on what is going on with her and her situation. I would love to work with her but I don’t know if it will actually happen.
Rv: So there is nothing in the plans to work with her then?
GR: Definitely not. We have not had any contact with her at all.
Rv: Have you guys ever played Sasquatch! or at The Gorge before?
GR: No but we’ve heard a lot of good things. I’m really excited to play there. I imagine it will probably be a pretty wild show.
Rv: We will see you on Monday then.
GR: Alright cool man. Thanks.