Shawn Scaggs, Tony Buccilli, Ken Ferry and Geoff Kinde were there when dancing became cool again. They were some of the very people who helped get everyone off their asses and out on the dance floor.
It was a pop culture revival — dance music for cool kids — and when the mid-’90s brought the swing music craze to America, these four were poised to join the ranks of the truly sensational. Their band was called the Atomic Fireballs and they were considered heavy hitters. The Fireballs’ punk-ska-cum-big band mien would gain them national and international attention years before our garage rockers hit the scene. They joined the Warped Tour and sold out venues all over the country. When they started to show up in Hollywood feature films and on sound tracks everywhere, it was official — they were hot.
But like any fad, the swing revival got old and the faddish swingers meandered back to their workaday lives. With wing tips removed and Nikes in their place, the Fireballs drifted back into their pre-rock-star lives.
Some might scoff and relegate the band’s success to “fun while it lasted” status, but not so fast. Even though that shtick is over, the players are still around.
Enter the Money Shot.
The erstwhile Fireballers are a little older and a lot wiser, wary of the fickle music business that left them bruised. They’ve decided to play what they want to play.
“Our goal, if we have one, is just to have a good time,” says Scaggs.
The Money Shot is composed of Fireballers Scaggs, Buccilli, Kinde and Ferry and new additions Rick Browarski (guitar) and Sean Houtoofd (sax), both Wayne State University music school refugees.
“We just got together and started playing,” says Buccilli.
While many musicians see the stage as a way to spotlight their chops, members of the Money Shot view their role differently. They say they’re getting their kicks from “servicing the song and audience” rather than impressing themselves or other musicians or critics. They write three-minute funk tunes with catchy hooks and they consider danceability to be a gauge of a song’s worth.
The mission, as Browarski puts it, is to “have girls dancing in front of us.”
This gang of six loves horns and rhythm and blues. Drawing inspiration from folks like the Ohio Players, Average White Band, Sly and Family Stone and James Brown, this sextet has no frontman, no discernable nucleus. For now, Scaggs and Browarski share the singing responsibilities.
Browarski has been into music since he was a child. The son of a wedding band musician, he remembers going to sleep to the sound of his dad’s rehearsals. In some ways, he thinks he was drawn to music by osmosis.
Bassist Scaggs likewise found music to be a near constant. The cousin of Detroit jazz legend James Carter was also reared in a musical household.
Why play party music? For starters, they point out, “There are just too many rock bands.” And with the inclusion of horn players, their music naturally adheres to a groovy vibe.
“It’s more a concept than a genre,” says Scaggs of the approach.
Though their slick exteriors might fool you, these guys know their way around theory. They are university-level music school grads. They have a grasp of music that the average three-chord Monty doesn’t. The whole lot of ’em could be considered pros.
Houtoofd for example, has a degree in music composition. He cites modern composer Steve Reich as a major influence. Playing funked-out saxophone with his buddies is just the icing on the cake for a man like him.
Buccilli, a recent music school graduate himself, makes his living teaching the trombone.
And what does the Money Shot expect in return for their efforts? Not much. In their own words: Dance, sweat, drink, repeat.
See the Money Shot at Club Bart (22726 Woodward, Ferndale) on Wednesday, April 21, with Scattercat. Call 248-548-8746 for further information.Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].