Written by: Mister Substitute
This is the inaugural Artist Profile where Mustard and I will be highlighting artists that we… well… want to highlight, and the person that inspired this idea is none other than Southern California’s own Nate Phung, front-person for Nate Funk and the Phunky Bunch.
I first found Nate on a random Bandcamp Friday: Nate commented on a Tweet I posted about Bandcamp Friday, liked the cover and listened to the first track and I believe I bought the album before the song was even done. I vividly remember cleaning my house in a trance as I listened to Nate’s most recent album “Playing Guitar is Hard with Hooves” three times over. I was sold. I was an instant NFatFB fan.
It wasn’t until a bit later that I really dove into Nate’s discography, listening to anything I could. What’s great about listening to Nate’s music is that it is very versatile. It’s almost like “what did Nate decide to wear today?” You get the casual, acoustic side of Nate like in “Hooves” provides, and then you get the Rudeboy, punk-rock side of Nate like in “Thoughts on the Road.” But at the core of his music–of Nate–is a wonderfully crafty musician as well as an excellent lyricist and storyteller.
Getting to meet him at an Eichlers show in Fullerton was very special because it was nice to finally meet him and put a face to the music and get to hear him talk about the bands he used to play in absolutely blew me away. I asked him and…well Nate’s been around. *Deep inhale* “The Two Tone Boners, LiveSka All Stars, Isolated Victims, Green Streak, The Maxies, Yorktown Lads, Odd Robot, NFatFB and played once in Half Past Two, Bad Manners, and We Are the Union (…technically).” Like I said, mind-blowing.
The cool thing about Nate Phung is that if you know him and what he does, that list doesn’t seem so far-fetched (except for the amount of time that guy spends either working or rocking). Nate–Mr. Phung– has been a high school band and orchestra teacher for the past 8 years. For anyone who has been in a marching band, you should know the amount of hours band teachers put into not only teaching musicianship but also marching and formations. I asked him if being a band teacher helped with his creativity and he said “It obviously helps having a stable job to support my creative endeavors. I usually get inspired by one liners or little thoughts or nuggets that I either have said to my kids or heard from my students. I also write the marching band music for my kids and that gives me a break from thinking about songwriting when I’m stuck with a song I’m working on and vice versa.”
For Nate, being involved in band as well as being involved in many punk-rock bands, the connection to ska is obvious. He shared with me that, like most of us, he grew up playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater and listened to the likes of Rancid, Op Ivy, Madness, Reel Big Fish through the Green Day-on-Yahoo-Music rabbit hole that some of Millenials remember all-too-well. Another band that Nate mentioned that made sense in how he writes his lyrics is Weezer.
Of course, all of this musical history lead to Nate creating Nate Funk and the Funky Bunch. How does Nate describe them? “We’re a punk rock power trio right now that’s too ska to be punk rock but not ska enough to be ska. Inject some power pop and folk punk sensibilities in there, and bam! Super frenetic live shows. We like playing really fast live. I also like saying funny self-deprecating and embarrassing stuff on the microphone.” Even from their studio-recorded music, the Funky Bunch pack and funky punch. Nate’s favorite song to play live is “All My Friends Move to Santa Cruz,” a power-chord driven song that mentions his old friends and even the SKAmous Dan P.
From playing his own shows, going to Fest with Odd Robot, hanging out at shows or setting up Open Mic nights, Nate Phung is a musician through-and-through. Not to mention his online presence! You know him, you love him, he’s Nate Phung!
Check out Nate Funk and the Funky Bunch on Spotify and Bandcamp and follow Nate on Instagram and Twitter if you don’t already.
Also, since this is the Inaugural Interview, Nate will be starting off our custom of having whoever we interview suggest who we interview next, stay tuned to see who Nate suggested!