Flow Tribe loosens up listeners with Painkiller

Photo provided by Bats on Strings -- Flow Tribe. Show caption
Photo provided by Bats on Strings -- Flow Tribe.

New Orleans funk-rock band Flow Tribe dispenses painkillers in musical doses.

The group’s new EP, Painkiller, is the best recorded example yet of Flow Tribe’s self-described “backbone crackin’ music.”

“We’re musical chiropractors,” singer-trumpeter K.C. O’Rorke explained. “We want to loosen you up.”

Last month, Flow Tribe played the first set of the first day of the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Gentilly Stage.

“Which was a great honor,” O’Rorke said. “It was 11:30 in the morning, but I would play the Kids Tent at Jazz Fest. It’s something that we, as New Orleans musicians, really want to be a part of.”

Despite Flow Tribe’s early starting time at Jazz Fest, the group got noticed by national newspaper USA Today.

“The USA Today thing came out of nowhere,” O’Rorke said. “That was excellent.”

A band that follows its own prescription, Flow Tribe really works out on stage.

“We’re animated,” O’Rorke said. “It’s not contrived. We enjoy the music we make and we love playing for people.”

In a city that presents so many entertainment opportunities, O’Rorke and his fellow Flow Tribe members, all of whom are from the New Orleans area, are grateful for the audiences they get.

“We’re thrilled that the response has been so strong,” he said. “People have so many options on a Friday or Saturday night so, if they’re going to spend time with us, we give them everything we got.”

Even with the multitude of the local and visiting talent that fills local music venues, O’Rorke doesn’t see the scene as competitive.

“We’re going up against guys like George Porter Jr., who’s been in the business for 40 years, New Orleans masters, and also guys our own age. But that’s what great about New Orleans. It’s not a competitive environment. It’s collaborative, people jumping on stage. New Orleans isn’t like New York or Nashville, where it’s cutthroat.”

The members of Flow Tribe grew up with the local funk and rhythm-and-blues that’s been the city’s soundtrack for decades.

“I was always surrounded by the music of Dr. John and the Meters,” O’Rorke said. “In New Orleans, you do have that overarching American influence but you’re also in this little bubble of second lines and parades. You soak up that thing while also being exposed to mainstream music. It’s almost unspoken. We bring things to the band like Huey ‘Piano’ Smith’s ‘Don’t You Just Know It.’ It’s stuff that we’ve heard and know. It’s in our DNA.”

Like the music that burst out of Cosimo Matassa’s various recording studios during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, Flow Tribe aspires to making records with immediacy.

“Yeah,” O’Rorke said. “We always wanted to make a record that jumps out at you, from beginning to end, keeps you engaged and takes you on a journey.”

O’Rorke follows another New Orleans music tradition: He’s sings and plays trumpet.

“Those are huge shoes to fill. Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong. Those guys are models for how I want to sound. I’ve got a long way to go. At the same time, Louis Prima has been a huge influence on me because he always brought humor into his songs. That’s a big part of our band, too. It’s in our personalities. We take the music seriously but, as far as ourselves, we’re a bunch of jokers.”