.Planet Booty: Celebrate good times with Oakland’s finest dance band

Planet Booty wants you to get up and dance! The Oakland based trio takes an expansive approach to the grooves they lay down, incorporating elements of retro funk, soul, jazz, dance, house, disco, R&B, hip-hop and EDM. Those ingredients blend smoothly on YES, the set they recently released on their Bandcamp page. 

YES is the culmination of what we always try to do,” said Dylan Germick, one of the band’s lead singers and composers. “The band has been through a couple of iterations to get to where we are now. We started out as a six-piece funk band, but we had to slim down. Our last album, Naked, was our first as a trio, but we were still finding our way. YES is the result of many years, and many tours, as a trio. It’s a definitive statement that says we’re gonna be as loud and proud and big as we can be, for better or worse. Josh Cantero, who sings and plays keys and trombone, is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve found ourselves more intertwined with that community over the years. We’re sexually ambiguous in the music and try to keep identifying pronouns out of songs, so everybody can listen to the music and relate to it.” 

Germick, Cantero and Rob Gwin—the band’s bass player, vocalist and master of looping and percussion—put the album together during the pandemic lockdown. It was done remotely, with help from artists they’ve become friendly with on the road, including TWRP, El Gun Legro and Flint Flossy. “We couldn’t tour or perform, so we had a moment to reflect, like everyone else,” Germick said. “The world’s burning down. Should we quit the band and give up on our absurd dream, or go on with the music? We chose music. On one level, every day is a challenge for every human, so we came to the idea of finding a moment of ‘Yes!’ every day. 

“We started doing livestream concerts in Rob’s living room. We’d share ideas, then break off into our own corners, do some workshopping and bring stuff to the group again. Josh is an amazing vocalist. If you give him a piano and guitar, he’ll come up with stuff and record it on his phone. He’s a walking studio. I have a little space in my home where I can write, dance and compose. Rob has a big house, with lots of recording equipment, so we tried to replicate what we’d do in a studio.”

Once the band had the basic tracks done, they sent them to Aaron Hellam to help with mixing and mastering. “We’ve worked with him for a long time. When we send him tracks, he can tell us, ‘You can do better than that,’ and we listen. The finished album has his fingerprints all over it. We made the raw material, but he made sure we got it to the finish line.”

The music on YES sounds as classic as a KSOL playlist, and as modern as any mega-mix you’ll find on an internet station. “Dancing in My Bedroom” opens with warm synth chords supporting Cantero’s laid back vocal, as he describes the joys of solitude. The chorus jumps in with an uplifting dance pulse that embeds the hook in your mind, making you want to get up and move. TWRP hits the ground running on “Only If You Say Yes.” Germick and Cantero lay down a horn line that echoes The Famous Flames and EW&F. A galloping bass line and screaming rock guitar solo add to the frenetic pulse as Cantero and Germick trade off on lead vocals. The smooth harmonies are delivered by Cantero and guest vocalist Sarah Clarke. 

“Sexual Savior” compresses the history of soul music into five minutes with hints of Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, gospel music, Sly and the Family Stone and other icons in the arrangement. The swinging rhythm is laid down by a popping bass and funky clap track. Germick and Cantero swap leads again, ornamented by the harmonies and call and response vocals of San Francisco’s Audio Angel. It’s an impressive blending of the sacred and the sensual. 

Germick said Oakland plays a big part in the band’s approach. “When I was a kid, it seemed like Oakland was the craziest, funkiest place in the world. You had Digital Underground doing The Humpty Dance, Too Short, MC Hammer, En Vogue, Tony! Toni! Toné!—all those great acts. Despite being a straight, white, blond-haired, blue-eyed guy, I was able to perform on the streets of Oakland with my band and draw a crowd. Oakland is one of the most culturally diverse places in the U.S. Walking down the street in my outrageous, silver lame suits, I feel love and acceptance. You can’t shock people in Oakland, but you can gain their love, appreciation and support if you’re authentic. That gets me high. It’s a crazy, wonderful place.”  

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Planet Booty will be playing The Elbo Room in Oakland’s Jack London Square on Thursday, July 21 and Thursday, July 28, at 8pm, with special guests along for the ride. The club is at 311 Broadway. 510-808-7650. www.elbo.com. View their videos at planetbooty.org

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