MudFunk: Big Sound, Bigger Soul

MudFunk, a nine-piece neo-soul/funk collective, is carving an emotionally charged path in the city of Vancouver. Led by Adriana Parejas (vocals) and Will Lloyd (guitar), this nine-piece force sparked from a friendship at audio engineering school. Meeting at Pacific Audio Visual Institute, Will and Adriana envisioned a modern sound mixed with a soulful feel. On the heels of their debut EP, the two discuss the realities of working in a nine-piece group, the creative process behind MudFunk, and how their ideas of success have transformed.

Will Lloyd and Adriana Parejas, photo: Dale Drea

Will Lloyd and Adriana Parejas, photo: Dale Drea

Push And Pull

“Everything I write, I think about how people are going to move to it,” says Will. He dances in his apartment to feel a song’s push and pull on the body. “Will it be more of a head bob or a side to side motion?” he says. Adriana writes within a similar thread of thought. “I want people to feel the story...feel the music and connect,” she says. “There is a significant amount of heart that goes out to those who listen.” Back in 2014, Adriana Parejas and Will Lloyd started the nine-piece band MudFunk. The Vancouver based collective harnesses contemporary R&B, funk, and soul influences.

Will and Adriana met at audio engineering school. They played blues music together at Pacific Audio Visual Insititute. Soon, they spent every day together writing and creating. With Adriana on vocals and Will on guitar, they performed at local venues. Both started to crave a bigger, more soulful sound. “Taking that modern sound and giving it a soul feel, that neo-soul vibe, always drove me,” says Will. They reached out to the music community around Vancouver for a horn and backup section. Chris Couto, a local drummer, shared a parallel vision and linked with WIll and Adriana. Then, more pieces began to fall into place. A trio of vocals, guitar, and drums morphed into a nine-piece force wielding saxophones, bass, keyboard, and backup singers.

Kitchen Rules

Long before Adriana and Will formed MudFunk, they expressed themselves creatively as kids. Adriana sang as her mom would cook. “I was four or five years old and I would stand on a chair, singing made up songs about flowers and butterflies,” she says. Will watched his older brother play guitar. “He shredded to Led Zeppelin and killed it,” says Will. “I picked up the guitar because of my brother.”

Now tackling a greater vision, Adriana and Will oversee a songwriting process with nine moving parts. Will or Adriana will pitch the song idea and the others chisel the track with feedback. “We have leaders...otherwise things get too nutty,” says Adriana, “but everyone in the band has a creative agency and we never dictate exactly how others play.” Freedom reigns at rehearsal. Fresh concepts flow organically. “Nobody has to play a certain way,” says Will. “We talk, exchange input comfortably...there’s a back and forth, family feel to it.”

photo: Dale Drea

photo: Dale Drea

Even in a family setting, frustrations can simmer. Honoring nine players’ input can get dirty. “We definitely have moments where we feel like there are too many cooks in the damn kitchen,” says Adriana. “Everyone’s voice needs to be heard, which is challenging when you have to make decisions.”

Soul And The City

Eight years ago, live music struggled in Vancouver. Shows dwindled, venues shut down, and the culture flickered. “I used to work as a live audio technician around the city,” says Will. “Since I moved here, I’ve seen the quality of music grow.” Over time, venues came back to life, the owners upgraded the sound systems, and people flocked to live shows again. According to Will, Guilt & Co. holds down the best atmosphere for live music. “Any night of the week you can see amazing bands,” he says. “There’s no mandatory cover, you pay what you can, and the place is always packed.”

Chris Couto, photo: Dale Drea

Chris Couto, photo: Dale Drea

Watching local bands command the stage, MudFunk seizes their own soulful swagger. Staying vulnerable takes practice. Creativity surfaces in pockets. “It’s not some enduring, emotional, sticky process for me,” says Adriana. “I sit down and write because I’m an artist, even if I don’t feel like it.” She tries never to judge her art. Confining herself for a certain sound can stifle songwriting. “Sometimes, I get caught up in what a song is supposed to feel like,” says Adriana, “but nothing should dictate your sound other than what directly comes out of you.”

photo: @bjclaydenphotography

photo: @bjclaydenphotography

Early on, Will also struggled to find his sound. In front of his high school classmates, he played a song off of Circus by Lenny Kravitz. People walked out of the auditorium. “I remember watching people leave,” he says. “I thought that’s fucking bullshit, and I’m going to make sure nobody walks out again.”

Since high school, Will’s idea of success has transformed. Early aspirations of rock stardom have reshaped into a drive to make a living off of music. “I’ll hear a good mix of something we played in the studio and feel happy,” he says. “Other times, I can’t find a note to play, feel like I suck, and think I’ll never make a living like this.”

Poor Man's Game

As soul musicians, Adriana and Will hold no illusions of becoming rich. They view success as the ability to put the amount of energy into music that they want. Adriana works as an office manager at both a record label and a yoga studio. She also manages a wellness clinic. Will wakes up at 5:30am to work for a construction company that builds high-end, custom homes. Both Will and Adriana are working towards making music full-time. “I’ll never stop expressing myself through creative mediums,” says Adriana. “There’s no doubt in my mind I will make a living with music.”

With Adriana, Will, and the other band members working full time, schedules rarely align. Carving out practice and studio time takes careful coordination. Recording their most recent EP, all nine spent over half a day in the studio. “We recorded for 13 hours straight,” says Will. “Everyone had to know their shit.” Adriana stayed an extra four hours to re-record vocals. “We’ve been playing these songs for awhile,” she says. “In the studio, we didn’t have to figure out the structure...just went in there and laid it down.”

photo: @bjclaydenphotography

photo: @bjclaydenphotography

All nine musicians respect and trust each other. Worrying about mistakes takes away from MudFunk’s sound, especially on stage. “When we play live there’s always an excitedness,” says Will. “Slip-ups happen, but we have faith in the family around us.” As artists, Will and Adriana hope others find a piece of themselves in the music. They want to inspire new thoughts, good and bad. “Our music isn’t complicated,” says Adriana. “Either you feel it or you don’t.”

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