Following their ambitious slate of performances during last month’s SXSW, it was clear that Black Pumas — the collaboration between 27-year-old newcomer Eric Burton and Grammy-winning guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, 2018’s Look At My Soul) — were set for a big 2019. NPR’s Here & Now deemed them “the breakout band of 2019” and KCRW called their sound “Wu-Tang Clan meets James Brown.” Rolling Stone, in naming Black Pumas “One Of The 30 Best Bands We Saw In Austin,” praised Burton’s “tireless, charismatic energy” and said that the band “seemed to tap the collective unease of the national moment.”
Black Pumas announce the release of their self-titled debut, on ATO Records. Produced by Quesada in his home studio and colored by Burton’s dark imagery and haunting vocals, the album is equally indebted to East Coast hip-hop as it is to classic funk and soul, resulting in a project that is of the moment rather than retro. Explaining the new single, Black Pumas said: “Colors was written on the rooftop of an uncle’s house. Eric woke up midday and started the song as the sun was going down. He was inspired by the rich multi-coloured hues of the sky. The song was written in the themes of mortality and togetherness.”
Quesada had been working on a new project inspired by a mix of woozy Ghostface Killah instrumentals, crispy Motown soul, and the introspective grandeur of dusty highway folk-rock, and, after hearing him audition over the phone, Burton slotted in beautifully. Pulling from his myriad performance backgrounds — singing in the church, acting in musical theater, and busking at the Santa Monica Pier — Burton injects Quesada’s instrumentals with a howling croon and surrealist lyrical bent. From the roiling, solar eclipse-inspired noir of ‘Black Moon Rising’ to the epic ‘Oct 33’ these early collaborations provided the basis for Black Pumas.
Burton and Quesada were thrilled with the songs, but Black Pumas truly began to make their name with a weekly residency at Austin’s C-Boys that quickly became “the hottest party in town” (Austin-American Statesman), with lines wrapping to see their whip-sharp band and Burton’s “whirlwind of movement and gesture” (Chicago Tribune). What followed was a quick and dirty ascent through the Austin music scene, culminating in a coronation as Best New Band at the 2019 Austin Music Awards.