With the release of their first two albums’ 2020’s All News Is Good News and Daylight Savings, the Melbourne, Australia-based instrumental, jazz-funk outfit Surprise Chef — Lachlan Stuckey (guitar), Jethro Curtin (keys), Carl Lindberg (bass), Andrew Congues (drums) and their newest member, Hudson Whitlock (percussion, composition and production) — quickly amassed a fanbase internationally, while establishing their self-proclaimed “moody shades of instrumental jazz-funk” sound, which draws from 70s film scores, the samples that form hip hop’s foundations,w jazz fusion and jazz funk.
But while inspired by the sounds of the past, the Aussie outfit actively push the boundaries of instrumental soul and funk with an approach honed by countless hours in the studio, studying the masters, and perhaps more importantly, “the tyranny of distance” that helps create a unique perspective to their work.
The band was limited in the fact that there weren’t many people making or even talking about instrumental jazz/soul/funk in Southeast Australia, let alone putting out records. And as a result, this gave the band an opportunity to develop their sound and approach in a sort of creative isolation, where a small circle of friends and like-minded musicians fed off each other.
“Being in Australia, being so far away, we only get glimpses and glances of this music’s origins,” Surprise Chef’s Lachlan Stuckey says. “But hearing a label like Big Crown was one of the first times we realized you could make fresh, new soul music that wasn’t super retro or just nostalgic.”
The Aussie outfit’s third album Education & Recreation is slated for an October 14, 2022 release through Big Crown Records. Their Big Crown Records debut sees the band putting their unique sound and approach on full display.
So far I’ve written about two singles:
- “Money Music,” a strutting and funky pimp walk featuring an expansive arrangement consisting of skittering breakbeats, twinkling key and vibraphone, a sinuous and propulsive bass line paired with a wah wah pedaled guitar that ends with a dreamy fade out. Sonically “Money Music” struck me as being a slick, mischievous and remarkably self-assured synthesis of Polymood and Sauropoda-era L’Eclair, old school hip-hop breakbeat compilations and jazz funk within a mind-bending twisting and turning song structure with rapid tempo changes.
- “Suburban Breeze,” a trippy composition that features elements of Return to Forever and Headhunter-era Herbie Hancock, hip hop breakbeats and film scores centered around twinkling keys, bursts of organ arpeggios, soulfully fluttering flute, sinuous bass lines and metronomic-like percussion. Sonically, the song evokes breezy, easy-going summer afternoons of daydreaming and hanging out without anything in particular to do.
“Iconoclasts,” Education & Recreation’s third and latest single is a dreamy lullaby centered around twinkling keys, shimmering and looping guitar lines, skittering yet metronomic-like percussion paired with boom bap drumming and a subtle bass line. The song evokes the sensation of drifting off to sleep — perhaps while you’re working at something.
“‘Iconoclasts’ was recorded in the final hours of the marathon eight-day recording session for Education & Recreation,” the Aussie outfit explains. “We’d been locked in our house, the College Of Knowledge in Coburg, Australia, recording for roughly 12 hours a day, and there was very little left in the fuel tank. The recording ended up having a super unique energy within the collection of tracks we did for Education & Recreation, due mostly, I think, to the manically tired state we were in and the knowledge that we only had to complete this tune and then we’d be allowed to finish the session.”
The Aussie jazz funk band will be embarking on their first North American tour this October. The tour includes a stop at this year’s Desert Daze and an October 13, 2022 stop at The Sultan Room. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Surprise Chef Tour Dates
Oct 1-2 – Lake Perris, CA – Desert Daze
Oct 4 – Zebulon – Los Angeles, CA
Oct 5 – Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA
Oct 7 – Star Theater – Portland, OR
Oct 8 – Fox Cabaret – Vancouver, BC
Oct 9 – Barboza – Seattle, WA
Oct 13 – Sultan Room – Brooklyn, NY