BENTON HARBOR — Pat Walsh used to play guitar in Walsher Clemons. He now plays guitar in The North 41.
The thing is, it’s the same band, just with an admittedly better name.
“We thought it would be good to have a name that people could remember and actually pronounce,” Walsh says, laughing.
The North 41, the Chicago-based funk outfit, which also features Riley Pettrone (vocals), Frank Minella (guitar), Michael Campo (drums) and Donoven “Heavy” Brown (bass), performs Saturday night at The Livery as part of the venue’s two-day Funk Fest.
Although they have been playing together for years, in 2015, The North 41 released their first, full-length LP, “Dancing & Praying,” which led to headlining gigs at Taste of Randolph, Taste of River North, House of Blues, Lincoln Hall and Chicago Ale Festival in Grant Park.
The band recently released the new single, and accompanying video, for “Living On Top,” the first song off their forthcoming LP due out later this year.
Reached recently by phone from his home in Chicago, Walsh talked about the new project, the name change and the band’s return to Benton Harbor.
Q What’s been happening in your set list lately, and what can we expect to hear when you guys come back to town?
A We’ve been working on a new record and a lot of new songs. It’s been quite awhile since we’ve been at The Livery, so there will be quite a few new songs. There will be a lot of funky, high energy stuff and some synth-driven stuff that we are going to breakout, too.
Q What can you tell me about the new project? You released the single already, correct?
A Yes, the single is called “Living On Top.” That’s out online right now, but is pretty much brand new to the set. It’s definitely on the poppy side, but it’s still very funky with powerful basslines in the chorus and the verse. There’s a lot of wah-wah guitar, which is typical of our funky style, and Riley really belting it out with his high voice, Michael Jackson thing. There’s a song called “Four Days, Five Hours,” that we’ll be putting on the new album. It’s a bit of a raunchy song. It’s got a gritty synth in it that is reminiscent of Gorillaz and is just a song about being in the car with your significant other and the passion reaching a fever pitch. We just started putting it into the set and people are really digging it.
Q How did you guys get together in the first place?
A Me, Michael and Frank have been playing together for a decade now. We actually started in high school. Riley is my cousin. So we all went to college for a year and all ended up back in Chicago. We talked about getting a band back together and thought we needed a lead singer. So we brought in my cousin because I knew he had potential to be a great singer, and then we linked up with our bass player, Heavy, from Evanston. So we’ve been doing this for a long time, we just had a different name. The single is the first release under the new name.
Q Tell me about changing the name. What made you decide you needed to go in a different direction?
A It was kind of an easy decision. The name we had before was Walsher Clemons, and for the longest time nobody could ever get the name right. They were like, “Welsher? What?” So we just decided to go with something that would represent Chicago and was new and people could take more seriously. We wanted to grow out of, “Oh those guys who were in a band in high school.” And it helps having a name people can pronounce.
Q As you said, it’s been some time since you guys played the venue. What does it mean for you to be invited to play this big Funk Fest weekend?
A We are really stoked that they invited us to play Funk Fest. Our first time out we didn’t really know anything about the venue. We were a little nervous because we didn’t know what to expect, but we ended up having a blast. There was maybe 100 people there, but everyone was loving it and dancing. We are super happy to be a part of it. ... We are really excited for the show. We are going to bring the heat.
Contact: jbonfiglio@TheHP.com, 932-0364, Twitter: @HPBonfiglio