Tom Petty’s Drummer, Jimmy Kimmel’s Keyboardist & More Form Supergroup: Ebunctions. Share Track-By-Track Insight to Debut Album, “This Just In” & Story of Group Origin.
As the pandemic hit and touring was put on an uncertain hold, vocalist/saxophonist Woody Mankowski found himself “looking for his lost mojo” after being burnt out by the music business. While making quarantine tunes for the Ebunctions debut album with full time member and staff writer for the Jimmy Kimmel Live! band, Jeff Babko he had always envisioned a stacked roster of Los Angeles‘ talented and hardworking musicians coming together for the project – believing any type of piecemeal production wouldn’t give the music the unity and soul it deserved. Babko proposed the idea of turning Ebunctions into a full on band. Mankowski admitted that the list of musicians proposed was intimidating he “just knew this would work.”
With the band name stemming from a dream Mankowski had in which Ryan Seacrest introduced him as “Ebunctions Hef” on a fantasy American Idol, the supergroup now know as simply Ebunctions was born with an All-Star lineup:
Steve Ferrone (drums): He spent more than two decades in Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, was part of the “classic lineup” of Average White Band throughout the 70s.
Jeff Babko (keyboards/songwriter): Full time member and staff writer for the Jimmy Kimmel Live! band and has done session work for Frank Ocean, Toto and James Taylor
Shane Theriot (guitar): Spent time in the studio with the late, great Dr. John and was on the road musical director for Hall & Oates
Ethan Farmer (bass): His credits include albums by Lionel Richie, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake
Eric “ET” Thorngren (engineer): Robert Palmer and Talking Heads
Woody Mankowski (vocals/saxophone)
With a mutual excitement and passion for the project, the musicians gathered in a studio to create the ten songs that would eventually make up the This Just In debut album. All Access was lucky enough to get the track-by-track stories and insights to each of those ten songs. Check out the exclusive look below and enjoy the sonics and hard work of these insanely talented musicians.
“Nothing But Your Love” is a throwback to Gamble & Huff 70’s Philly soul, complete with live strings and lush harmonies. Lead singer Woody Mankowski’s saxophone solo on the outro harkens back to Branford Marsalis’ on “I Love Your Smile.” This traditional upbeat love song is perfect for a chill dance floor, especially with the backbeat rhythm powerhouse of drummer Steve Ferrone and legendary percussionist Lenny Castro.
“Feast or Famine” started with a piano riff echoing Michael McDonald or Steve Winwood’s “Freedom Overspill” (which Ebunctions drummer Steve Ferrone also played on). The middle section includes some Moog/Prophet synthesizer salad from Jeff Babko that was meant to pay homage to Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book”. Mankowski’s lyric should appeal to many with an almost humorous take on the messy single life.
“Running In Place” is based on a riff written by keyboardist on bass, as a nod to Freddy Washington’s bass line on Patrice Rushen “Forget Me Nots” and Cameo’s “Alligator Woman.” Ebunctions bassist Ethan Farmer brings the slap bass into this millenium. Horn work from Mankowski and Babko is augmented by the “Hef Horns” to provide a throwback to the roller rinks of the turn from the 70’s decade to the 80’s. The lyric has an element of a vintage self help uplift.
“This Ain’t Over” is a title that Mankowski lifted from an actual conversation with his writing partner Babko when he first left Los Angeles for a job in Colorado. (He came back!) It turns into a luscious and sensual, funky ballad— and if the sound is slightly familiar, engineer Pete Min used the actual plate reverb from Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You” which adds to the 80’s authenticity. Babko’s Fender Rhodes on a long fade harkens back to the old school quiet storm ballads that the Clarke/Duke Band may have embraced, as George Duke was one of Babko’s mentors and bandleaders in his formative years.
“The Real Thing” starts with a slinky Steve Ferrone drum fill, lifted and tweaked/reworked from his recording history with Chaka Khan. This mid tempo half time shuffle has funky horn work reminiscent of Earth, Wind and Fire. Examining the “fake” people in Los Angeles and many metropolitan cities that make relationships hard, juxtaposed with the hopefulness in the chorus, “The Real Thing” is a funky study in the quest for finding the perfect partner. A guitar solo from Ebunctions guitar hero Shane Theriot proves why he was the most in demand guitarist and producer in New Orleans.
“One Year” is a study in perseverance and personal growth, with a musical backdrop that looks back at the classic 1970’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” era Elton John band. The gradual texture and volume build is meant to mimic one’s journey from loneliness and pain to triumph that can happen in just the increment of one year. Background vocals from session/touring legends Amy Keys & Sharlotte Gibson lift the soulful growl of Woody Mankowski, who really experiences and feels the yearning soul that comes out of his mouth. Guitarist Theriot nods to Elton’s guitar legend Davey Johnstone a tasty rock flavor.
“I Wouldn’t Change A Thing” was recorded live with just pianist Jeff Babko and singer Woody Mankowski at Lucy’s Meat Market studio in Highland Park. The inspiration comes from classic Leon Russell and Billy Preston, conjuring a mood and feeling with the simplicity of piano and voice. Woody’s soulfulness and honesty shine brightly, and Babko’s piano playing may evoke Dr. John and Russell himself. An intimate moment to spotlight a lovely lyric.
“Cold Hard Truth” tells the dirty tale of a dirty town; the people you find in the big city (see: Hollywood) that are less than genuine and kind, set to the tone and tune of a throwback soul revue. In the spirit of the classic Dap Kings model with a lively horn section (The Hef Horns) and bongos, tambourine and call-and-response vocals, Woody and the Ebunctions boys get a little tough, by way of a high energy night at the Apollo or a Stax tour.
“Somebody Like You” was written in the classic Motown tradition of one of Mankowski’s all-time heroes, Smokey Robinson (whom his partner Babko has recorded and arranged for). This pining love tale takes its sonic cues from Detroit and Woody has a chance to flex his Wilson Pickett/Otis Redding soulful tones. The alto saxophone solo on the way out is also courtesy of Mankowski, who captures the essence of a classic Hank Crawford or David Fathead Newman moment.
“She Don’t Love Me” features Mankowski and Babko again, just the two of them, with one microphone in front of a Wurlitzer electric piano, Babko’s stomping foot and Mankowski’s hard hitting vocal. Woody and Jeff, with engineer Pete Min, tried to evoke an old “field recording,” gritty and raw, and the performance was captured in one take. The lyrics are fierce and funny, and somewhat heartbreaking, but tell the story from the soured soul of a broken man with the wit of a Randy Newman lyric.
Congrats to supergroup Ebunctions on the release of their debut album, This Just In and here’s hoping this is the first of many to be released from this legendary roster of talent.