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For diehard go-go fans, the D.C.-based group known as Junkyard Band, whose roots can be traced back to 1980 when a group of kids from the Barry Farm neighborhood in Southeast began to emulate the sounds of their favorite go-go bands, has long been regarded as one of the best in the business.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos, confusion and unprecedented interruptions for entertainers who often attribute a significant portion of their income to concerts and special appearances, the band’s manager said it hasn’t stopped them from continuing along their journey and staying true to their decades-long passion for go-go music.
In fact, on Aug. 20, Junkyard Band will release a new single, “Love Soul Crank,” which will be followed by another single, “We Ain’t Goin’ Away,” on a date to be determined.
As for the song, “We Ain’t Goin’ Away,” the band’s manager and spokesperson, Moe Shorter, said it underwent several versions and revisions before its completion.
“We actually began working on the song more than a year ago. Then, a few months ago I reminded the band that we hadn’t done anything on it for a while,” Shorter said.
“It’s really a protest song that we received from a team of talented writers although it didn’t start out that way. Naturally, as we worked on it we realized we had to put our own special touch on it. Darryll Brooks, with whom we’re signed under his label, I Hear Ya Records, decided to release it in concert with a challenge to gentrification which has impacted many of the District’s neighborhoods where Blacks once lived – with many owning their homes.”
“As the title indicates, we [Blacks] aren’t going away – we ain’t going nowhere. We love ourselves and we also love the kinds of music that we’ve created. And the song, or rather its lyrics, mirrors what’s happening right now in the District and in American society.
Shorter, reflecting on how the ongoing pandemic has dramatically impacted society, altering norms for just about every industry and our way of life, noted that Junkyard Band has been extremely fortunate –“blessed,” as he said.
“We took a brief pause in March 2020,” he said. “And we were really anxious to get back out on the road. The surge struck the U.S. that summer and August 2020 was especially tough – mainly here in the D.C. and Prince George’s County area. But we were still getting gigs in other places, like Charles Countywhere our fans here actually traveled to follow and hear us.”
Shorter said Junkyard Band, from their formative years when they played at local talent shows and on street corners to showcasing their talent on stage at venues like the Capital Centre, the Richmond Coliseum and the Apollo Theater, performing hits like “The WORD” or “Sardines,” they have always remained a “straight, old school, traditional go-go band.”
However, expanding their fanbase beyond the D.C. region and securing national notoriety contains to remain a challenge, as it does for many go-go bands, Shorter acknowledged.
“We can tell that more people have become aware of us and are attracted to go-go,” he said. “But not in the sense that we’re in high demand on the national scene. Working on and releasing original music as we’re doing now is what groups like us must do if we want to widen our reach. Like most musicians in the go-go world, we just don’t record music consistently – and consistency is the key. We’re not putting our commercial recordings on a regular basis that people can accept, especially beyond the D.C. area.”
Still, he said with new categories being added to the annual Grammy Awards, there’s hope that thelarger music industry has finally begun to recognize the contributions of and skills associated with D.C.’s homegrown go-go genre.
“Recently, Doug E. Fresh was nominated for an album that was listed as go-go,” Shorter said. “Just for us, the Junkyard Band, to be nominated would be a milestone. And we’re working to that end. Like our song says, ‘We Ain’t Goin’ Away.’”
Editor’s Note: On January 15, 2018, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser proclaimed the day as “Junkyard Band Day, encouraging people to “hear them and celebrate their God-given talent and tenacity.” And onAugust 7, they will take the stage as part of a power-packed lineup at the Summer Spirit Festival at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md. The Festival is the brainchild of promoters Darryll Brooks and his business partner, Carol Kirkendall.
For more information about Junkyard Band, visit www.junkyardband.us.
Follow D. Kevin McNeir on Twitter @mcneirdk.