“Straight-up R&B with a New True School Energy that appeals to real music lovers of all ages” is how D.C.-based band The We Are One X-Perience describes their style of music.
And given the rising popularity of their recently released single “If It Feels Good,” it’s evident that the eight-piece ensemble of veteran entertainers has mastered the sound, style and energy reminiscent of R&B bands who topped the charts back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s – from Earth, Wind & Fire and The Isley Brothers to Sly & The Family Stone and Parliament-Funkadelic.
The four aforementioned bands, all inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, formed a cadre of entertainers who helped to solidify the soul-stirring vibe and commercial success of R&B music, with many of those groups still performing today, nearly 50 years since first hitting the stage. And who can forget Cameo, The Ohio Players, Kool & the Gang or Maze featuring Frankie Beverly?
But as die-hard R&B fans, both those who live in or frequently visit the greater Washington area, are well aware, Maze and their iconic lead vocalist hold a prominent place in the hearts of the celebrated octet collectively known as The We Are One X-Perience.
In their enviable position as the nation’s premier Maze featuring Frankie Beverly tribute band, they perform with ease and precision, albeit while employing their own unique spin, all of the hits from back in the day, including “Back in Stride,” “Can’t Get Over You,” “Before I Let Go” and “Running Away.”
Band director ELWarren R. Weatherspoon said their current musical persona still mirrors that which they initially embraced in their formative years.
“Our roots are old-school R&B and our fans know that we’re totally grounded in as well as committed to that style of music,” said Weatherspoon, who also keeps the beat for the band as their drummer – even contributing background vocals on occasion.
Their new single, according to many of the band’s followers in comments shared on social media, has a sound that transports listeners back in time to the late ’70s when only the most accomplished musicians and vocalists could hope to make it to the top.
“I was listening to the radio recently and the featured song was a new release by Bruno Mars who was covering a classic from Con Funk Shun that people said had a brand-new vibe to it,” he said. “But the vibe really isn’t something new.”
“It’s R&B the way many of us remember it,” Weatherspoon said. “It takes you back to the good old days of family reunions and cookouts in the park. Our fans support us because they’re the kind of people who know good music when they hear it – and they want to hear good music.”
Weatherspoon said that despite the challenges the band and the rest of the world have endured after the pandemic put a halt on touring, they refused to crawl into a cocoon.
“We decided it was time to go into the studio and work on some original compositions,” he said. “But for health reasons, we had to record separately or maybe with just a few of us at a time. That made things more tedious. But we had to do it that way. Fortunately, we had Randy Bowland mixing the sounds. He’s produced songs for Will Downing, Kem and many others and he’s a master at his craft, so we were in good hands.”
“We’re excited about the new song and its release came at the perfect time because folks from our demographic are clamoring to get out and see live performances after being stuck inside for the last few years,” he said. “A few weeks ago, we did a show in Richmond and it was sold out. Of course, we’re still doing songs from the Maze featuring Frankie Beverly songbook. ‘Before I Let Go’ is like our anthem and people go crazy when they hear the first notes of the song.”
“But now we’re letting audiences hear some new stuff – our own music – and it’s been encouraging to see how they’re responding. Sometimes you have to test the waters,” Weatherspoon said.
Fans of the band know they can always count on a live performance that never allows pre-recorded tracks to be part of the show. Each member of The We Are One X-Perience counts as a successful musician in his own right. Besides Weatherspoon, the members of the band include: lead vocalist and D.C. native Paul “P-Funk” Bumbry, who has the amazing vocal range and persona of his longtime idol, Frankie Beverly; Art “Shy Brotha” Diggs, keyboards and synthesizers; Monty “Mellow” Tillman, keyboards and organs; Tony “Too Hype” Contee, guitars and background vocals; Walter “Ice Man” Crosby, bass and vocals; Ron “Smooth” Fowler, percussions and background vocals; and Jim “Choir Boy” Carney, congas and background vocals.
The future appears limitless for the band, now managed by D.C.’s legendary promoter and record executive Darryll Brooks, who has signed them under his label, I Hear Ya! Entertainment, LLC.
During the pandemic, the band released the single, “Feel That You’re Feelin’” – a WAOX remake of a classic Maze featuring Frankie Beverly song to which The We Are One X-Perience added that Go-Go swing with special guest appearances on the track by Go-Go legends Big Tony of Trouble Funk and Milton “Go-Go Mickey” Freeman.
Brooks acknowledged that while most of the groups under his label represent the go-go genre, he’s proud to have The We Are One X-Perience as a member of his musical family who count as the only R&B group he manages – at least for now.
“They’re great musicians, they’re a cooperative group of professionals and they have a tremendous pedigree,” Brooks said. “I’m drawn to people who have positive energy and a certain kind of consciousness. That’s what attracted me to them. A lot of people seem to resonate with their style – it’s what they remember hearing when they were children – that blue lights in the basement kind of vibe when music was both entertaining and educational – when it told you about life.”
Brooks said he’s thrilled to be part of the band’s evolution as they continue to add new layers to their identity and repertoire.
To find out more about The We Are One X-Perience, visit their website: www.weareonexperience.com.
Editor’s Note: Devoted fans of The We Are One X-Perience will be pleased to know that the group’s newest single, “If It Feels Good,” continues to capture the attention of a growing legion of music lovers, both here in the U.S. and around the world. Larry Dodson, the former lead singer of the popular funk group, The Bar-Kays, recently debuted the song on his Memphis-based radio show, which can also be heard in several southern states including Mississippi and Louisiana. Here in the District, WHUR 96.3 debuted the song during the last week of April. Meanwhile, WPFW 89.3, which, like WHUR, serves the greater Washington area, has featured the single in rotation for the past two weeks. And that’s not all – the group has even extended its reach to countries ranging from the United Kingdom, to Canada and Greece in cities that include London, Montreal and Athens, respectively.