by Grant McLaughlin
Subcontra members, lead guitarist Matt Simpson, Bass player Garrett Caver, keyboard and saxophone player Ronnie Bullock, and Drummer Joseph Wells answer questions about how the band has been playing and where they will be taking the group in the future.
Many Oxford locals have heard of Subcontra. The band whose funk fusion sounds permeate the very foundations of the buildings they play in. Subcontra’s unique style has made them one of the most iconic group to come out of Oxford, Mississippi.
The band has gone through several lineup changes since they started out, most recently seeing two of their members leave the band. But the show must go on, and two new members, Ronnie Bullock and Garrett Caver, have now been inducted into the band as full-time members with Matt Simpson and Joseph Wells.
What has Subcontra been to lately?
Matt Simpson: So our saxophone, Lucas got a Job in DC but he’s living in Baltimore now, and so he’s gone for good, kind of, we might end up recording albums with him, but for live shows, he is gone, and Andrew, our violin/ bass player is doing an internship. So we kind of have a new lineup with Garrett Caver and Ronnie Bullock who were previously Hood Baby and The Barnacles. They are phenomenal musicians.
photo by Jacob Christensen
How has it been to play in Subcontra:
Joseph Wells: incredible man, Probably the best band I’ve ever been in. These guys are obviously so talented. The whole journey from starting back in late 2018 and you know, our lineup changes, it’s just been a very cool thing to be a part of. It’s something I’m proud of for sure.
photo by Jacob Christensen
How did you start playing with Subcontra?
Garrett Caver: Me and Ronnie, the keyboard player, are in a band called Hood Baby and The Barnacles, we are changing it to Blue Talk, and we are moving to Atlanta in a month. We started playing with a band called the Busty Petites in oh 2018, 2019, and so when we played with them, we started to play at Larry’s [Proud Larry’s] all the time. One of the first times we played at Larry’s, Joe came up to us after the show, was definitely jamming, and complimented one of our songs in an odd time signature, said ‘man that song at seven was phat as f—,’ that’s when I knew that if he wasn’t a musician, he’s obviously someone who really likes music.
We started talking to Joe more and found out he was in a band called Subcontra, and they actually opened up for us one time at Larry’s. We’ve had a rapport with those guys ever since, they’ve opened for us in Starkville, we’ve opened for them in Oxford, and with Andrew and Lucas leaving, they had a void in the band and they asked us to play with them. I think that me and Ronnie are going to be the new full-time members of Subcontra.
photo by unknown fan
How do you like playing in Subcontra?
Ronnie Bullock: Man, it’s kind of a blast. I graduated a year ago with a degree in Saxophone Performance. Usually, with bands I’m in, I’m the musical director, just because I’m the one with the most knowledge, it’s a process of elimination. But playing with these two dudes?! Matt has no schooling at all, but he is showing me stuff.
Photo by Gavin Gainey
Where is Subcontra headed from here:
Matt: So, we are going to try and keep doing shows. I’m moving to Nashville, Ronnie and Garrett are about to move to Atlanta, and Joe is sticking around Oxford for the time being. We are going to try and get like a weekend, or three or four day runs of shows in Nashville, Atlanta, Oxford, maybe Starkville as Subcontra.
What does Subcontra mean to you?
Matt: That’s a good question, I don’t know, it’s like a release. It’s an outlet for taking s— off my chest, putting s— out there. It’s also a friendship, it’s a bond. Every lineup of Subcontra has been very close.
Ronnie: Playing with this group has really kind of made me realize that playing an instrument is the most honest relationship that you can have, because an instrument is going to tell you if you suck, you’re going to know if you play some wrong notes. And so playing in this group is kind of reassuring. It’s very peaceful, it’s like I feel warm inside because I know that I am connecting with myself as well as other people.
Garrett: Just playing with Musicians on the same mental level as you, who have the same vision and are super talented is incredibly fun and incredibly refreshing. I’m not saying Hood Baby, my other band isn’t that but just playing with people who are on that same page is insane. Just playing with Matt, Matt is the f—— GOAT, he’s so phat on guitar. I never have to worry about teaching him anything, he always picks it up super quick and that makes me a better player.
Joe: If I had to say what it means, it just means something purposeful if that makes sense. Its a group of all of us just trying to make the coolest music that we can together, and it feels like we are all united in that goal. Its very much a team that I feel I’m part of – like being in the military or on a football team if that makes sense. Its just really cool to be part of a group of guys that aspire to just play mind-bending music and share our love of rhythm with others who enjoy it.
photo by Matt Simpson
Subcontra will be playing in Oxford again June 18th, at Proud Larry’s.