7 Come 11

7 Come 11

Gianni Staiano knows his music history: he was raised on Sixties rock, studied classical music, jazz and in his college years, fell hard for the boogaloo and funk made famous by the world famous funky Meters. But the Santa Cruz, California-based musician is forever looking forward. “I’ve always been in love with the old stuff, but I don’t want to make music that sounds like anything in the past,” the inventive musical savant says firmly. “I want to make something that sounds new. I want to do my own thing.”

So it is that man who leads the dance-funk fever dream that is, 7 Come 11 who continually pushes the musical envelope. You’ll find him on his trusted Hammond organ, whipping up a sumptuous bass line with his foot pedals, chopping out funky textures and melodies with his paws, weaving in electronic whizz and purr, lathering his kaleidoscopic music with a touch of the future. “It’s earth-shaking. It’s raw,” Staiano says of his Light It Up EP, a five-track album that shakes with power, fury and blazes with the energy and unrestrained emotion that has come to define 7 Come 11’s raucous live shows. “This project is me completely taking the reigns,” he says. “All of my musical heroes were very forward-thinking. Anybody that is recognized for doing anything significant thinks that way.”

Learning to embrace the potential and push the limits and boundaries of his musical mind — and more specifically, how he can merge his classically trained musical mind with new technology — has been a slow burn for Staiano, who attended the Berklee College of Music before studying jazz at San Diego State. “Going to jazz school there’s a lot of attitude: if you’re not playing Charlie Parker you’re shit,” he recalls with a laugh. “James Brown’s band used to get a lot of flack back in the Sixties, because they weren’t playing the established form. Imagine that! It’s a fight you always have. But thankfully I have overcome the battle within myself to embrace all the new stuff and be more forward-thinking.”

Innovation smacks you in the face on Light It Up: that whiplash mélange of futuristic funk is rushing head-on with fire in its eyes on “Come Get Some,” a track that calls to mind Herbie Hancock by way of Daft Punk. Shotgun drums and vocoders whir in unison with Moog synths on “Higher.” The title track bounces with a hip-hop swagger, Staiano’s sexy Hammond harmonies prancing above. “Right now I’m trying to incorporate the new technology that a lot of the electronic musicians are using,” Staiano says. “Sample tabs and things like that so I can create sounds at home — ambient sounds that people are used to hearing at shows. It’s really fun.”

Most notably, 7 Come 11’s latest work is a sonic dance party. Staiano grew up removed from the world of dance, but through his embracing of West African music — even traveling to the region to study with its most dedicated disciples — he came to not only fall hard for dance music but now feels it an essential part of his musical being. “It awakened this whole new person inside me,” he explains. “The music is so much more intense, if you feel it in your body and you move your body with the music. If I’m going out what do I want to do? I want to go out and dance to some good music. Not some EDM bullshit where the drop happens every 60 seconds and everybody takes a selfie. I want to get down. I want to get into it.”

To that end, 7 Come 11’s live gigs have become legendary affairs. Sweaty and adrenaline-fueled, the shows, Staiano says, for him are a cathartic release. “It’s a young audience and they’re getting down,” he says proudly. “It’s such an incredible feeling to have a whole room dancing with you.” He laughs: “It’s not a show where they encourage you to wear high heels.”

Don’t expect Staiano to remain static: you’ll find him on the road in the coming months — from the Bay Area to New Orleans where he’s playing alongside his idols, funky Meters. “I’m freaking out,” Staiano says of 7 Come 11’s shows alongside his funk idols. “I mean, holy shit! I get to play with these guys that taught me how to play the music through their records! It’s totally surreal.”

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