As anyone who’s witnessed the glowstick-wielding masses at a big outdoor summer festival can attest, electronic dance and jam band music aren’t so far apart. In the hands of Alabama-based Boombox, there’s not much difference at all, especially when it comes to Zion Godchaux.
Godchaux is the son of Keith Godchaux and Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackey, both of whom were members of the Grateful Dead in the 1970s. Not surprisingly, there was always music in the house, and Zion dreamt of becoming a musician for as long as he can remember.
After getting into drums and then acoustic guitar early on, Godchaux discovered DJing in his late teens and started a successful career in San Francisco. He returned to his childhood Alabama home in 2000 to record an album with his mother, stepfather, and uncle. Producer Russ Randolph lent his hand, and Godchaux struck up a friendship with him. Randolph was intrigued by the electronic and house music Godchaux played for him, and then Godchaux took him to Burning Man to “show him the high water mark of this music.” Boombox was born.
Boombox matches Randolph’s skittering beats, quirky samples, and whirling synth washes with Godchaux’s fat, jazz-funk guitar grooves and laid-back baritone vocals. The improvisational duo experienced plenty of word-of-mouth success and built a strong following along the festival circuit where their loose-limbed sounds can be heard late into the night supported by legions of grinning, blissed-out fans.
“We used to start with a beat and write melody around that, but more and more we’re writing with acoustic guitar and piano, really writing a traditional type of song,” Randolph says. “Then we take that and adapt it over into a beat or groove, building around that original song.”
They hadn’t even played live when they recorded their first album. Between their debut and last year’s follow-up, Downriverelectric, their musical chemistry developed enough to capture the energy on a disc.
Inspired in part by their Muscle Shoals, Ala., upbringing, the duo brings a supple soul sway to the proceedings against some surprisingly organic guitar-abetted electro-grooves.
“It’s really about the design of a song and then wrapping the idea of a dance track around that song,” Randolph says.
That’s one thing you can count on from Boombox — they know how to facilitate getting down.