ORLANDO – Ezra Huleatt was a late bloomer when it came to experiencing the joys of rock & roll.
“I grew up in a religious community, where I wasn’t allowed to listen to any music with drums in it,” Huleatt said, as he recalled growing up listening to a lot of classical as well as some folk music – but rock, no, never.
Then adulthood came along, and with it, the freedom to listen to whatever he wanted to.
And that’s exactly what he did.
“When I was 18, I obviously got major league into everything I had never listened to before, like the Beatles and the Stones,” the resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., noted. Eventually he would gravitate to more politically savvy bands, like the Talking Heads and in particular, The Clash, who had a social conscience as well as a great talent for crafting songs.
“I was into slightly political punk without it being preachy,” he said.
Today, those musical influences are paying off for Huleatt, who is a part of the rock band Black Taxi, which has frequently been called “Brooklyn’s best kept secret.” Audiences in Orlando will get an opportunity to find out why the band has built up such a strong reputation for their live shows when Black Taxi plays at The Social on Friday, Jan. 27, just a week after their second album, “We Don’t Know Any Better,” was released.
Despite their growing reputation, Huleatt said, “In many ways we’re not a hipster band. We’re one of those bands that has been very organic in the process of growing. A lot of people have told me we’re really a live band — we go from zero to 60 in a second. Things are coming together well.”
Huleatt – the band’s singer who also plays keyboards and trumpet, and fellow members Bill Mayo (guitar/vocals/triangle), Krisana Soponpong (Bass) and Jason Holmes (drums/vocals) – have been performing in New York City for the past few years, building up a following in a city with a lot of venues available for new bands to find their audience.
“Once you think you’re good enough, you approach smaller venues and you cross your fingers and hope they get back to you,” Huleatt said. “There’s so many venues in New York, and so many more are popping up in Brooklyn, that it’s easy to get bands into clubs these days. You write good songs, and you work hard, and it shows on stage.”
If there’s competition, he said, it isn’t for the venues.
“There’s a lot of good bands out there,” he said.
Huleatt said the band almost got its start, of all places, in Thailand.
“That was kind of organic, too,” he said. “Me and Kris, our base player, randomly met in Thailand. I was traveling around the world. We ended up at this Full Moon party they have every year. We talked and I found out he was from New York. I was surprised to find another New Yorker there. We started sharing a history of New York City, and that was kind of the conversation, and it just went from there.”
When they both returned to the Big Apple, they eventually hooked up, with their shared interest in rock music bringing them together.
“We started playing together and got a guitar player I knew from college,” Huleatt said. “One of our drummers moved on. Our (current) drummer happened to be in the audience, and he liked us and he kind of took over the role, and we’ve been a band since. We were enjoying life.”
They set out to develop their own unique style, despite their early influences.
“We’re not trying to fit into whatever is hot at the moment,” Huleatt said. “We tried that at the very beginning and it wasn’t working. We’re four individuals who come from very different backgrounds. Melody is very important to me, rhythm and groove. It’s definitely rock and roll at its roots, but we try to throw in some funk and soul.”
Years of practice before a live audience is definitely paying off, he said.
“It has been picking up steam a lot,” he said. “It’s evolved in that I feel we’re getting a lot better and becoming tighter. It hasn’t evolved in the sense that I wasn’t getting what I was trying to say two years ago – we’re not saying anything drastically different. We’re all becoming professionalists.”
The same is true, he said, with their studio recordings, including “We Don’t Know Any Better.”
“It’s our second full album,” he said, with the first being “Things of that Nature.”
“It’s like having a fifth band member,” Huleatt said of the recording studio in Brooklyn where they recorded the CD. “The best thing is it was four blocks from my house, and now it’s just a block away. We moved into the biggest studio in Brooklyn. I love being in the studio and I love recording and having that process happen.”
On the other hand, Huleatt knows that the nature of the entire recording industry is changing, in that so many 20-somethings don’t buy CDs, but download and listen to music on their laptop, cell phone and IPad.
“I have many friends who don’t buy music at all,” he said. “That’s why live shows are becoming so important. If you have a good live show, it ties in to the whole thing. The more money you invest, the bigger your shows can be, and I love doing that.”
He also knows that the band needs to play catch up in another area: social media, and the critical role it plays in helping bands find a larger audience.
“It’s something that I realize is insanely important,” he said. “The fact is we do not have a big social media presence yet. Usually every band has someone into web design and is really good about that stuff, and none of us are. It just wasn’t number one for any of us. Now we’re trying to build up our social side of things.”
Black Taxi will play in Orlando on Friday, Jan. 27 at The Social, the club at 54 N. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando. The show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $13.
“I have never performed in Florida,” Huleatt said. “For some reason, we tour a lot, and we have a very strong fan base in Texas, and pretty good friends down there, but this is our first Florida venture and we’re really excited about that.”
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