If you're a local music lover, chances are you've seen The Effinays playing somewhere. They’ve done their time at festivals, outdoor shows and venues. And with major successes, sometimes come public fallings-out.
Audiences were saddened to hear of the news that they were calling it quits in fall 2018 after 11 years, and then were overjoyed to see them back to playing live this year. Now the question on their following’s mind has been the same, “What the heck happened?”
Jeremy Piering, an original Effinays member, recalls a time in 2007 when just he and a couple of dudes were playing music in a nameless band.
“We were a band that only played instrumental music, making music for other musicians,” Piering remembers. The group was primarily doing jazz-funk fusion with drums, bass, guitar and horns. During one practice, Piering asked another member to name the chords to a song, to which then-guitarist Gee Fellows answered “F and A.”
“That's it, that's where the name came from. I said, ‘We are The Effinays.’” Piering explains.
Two years later, The Effinays were playing local spots in Dallas and came across current frontman Joe Martinez while playing a show at the Liquid Lounge.
“Here was this guy on stage with the flu and he is bringing the house down with his vocals,” Piering recalls. The two men met after the show and hit it off.
The addition of a vocalist altered more than the band's lineup. Its sound changed, too.
“The way we did it was the music would be composed and I would basically freestyle over it, and bam, there was a new song,” Martinez says. This caused their music to shift from more traditional jazz-funk fusion to the unique, spontaneous and playful sound that the band is known for.
The band was in a bind when they lost their original drummer, but soon after, Piering was at a show in Denton's Andy's Bar when he spotted Valenti Funk playing drums and approached him after the show.
“Valenti and I hit it off quickly, and I invited him to a practice as a sit-in drummer,” Piering says. He recalls that for their second rehearsal, Funk also brought in a keyboard, which gave Piering a novel idea, and he asked Funk to play it while drumming simultaneously. "And that began the one-handed drummer/keyboard staple of The Effinays,” Piering says.
Funk brought to the group a guitarist named Shaggy, who primarily played rock. Their gigging became serious and frequent, which led to their horn players quitting. Martinez recruited a saxophone player, Julian Ayacannoo, just as audiences started taking notice of the band.
“Our energy with each other onstage and with the crowd, it was something else,” Piering says. Ayacannoo suggested Marquise Jones join as an additional saxophone player. The two latter musicians now make up another band called The Diamond Kings, which came together before an Effinays show when the sax players were practicing outside and someone threw money into their bag thinking they were busking.
Craig Kleiman was then brought on as a drum tech. While the group's fan base was growing, The Effinays' bliss began to subside, they now say, when they were taken advantage of by a promoter. The band came into contact with the promoter when they were a part of DFW NORML the Dallas division of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and were introduced by the organization's then-executive director. The Effinays claim the promoter told them they would soon be going on a five-month national tour, and every member quit his job to commit to the plan.
Funds started being raised for the tour, which the promoter collected, and tour plans seemed on track until one of The Effinays’ then-wives (who declined to be identified) began researching their upcoming “tour.” She was surprised the venues did not have them on their schedules, and she corroborated that they hadn’t been contacted by DFW NORML nor the promoter.
Martinez says that in the end, the band lost more than opportunities. The promoter took all the band's merchandise and the money that had been raised for the tour.
Tensions became high as every member was hurt by the scam, and it was around this time, in 2012, when they started to butt heads with their guitarist because of financial conflicts, and who then decided to part ways with the band.
Guitarist Alex Rivera De Jesus came into the picture, bringing along a Latin flair into The Effinays' music, which in turn opened up a whole new market. They also brought in a new percussionist and started covering more ground through shows around DFW. They released a musically accomplished album, Yellow Blue. The album's two earlier versions now sit in a vault, as the material had to be re-recorded after Shaggy's and the two Diamond Kings saxophonists' departure. The band kept trucking but had another loss in the summer of 2018 when Funk became concerned about the group's business dealings and laid out his terms.
“I technically quit in 2012,” Funk says. “My terms were that if we are going to do this, then let me be the active manager until we find a manager.” Funk says the same organizational issues were pervasive throughout his six years with the band, and he felt like he was perceived as the bad guy. When the band denied him managerial responsibilities, he quit the band.
“The business side and the financial side became such a burden that it killed the creative side,” Funk says. His last night with the band was at a practice where he voiced his disapproval of the band's hiring another horn player. Martinez recalls Funk's exit.
“We were practicing and he got up and handed his drumsticks to the percussionist Daniel and said ‘I have to go to work, you take over.’ And that was it, he walked out,” Martinez says.
Piering adds: “The hardest part is there wasn’t any closure. We were so close and spent so much time together, and for Valenti just to be done and leave was hurtful.”
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
“I feel like they knew my issues, so there wasn’t anything left to say. They know why I left," Funk says. "It is business, and when the core of the band is basically just doing this for free, there isn’t room for bad business.”
Losing a key member seemed to be the unraveling of The Effinays, and as Funk left, other members walked as well. Last fall, when Piering and Martinez heard that the band was nominated for another Dallas Observer music award, they say the moment was bittersweet.
“We decided if we won we would go up there and just announce our retirement, but while we were there I just looked at Jeremy and was like ‘no we have to keep going,'” Martinez says. They didn't win the award, nor did the band retire. Instead, Piering and Martinez, the only two original members still standing, added a few new members: Jason Rudd, AC Capers and Justin Barksdale.
The Effinays say they're back into a good flow and that every practice session is inspiring new material. Their comeback show took place at Klyde Warren Park’s Memorial Day Music Fest, and fans could not have been happier to hear this effin' news.