Unexpected Influences: Dem Southernfolkz Finds Inspiration In Folk, The Jungle Fever Soundtrack and Jerry Seinfeld's Stand-Up

Welcome to Unexpected Influences, where we talk to musicians about the music no one expects them to like.

Local hip-hop trio Dem Southernfolkz have provided a breath of fresh air in the local scene, laying down the groundwork for the current fire-hot trend that has seen artists such as Sore Losers meld their hip-hop tendencies with the vigor of a live band.

No surprise there: DSFZ sets out to provide music with purpose, music with originality. And the live sound of Saturday Aldridge, Big Ben and Kinfolk Jack has taken off in town -- at least to the tune of the band winning last year's Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Hip-Hop Act.

For this week's Unexpected Influences, we caught up with the three, who reveal themselves to be quite diverse and deep fellows. The music of DSFZ is strongly influenced by blues, R&B and the live music aesthetic. But the feel remains decidedly hip-hop in nature -- which is why it was so it surprising to hear zero mention of hip-hop influences at all in our chat.

Instead, their muses comes from sources that range from the stand-up of Jerry Seinfeld, the lyrics of folk singers and the unstoppable force of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack (which even managed to find its way into last weekend's Super Bowl halftime show in Arlington). Read on to find out more about the unique influences that have converged to create Dallas' Dem Southernfolkz.

So, where did it all start? Do you have any early musical inspiration to draw from?
Ben: When I was in middle school I used to love playing "Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing on the tuba. Tubas use to hold down the bass part of the arrangement and I absolutely loved it.

What are some unexpected influences that your listeners may be surprised to know about?
Alridge: Lyrically, I look to a lot of folk singers. They have some of the most three-dimensional and honest arrangements of words I've heard in any genre. Most of that comes from the blues. Speaking in prose and incomplete thoughts. I also watch Jerry Seinfeld's documentary Comedian a couple times a year. The similarities between comedians crafting a new act and musicians trying to craft that new record are numerous -- especially to see someone of Seinfeld's merit still have the same concerns and insecurities about his craft that a beginner might have is very beneficial to me...and honest.

Who do you look to for inspiration when you play in public?
Ben: Mostly the crowd because it's very hard to create an energy out of nowhere. If the crowd is friendly and feeling good, then that's something we can reciprocate.

What's the first record that you bought for yourself?

Ben: The Jungle Fever soundtrack. Stevie Wonder did that soundtrack. It was hard, too.
Alridge: I bought a terrible CD from a dollar store by a cat named Smooth Ice. I was a kid and excited that I had money to by my first CD. It was awful.

What are your musical guilty pleasures?
I love "Shoulder Lean" by Young Dro.
Ben: Anything Faith Evans

Anything you're embarrassed of?
Ben: Amerie. And I really just like it because she's bad. Not really for the music at all. And Rihanna "Umbrella," when it first dropped.
Alridge: Tejano music. They've got great musicians, but it's embarrassing because I don't know what they're saying.

What do you have in store musically for the next few months? Any special plans for 2011?
Alridge: We hope to drop three projects in 2011. Two are already recorded, for the most part -- a remix and alternate takes project, and a smaller project with an affiliation, hopefully. Just waiting on the right time. The third we begin recording this week: a mixtape entitled The Front Porch.

How about a mini playlist for your listeners so they can get a taste of your unexpected influences?
Jack: TL Barrett - "Nobody Knows"
Ben: Bilal - "Make Me Over"
Alridge: The Tallest Man on Earth - "Where Do My Bluebird Fly"

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Nic Hernandez