Southern California’s IT’s BUTTER was born four years ago when Los Angeles native guitarist, singer and songwriter Britta Raci befriended Columbian drummer Diego Patiño. At the time they were both students at LA’s prestigious Musician’s Institute. The duo clicked, and they hit the studio to record their self-titled debut EP. That record introduced a sound the band describes as, “a unique blend of Pop, Rock and R&B.” While the statement is true, it hardly does them justice. The group’s entire vibe is a freeform stew of musical styles that somehow comes together into a single, cohesive and unique sound.
It’s Butter have released a steady stream of singles and EPs since that debut. In 2019 they were joined by Boston transplant Johnnie Gilmore on bass. On June 5th the band will drop their latest, the four-song “Not Feeling Human” EP. They were kind enough to let me hear an advance copy. On the record they continue to expand their cool distinctive groove.
Functioning as a trio affords musicians a freedom of creativity that larger groups do not always enjoy. Great three-piece bands know how to take advantage of that situation to create something completely new. Groups like Rush, Primus, and The Police have all helped redefine what is possible within the universe of popular music. Raci, Patiño and Gilmore take their cues from those greats ideologically, but their sound is all their own.
The first time I listen to a new record, I keep a text file open on my computer and make random notes. In the end that file contains a smattering of phrases like; “cool guitar solo, nice bridge in track 3, funky drums,” etc. Of course, I will also make note of any references to popular artists. I tried to do that while listening to “Not Feeling Human.” However, by the time I got through one song the “sounds-like” artists didn’t make sense anymore. There is simply no way to write a coherent song description by comparing the band to Prince, The Pretenders, Phish and The Cranberries simultaneously (that list is taken from my actual notes).
At the heart of the band’s sound is Britta Raci. In any context her individual skills as guitarist, singer or songwriter would be enough to set a band apart from their peers. But I think that point is moot, really. Her guitar and voice are inseparably intertwined with one another and the structure of her songs. Britta’s composition and performance style is more Jazz than Pop music. Traditional Rock & Roll guitar is simple, rhythmic. As long as the band and the singer stay in the same key, the melody can pretty much go wherever it wants. That’s why Chuck Berry was able to sing wordy narratives over just three chords.
Jazz is a lot more nuanced. The chord structure is determined by the melody, and vice versa. Britta’s songs and stream of consciousness lyrics all flow melodically together in that same vein. That glue allows her to sing emotionally and technically complicated songs and make them sound like happy Pop tunes. And it allows the group to jump around stylistically from funk riffs, to ska rhythms and Rock jams. Diego and Johnnie weave syncopated beats and sub-rhythms in and out of these tracks beautifully. It is easy to forget that this band’s full, rich sound is created by just three performers.
“Not Feeling Human” won’t be available until June 5th. In the interim I have included here a recent live recording of the band in action. Check it out, and follow the links below to connect with It’s Butter. Get in on their Virtual EP Release Party and stay up to date on all of their current and future projects.