Lightning crashes

Local prog-funk freaks Thunderboogie are out to cause a scene


Lifelong musician and lyricist Jake Downey sat down next to Lauren Tyler at a party two years ago, guitar in hand, working through a bassline that had just popped into his head. He was surprised when she started singing along. 

“I told her, ‘I’m going to build a band around your voice,’” Downey remembers.

At this point, the core group that would become Thunderboogie was already writing and playing music together. Downey had left behind his last project, a band called Amphibious Man, when Tyler came into the picture, but it would be another year before she officially joined the group. 

“We didn’t want to bring in a singer, especially someone as talented as [Tyler], until we had a band,” Downey says.

After that, the dominoes fell quickly. Pedro Urbina and Bryan Degase joined on guitar, with John “Goody” Goodman on keys. Ryan Wheele had already been drumming with Downey, working on what he describes as “fleshing out a lot of the alchemy” that became Thunderboogie’s “bass-driven progressive drum sound.” In fact, almost all of the current band members had played together at some point. Once Tyler got on board, the circle was complete.

Although there seems to be some debate among members as to what the band’s actual genre is, Tyler says one common thread is the outfit’s knack for pushing the sonic envelope.

“I call it ‘silly rock,’” Tyler says with a laugh. “It’s basically just all experimental. That’s where you get the unexpected basslines and riffs.”

It’s those unexpected moments that make Thunderboogie a counterintuitive musical experience. Unconventional hooks slide through alt-rock chords and bass-forward melodies while Lauren’s soulful croon breaks through with depth and mastery. Playing with so many different sounds could have potentially led to an off-kilter, jam-band disaster — instead, the band has turned it into their greatest strength. 

“Complication comes with the territory,” Downey says. “It’s about finding a way to string different sounds together in a way that’s complementary and complex.”

‘My whole goal is to mesmerize’ 

The members of Thunderboogie agree that while they’re all equal partners in the band, the main vision behind the music is Downey. 

“He understands rhythm [and melody] better than anyone I know,” Wheele says. “It’s not academic for him, though. He just knows it intuitively.”

Things started moving forward for the band pretty quickly after a February show this year at Sanitas Brewing Company, which resulted in their first live album. Now Thunderboogie is booked through August, with upcoming shows at The Fox Theatre on May 19 and Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom on June 2. 

“Right now things are so fresh and it feels like we have endless space to move into,” Goodman says. “We have this huge backlog of songs Jake’s been writing for years that we’re working through, putting our own flavor and twist on things. We have a lot of freedom to messy-up these melodies he’s written, which is nice.”

Tyler brings a little something extra to the table as well – Jake may be the mastermind, but she drives the energy on stage with her ecstatic, wide-ranging vocals, singing and dancing at the same time without missing a beat. 

“My whole goal is to mesmerize,” she says.

It seems that the whole band, although a motley crew, shares a similar vision for creating a spectacle. See it for yourself over the upcoming months at performing venues on the Front Range, including a string of performances from May 26 through June 4 with the Denver-based Life/Art Dance Ensemble.

“We’ve played to a ton of different kinds of crowds, but our shows have really become something special,” Wheele says. “Friends and strangers coming together to hear us play [and] vibe out with us … it’s a dream. Hopefully it’s just the beginning.” 

ON THE BILL: Thunderboogie and The Casino Effect with Curb Surfer. 8 p.m. Friday, May 19, The Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. Tickets here.

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