Bourgeoisie Paper Jam delectably satisfies longtime funky cravings.
The Belleville soulful funk duo of Bruce Henderson (bass, guitar, vocals) and Victoria “Vox” Henderson (vocals) sprinkles delicious basslines, tasty grooves and flavorful harmonies throughout their new album, Sugar Fit, now available via Bandcamp.
“We just took all the things that we thought were centered on funk and put them together because we were seeing a gap. People say funk is dead, and we don’t believe that. We just believe they haven’t heard something new,” said Victoria Henderson, who serves as the duo’s primary lyricist.
“Whenever we would join those funk groups, they would put old songs in there, and we were tired of hearing the same songs over and over. We can take all our different funk songs, put them together, and for somebody who likes that older funk, they might actually like this. That’s a different approach for us.”
Throughout Sugar Fit, Bourgeoisie Paper infuses timeless, addictive funk across 15 rhythmic tracks about authenticity, self-actualization, balance, lifelong love, and political and social unrest. The husband-and-wife duo eloquently adds refreshing layers of R&B, soul, disco and rock to their solid foundation of funk on their 11th release, which was written and recorded last year in their home studio.
The album’s infectious title track blends bright, bouncy electric guitars with thumping bass, buzzy and dancey synths and honeyed harmonies for five jam-filled minutes. Together, the Hendersons reveal in Prince-like fashion, “Wanting to lose/This weight that’s holding me down/Shaking this blues/And repping my space now/It takes a challenge/For me to roar into action/But I’m just not that savage/Soooo prone to distraction.”
“The idea behind the title is that we’re all kind of having a little bit of a fit in this pandemic. We’re locked in and wearing masks and then not wearing masks and then there’s the civil unrest. We’re all having some kind of fit,” said Victoria Henderson.
Finding Faith in Me and in America
Despite these current challenges, Bourgeoisie Paper Jam relies on their 30-year partnership to stay grounded on “Faith in Me,” a slow, romantic jam filled with echoey, intergalactic harmonies, humming synths, intermittent electronic drums and throbbing bass. In unison, they gratefully sing, “Happiness doesn’t/Come easily/It’s demanding/Sacrifice from me/But when I feel you/Accepting me/For who I am/I know I’m free.”
“I think we work really well together now because we realized where our strengths lie, and we can put our stuff together to complement each other. It took us time to figure that out because we’re both introverts,” said Victoria Henderson.
It beautifully melds savory R&B, soul and pop flavors with funkadelic sensibilities as the Hendersons sing, “I’m only strong/When you complete me/When I’m standing alone/I become weak with a heart of stone/Don’t really know/What I’d do without a you/So baby I’m a hold on tight/And won’t let you go until we get it right.”
“We’ve always had the funky sound along with a variety of other sounds. It sounds really good to me now; the production is better. Bruce is a wizard when it comes to making sure everything is in tune and balanced. We are mature enough to say we’re going to group all these songs together just to see if it has an impact on the people we’re trying to reach,” said Victoria Henderson, who’s influenced by her poet mother.
Bourgeoisie Paper Jam extends their funky reach on two provocative, socially-charged tracks, “Something’s Wrong,” and “In America (What’s Going On?).” With throaty bass, lingering synths, wailing electric guitars, steady drums and echoey harmonies, “Something’s Wrong” tackles society’s ongoing failure to eliminate systemic racism and social injustice as the Hendersons reflect, “Something’s Wrong/About the way/You just don’t care/Something’s Wrong/With the shit/Coming out of your mouth/Something’s wrong/With those statues/Down south.”
In complementary fashion, “In America (What’s Going On)?” continues the fight as roaring electric guitars, propulsive bass, pounding electronic drums and whistling synths fuel the ongoing need for change. The Hendersons soulfully sing, “You tell me that I am free/In America/Does it make a difference what race I’m in?/In America/Or does freedom equal white skin?/In America/Well, well, well …”
“It was just asking all the right questions. It’s so weird because we wrote that back in ‘90s, and those same questions that we were asking are pertinent today. That was the part that was so ironic about it, and we thought we should really redo that song because it’s so timely today,” said Bruce Henderson, who was inspired by Ohio Players, The Isley Brothers, Parliament-Funkadelic and Lenny Kravitz while writing the track.
“We’ve been revisiting some of our older songs this year anyway. That’s unusual for us because we usually just don’t do that. When we revisit those songs, we change them a lot, and with this one, we didn’t change it that much. Everything about it felt right for this particular project, and the message felt right for this time.”
Funky Beginnings and Futures
The Hendersons’ fruitful partnership dates back to 1986 when a mutual friend introduced them for a project. Then 21, bassist-producer Bruce Henderson needed a female vocalist and instantly connected with 18-year-old Victoria.
As personal and professional partners, the musical duo entered Detroit’s techno and house music scene in the early ‘90s and recorded tracks at Kevin Saunderson’s studio as part of the Underground Resistance collective. They teamed up with legendary producers Stacy “Hotwaxx” Hale, Kelly Hand and Jeff Mills to remix and play their tracks.
“I always felt like an interloper because I had roots that were more into funk and rock. I was more of an analog person and had more in common with the pre-hip-hop generation, including artists like Prince, Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix. I like everything to form the music that we do, but I don’t necessarily think we chase what’s out anymore. I’m at a point artistically where I can’t do that anymore without any realistic integrity,” said Bruce Henderson, who grew up in Las Vegas and later moved to Detroit.
Over the years, the Hendersons have released 25 albums on their own label, Prejippie Music Group, under different artist monikers across soul, R&B, pop, rock, jazz, experimental and funk. Eleven of those 25 albums have come from Bourgeoisie Paper Jam, who derived their pseudonym from a Star Trek episode where a woman hits a machine with her shoe to protest against her employer.
The Hendersons also run a flourishing DIY music blog/zine and online community, Blooming Prejippie, for emerging and established independent artists worldwide. As longtime DIY artists, they share helpful ideas, knowledgeable tips and personal reflections with artists about how to navigate today’s volatile music industry.
“It’s opening up your mind to what ‘making it’ actually means. It might not mean that you’re Jay-Z and Beyoncé, but it may mean that you’re something else. You are pleasing a group of people with the music that you like, and if you’re able to making a living off it, then at the end of the day, that’s it,” Bruce Henderson said.
As experienced DIY artists, Bourgeoisie Paper Jam will continue releasing a series of singles from Sugar Fit and promoting the album into 2021. They also plan to release new jazz instrumental, acoustic and experimental projects to diversify their expansive, multi-genre discography.
“We will spend some time with Sugar Fit. Instead, what we normally do is throw something out there, leave it and then move on to the next thing. This time, we’re actually going to work this album. I think we’re going to focus on building out the music part, being transparent, sharing our journey and helping people out,” Victoria Henderson said.