Entering their 10th year as a band, Hard Proof has established itself as an Austin institution ready to bring the party to the rest of the world. The Austin-based ten-piece collective of musicians known as Hard Proof began by studying the blueprint of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 band, as well as funk and jazz from the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Founded in 2008, Hard Proof features members of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, The Calm Blue Sea, Cougar, Spoon, the Echocentrics, and several other notable Austin acts.
While their self-titled album was well received on its 2010 release, there seems to be universal agreement that their live shows are something not to be missed. Austin taste-maker Laurie Gallardo of KUTX radio may have put it best: "This local nine-piece ensemble always puts on an electrifying live show, an absolute blowout of non-stop percussion action and blasting brass, bringing the best of both worlds to the stage by mixing classic styles and plenty of their personal panache to own the show."
As if they weren’t busy enough between Hard Proof and their other bands, the Hard Proof Horns have found work as sidemen with such notables as Spoon, Antibalas, Gary Clark Jr., Broken Social Scene, the Walkmen, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Toadies, and others.
In 2013, Hard Proof released their first vinyl, partnering with Canada's Kept Records for the Dragon/Tere 45 that they tracked with Adrian Quesada of Grupo Fantasma and Brownout. In 2014 Hard Proof released a Cassette Store Day cassingle, and played the Austin City Limits festival after a successful East coast run. In 2016 the band released a 100% analog 45rpm LP produced by Jim Eno (Spoon) at his own studio for his Public Hi-Fi imprint.Hard Proof’s next full length came out in January of 2017 on Modern Outsider Records featuring production from Chris “Frenchie” Smith.
What the press has said:
"Afrobeat promulgators Hard Proof began life studying Fela Kuti, but Stinger moves the homegrown 10-piece into another sphere. While the driving horns and rhythms remain central to what the decade-old group represents, nine instrumentals here platform the group's most fully realized ideas and execution. With scorching guitar solos and swirling keyboards offsetting intense polyrhythms, Stinger comes as close to capturing their exuberant, at times fierce live show. The title track leads back to their roots, a rolling tide of African sweeps led by the horns swinging in unison. In Austin, only Grupo Fantasma, their offshoot Brownout, and El Tule match Hard Proof when it comes to crackling energy. Selections like the appropriately titled "Incendiary" and slinky guitar funk of "Boss" cue up prime examples of an even more inventive, cohesive ensemble." - Jim Caliguri for the Austin Chronicle
"Hard Proof Afrobeat are not the only Austin band with international aspirations, but the average band fronted by a jazz studies major has only a ﬁghting chance of being half as good as this Fela Kuti-inﬂuenced but genre-busting supergroup of strong performers. Including players in Black Joe Lewis And The Honeybears, Echocentrics, and Calm Blue Sea, Hard Proof excels in putting on high-energy, dancey shows that betray a careful ear toward a diverse subset of musical styles and approaches." -The Onion AV Club
"It’s no surprise that this Austin supergroup, in which members of the Echocentrics and Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears fuse Afropop to hard funk, has a hot rhythm section. The less expected pleasure is the high quality of the solos. Check out “Men of Trouble,” in which Joseph Woullard’s blistering flute showcase is followed immediately by John Branch’s roof-raising guitar work." Texas Monthly
"...the ten-piece have forged a sound of their own, one that mixes the selective defiance of Fela Kuti and the soft flutter of Ethiopian jazz with hard Congolese drumming and showy Western rock and roll. It’s a polyglot combination that, quite honestly, shouldn’t really work—years of free festivals have proven the hard-rockin’ funk band to be neither sufficiently hard-rockin’ nor funky, and despite their shared continental heritage, Fela’s sprawling afrobeat has little in common with the eastern lope of, say, Alemayehu Eshete. But thanks in part to the production work of Chris “Frenchie” Smith, the band’s new full-length, Stinger, is not only a cohesive exploration of sub-Saharan sounds, but a bright and punchy rock record, too." Flood Magazine
Stephen Bidwell - Drums
Tommy Spampinato - Percussion
Tony Cruz - Congas
Joe Sokolik - Bass
Aaron Sleator - Guitar
Gerardo Larios - Guitar/Keyboards
John Branch - Guitar
Joe Woullard - Bari Sax/Flute
Jason Frey - Tenor Sax
Derek Phelps - Trumpet
Michael P. St. Clair - Guitar/Keyboards/Trombone
Sevylla del Mazo - Percussion