Native Saranac Laker to bring the funk back home

SARANAC LAKE – When Mike LaBombard attended Saranac Lake High School, he wanted to play in the school’s jazz band, but there were already too many drummers. So band director Wayne Davison gave him a saxophone to try out.

Now more than a decade later, LaBombard is leaving his job to go on tour full time playing saxophone (and keyboard) with his band, The Royal Noise.

LaBombard will bring the band to the Waterhole for the first show here since it formed in Savannah, Ga., in 2010.

He talked with the Enterprise about his homecoming performance in a phone interview at the end of December from his job in Georgia. He was working hard to bank up some cash as he was just about to wrap up his career at a company that makes sax and clarinet mouthpieces to move to Philadelphia, join the rest of his bandmates and go on tour.

“It’s crunch time right now,” LaBombard said. “It’s like, work, work, work; pack, pack, pack; go play a gig; sleep for a few hours; and do it all over again.”

Billed on their promotional material as “high-octane East Coast funk,” the band draws inspiration from jazz, rock and jam bands. LaBombard said his biggest musical influence is Phish, and he also draws from Soulive, Umphrey’s McGee, Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder.

“We always use a thousand adjectives but always end up just saying funk,” LaBombard said. “At the end of the day, we ultimately want to keep everything funky and groovy and dance-y.”

LaBombard was born and raised in Saranac Lake, graduating from SLHS in 2003. He played drums his sophomore year and switched to sax his junior year. He didn’t gig much when he lived here, other than playing some one-offs with Stan Oliva here and there.

Then he went to SUNY Oneonta, where he majored in music industry, learning about performance, business, law and management. He said that education is coming into play now as he embarks his journey to make a living on music.

LaBombard formed The Royal Noise with guitar player Johan Harvey, and it has been through several iterations over the last few years. Now, with new drummer Andrew Toy and bassist Rodrigo Pichardo, the band is recording its third album, which recently was successfully funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

LaBombard said it’s fairly intimidating to make such big life changes for a band, but “with as many bands as I’ve been in, this is the first time that everybody’s really on board as far as, this is the right thing to do and there’s a real chance for things to work out.”

All the other members of the band are currently based in Philly, so before LaBombard moved there, he was trading videos online with them, learning what they were playing in practices and sharing new music he had written with them.

The tour they are about to embark on will take them up and down the East Coast from Winooski, Vt., to Dunedin, Fla., and plenty of places in between. LaBombard said he is thrilled to have booked a show in Saranac Lake, especially considering the Waterhole wasn’t planning to host any shows between New Year’s and Winter Carnival.

“I’m really, really, really excited, and it took quite a bit of hassling a lot of people to make sure that I’m able to pull off the gig,” LaBombard said. “We’re going to be the only show in that span of time, which I’m really excited about that; and this will be my first time playing in Saranac Lake probably since high school, and definitely the first time with my own band. And, of course, playing in that room where countless amazing bands that I’m in love with have played.”

He noted that moe. and Soulive are some of his favorite bands, and they have both played the Waterhole, among others.

LaBombard said he’s hoping for some special guests to join the band during the show, like Davison, his former music teacher, and his friend Bill Bentz, who plays percussion.

LaBombard said it should be interesting to bring his band, which he called an interesting cast of characters, to Saranac Lake. One of them is from Malaysia, one is from Mexico and the other is from Delaware.

“I’m pretty sure none of them have ever experienced cold like they’re about to,” he said. But it wasn’t hard convincing them to book here. “If there’s a gig, they’ll be there regardless of weather or anything else.”