Reno soul and funk group the Mark Sexton Band is Tahoe-bound, shacking up for the Divided Sky’s 13th anniversary celebration on Saturday, Feb. 14.
2014 was a high point for the Mark Sexton Band, with the addition of keys and a horn section to its existing three-piece lineup, and appearances at Lake Tahoe’s Wanderlust Festival and Hangtown Halloween in Placerville. 2015 started off an another high note for the band, with a performance at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
The full band is Sexton (guitar, vocals), Dan Weiss (drums), Alex Korostinsky (bass), Ryan Taylor (keys), Davis Corl (trombone) and Dom Lacala (trumpet). The Moody’s shows will feature Sexton, Weiss, Korostinsky and Taylor.
While the band’s sound has evolved over its nine years of existence, it has arrived at a grooving blend of old-school soul and funk, over-laid with Sexton’s spirited vocals.
“I think it’s just a huge mix of influences,” the front man said “Mainly in the realm of older soul music that we grew up with and kind of identify with. That’s not to say that we haven’t morphed over the years. We started off a lot more acoustic sounding, a tiny bit of reggae flavor in what we were doing. Since then we’ve gone in the soul, neo-soul direction.”
Sexton was raised in a musical household, with a piano to tinker on and music from Steely Dan to Stevie Wonder constantly playing in the background. His parents encouraged his early forays into musicianship.
“My parents were very with it, as far as getting me into music; they never hesitated to get me guitar lessons or piano lessons, whatever I wanted to do,” Sexton said. “There was never really a limit. I was really thankful to them for that.”
Sexton became increasingly passionate about music in high school, hitting the open mic scene around Reno and trying his hand at song-writing. A big turning point came in 2006, when he won the T Mobile Youth Music Award in Reno, a competition featuring a mixture of performance and song-writing. The prize was time in a recording studio, and he and high school pals Weiss and Korostinsky got started on their first recording project.
“That was what kind of inspired the whole thing, the spark that got us started,” Sexton said of the studio session.
The band focused on playing locally at first, taking to the road for the first time in 2009, and has increased its touring footprint in recent years. The full form of the band took shape with the addition of Taylor, Corl and Lacala in 2014.
“It’s been a very slow and steady type of thing, we’re still fighting for everything that we do in a lot of ways,” Sexton said. “When we started touring, we didn’t really know what we were doing, and we just wanted dates on the calendar. We started touring vigorously without any knowledge behind it.”
Sexton and company aim to build on their recent success, and are currently at work on a new album and expanding the band’s touring territory.
“We’re trying to extend our reach beyond the 11 most Western states,” Sexton said. “We have an upcoming tour to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, really breaking new ground.”
The Mark Sexton Band
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, February 14
Where: the Divided Sky, Meyers