Forest Grove funk trio won the battle of the bands, and now they're set to make soundwaves at the Rose Festival, Portland's big-tent party
by: Chase Allgood While Ian Lindsay (left), Doug Mason (middle) and Max Malizia of What the Funk? are still in high school, the trio will get big-time exposure this summer when they take the stage during the Portland Rose Festival.

It's a time-honored tradition.

Plug in the amps, set up the drums, grab some caffeinated beverages and get ready to rock your mom's living room like Altamont in 1969.

But when What the Funk?, Forest Grove's premier outlet for cosmic sexified funk-hop cranks up, they don't sound like a high school garage band.

Doug Mason (vocals and guitar), Ian Lindsay (vocals and bass) and Max Malizia (drums), have played together for less than six months, but jamming in Malizia's living room on a recent afternoon, the three kicked out the kind of cohesive sound you'd expect from an experienced house band.

Even more surprising? It's the first time any of the members have really dug into funk.

Mason, 17, grew up listening to hip-hop. Malizia, 18, grew up listening to pop. And Lindsay, 17, is known around Forest Grove High School as a blues master.

But since the trio has been formed, each is diving deep into a back catalog of funk and hip hop, developing ideas for their nascent project.

'I had ideas, you had ideas,' said Lindsay, reminiscing about the formation of the band with Mason, who jumped right in:

'Our ideas had intercourse and had this brilliant funk baby.'

On May 14, the band took the stage for Portland Music Company's battle of the bands.

According to Malizia's mom, Barbara Malizia (who earned the title of honorary fourth band member for her support of the band), they wowed the crowd.

And the judges.

What the Funk? took first place in the competition, earning them a 45-minute set in front of a crowd of Rose Festival revelers on June 12.

As a young band, they don't quite have enough material for 45 minutes of music, but they're working on it.

The band's already put together a 5-song demo tape, and is actively working on locking down grooves for cover songs to fill out their set.

Hip-hop and funk

Each band member brings their own sound to the mix.

Malizia splashes and crashes behind his drum kit like a reactive pop or jazz drummer.

Lindsay plays bass like a lead guitarist, with his fingers dashing up and down the neck hammering out melodic scales that twine the drums with the melodic groove of each song.

And Mason snaps out guitar chords, diminished and funky while spitting out rapid-fire rhymes on the mic.

'I'm not really focused on playing a lot of fancy guitar stuff,' said Mason.

That's because he's busy rapping about his home town and his life on songs like 'Forest Groove,' and he can improv lyrics on the fly, including about this reporter.

While Mason makes an apt frontman, Lindsay works the foundational groove into a thing of beauty.

When he throws a look at Malizia, the drums sputter to a stop. When he hits a heavy bass line his face scrunches up like a basketball player hoping a three-pointer will sink in the hole.

'I try to play the classic bass background,' said Lindsay, who picked up the bass to play with What the Funk?.

Mason pegs Lindsay's total playing time on the bass to about 4 months or so. And he's still playing on a hand-me-down Peavey that buzzes when he lifts his fingers off the string and can't quite translate the sounds he's actually fretting.

But hey, he's only got $80 into the thing. And he's already got his eyes set on a Fender Jazz bass, the classic funk monster played by one of his bass inspirations, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Flea, Bootsy Collins and John Entwhistle of the Who embody what he wants to do with the bass.

'They were all in bands, but you knew who the bass players were in the band,' Lindsay said.

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