What: Swatkins & The Positive Agenda

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Crow’s Feet Commons, 875 NW Brooks St., Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: parallel44presents.com, crowsfeetcommons.com or 541-728-0066

What: High Gravity Brewfest with Swatkins & The Positive Agenda, Company Grand, Maxwell Friedman Trio

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: McMenamins Old St. Francis School, 700 NW Bond St., Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: parallel44presents.com, mcmenamins.com or 541-382-5174

Keyboardist Steveland Swatkins — born Steve Watkins — loves sideman work.

It’s what he’s built his musical career on since moving to Portland from upstate New York in 2005, first joining up with rootsy singer-songwriter Allen Stone and then electronic funk group Juno What?! His prowess on the instrument and unique style — he’s known for using effects units, especially the talkbox (the device that gets Peter Frampton’s guitar to sound like a human voice) — has led to collaborations with The Motet, Turkuaz, Russ Liquid, Fruition, Bernie Worrell and many more.

But Swatkins is also a songwriter — he shares lead vocal duties in the band Excellent Gentlemen, which stretches back to his time in New York, and videos of his talkbox-inflected funk and soul songs have gained a following on YouTube. His strong personality, musically and otherwise, has led to some mild head-butting in band situations.

“There’s something special when you’re supporting an artist, and say they take a solo, and you’re really listening and being supportive behind them and comping behind them, and you can actually get the audience to clap for their solo by how you’re supporting them,” Swatkins said recently from Portland, a few hours before flying to Cervantes for a two-night stand with one-off project The Swat Team. “… But also, after doing it for a decade-plus, my natural tendency is to sort of maybe backseat drive a little bit and be like, ‘Hey, bandleader, why don’t you do stuff like this?’ And it’s like, ‘OK, Steve, why don’t you just shut up and do the job, then go run your own band however you want?’”

Last year, he did just that. His new band, Swatkins & The Positive Agenda, which features a core trio of Swatkins, longtime collaborator Mike Elson on keyboards and bass and drummer Tyrone Hendrix (Stevie Wonder, Liv Warfield, Keegan Smith), has been slowly building momentum touring the I-5 corridor while working on a debut album. The band will expand to a septet when it makes its two-show Bend debut this weekend: headlining the next Apres Ski Bash at Crow’s Feet Commons on Friday, and the High Gravity Brewfest at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (alongside locals Company Grand and the Maxwell Friedman Trio) on Saturday.

“It’s soulful funk music — there’s no real complicated slash-genre action involved,” Swatkins said. “It’s pretty straight-forward; it’s a feel-good, overwhelmingly positive experience.”

In Bend, the band will feature Swatkins’ girlfriend Moorea Masa on vocals; guitarists Jimmy Russell (of The Quick & Easy Boys) and Peter Knudsen; and bassist André Zapata. The expanded lineup, similar to the one-off Swat Team shows, is part of Swatkins’ strategy to introduce the project to new markets, utilizing the extensive network of musicians he’s built up across the country as a sideman.

“I envision it like — maybe I’ll do a Northeast edition, and I’ll hire my New York friend, or do one in New Orleans or do one in L.A.,” Swatkins said. “… The ultimate goal is, I want The Positive Agenda to go tour. We’ll have a record this year. We’ll get to go kind of pile in the van and do the thing, but rather than go and lose money on the first time in a market, I’ll just go and call the friends, and we’ll do a super jam with an all-star pickup group.”

The Positive Agenda’s roots go back to the musical relationship forged between Swatkins and Elson while growing up in Schenectady, New York. Along with other friends, the duo would form a number of R&B-based bands in the upstate area, but Swatkins left for Portland as soon as he turned 18. Elson followed soon after.

“When we were growing up, we always had bands together, and he was on keys, and I was on bass, and that was the high-school band dynamic,” Swatkins said. “As we’ve grown up and we’ve kept playing together, that’s kind of switched, where I’ve been playing more keys, and he’s been playing more bass. So we get to steal each other’s licks on multiple instruments, which is really exciting.”

It took some time for the two New Yorkers to find their way in Portland’s scene.

“We would take any gig that crossed our plates; we would go play to nobody,” Swatkins said. “We would be going, ‘OK, guys, we’re gonna play a real soulful R&B ballad now,’ and then two dudes would be rabbit punching each other in the back of the bar. … I think because we were more or less selfish in our pursuit — we knew this one way of doing it, where it’s just like, look, if it makes us feel good, it can’t be all bad. And we never — we didn’t push that hard to advance our careers; we just wanted to make a scene, and I think that’s exactly what we did.”

Swatkins, Elson and Hendrix — who also played with Swatkins in Juno What?! — are taking their time with The Positive Agenda in the studio. After years of recording with Stone in professional studios, Swatkins wanted a more easy-going recording experience. The band laid down some tracks at B-Side Studios in Portland, with more recording at Swatkins and Masa’s studio space. As with the Swat Team and Positive Agenda shows, a number of guests will feature on the record, including Turkuaz guitarist Craig Brodhead.

“After seeing how convoluted, how quickly (recording) can get, it’s like a breath of fresh air to just be like, hey, it doesn’t need to be this complicated,” Swatkins said. “We can do this simply, we can do this streamlined and it’s gonna be fun — like imagine that, making a record that feeds your spirit instead of hollows out your soul.”

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