Live in the Clubs: Sugar Proof takes listeners to outer space

The huge flying saucer on the cover of Sugar Proof’s debut album “Oxygen” says it all. “I wanted it

The huge flying saucer on the cover of Sugar Proof’s debut album “Oxygen” says it all.

Outer space imagery is no stranger to funk and psychedelic rock — there’s a whole genre of rock music named for the pairing — and Sugar Proof is aware of its roots. While not a concept album per se, “Oxygen” still runs with the space theme even beyond its trippy artwork.

“I wanted it to kind of be a tribute to the old psychedelic funk albums from the ’70s,” said Titian Dion, lead vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist for the Troy-based progressive funk outfit.

Epic journey

“Also there’s a little bit of a progressive rock element, an epic with a grand kind of theme. So we really kind of took the spaceship idea and mixed it in with a planet where people and aliens are dancing — if you look at the inside of the CD, there’s a picture of that. Almost this idea of, they’re on a journey to this place where it’s just gonna be fun, where they’ll be dancing and getting down. I guess it’s that whole epic journey kind of vibe, sort of like ‘Heavy Metal,’ that cartoon — that kind of idea for this album.”

Sugar Proof

with DJ Prophet

When: 8 tonight

Where: Putnam Den, 63A Putnam St., Saratoga Springs

How Much: Free

More Info: 584-8066,

With progressive and reggae elements, deep bass grooves and laid-back jams, the songs on “Oxygen,” released at the end of May, find the Troy-based band reaching back to the ’70s while incorporating modern influences such as Phish and Red Hot Chili Peppers to create a danceable groove all their own. Capital Region audiences have been quick to latch on to the group’s sound.

“Everybody who’s gotten a copy [of the album] tells me that they listen to it on a weekly or even daily basis — they really like it,” Dion said. “I think it’s got kind of a fresh sound for people too. We have one song on there, ‘Lemonade,’ that’s probably the song that people notice right away. . . . To me, that’s a good song — it’s different but sounds familiar.”

At this point, the quartet — also featuring bassist Eric Johnson, guitarist and vocalist Wayne Chaet and drummer and vocalist Ian Henderson — is supporting the album throughout the Capital Region’s rock venues. Tonight they’ll be at Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs for a free show that also features DJ Prophet.

The current lineup of Sugar Proof has been playing and writing songs together for about three years. Dion, 40, was originally a bassist, growing up on metal before delving into jam bands and jazz. When he switched to guitar, his years as a bassist informed Sugar Proof’s funk backbone.

“It’s a natural progression after playing bass that you’re gonna want to play funk at some point,” Dion said. “It took a few years I think to get comfortable enough on guitar and on singing; I took six months of lessons with Sam Whitehouse in Saratoga, and that helped me immensely.”

Meanwhile Johnson, a childhood friend of Dion’s, had returned to the region after a stint in Seattle. “As a bassist, he was the guy who played well enough for me to be happy with it,” Dion said.

Chaet came onboard in winter of 2007, and the band went through a handful of drummers before settling on Henderson a year later to complete the lineup.

Though the band was initially conceived under Dion’s vision, all members contribute to the songwriting equally these days. Dion is the band’s main lead vocalist, but Henderson will often sing harmonies throughout entire songs, and Chaet sings lead on a few songs as well.

“A lot of times it will be, just, Ian will have a drum beat, or I’ll have a guitar riff — somebody will have something, and we’ll just start adding pieces to it,” Dion said. “Usually I’ll dig into my lyric book to come up with some lyrics, but we have different — sometimes just jamming, our drummer will start singing. He’s great at coming out with melodies.”

More material

Last year, the band began recording 17 songs, 14 of which made it onto “Oxygen,” at Warming Room Studio in Albany, with Carl Blackwood producing. The band is hugely prolific — according to Dion, the band already has another album’s worth of material that’s currently being tested out live.

Despite its over-arching outer space themes, “Oxygen” is not a concept album. But Dion won’t rule one out in the future.

“We didn’t really approach it as a concept album, but when you put all the songs together, the feeling of them and some of the lyrical content, it does fit,” he said. “I have thought about that for future albums coming up, a concept album. I think it’s gonna happen eventually.”

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