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February 8, 2024

Extreme Funk: A Conversation with Nuno Bettencourt


More Than Words” ruled the hairspray and stone-washed jean crowd in the late ’80s to early ’90s. Boston’s Extreme singer Gary Cherone and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt were ubiquitous, as “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted” played on MTV every hour on the hour. After a couple more hits, the band quietly faded away. They soon wrongfully joined the pre-grunge strap-pile alongside Nelson and Wilson Phillips.

Cherone briefly fronted Van Halen later in the decade, but that was a bad idea.

So, since reforming in 2004, the band has taken a more organic road, leading up to the band’s Killer 2023 album 6, featuring “#Rebel,” “Hurricane,” and “Small Town Beautiful.”

I recently spoke with Nuno Bettencourt before the band’s appearance on February 7 in The Egyptian Room at The Old National Center.

NUVO: Your last record, released last year, was really heavy. You have moved in a heavier direction.

Nuno Bettencourt: Nothing is on purpose. It’s just songs we wrote, and we definitely realized we’re writing some heavier stuff, but I was excited about that. I was completely into it.

NUVO: How old were you when you first came to Boston?

Nuno: Yeah, I was four years old, man. You can look that stuff up in Wikipedia.

NUVO: I don’t do the Wikipedia. I like to hear from the horse’s mouth.

Nuno: I respect that. I respect that. Yeah, I was four years old.

NUVO: Did you have any particular favorites in Boston music that got you started, or how did you start playing guitar?

Nuno: We were inspired by our local heroes, The Cars, the band Boston, Aerosmith, and J. Geils. We had a lot of great bands coming out of there. So it was. It was always inspiring to have the locals and music in general, and it was always a great live scene there. Really special.

NUVO: So that inspired you to get started.

Nuno: Well, I mean, it’s just a lot of things, you know, listening to music records collection, a lot of things inspire you, man. It’s not just one thing. There’s a lot of different things that inspire you.

NUVO: What was the pivotal point when you decided this would be my career? This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.

Nuno: I came up in a musical family anyways, you know, I was the youngest of 10 kids, and everybody played music. So, to do it for the rest of my life, I was always doing it slightly. I think it’s when, you know, when you start, when you, once you write your own songs and you start your first band together and you know, you do your first gig, you either kinda go hell yeah, this is me, or you’re like, nah, I don’t like it, and it was always like, yeah, this is it for me. So I knew at a very, very, very young age.

NUVO: What was it like when you first tasted success? Were you prepared for it?

Nuno: Of course not; you’re never prepared for it. It’s just a journey, you know, you go, and you’re doing it for the love of it really, you know, and as the stuff starts happening and you do, as the stuff starts happening and you do get a bit of success that way, then, then you start, you adapt to it, and it’s exciting, but it’s also hard on you in the sense of like people around you kind of changing but excited for you. Family looks at you different. It’s, like, one of the most exciting and hardest things at the same time,

NUVO: When you go out on the road now, how does it feel to play to the people that pretty much grew up with you?

Nuno: It’s great, man. It’s the greatest feeling in the world. If your music and songs connect with an audience and your lyrics are part of the soundtrack of their lives, that’s the main reason that keeps you going. That’s what it’s all about playing live, you know.

NUVO: Do you ever get tired of playing “More than Words?

Nuno: No, I would never get tired of playing a song that everybody sings from front to back and actually has been a part of their lives and from weddings to proms to, you know, I don’t know, losing their virginity. I don’t know. I’ve heard of, I’ve heard it all. So, it’s great. It’s great that that, that’s connected, you know.

NUVO: How is the new record being received? When you play the new songs, are people into them?

Nuno: Actually, they are, surprisingly. Usually, when a band releases a new album, and it’s been a long time since the last one, they just wanna hear the old stuff. We’re actually getting a lot of people saying to play more of the new stuff. So that’s a good sign. We’re already doing six songs in the set from the new stuff, half of the album. So that’s a lot, and people are still asking for more. So that’s good. It’s a good sign.

NUVO: It’s rare to see a band return with something to say and be relevant after being away for so long. It’s a testament to your ability to write songs that appeal to people.

Nuno: Yeah. No. Listen, I agree. I think, when you do this if you’re gonna do it, you better be all in and passionate and still have something to say when you want. That’s what we made sure of. But what’s interesting is that we just didn’t expect this kind of reaction or this kind of love back. So it’s been really incredible, been really humbling and just like, super exciting, you know,

NUVO: It’s a weird combination, playing with Living Colour.

Nuno: It’s not a weird combination. If you listen to the sound, they’re a funky band. We’re a funky band. It’s actually one of the most perfect combinations that we’ve had on a tour. We always talked about doing this run because they’ve always had a funkier side. Extreme, as a rock band, always had a funkier side.

NUVO: What can we look forward to at the show?

Nuno: Oh my God, dude. What do you want us to do? You want us to like, pull a rabbit out of a hat? You can look forward to a live fucking band. A great band that’s gonna blow the fucking roof off the place and play the songs that we’ve been playing for 35-40 years. I don’t think you have much to look forward to other than that.