Funk Shway and the Dojo Birds at Nardi’s

By VICTORIA FORD | May 24, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

In four years, the locally based rock-reggae-funk-infusion project Funk Shway has evolved from a basement band to a highly sought-after, regionally touring, original act, adding a strong female vocalist and a horn section (a.k.a. the Dojo Birds). Band members share history, musical tastes and a passion for performance, all driven by the desire to give audiences a transcendent experience.

The lineup includes Aaron Budd (nephew of West Creek-based board shaper Randy Budd) on guitar with a voice that might be described as a cross between James Brown and Steven Tyler; additional vocals and percussion are provided by Chelsea Wozniak; Anthony Capriotti plays bass; and Mike Konyha is the drummer. In the horn section, Tyler Sprague (from one of the oldest family lines in this part of Ocean County) plays saxophone, and Sam Lasko plays trumpet and guitar.

They all work full-time outside of the band, be it in construction or surveying, education or bartending, yet they maintain a steady practice and gig schedule, which they consider a hobby and a privilege more than anything else. They’re on a seven-week stint right now with shows each weekend. All in attendance on Saturday night at Nardi’s Tavern in Haven Beach appeared to receive the message loud and clear and were only too happy to express their appreciation on the dance floor.

For bar and nightclub crowds, Funk Shway likes to be selective about its covers, preferring songs not seen or heard done by other bands, according to Konyha. And they put a unique spin on songs they cover, whether by The String Cheese Incident, The Spin Doctors, Pink Floyd, Tracy Chapman, Bill Withers, War, The Average White Band, Galactic or the Doors.

The musicians’ compatibility comes from loving similar genres of music other people in their age group don’t necessarily know or relate to, Sprague explained.

Sprague had taken a six-year hiatus from sax after high school, until his friends urged him to pick it up and play. In school he had known how to play only by reading sheet music and following a director, but playing in a band has awakened a new creative side for him, he said.

Konyha didn’t find his way to the drums until he was 20, when he finally “rigged” the drum kit his dad had been bugging him to play and, lacking proper drumsticks, made do with some slender tree branches he taped up.

The group has traveled to New York and Pennsylvania, to Stuart, Va., to play Front Porch Fest, and to West Virginia to play at Hollywood Casino. They have held down a recurring monthly gig at Old Causeway for two years and have gained great exposure at area wineries and community events such as last year’s Hop Sauce Festival. This year they’re booked at Bayview Park on June 26, Manahopkin in August and Chowderfest in October.

Some went to Pinelands Regional High School together; some are housemates. They are grateful to have a basement studio space in Ocean Acres where they can gather weekly to rehearse, jam and write music together. The songwriting process is somewhat free-form and spontaneous, where someone at a practice might try something new. Capriotti might show the band a bass line he likes, or Budd might have some lyrics. Everybody’s input is welcome and valued, and when they all agree it feels ready – “We don’t try to force anything,” Budd said – they debut it onstage.

“We really try to perfect (the songs) before we play them out,” Capriotti said.

The band released the album From the Attic to the Basement last year. During regular rehearsals they record what they’re working on, the better to refine and improve their sound.

Together they go to music festivals to immerse themselves in the music they love and to do continual research and development for their own act. Sprague said they feel being enthusiastic audience members makes them better performers onstage – two sides of the same coin, really. They want to deliver the same energy they feel on the dance floor to the crowds that dance to their music. Wozniak said she definitely observes and appreciates other lady vocals because, to her, “it’s more than just being a backup singer.”

Konyha said they’re “always taking notes” to become better musicians and performers. Visit to check for shows and new music.


Set List Snippet

“F.U.,” Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

“Jungle Boogie,” Kool and the Gang

“Le Freak,” Chic

“Get Up Off of That Thing,” James Brown

“The Walkdown,” Funk Shway

“Play That Funky Music,” Wild Cherry

“Fame,” David Bowie

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