Vibrant EYEris isn’t just about music, it’s about a movement to open the third eye with heavy dubstep beats. “Hip-Hop has become a divine element in my life,” states lyricist Numerous. “It’s strength through struggle,” agrees co-founder and beats maestro Enthusiast, “It symbolizes freedom and the human desire to expand consciousness.” With this mission in mind, Vibrant EYEris has already dropped two albums; 2010’s EP U>F>E>P, and last year’s debut full-length, Hip Hop Don’t Stop. It all started in early 2009. “I had been looking for a permanent beat producer for a while,” Numerous explains, “and when Enthusiast played me his latest work I started busting some intense freestyles.” Thus began a powerful and productive collaboration. By fusing thick dubstep beats with the flow of conscious hip-hop, Vibrant EYEris has created a unique sound of smart dance music—a party with a message. Since forming, the ensemble has played more than a hundred shows, everywhere from house parties to opening up for hip-hop veterans and fellow conscious rappers, Dead Prez, this last February. Boasting musical influences spanning Jimi Hendrix to Gift of Gab, and political influences like Ron Paul, Vibrant EYEris uses music as a way to transcend the barriers of everyday society. Making big plans for 2010, the group is getting ready to drop a second full-length, Illadellica, later this year. For now, the pair’s included a drummer, Rosta, for a rare mix of live and digital beats with each performance, which it will bring to this week’s Your Music Magazine Olympicks on Friday, April 23, at Cypress Lounge. While it’s too early to tell just where Vibrant EYEris is headed, the guys are keeping all options open. “As far fetched as it sounds,” Numerous says with a cracked smile, “I’m hoping technology will advance quickly enough so that we can rock on another planet or galaxy, maybe at some crazy intergalactic space rave.” Time will only tell, but until then keep your EYEris open for the next generation of hip-hop. | Mat Weir
Rhode Island’s Deer Tick works hard, plays harder
There are certain bands which just beg to be played in a raucous drinking establishment: glasses banging, cigarettes glowing, hips shaking. With its worn-in sound, dusty country aura, and vocalist John McCauley’s raspy drawl, Providence, R.I.’s Deer Tick is the kind of act which could challenge The Hold Steady for the title of World’s Greatest Bar Band.
Coming around to the Crepe Place on Saturday, April 24, Deer Tick has already made waves with its rick-rollicking live show, which—as attendees at their March show at San Francisco’s Independent discovered—may or may not include male nudity.
Two worlds collide for PremaSoul’s universal appeal
What do you get when you combine Southern soul music, jazz rhythms and Hindu devotional chanting? It could be called universal love. In fact that’s what Sheela Bringi and Clinton Patterson call their band: PremaSoul. “Prema is a sanskrit word that means universal love,” says Bringi, whose parents moved to the United States from India in the ’70s. She explains further, “My first love of music came from devotional singing, or bajans. It’s infused into everything I do musically. I love to take these old melodies and play them in new ways, in new settings, for new audiences.”
PremaSoul combines Bringi on vocals, flute and harp, with Clinton Patterson singing, playing keyboards and trumpet. The band also includes a divine rhythm section of bass, tabla and drumkit. PremaSoul will be performing that unique blend in a concert to benefit Haiti relief efforts at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 24, at Kuumbwa Jazz. Tickets are $20 in advance and available at Gateways Books. All proceeds will help fund a new orphanage for Haitian children whose parents were killed in the recent earthquake. For more information about humanitarian efforts in Haiti and worldwide by Amma and the MA Center, see embracingtheworld.org.
How did Bringi, an Indian flute player from Colorado, meet Patterson, a jazz keyboardist from Georgia? Both were students at California Institute for the Arts in Southern California. “I was playing music at a Thai restaurant,” Clinton reminisces. “I played music there for two years and one evening Sheela came in and we started talking. Eventually we got together and started playing music.” Their first album was titled Sound Travels and their new EP is A Shrine to All Things.
“I’ve always been interested in pulling music together from different places.” says Clinton. “A vast majority of significant things in American music have come from Black American culture, or people’s perspectives on that culture. I’m bringing my own personal connection to blues, rock ’n’ roll and R&B.”
“PremaSoul is about breaking down boundaries,” adds Bringi, who studied piano and classical Indian vocals as a child. “Early on my mom and dad encouraged me in any kind of artistic pursuit that I wanted. I began piano lessons when I was 4 or 5. Later I took flute lessons and fell in love with Indian flute. In high school I played piano in the jazz band.” She also honed her musical skills at Mills College in Oakland. “It just blew my musical world right open,” she remembers. “I came into contact with so many great musicians, like Fred Frith and Cecil Taylor. It was all based in improvisation. It got me in touch with a musical sense that can only happen when you get together with a group of people and don’t know what you’re going to create, but do it in the moment.”
Playing a concert to benefit children in Haiti seems perfectly in sync with the deeper meaning of PremaSoul. “I was excited when this opportunity came up for us,” reflects Bringi. Patterson agrees; “When things are happening anywhere in the world and people need support, there is no difference between helping someone in Haiti or helping someone that lives next door. That’s also the way that I think about making music. I try to ignore artificial barriers between different musical cultures and traditions.”
Bringi concisely explains her motivation for creativity: “I express my love for the world through music. It’s a way of opening the heart, expressing devotion and calming the mind.” Patterson, her musical partner, adds, “PremaSoul is a way of taking things I really love, putting them together and hopefully making something new, making some progress. It’s music for the future.”
PremaSoul performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 427-2227. John Malkin is a local writer, musician and host of The Great Leap Forward each Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Free Radio Santa Cruz, 101.1 FM and freakradio.org. Read about the poverty and political instability contributing to the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti in Paul Farmer’s The Uses of Haiti and Noam Chomsky’s forthcoming Hopes and Prospects (Haymarket).
Composer Yann Tiersen finds crossover success
In 2001, Amélie was the kind of movie which popularized the indie cinema archetype that’s been so prevalently peddled today by Fox Searchlight. And at the center of the movie’s emotional lift was its endearing, quirky score composed by Frenchman Yann Tiersen, who will bring his foreign arrangements to the Rio Theatre on Friday, April 16.
At the time Amélie came out, Tiersen was a complete unknown outside of France, and even within his own country was something of an up-and-comer despite having released three albums prior to Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain. However, the attention that the movie garnered, and the acclaim that Tiersen received for the soundtrack, pushed him into a new realm of critical success that is difficult to define, but undeniably influential.
“This huge success showed me that my music was a bit universal and not so discreet like most people believed it at this time,” explains Tiersen about his mainstream breakthrough. “Obviously it was a big surprise and a pleasure to see this … [and] quite embarrassing to be permanently glued to the movie because it only shows a part of myself and an age that was obviously evolving at the same time.”
Beats Antique blends the urban with the urbane
To the casual observer, the tough city of Oakland might seem like an unlikely birthplace for a group like Beats Antique, whose fusion of Middle Eastern, gypsy, electronica and hip-hop music sounds more inspired by DMT than DMX. But Beats Antique drummer/keyboardist/producer Sidecar Tommy (a.k.a. Tommy Cappel) says he and his bandmates—guitarist/violist/saz player/producer David Satori and composer/arranger/producer/belly dancer Zoe Jakes—are right at home in Oakland’s vibrant warehouse scene, which also includes conscious-minded electronic musicians like Bassnectar and Heyoka.
How Zach Rogue bucked the norm, and paralysis, for his music
In a college town like Santa Cruz, Zach Rogue has the kind of story that many recent graduates can relate to. Having finished a political science degree at UC Davis, Zach Schwartz (as he was then known) saw the same future that many others deal with upon coming face to face with the ‘real world’: get a job. Also much like the stereotypical graduate, Rogue was the victim of college apathy, having admittedly never found what his passion was.
A group of people stand in line waiting for popcorn at last year’s Burning Man Decompression party in San Francisco—organized, calm and fixating on their next salty snack fix. Flash forward 20 minutes later to a scene in which said popcorn line has morphed into an all-out dance party in which any remaining “line” is buried beneath an amorphous unit of booty-shakers and stilt-walkers crowding around one feverish Santa Cruz ensemble, Trip Delight Fantastic. “
The Santa Cruz Jazz Festival will run 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, March 26-27, at Cabrillo College
Ken Emerson brings the islands to this year’s Santa Cruz Jazz Festival
The last time Ken Emerson performed in town, it was the ‘70s and he was sharing an informal public stage with a historical figure. Back then he was studying art history and psychology at Cabrillo College and frequenting Pacific Avenue for busking sessions with some other notable locals—including one saw player, Tom Scribner. Yes, the saw player now immortalized with a statue in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz.
“In the mid-‘70s [the Pacific Avenue mall] was incredible and Santa Cruz was so happening!” Emerson remembers, his voice blown out from a Bay Area gig the night before our chat. “I played out there on guitar, Tom played saw, and another guy played plectrum guitar. Tom knew all these Hawaiian songs from the 1915 period so I learned quite a bit of Hawaiian music from him. I owe a lot to that guy.”
While most bands are busy employing more technology in their show, splattering the stage from one end to the other with cutting-edge gear, the Down Beets are running in the opposite direction—and it’s made them run into each other. Last spring the 4-year-old alt-country bluegrass quartet decided to simplify things by changing into a one-mic format. At first, however, crowding around a single mic took a bit of getting used to. Singer Sheila Golden explains: “I totally got whacked in the head a few times by the banjo, I’ve whacked Jay [Lampel] with the guitar, and at a couple shows Jeremy [Lampel] had to run around to the other side to get near the mic. It can be really comical but we’re getting better.” “Getting better” has meant burgeoning into a sweet Del McCoury performance style that’s revolutionized the band.
Experimental Xiu Xiu rewrites the rules
To adapt to shifting norms, the formula for producing mainstream music introduces "shock" elements that push pop music into the future. From Lady Gaga's alien wardrobe and unknown gender, to Madonna dancing with a black Jesus against a backdrop of burning crosses, to the Sex Pistols' prediction of "no future," what unsettles popular sentiments is eventually incorporated into the mainstream.
So how long will it take for FM radio to rotate a Xiu Xiu track like "Support Our Troops OH! (Black Angels OH!)" from 2004's Fabulous Muscles? Summoning the most desolate, dissonant recesses of experimental music pioneer John Cage's catalog, the song—if you wish to call it that—paints a landscape portrait of a post-siege Fallujah. Quiet, malfunctioning electronics are randomly interrupted by bursts of feedback and clanking metal. Jamie Stewart, the brainchild behind Xiu Xiu, speaks over the ambience: "Did you know you were going to shoot off the top of a 4-year-old girl's head ... and her dad would say to you, 'Please, sir, can I take her body home?' ... Why should I care if you get killed?"
What could four young guys from Salinas and Santa Cruz possibly have in common with one (insert uncontrollable gag here) Paris Hilton? Try a four-story mansion in the Hamptons. No joke. Last summer, the crafty garage rockers in the Mystery Lights enjoyed two weeks pimpin’ it out in an extravagant pad that’s also been used to house the Maiden of Vain. Flown to New York by the band’s Closet Trekkie Records, who signed the quartet after coming across its MySpace, the Lights fulfilled an agenda of playing nine East Coast shows and recording the entire time.