By Bill Clifford
2:30 PM EST, December 27, 2012
Dec 29, 9 p.m., $12, The Main Pub, 306 Main St., Manchester, (860) 647-1551, mainpub.com
It's common these days for bands to blend varying musical styles to distinguish themselves. The results of such experimenting can vary.
But the Alchemystics, from Northampton, Mass., make eclecticism the core of their vibrant sound. The septet brings diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds to the mix — blending reggae, politically and socially conscious hip-hop, funky soul and R&B and Caribbean rhythms into a unique and original sound.
"It's what simply comes natural to us all," says Demse (pronounced Dem-see) Zullo, when asked about the rationale of mixing varying styles of music. The Advocate spoke in person with Demse, the band's drummer and musical director, and the group's emcee/vocalist Garrick "Force" Perry, at AQ Creative Studios in Chicopee, Mass.
"After you have certain experiences in life and you study something enough, it becomes a part of you," he says. "So then, what goes in your filter as a person comes out in the music you play. In our band, we have so many personal and musical experiences that you can't stop all these things from coming out." Zullo studied music at Berklee. He's played flamenco in San Francisco and drummed in Cuba.
A graduate of Amherst College, Force is poetic and articulate, expanding on Zullo's explanation.
"I think it really comes down to taking all these variant sensibilities and mixing them together, because we now live in a world where we all have access to different genres of music and we're all taking in a lot. Our music, like Demse said, has something to fit every mood. You know, there's some more somber songs, some things that are more uplifting … At the end of it all, I would say it's, like, conscious dance music."
Demse formed the band in an initial jam session that took place in his family's attic more than 10 years ago. The session included founding members Matthew King on percussion, bassist Garrett Sawyers (no longer with the band), emcee Phaze (replaced by Force) and Jay Metcalf on keys. Members have come and gone over the years, but Ras Jahn Bullock was on the scene for many years and became a natural fit with the Alchemystics when he joined later.
"I was already playing in another group with him. So I already knew what he could do, and we were working on this particular song, and I said, 'This song needs Ras Jahn!' So he came in and sang over it, and he loved doing it and we loved having him on the record," says Zullo of adding Ras Jahn Bullock, a leading reggae vocalist in the Northeast and former singer of Loose Caboose.
Also in the band is Ian Cooper-Pettys on vocals and guitar. He takes the lead vocal on the upcoming new single, "Thinking About You." The band approached the current recordings much differently than they did the songs of their previous full-length 17-track CD, Spread Hope.
Force says he intentionally avoided excessive wordplay on "Thinking About You." "It's not as … dense as I normally make things," he says. "I took a step back and just tried to have it be a little poppy-ier."
Over the next several months, the band plans to release three songs — "Thinking About You," "Amazing" and "She Goes" — for free online. They'll be back in the studio for six days in February to record again. The band hopes to release a new CD in mid-2013. If you're interested in seeing/hearing the band perform, catch them now, as the band will take a break for several months and concentrate on songwriting and recording before gearing up for festival season. They're one of the most energetic and entertaining bands on the scene. The band values the interaction with fans.
"The last thing I would want readers to know is that the Alchemystics are a band for the people," says Force. "We are highly approachable and we are — not an everyman band — but we are just regular guys who are passionate about their music and their message. So I would like the fans to know that they can interact with us, hit us up on Facebook, follow us and don't be afraid to interact with us. Come to a show and talk to us, we're all very approachable people."
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