“If we could put our music into words, why would we need to put out albums?”
According to Stuart Bogie, Antibalas’ laid-back master of the tenor sax, music shouldn’t be discussed or analyzed. Music is an experience and a passion, not a chemical compound to be broken down and pulled apart. For Bogie’s group, indescribable is the perfect word to describe their music, despite its irony.
Funk, jazz and experimental indie mated and gave birth to a love child named Antibalas. Their name, the Spanish equivalent of the word bulletproof, matches their steel spirit and constant musical high. Nothing can bring these guys down.
Each of the 12 members is quirky and unique with special hobbies or habits which contribute to the whole. The boys play an array of instruments, including the electric piano, organ, clavinet, trumpet, tenor and baritone saxophones, shekere, guitar, trombone, trumpet, bass and drums. The eclectic mix fuses into contagious beats and off-the-wall melodies. Twelve matchless boys merged to concoct their own puzzle of music, which, when whole, creates a picture of success.
Antibalas began their budding in Brooklyn, New York, almost 17 years ago. That New York spirit gives them a razor’s edge and unbeatable style. They’ve blossomed while playing shows everywhere from Japan and Canada to all over the United States.
“It’s not really the place we’re playing at – it’s the audience,” Bogie said.
Stuart Bogie explained that fans and friends truly make the band. Since their beginning, they’ve collected a loyal following. With 12 members, one would think conflict may lurk around every corner, but the air of simplicity and calm in his voice tells me the opposite. He speaks slowly about the numerous inspirations and mix of hobbies for the band. Each person is unique – one is an avid reader, one collects stamps and one smashes butterflies from their exotic touring destinations and adds them to countless other crushed wings in his books. Twelve separate personalities clicked and clashed their way to form one unit by nurturing their one shared love – making incredible music.
Antibalas practices one tried and true ritual for putting on a memorable show: eating their largest meal at 9:00 in the morning. Some bands have superstitious practices, pray before a show or loosen up with the help of a couple of illegal friends, but for Antibalas, it’s all about the energy. They need that energy to deliver a raw, live show at a swanky club in Japan or someone’s grungy basement in New York. Provide some sort of instrument or channel of percussion, and wait for their rare musical treat.
Each instrument and voice adds another layer to the cake. The guys have been baking up hits for years, and it shows in their inconceivably talented sets. Lead singer Amayo’s mellow accent provides a perfect outlet for fresh political lyrics with layers of brass music intertwining and curling through keyboard melodies and low growls of percussion. It’s enough to make anyone swoon over their delicious creations.
When asked if touring ever got old for them, Stuart chuckled and replied, “Touring doesn’t get old, but we’re getting older.”
Luckily, no one can tell, considering their revolutionary and ever-evolving sound. Occasionally, the music scene digs itself into a rut with the same old noise with lyrics, but Antibalas promises to change everything. They’re re-energizing music and pulling out all the stops with coveted studio recordings and live shows with enough force to keep you breathless for weeks.
Listening to Antibalas is a rush of blood, a quickened breath and a shiver. You’ll feel an insuppressible desire to move to the shiny brass beats and dangle off each word Amayo spits out. Just ride your way down the slick melodies and hearty percussion. These 12 boys have made music one of the senses, and everyone’s invited for a taste.
Don’t miss Antibalas with special guest Krudas Cubensi next Tuesday, April 17 at Canopy Club. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show, and tickets are $13 in advance.