Localized Righteous Audio Werks, Seven Feathers Rainwater

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Photo: Dave DeAustin

This month’s Localized features the dub reggae band Righteous Audio Werks and the exploratory soundscapes of Seven Feathers Rainwater, along with openers It Foot, It Ears.  Come check it out on Friday, Jan. 14 at Urban Lounge for only $5.

Righteous Audio Werks
Cache Tolman - Bass
Daniel Lloyd - Drums
Tige Campbell - Guitar
Mike Sasich - Guitar
Jared Russell - Keyboard
Josh Dickson - Trumpet
Stephen Chai - Saxophone

You’d think that the guys in Righteous Audio Werks would try to show off a little more.  “These guys are all really badass musicians and I’m kind of like the organizer,” says drummer Daniel Lloyd. He is being modest. He is more than a mere organizer of the band. Lloyd has played with roots reggae great Winston Jarrett and worked with legendary dub engineer Scientist. The day after our interview, bassist Cache Tolman flew to London to play with his Island Records band Rival Schools, which includes the guitarist from Gorilla Biscuits.  The other band members represent a slew of Salt Lake City bands—Lion Dub Station, Laserfang, Afro Omega, Slajo, Night Sweats, and probably a few more in the time since this was written.  Their individual talents are worth as much as the sum of their parts, but as band members, they play off of each other instead of fighting to play louder or faster than the rest.  Their music is decidedly un-busy, following the ethos, as Lloyd puts it, of “less content with more impact.”

Although Righteous Audio Werks has only been playing together for approximately a year, the band’s musical chemistry dates back to middle school when Dan Lloyd, Jared Russell, Cache Tolman and Tige Campbell played in White City.  “We started out playing skate punk, and then it kind of got jazzy, and as we got better, we were able to play music that we liked, so then it got funky,” Lloyd says.  They played as often as three times a week, speeding their growth as musicians.  Eventually, they evolved into playing reggae, which Lloyd describes as “the funkiest music.”  These days, their music lays its emphasis on groove, anchored by Lloyd and Tolman’s rock-solid rhythm section.

Lloyd recalls moving to Seattle and playing with Winston Jarrett for a couple of years there.  “Getting barked at by some Jamaicans did a lot of good for me,” Lloyd says.  The result is a real roots reggae band that draws on its varied influences to add new sounds and flavors—not just a rock band with a veneer of Caribbean rhythms.  “We’re not crossing over anything.  We’ve got all the respect in the world for roots and what’s been done up till now.  We want to push that forward now,” Lloyd says. “In Jamaica there aren’t a whole lot of musicians now.  It’s a whole different scene.  There are lots of MCs and DJs.” Righteous Audio Werks might play four minutes of a dub instrumental with traditional guitar skank, syncopated bass lines and horn melodies, but then add a rock build-up, a metallic guitar solo or an analog synth lead. 

Their musical tastes vary widely: A couple of the band members discussed a recent Slayer show as they walked in for the interview.  Collectively, they play in other bands ranging from thrash punk to experimental indie to post-hardcore.  Russell runs an online bookstore and record store, redlightslc.com, that specializes in noise metal.  The commingling of bands is “incestuous,” as Tolman puts it.  It is this wealth of influences that allows Righteous Audio Werks to put their distinct stamp on roots reggae.

Thoroughly schooled in dub, Righteous Audio Werks was sought out by Scientist, who is mixing their upcoming record Cooking with Scientist, due summer 2011 on Lloyd’s own Issue Records.  “Scientist dug what we were doing.  He chased me down, and the result of that is the working relationship we have and are going to have in the future,” says Lloyd.  Scientist was one of the original engineers of dub in Jamaica in the ‘70s, known for his work with King Tubby.  Through Scientist, Lloyd met the vocalists who are singing on the record, including Israel Joseph I, who recorded with Bad Brains and Lady Tigra from ‘80s hip hop group L’Trimm. “Crossing everything with each other and mixing it up as much as possible is in the best interest of everybody, especially us,” Lloyd says.  He’s optimistic about the future of their band and record label.  “Now I’m a little more focused, I’ve got a little more experience with what is going to work. I’m going to stick with a reggae focus, but who knows what is under that.”

Because the members of Righteous Audio Werks are all so busy with other bands and their families, rehearsals are something of an event.   “That’s why I bring coffee and beverages.  Scheduling is probably the biggest challenge,” says Lloyd.  Shows will be rare, so you won’t want to miss this month’s Localized. 

Seven Feathers Rainwater
Seth Pulver – Guitar, Sampler, Drums, Vocals, Keys, Bass, Mandolin, Lap Harp, Organ
Taylor Christensen – Guitar, Sequencer, Drums, Vocals, Bass, Sampler, Synth, Cello, Organ
Nathan Simonsen – Vocals, Synth, Sampler, Bass, Harmonica, Piano, Organ

Ambient music often evolves out of the realms of electronic music or minimalist classical, but Seven Feathers Rainwater started playing music together as a largely self-taught jazz trio.  Instead of taking their improvisations into the ultra-busy world of free jazz, they toned and slowed it down.  The result is Seven Feathers Rainwater.

The band’s musical chemistry has developed over the better part of a decade.  The three hail from the Davis County area and have been playing music since their teens. “Taylor and I have played in bands together since junior high,” says Pulver.

About a year and a half ago, while playing together in a jazz trio with Simonsen, Pulver and Christensen began experimenting with samplers and guitar effects pedals.  “One day, Taylor and I recorded this hour-and-a-half-long thing, and it was cool, and we wanted to explore that vein of music.  It’s pop music, but with lots of loops, textures, droney, ethereal sounds,” says Pulver.  Shortly after, they invited Simonsen to join the new band. 

Although each member has had some formal training, according to Pulver, these lessons aren’t where the members learned about music. “I learned the most by listening, playing it,” Pulver says.

The birth of Seven Feathers Rainwater coincided with the creation of their record label, Moondial Records. Moondial puts out limited runs of cassettes and are branching out into vinyl releases. Seven Feathers Rainwater released 15 Apple Magicians on Dec. 18 on vinyl through Moondial Records. The album is a collaboration with several local visual artists like Allison Baar, Andy Cvar and Davis Burnigham who created about thirty different album covers.  They are offering these covers on a limited release before selling the rest of the run with the regular art done by Daniel Chamberlin.

Lately, Seven Feathers Rainwater says they draw influence from the psychedelic pop of the ‘60s and ‘70s—especially The Zombies and The Beach Boys.  While the initial recording that spawned the band was solely improvisational, they’ve moved toward set song structures with “more pop elements” while leaving space to explore—imagine a looser Animal Collective.  Their music meanders from echo-y drones to dreamy pop at a pace that feels open to new directions without sacrificing cohesion. Christensen says that when it comes to playing live, they try to do things a little differently.  “We have improv parts in our sets always.  Obviously there are things we can’t do live that we do on the record.  When we play live, there are just three of us.  We have our own little set-ups.” 

Each member is an able multi-instrumentalist, playing a “smorgasbord” of instruments and spending time in a variety of side projects: Sparks and Spools, Slit Panels, Natty Bumppo and His Apothecary and Sound Shop.

While many may consider music that is so open to exploration to be the product of psychedelic drugs, they “don’t rely on drugs to make music,” says Seth.  “We make music about the consciousness that we inhabit, which could be anything as mundane as having wacky-ass dreams or altering the consciousness with drugs. Otherwise, it all has to do with the same collective thing—we’re exploring with music.” 

Their live show will showcase the way they have evolved and are fulfilling the promise of their auspicious beginnings.  They are hoping to tour within the year, and are looking forward to playing Localized on Jan. 14. 

Photo: Dave DeAustin Photo: Adam Heath