Listen when the wind blows
VAIL – With so many bands these days antsy to distance themselves from the jam band moniker, New Monsoon would like to clarify they are indeed a jam band – and much more.The San Francisco-based band takes to the road in the 40-foot Wanderlodge tour bus from Fort Collins to play 8150 in Vail Village Thursday night at 10. “We are a rock band with a world percussion edge,” said the group’s tabla player Rajiv Parikh. “We jam our songs out live so we definitely fit into it that jam band scenario, but any band in the world performing live stretches their songs out.”If you think of Led Zeppelin, they would have a 12-minute version of ‘Dazed and Confused,’ and when they play it live it’s 30 minutes long,” he said.In other words, the term jam band is pretty much universal for any band that likes to experiment with its material on stage. For New Monsoon, it’s a little more complicated.Latin, African and Indian percussion, a drum set, a didgeridoo, electric and acoustic guitars, a banjo, a mandolin, bass and keyboards merge to create intricate orchestrations out of this world.
“I think our music on any given night covers a lot of different styles because of what each member brings to the table,” Parikh said.Acoustic guitar player Bo Carper and electric guitar Jeff Miller established the group’s musical roots six years ago when they relocated to the West Coast from Pennsylvania. Carper, who cites John Hurt and Tom Wait as influences, brings roots of blues and bluegrass, while Miller brings beautiful melodies.New Monsoon found its rhythm when Carper and Miller invited drummer Marty Ylitalo, conguero Brain Carey and Parikh to come on board.When Ylitalo’s not drumming, he plays the didgeridoo. Carey, who holds a master’s degree in ethnomusiclogy, persuades New Monsoon’s style with Latin percussion grooves, Afro Cuban rhythms. And Parikh adds musical elements of India, his birthplace, as he is classically trained on the tablas.Keyboardist Phil Ferlino became a permanent fixture in the band during the recording of the band’s first album, “Hydrophonic,” contributing his songwriting talents.”We call him ‘the wizard’ and the ‘pianimal.’ He just does amazing things behind the keyboard,” Parikh said.Bassist Ben Bernstein, the newest member, joined the band a year ago.
“He’s a monster bass player with great tone and great rhythm,” Parikh said. “All of us have those certain core musical influences, but yet we also have those common musical threads of all those great bands that influenced us.” New Monsoon has been compared to the rhythmnous Santana, the chilled-out Allman Brothers and the East meets West grooves of Shakti.Parikh grew up listening to Jimmy Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, as did all the band members. “They influenced all of us,” he said. “Even today’s bands influence us: Tool, Soundgarden, and Michael Franti and Spearhead.”As the orchestration behind each song results from the contributors and the particular influences convey, each song seems to take on a life of its own. As each musician lays their sound on top of the others, the sound unifies to become that of New Monsoon.”There are specific songs that Carper and Miller write and bring to the band, and the rest of the guys will offer their own input. We all have our own ideas. They come together in the end to make it sound like the same band,” Parikh said.
Their latest album, “Live at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival” from High Fidelity Records, captured at the weekend-long jamathon in June 2004, will be released March 15. The record caters a little more to the bluegrass crowd, still demonstrating the explicit nature that each song possesses. Sometime this summer the band expects to release a studio album co-produced by Michael Shreeve of Santana. After hitting the festival circuit hard over the summer, performing at Bonnaroo and the Austin City Limits Festival, the band’s following has grown, with a particularly loyal fanbase in Houston, Seattle, Florida and Chicago, not to mention Colorado. Parikh said the Colorado fan base formed almost instantaneously after the group became associated with String Cheese Incident.”The reaction is for people to be moved our music needs to carry that kind of weight for that to happen. The music naturally comes from within. When people come to see our shows we want them to feel uplifted and really good. You play what you feel in your heart – that’s the only way to do it.”After witnessing the unique sound, audiences walk away feeling refreshed, Parikh said, but not necessarily with a description of what they heard.”It’s not an easy one or two word thing for us,” Parikh said. “People listen to the radio and they say ‘Oh, that’s Pink Floyd.’ Maybe one day someone will hear our music and that person will say, Oh, that’s New Monsoon.’ We’re hopefully creating our own sound.”And hopefully a new sense of the term jam band.Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Colorado