“I didn’t know at the time that you could be of a darker shade and have dreadlocks and play speed metal.”
Recently, youbloom was fortunate enough to nab a little airtime with the Progressive-Rap, Rock-Fusion trio Osairis. An eclectic description indeed but one that’s only fitting for a band who’s sound has been likened to that of Cream and Hendrix as well as Rage Against the Machine and Living Colour. Osairis’ drummer and front-runner, Aundra Island works in tandem with guitarist, Casey Loudon and Berklee Bassist Gaku Murata to commandeer the stage with punchy, political verses book-ended by sweeping, Hendrix-esque guitar solos. Today, I picked the brain of the man behind the beats, Aundra Island.
Robert: Osairis is a collaborative group right? You’ve had different members in and out throughout the years? When and How did Osairis in it’s current form come together?
Aundra: Well, how we got together was we had an offer to open up for Angela Moore from Fishbone. And the name of Angelo Moore’s (Lead singer of Fishbone) side-band is Dr. Madd Vibe so he said he’d make an offer where if I could get a band together I’d be able to open up for them. For years I had been associated with the Black Rock Coalition but it had been through the West Coast Division I knew Angle Moore and it was actually his hairstylist who put me in contact with him.
Robert: So Casey, Gaku, and yourself play this gig for Dr. Madd Vibes. At what point did it click for you guys and you realized that you could work together as a group for more than just this one gig?
Aundra: You know there were other guys that kept playing with the group too but as far as the 3 of us clicking, it just took 2 -3 gigs for us to mesh. It’s funny because we all come from a similar background. Gaku graduated from Berklee and Casey graduated from Musicians Institute and I had attended Cal Arts. I got to a point where I had played jazz all my life and I wanted to move away from that. Being in a rock ‘n’ roll context with jazz chops that’s pretty much what I wanted to do and we all came from that similar background.
Robert: What artists have influenced Osairis’ sound?
Aundra: Ultimately Hendrix was my inspiration. I looked to Hendrix as a demi-god. But we also had bands like Rage Against the Machine, Sound Barrier, 24-7 Spyz, Urban Dance Squad, Faith No More, and Van Halen. But ultimately Hendrix and Living Colour.
Robert: Did Living Colour help bridge that gap between Jazz and Rock for you?
Aundra: My first Rock ‘n’ Roll concert was Living Colour and ever since than I was pretty fascinated with Living Colour because I come from a jazz background and within my jazz background I studied Dave Brubeck, Ornette Coleman, and Count Basie. So I saw Living Colour at the Key club in LA and I was probably only 14 at the time. I didn’t know at the time that you could be of a darker shade and have dreadlocks and play speed metal.
Robert: Yeah, that’s definitely a niche-market huh?
Aundra: Yes. Very
Robert: I noticed with your live performances it stays with the rock vibe but then you guys have these improvised solos for 16 bars and I think that’s where I heard the jazz influence come through.
Aundra: Yes because we like to utilize being a power trio. You know a lot of guys now a days use that term but when I think of actual power trios – Rush, Cream, Primus – We’re like them, we’re gonna make sure all of our chops come out and make sure we can bounce off each other with ideas whether it’s in the studio or live.
Robert : Osairis’ sound has been labeled as Progressive Rap before. How would you define Osairis’ sound?
Aundra: You know it’s funny, The guitar player, Casey Loudon, his dad came to one of our concerts one time, it was at this festival called Punk Black out of Atlanta, they do kinda this black rock thing. It’s funny cause he said we sounded like progressive rap and I don’t really look at us as that. I look at us as more fusion; a mix of Jazz, rock, and hip-hop.
Robert: Do you write all the lyrics for Osairis’ original tracks?
Aundra: Yes and lot of people will actually confuse our originals with covers because I always try to make sure that when we write original material it doesn’t just appeal to us in the band, it appeals to everybody.
Robert: And what could you tell us about your album, Electric Purgatory?
Aundra: It’s funny because some people have said I’ve gotten the idea from the Black Rock Coalition’s film but it was actually based off of a nightmare I had of being in the music business for a while. I saw all these angels and it wasn’t like an acid trip but that’s where the title came from. So the album is pretty much a few originals and covers. I call Electric Purgatory my Chinese Democracy because I just stayed in the studio and kept recording, recording, recording and I knew at some point I was just gonna have to finish it. That album probably took me about 3 years to make.
Robert: Wow! That’s a long time for one album!
Aundra: See it’s funny how nowadays you can make an album in 15 minutes but you see for me it’s all about making the album of quality.
Robert: And what about your other albums?
Aundra: The second album, Road Warrior, is all originals except for one but we do sample from bands like the Who and Jay Z. The Third album is a live recording of the night we opened for Angelo Moore of Fishbone.
Robert: What’s the best show you’ve ever played? Why?
Aundra: We opened up for Winger at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. That place is like our second home. Not only are those guys solid but they believe in independent artists. Chain reaction too, back when we were just starting up we contacted them and they were kind enough to get us going.
Robert: And what is it do you believe that these types of venues do to help independent artists?
Aundra: Well you both get to piggy back off of each other. The venue let’s you come in and play and you’re able to promote yourself at the venue you’re playing. We’ve also had a lot of help from other bands like Awukii, they’re kinda like the Bad Brains out here. We’ve had help from this band out of Atlanta called the Tulips with this guitar player named Gabby Logan. The Howling Stars out of Atlanta and from Sound Barrier who we opened up for. We’re all able to bounce off of each other.
Robert: It’s good to just to be able to have that network to rely on.
It’s kind of like if Hendrix played rap metal…
Robert: Has Osairis been on tour before?
Aundra: We stay in LA for the most part. The hard part is seeing if you can find a huge profit on that. We wanted to play in Ireland with youbloom and then they asked us to play LA instead but that would have been fun.
Robert: Hey we’re gearing up for the youbloomDublin festival in May again and we’re wanting to get more of our LA sound over their this year. Youbloom is trying to do just what you were talking about where we connect bands and strengthen that network. For bands coming to a new city it can make a world of difference just knowing some of the local talent, and not feeling like complete strangers when coming into the city.
Aundra: Hey we’d love to be able to fly over their and play in Dublin.
Robert: Does Osairis currently have something in the works? A new album or some sort of project?
Aundra: Yes, We’re in the phase of producing the album MEDIA: Multi-Ethnic Destruction In America. This album is going to be dark and heavy. It’s going to be a combination of commercial, political, and lyrical content. Like the first 2 albums combined but it’s gonna have a really cool and interesting appeal to it.
Robert: And what inspired this album for you?
Aundra: To be honest there’s not enough content out. It seems like every time I listen to the radio these days, everything on there is just bubble-gum and it’s like there’s a real world out there. You know, don’t just force feed the audience what you want them to hear. Sometimes there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel and you just have to deal with it, not everything is just peachy keen.
What MEDIA was inspired by was Public Enemy. I didn’t want to go the route I had gone with the other two albums. The other stuff is rock but this is a more heavy rock. It’s kind of like if Hendrix played rap metal but it’s not gonna be so experimental, a lot more straight and in your face.
Robert: Can we expect a little bit more collaboration on this album?
Aundra: Ya we’re having different artists come in. From Sound Barrier we’ve got Spacey T, Ronny Drayton from 24-7 Spyz, Robert Brown of White Chapel, and Daniel Lape as one of our guitarists. Just playing around with it. I’m trying to see what the heaviest sound is I can run with and blue print it.
Robert: And what’s that process look like as you bring different musicians in to the studio?
Aundra: They’ll just come in and I’ll show them this idea I have or show them what I want or what I’ve already recorded. I always say this band is kind of like Deep Purple where we’ve had just about everyone in this band.
This is why I want MEDIA to be perfect from start to finish but I’ve only been working on it for a minute. Each album that I do I try to treat it like it’s my first album. Then I make sure that there is always gonna be some sort of change. One thing I’ve learned from Miles Davis is that you can keep the same style as long as you adapt to whats going on around you. That and keep a brighter way of thinking and you’ll be okay. If you listen to Davis from 1955 – 69, from Kind of Blue to Witches Brew, it’s all the same thing, he just stretched out the arrangements but he always stuck to the same style, the same thing.
Robert: So MEDIA is in the works and it sounds like it’s coming along nicely. Don’t let the rest of us rush you along, it sounds like a really cool work in progress. I know the fans and I will be excited and waiting for that release date.
What advice would you have for other independent artists who are trying to make it in the industry?
You can keep the same style as long as you adapt to whats going on around you.
Aundra: My obvious advice would be learn various styles of music. Study the greats who have come before you and after you. Learn to read charts. Have a good attitude but also be able to stand your ground because things aren’t always gonna be smooth as butter. Don’t let anyone doubt you because some people have doubted me but it’s those challenges that have made me who I am today.
To hear more from Aundra and Osairis check them out on SoundCloud or Youtube. Friend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to stay up to date on that album release: MEDIA. The band plays in Los Angeles regularly so when you’re in town be sure to check them out!
Robert Loustaunau is a content writer for youbloom and is a member of the social media team there. He is an avid music maker and listener. He enjoys the simple things in life: coffee, a good book, and quality time with his lovely girlfriend.