Aotearoa: Strange Weather

So, the first time I performed at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood with my band, Casey Wickstrom's After Dinner Theatre, I was twenty two years old. We were sharing the show with five other bands, one of which was a band named Aotearoa. That's A-O-Tay-Uh-Row-A.

When my band walked into the Whisky before our set, there were two guys on stage, one playing guitar, the other on drums. They were tall, skinny kids with long dark hair, and they were really grooving. The guitarist was looping some funky ass tunes; he had like four or five layers going. The drummer was tight, keeping in time with the loop. On the next song, they switched instruments. These two guys were the band Aotearoa. I really dug their set; I've always appreciated good looping techniques. My band went on later in the night. It was a great show all around, and after it was done, I went to talk to the two guys that were Aotearoa, Jake and Ilan.

They were super cool, friendly, down to earth dudes. We talked about looping and different effects pedals, and we exchanged cds. I left to go back up to Northern California the next morning, and I put the cd they'd given me into my stereo. I figured I'd just play it until I got tired of it. 

I drove for three hours straight listening to their five track EP, and even when I finally took it out of my cd player, I still wasn't sick of it. I was hooked on the funky looping grooves of Aotearoa. Their EP, Aotearoa, was a great piece of music.

We kept in touch, Jake, Ilan and myself, through the power of social media. We shared a few more shows together over the years: twice in the city (San Francisco), and once in Echo Park (LA). Each time was a blast. 

These guys have their shit together: they constantly tour, living out of a sweet van; they book shows everywhere, and they consistently release new music and merch, most of which I immediately acquire. They have seven studio releases, all of which have their trademark two-man nomadic jungle funk grooves and vibes.

But in 2012, when I was living in Los Angeles, these guys released a full length album that would become my album of the year, and would eventually make its way to one of my favorite albums of all time. The album was called Strange Weather.

The impact that Strange Weather had on me was a gradual influence. I loved the consistent quality of the recordings, the dynamics of the tracks, and the overall theme. It told a story, which is what any great album should do. I gained a real affinity for the album in its entirety when I was touring; I played it while driving, listening to it from start to finish. This was before I had started looping -- before I even owned a looping pedal. I can honestly say that Aotearoa was my first big looping influence.

The amount of music that these guys are able to create, just the two of them, and how they were able to conceptualize and bottle up this experience of an album, is really amazing. Their sound is kaleidoscopic.

I've always thought that with really great albums, each song should be able to stand alone, with the album in its entirety creating a cohesive and conceptual experience. To me, Strange Weather is like that: each song is strong on it's own. Of course, some songs stand out for me more than others; certain songs just reach me more, but there's not a weak song in Strange Weather. Each song kills it. 

The song "Jaguar Tornado," off the album, influenced some of the music to my song "Teen Spirit," off of my 2013 album Desperate Times. Most people wouldn't make that correlation between the two songs: electric jungle funk and acoustic lap slide blues, but it's there.

I'd venture to say that the mainstream isn't fully aware of Aotearoa's music, but to me, that makes it that much more authentic. These guys play and tour for the sake of playing and touring. They're real in what they do, and it shows.

I listen to the album Strange Weather, and I'm driving to Vegas again, cruising through the desert as the sun sets, fingers tapping the wheel, the wind raging through the open windows, my head and body grooving to the music; it's impossible for me to stay still while I listen to this album. Over the years, Strange Weather has remained one of my favorite albums, and I don't see that changing.

I recently started writing on my website about music; songs and artists and people that have influenced me musically and otherwise, and I wanted to do a piece on Strange Weather. It's not everyday that you can just personally reach out to the guys behind one of your favorite albums and ask them if they'd answer a few questions for your website blog. But in this case, I can. I wrote Jake and Ilan and asked them if I could do this piece. They said totally, and I sent them the questions. The interview is featured on the next blog

Below is the full album on Youtube. It can be purchased here.

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