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New Monsoon: inventive musical exploration

Percussion heavy, ethnic tones, but good old rock ’n’ roll at the core



Who: New Monsoon

Where: The Boot Pub

When: Friday, Nov. 11

Tickets: $15 in advance

A seven-piece band combined with an instrument list more exotic than stereotypical rock ’n’ roll may seem to be a sound train-wreck waiting to happen, but after touring North America for four years, San Francisco’s New Monsoon has garnered a devout following, which will extend itself to Whistler Friday, Nov. 11 at the Boot Pub.

"We are doing what happens to come naturally," said Bo Carper, band founder and percussionist.

"It just happens we seemingly have a crazy mix of stuff…. With seven guys and all those instruments, you would think we might have a wall of inarticulate sound, but people come away having experienced all these different textures. It doesn’t come off as music cinema or pretentious. Analysis fades away to an organic experience of being moved by the music… it’s not an ethnic music ecology experiment. It comes more organically out of live performances."

Electric guitar, keyboard, bass, vocal harmonies, didgeridoo, banjo, mandolin and an army of percussion, which includes a full drum kit, Tabla, congas and more, pack their way into a distinctly rock ’n’ roll sound influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd. Progressive use of melody and rhythm winds its way into the rock ’n’ roll with underlying notes in Latin, Brazilian and Indian musical styles.

The band is moving further away from their World Beat roots into a multi-facetted rock ’n’ roll, most notably illustrated in New Monsoon’s newly released album, The Sound.

"We wanted to make a record that was a little heavier," he said. "We agreed to more of a rock album, heavier and darker, to show and emphasize that side of our sound. In previous stuff, more of a world music aspect came though and our live album was more instrumental heavy. We agreed to make a record with vocals on it, which was a huge change. We’ve got nine songs: all fully-vocal songs."

Carper said Led Zeppelin and Santana albums as well as Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon were key inspirations to the tracks.

One of the goals of the album was to keep the drums-and-percussion aspect of the band’s music in the spotlight.

With Producer Michael Shrieve at the table – a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and the original drummer for Santana who was recorded on the band’s first eight albums – the drum base rang out strong and solid on the album.

"In any album, drum tracks are the key to the energy of a record," Carper said. "It’s compressed or sterile, it sounds too much like a studio record. With our album, there is a real energy and live feeling to the drum tracks, which have really helped the record stay vibrant."

High-energy, spontaneous shows are what keep a devout fan base coming back for more. New Monsoon recently completed a five-week tour of the U.S. with a week downtime before moving northwards to Canada. Previously, they spent the summer in the company of Spearhead and String Cheese Incident on the Big Summer Classic Tour. The next high-profile tour is Jamcruise 4 in the New Year, along with opening for Spearhead in San Francisco in late November.

Tickets are $15 and are available in advance at The Boot or through Ticketmaster at 604-280-4444.

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