With roots from Jamaica and Peru to Miami, New York and Toronto, AGAPE [finally] let us have EP I – and we really like it.
FUSICOLOGY – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: AGAPE featuring Nadia Harris
After discovering the amazing duo, and sometimes big band, One Love, or AGAPE to many, at a Winter Music Conference in Miami back in 2005, we just knew there was something extraordinary about these people that seem to embody the term chosen for the name of their group more than most that over-use it. Later in 2008, after receiving their promo CD, we chose a tune that really stuck with us, “She Really Likes It” to be featured on our annual Fusicology Sound Sampler that year. Fast forward 2 years, and here we are, finally sitting down to chop it up with that amazing new group no one knew about and what it’s like to start to reach your dreams…
F: When and how did the 2 of you meet?
E: Nadia and i met in Miami in 2004 in an elevator. She was carrying a Jembe drum and iIasked her if she was a musician.
She said yes and was immediately very likable to me. I happened to have a recording studio in the building and asked
her if she wanted to see it. She came into the studio and sang me a song. I started to drum with her and I was like, our
vibes where immediately blending perfectly. When she left that day she gave me a hug that was very magnetic. It was
really strange. I had never hugged someone and felt so much energy. I dint want to stop hugging her. Later I found
out she felt the same. At the time that was really puzzling. Now I understand more why that happened.
F: Is this your first project together?
E: This is our first project together. Nadia had won a singing contest called “Janet’s Talent Show” where she came in (to Miami and the studio) first. But she comes from a family of musicians, so she has been making music her whole life (her father is a Jamaican Studio One musician). I had been in India and Peru for almost two years recording music and experimenting with organic music and learning about the nature of sound among other things. My first official records were on Miami independent labels such as Vibe, which at that time was distributed by Underground Records, which was the home of Murk. Home of the original Miami soulful and deep House.
Gradually I started getting into Ambient and other electronic genres leading up to a really cool compilation called “Miambient” that included the talents of some of the key Miami artist of that time period and other international acts such as Coldcut. I did sound for film for a while and have since really gotten into Dub and all forms of world music. My musical roots are Latin, Afro-Peruvian and Hip Hop being an eternal Bronx b-boy at heart. Nadia‘s roots are Roots Reggae, being that she grew up in the hills of Jamaica in the company of great teachers and being that she is the daughter of a top roots music singer.
F: What or who were your main/major inspirations for this project? What drove you to push out this sound?
E: The music is basically a reflection of our experiences and different moods. Both Nadia and I have very mixed backgrounds and have lived all over the place…. So our sound reflects our eclectic nature. For a while people dint know what to make of our sound. But lately we find that more and more our sound reflects something that is happening globally. This merging of cultures, technology with environmental issues and some kind of awareness. More and more people are identifying with our mix since they themselves have this mix going on in their lives. So that is our audience.
People who like good music, who are eclectic and who love sounds that are soulful with a good dose of spaced-out echoes and funky rhythm and bottom heavy bass. Dub is the one thing that ties together a lot of our sound. We get our inspiration from life and all all kinds of music but special thanks are in order to the dub masters. We are a kind of natural born blenders. We get together and next thing you know can we can sound like broken-beat with and Afro-Cuban Guaguanco base, or Ska-Funk with a Brazilian Surdo. We really don’t think intentionally about what we are going to mix… We just make music and what we feel at that moment and later we start to describe the different influences. To us music and songs are just vibes and feelings captured in a moment in time. Like a picture or a painting…
F: What can we expect next from Agape in the immediate future? Is this a part of a larger project?
E: Yes. We have a series of releases planned for near future in anticipation of the album. The next release is “EP 1 Remixed,” followed by EP II. Some of the remixers so far are first the people and musicians who we have played with and who are part of our journey such as Simbad, Daz I Kue from Bugz in the Attic, Maseo of de la Soul, our Brazilian crew such as Marcelinho Da Lua, Marcelo Yuka, Digital Dubs and more but we don’t want to let the cat out of the bag to much… We want to leave an element of surprise.
Also, more videos are in different stages of production. We have filmed one in the Favelas of Rio with the children of “comunidade do Final Feliz,” and we are shooting another one in the Florida everglades on air boats with the Mikosuki Native American tribe. We feel very blessed to be working with all the people we are woking with at the moment.
We just finished a gig and we where joined by Talib Kweli on stage at the Delano in Miami, and we will be playing at Deep Space, Cielo NYC with King Britt on August the 16th. Lat year we played there with Francois K, which to us was tops being that we love and respect his art so much. Janelle Monae also recently gave us a personal nod after our recent show in Miami, which was huge in our eyes.
F: What about any surprises you can tell us about surrounding this release, that you haven’t yet disclosed?
E: Expect the unexpected. All the videos will weave a story. There will be a thread that will weave an abstract story… If you see one, you will want to see the rest of them.
F: Agape is a full band, right? Tell us a bit about each of your band members…
E: Agape is a collective. We have members in Miami, Toronto and Rio De Janeiro. Sometimes we would get booked to play in Brazil, and it was logical to work with musicians already there. Same would happen in Toronto. But the core is based in Miami for the moment. My brother Patrick is actually based in Toronto and handles a lot of the label-related happenings from there. He co-produces all our material with me. He is also a DJ and has produced a lot of music for major and independent acts in Canada. The Miami crew is made up of an all star cast of bad boys that also play for other top bands; Kavaya Amn (musician with the Marleys) on bass, Buffalo Brown (Elastic Bond) on guitar, James X (a staple Ska drummer originally from Philadelphia) on Drums, me [Erick] on keys, laptop, melodica, etc… and Nadia on vocals.
We have also recorded with drummer Sekou Lumumba (Bedouin Soundclash), Arron Fishbeen who is an amazing musician and is a a top studio gun for hire. He has recorded with a crazy list of luminaires including Quincy Jones. Percussionist Welligton Soares from Brazil, who is a top drummer for Rio’s legendary Batucada Mangueira, and Peruvian drummer, Pepe Alva, we have been honored to work with as well. And of course we can not forget the senior honorary member of our collective, legendary percussionist Mr. Sammy Figueroa, who is the original percussionist of Miles Davis. Sammy has blessed this group by recording with us an also performing live with us at some of our first shows. He is the Grand Puba of the collective. We go to him for our most complex musical questions having to do with clave. He always seems to have a great story and goes into the some deeper meaning of the question.
Recently we did some recordings with a young guitarist that really captures the spirit of the new Carioca school of vibing musicians, Octavio Menenzes, who you will hear on EP II. There is a lot more people such as horn players, strings…. But i’m trying not to write a book here [laughs]. It’s a big family thing…
F: How would you describe your sound? What genres are others categorizing you in? Do you agree with these categories people are putting you in?
E: Our sound is just us doing what we feel and what we feel changes with our moods and times… We dont approach music with a pre-disposition of what is should sound like. We just do it…. After is when all the labels come in. But I will say we like our beats funky, our bass deep and heavy, our melodies melodious, our echoes long… We love to do things that don’t really sound like something else… So we tend to gravitate to unusual funky blends…
F: What is unique about your recording process?
E: We record a lot when we travel, so we get to collaborate with musicians in their native settings catching different vibes and moments as they happen in their environments….Like we recently recorded with a Brazilian troop of 30 female drummers in Rio. In their rehearsal spot in the favelas. We asked them to play things that they usually don’t play. The result was really interesting…. Also we love vintage gear. We mix everything through a British Tube Mixer (TL Audio VTC). Addicted to ribbon mics, vintage tape delays and kinds of old and new gear in general. We go through pahes… Recently really got into the vintage Italian organ thing. Like the Farfisa. You can see a Vox Jaguar in the “She Really Likes It” video. We are total gear heads with a dangerous addiction to things that make sound and noize…. I can buy a strange old filter box or instrument before doing my groceries. This gets me in trouble all the time…
F: Who would you like to collaborate with on EP II?
E: EP II, already in the works, features the talents of some really fresh musicians. Ace Toronto drummer Sekou Lumumba of Bedouin Soundclash and studio session top gun Arron Fishbeen on bass. Also Rio’s new school guitarist Octavio Menedez. This is a crazy match made in space, dub, funk heaven for us. Additionally to the usual suspects…. With remixes from the likes of Daz I Kue from Bugz and more…
If I could collaborate with any one in the world… Maybe Esperanza Spalding on upright bass. There are so many I could
mention… A big big endless list…. But mostly, I’m happy to be working with Nadia Harris, who is my favorite vocalist, so I feel blessed in that regard.
F: If you could move anywhere in the world you wanted tmrw, where would you choose?
E: I could not settle for just one place. I’m a nomad at heart and love change. But if i had to move somewhere…
Maybe I would move into a big quantum solar powered boat/air/space ship that has a big recording studio, that can hold
all my friends comfortably, that grows organic sustainable foods in it for everyone to eat, a place where everyone
can be free and…. Hold on. I think i think i live in this place already… Planet E [Erick]. [smiles]
AGAPE’s “EP I” is available now on iTunes and Bagpak Music, and select fine retailers.*
+ Catch AGAPE live at Cielo with King Britt on 08.16.10, or at Nublu on 08.22.10 for their official NYC release parties!
+ Every Thursday in The Florida Room at the Delano Hotel, Miami Beach
+ Featured Video: “She Really Likes It” from EP I now on MuchMusic / MTV Canada
+ Erick’s DJ Top 5 here
+ Fusicology-Exclusive Freeload!
> Follow AGAPE on Twitter @AGAPE_3step
— Interview by Jocelyne Ninneman for Fusicology.com
> Follow her on Twitter @JMoneyRed