A spicy new sound 

Wassabi Collective offers positive, energetic music with meaningful message

Who: Wassabi Collective

When: Sunday, June 8, __ p.m.

Where: Garfinkel’s

Tickets: $__

The lines between different genres of music are becoming increasingly blurred, and at least one B.C.-based band is embracing the inclusive new approach.

The Wassabi Collective, featuring Melissa Meretsky on vocals and percussion, Brent 'Gisto' Hongisto on guitar and vocals, Jimmy Lewis on drums and vocals, Scott Milne on bass and Rahj Levinson on keyboards, has never restricted themselves to playing just one type of music, or creating a certain sound. Rather, they try to incorporate the diverse musical backgrounds and preferences of each of their members into a larger, cohesive sound.

The end result is a unique amalgam that has become strangely definitive, while simultaneously difficult to explain their music.

“I find that other people usually describe it better, just because music is special to each person and each person is going to get their own feel from it,” Hongisto said with a chuckle, adding that in simple terms, he usually describes it as electro, tribal funk, reggae, and hip hop, all rolled into one.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that their musical interests and influences range from Bob Marley to Zap Mama to Phish.

A few of the members are originally from Ontario, but circumstances brought them all to their current home in Nelson, B.C. They’ve been playing together for more than five years.

“We all kind of have a similar idea of what we’re going for, and the main thing about us is we have our own unique kind of style, which is kind of a byproduct of us not necessarily fitting into one genre, and each person bringing their own thing, but it cohesively just mixes because we’re all on the same wavelength,” Hongisto said.

The beauty of incorporating a variety of influences into their music is that they have a better chance of appealing to a wide range of musical tastes, and it appears that the Wassabi Collective may have been slightly ahead of their time.

“I think nowadays more than ever we’re seeing it happen, and the barriers between the types of genres of music are disappearing,” Hongisto said. “It’s become very blurred and the big record producers know that, and the big festival promoters know that, too, because you see all sorts of crossovers.”

The group also believes that music is a powerful tool — they say it has the power to create emotion, tell stories, heal, motivate and celebrate. But, bottom line, they want to help ensure that people are open to embracing new ideas and a positive outlook.

“All of the messages within our music are the kind of things we think about daily, when it comes to the state of the world and state of affairs here, there’s a lot yo be addressed — some of it directly, some of it indirectly — just through environment or attitude to kind of create changes,” Hongisto explained.

Over the years their music has evolved and become more versatile, dropping the marimbas and incorporating other instruments and techniques, like guitars, keyboards and sequencing.

They’ve also had the opportunity to open for and perform alongside a variety of big names — Hot Hot Heat, Bedouin Soundclash and K-OS, to name a few. But a Whistler gig with Michael Franti a few years ago during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival was actually one of their most memorable performances.

“It was a huge audience and I really like what Michael Franti is about, so I thought that was pretty cool,” Hongisto said.

The Collective is coming back to town this weekend for one of the few stops on an abbreviated summer tour. Hongisto explained that the band is actually banking some serious studio time, focusing on releasing two new albums.

They often hear that their studio albums simply don’t capture the energy of their live shows, so they’re releasing a new one entitled, Live From Moncton , at this weekend’s performance. This is the first live CD they’ve released since The Masquerade Sessions almost seven years ago.

But Hongisto isn’t spending all of his time in the studio — he has recently created Historical Records, a new independent label to represent Wassabi and other musicians from their area.

“There’s tons of great music coming out of this area right now, and it needs a place to call its home,” he explained. He added that the music industry is changing drastically, empowering consumers rather than record companies.

“It’s not dictated by someone’s corporate agenda, as to who they’re going to put at the top, it’s more about what the people love.”


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