The Pier - May 30, 2011
Review: The Alchemystics – Spread Hope
Formed in 2003, the Alchemystics fuse reggae and hip-hop to form a beat-laden mold of world conscious groove music. Powered by deep rhythms, meditative vocals, and old-school harmonies, the band has shared the stage with reggae luminaries such as Stephen Marley, Sister Carol, and Burning Spear. In addition to their musical pursuits, each bandmember is heavily involved in local youth activism and various social initiatives.
The name Alchemystics is both an oddly fitting and oddly misleading name for this group, depending on how you view the primary objectives of alchemy and the primary objectives of this band. The ancient tradition of alchemy was focused upon the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, which would have the ability to turn base metals into silver or gold. On Spread Hope the Alchemystics blend a wide variety of genres, including reggae, ska, calypso, and hip-hop, to form their own concoction of bass-heavy groove music. While I can’t in good conscious say that those genres are the base metals which the Alchemystics turn to gold, the metaphor nonetheless stands.
Small elements ranging from Afro-Caribbean percussion to Rasta mysticism to short, staccato stabs of funk guitar slither through the ranks of these seventeen tracks amidst a bubbling foam of positive vibrations and skank rhythms. As reverb drenched snare hits clash with Force’s socially conscious lyrical content and latin percussion sizzles through the mix, the band rigorously displays their knowledge and mastery of various genres. Through this molding, they speak not only as musicians, but as global citizens, modern day humans throwing their own two cents into the conversation of multi-cultural cooperation and exchange. The music is thrilling and evocative for the most part, combining elements from fields as far as the eye can see into a simmering pot, seeping out a delicious stew of eclectic influences, all based in the universal concept of rhythm and groove.
While many of the tracks grab your ears and thrust your mind into meditation, seventeen tracks is really a bit too much. There’s filler here, unfortunately, but had this album been split into two albums or even just one album and an E.P. it might be easier for the average listener to digest. However, in the age of IPOD playlists and ‘shuffle’ features, does that really even matter?
Don’t let the length scare you away from this album, though. While there’s certainly a lot of material to wade through, the latest offering the Alchemystics has plenty of tracks just ripe for summer listening (like “Summer Life,” obviously, a celebration of the postiive summer vibes over a bouncing, dancehall groove), as well as inspiration to seek positive growth in a wounded world (“Be The Change,” “Leaving Babylon,” “We Can Overcome”)
Written & Reviewed by: Chris Castro
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The Valley Advocate, May 25-June 2, 2011
Review: The Alchemystics - Spread Hope (Northfire Recording)
The Alchemystics represent something of a heavily branched river—in this case, an intergenerational blend of reggae, dub, ska, funk and hip-hop. It has that feel of historic Valley (or rather Hilltown) reggae, and the band’s cred remains enhanced by its inclusion of elder statesman Ras Jahn Bullock of Loose Caboose fame. Now The Alchemystics have incorporated some Cajun and calypso influences and a horn section, and have also begun collaborating with other influential Caribbean figures, including Denroy Morgan, father of ’90s reggae phenom Morgan Heritage, and Kurt Allen, who was named Trinidad & Tobago’s 2010 National Calypso Monarch. The production is crisp, and the overall (spiritual) message is delivered by several messengers of markedly different styles. Check them out at the 2011 Strange Creek Campout at Greenfield’s Camp KeWanee, May 27-30. —Tom Sturm
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Buntology - May 24, 2011
The Alchemystics ‘Spread Hope’ in true summer style
As every good music fan knows, sometimes even the best album can take a few listens before it starts to grow on you.
Often, the catchiest tracks are found and played on repeat, until the rest of the album is slowly integrated into the listening cycle, at which point-if the CD is good- the listener begins to fall in love with the entire body of work.
And sometimes you have the pleasure of love at first listen. This is the rare occasion in which you pop on a new album and are instantly captivated, effortlessly jamming out to the entire record while excitedly IMing your friends, “this is the best CD ever!” (OK, maybe I’m the only one who does that last part.)
The latter can be said about the new album from The Alchemystics, “Spread Hope.”
The 17-track LP comes in at a little over an hour- that’s 70 minutes of pure reggae awesomeness. In all fairness, part of my ease in listening to this record is that these dudes have been touring this material around for years, so I was already familiar with some of the tracks. I was also shocked to realize that, while in 2008 the band released both an EP and a live album, “Spread Hope” was their first full-length studio release, serving as a platform for old school fan-favorites and new material (which I’m sure will also become fan-favorites).
To provide a little background on The Alchemystics- they’re a 6-piece reggae band from Western Massachusetts (represent!). Formed in 2003, the group has made quite the name for themselves in the Northeast and on the festival circuit.
According to the group’s latest bio, “Their high-energy, fiercely danceable live shows, have gained the band a passionately loyal multi-cultural, multi-generational following throughout New England, and beyond.” Having discovered the band several years ago at Wormtown Festival, I can certainly attest to what a captivating live band they are, with an equally captivated audience. To put it plainly- these guys kick ass.
Because I truly enjoy “Spread Hope” from start to finish, it would make for much too long an article if I were to gush about each individual song. So, here’s a breakdown of some of my favoritest favorite tracks:
Type of Prayer – This is the album opener, and while it hasn’t appeared on any previous Alchemystics recordings, it’s recently become a live staple of the band. This song is a great way to begin the album because it has the perfect blend of Ian-I’s smooth and pleasant vocals, Ras Jahn’s raspy cries, and Force’s eloquent rap flows.
Summer Life – Hands down favorite track on the album. This is the going to be the band’s summer anthem, mostly because of lyrics from Force like, “Mostly mai-tais, margaritas, hefeweizens / so refreshing, at festivals blowin’ hippies’ minds.” (I didn’t think it was even possible to rhyme “hefeweizen” with “mind.”) It should also be noted that I’ve listened to this song upwards of 30 times since I first heard it. Release this as a single!!!
Shine I – Formerly known as “Shine Eye Girl,” this is one of the band’s most popular songs, and a big crowd-pleaser at their live show. It was great to hear this track on a full-length album- it’s such a fun, upbeat number that tells the story of a dude trying to win over a girl he’s had the hots for since high school. And just when I thought I had memorized all the words, Force went ahead and threw a new verse in.
Dedication – The name of this song says it all. It’s a true 2 ½ minute dedication in which the band rhymes their thank yous to all of the family, fans and friends that have supported them throughout the years. From a fan perspective, I couldn’t help but get a little giddy when Strangecreek and Wormtown got shoutouts- my two favorite festivals of the summer, and the venues where I heard the Alchemystics for the first time. The band knows where their loyalties lie.
We Can Overcome – This is the second-to-last song on the album, and serves as a very melodic and uplifting finish to the entire body of work. Ian-I and Ras Jahn use their melodic vocals to reassure the listener that, through positive change, we can truly overcome anything. It’s a really good, rhythmic song that you can just sway back and forth to until it gently peters out around the 5-minute mark.
While I could go on all day about how much I enjoy The Alchemystics and their album, “Spread Hope,” you should do yourself a favor and check them out for yourself. They will be one of the headlining bands at this weekend’s Strange Creek Music Festival, where they will have their new album available for purchase. Check them out, pick it up, and say hello. And thank me later.
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Angelica Music - May 23, 2011
The Alchemystics | Spread Hope
Album review by John Powell
MC Force recently told me, “We don’t really fit a category. We’re not easy to place.” Drummer/co-producer Demse Zullo agrees. “We don’t really fit in with jam bands. First of all, they don’t have any hooks, and we have plenty.”
Plenty is an understatement. After three years of recording at Demse and bassist Garrett Sawyer’s studio, Northfire Studios, Spread Hope is a self-released labor of love that pays off with some of the catchiest and wide-ranged music. Most of the 16 songs have rapping from Force and lyrics, hooks, and choruses by both guitarist/singer Ian I and Ras Jahn Bullock. While Force is a fast-paced wordsmith with a contemporary frame of mind, Ian I has a melodic growl and Ras Jahn, who’s been playing reggae since before the rest of the band was even born, grounds the whole ensemble with a willowy wind of a voice.
If that weren’t enough, Jay Metcalf is a binding force behind the keyboards. Jumping from reggae rhythms to soulful organ, Jay’s keys sound great throughout the album. There’s also Garrett, an excellent bassist. His lines are movement-oriented, a gentle blend of funk and soul. The other part of the rhythm section is Demse, and on the most reggae’d out tunes with all the other musicians at times getting pretty rootsy, Demse’s style is beefed up by hip/hop and soul, and might be the stirrer in this audio melting pot. Matthew King offers up percussion, expanding the sound, creating dimensions.
Now to the album itself. Spread Hope opens with “Type A Prayer”, Ian I’s hook, a mix of soul and flow, over a keyboard patter. Soon after, Ras Jahn enters, saying, “We’ve got nothing to hide.” At first bat, “Type A Prayer” was a good choice for an opener. It simply can’t be categorized as any specific genre, although it’s so catchy and allows each singer plenty of room that any listener will shrug and say, “I don’t know what this is, but I like it.” By the time Force comes in we’re already invested.
“Let Them Know” is a more reggae’d tune, with added horns, something that doesn’t normally follow the crew on the road. The horns are an excellent addition. The keys sound like a Dr. Dre sample as Ras Jahn sings, “Babylon going down to Hell.” Ian I is by far the biggest dreamer of the singers. “Corruption not going to do it again,” he sings. “We won’t stop until a brighter day.”
Further down the line is “What We Need”, with guest appearances by Denroy Morgan and Catalyst. First is Force. “Spread hope like Obama,” he raps. “Let’s take a pause and remember when rap was all about the change.” The song is about needing new inspiration, and is sort of an autobiography for The Alchemystics, who have managed to freshen up the sound. “There’s nothing new under the sun,” Denroy sings, to add to that effect. The best part of this song, however, is Catalyst. The dude’s voice sounds like Jay- Z- no joke. He’s got excellent flow and fits in nicely with the vibe. “Let me grab your attention for a minute/to preach to the people about a little something different.”
A key track is “Be The Change”, an airy jaunt with female backing vocals. “Everyone wants to see a change in everybody else/nobody wants to see the change begins with themselves,” goes the chorus. The bass line is righteous and Ian I’s guitar play is a bit afrobeat. It’s a delicious summation of the band’s ability.
“Holiday” is Ras Jahn’s chance to sing out. The horns are a euphoric addition and this soulful, happy, hopeful tune builds on held out organ and Demse’s snappy drums. The “Doop-dabby-doop, dabby-doop-dap-day” refrain will get you singing along.
Finally, “Shine I” is the only real love song. The groove is really pretty and the hook is infectious. “Never met a girl like you,” Force quips. “One thing I know that’s true/this’ll put you in the mood/we can break a couple rules.” The bass is a low-end booty shaker. I love it!
Spread Hope’s content, despite having so much going on, is hopeful, (hence the name), and asks for unity, community, and believes in music. Will Force’s lyrics stand the test of time? I don’t know; they’re not all that timeless. However, they, along with the rest of the music, are like the Times balled up and presented. This album says, “This is what music is like today,” and it’s damn good.
Some groups of the ilk blend genres. Others mix one or more together or bounce from one to the next. The Alchemystics, however, fuse, like a pile of raw materials one day being a fort to trifle with today.
Bottom line: You definitely get your money’s worth with this richly thought out and complex album of conscious music.
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Spread Hope, the long-awaited album by the Alchemystics is making its debut. On May 14, the Alchemystics will be holding an all ages CD Release Party at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton with the official worldwide release on the interweb May 23. The cd will be available at the show for a lower price of $5.
Joining the Alchemystics with performances celebrating this milestone are Bearquarium, Kurt Denroy (2010 Calypso Monarch of Trinidad) and Denroy Morgan (the patriarch of Morgan Heritage). Tickets for the show are $10 for 21+ and $13 for those under 21 years of age.
I spoke with Demse (drummer, producer) and Force (emcee) about the making of the album, what the future holds, and more.
Patty: You’ve been working on the new album “Spread Hope” for quite some time. How long exactly and why?
Demse: The truth is, this album is 3+ years in the making. So relieved to have it done! When we released the EP in 2008, we were hoping to follow it up with a full length album. Instead, we released a live record. The delays were due to the fact that we had some band ups and downs and needed to reorganize. In addition to the band, the majority of us are super busy in our personal lives. These are aspects of our lives that at times take priority over music. Plus we got rid of probably 4 to 5 songs from the original album tracking and kept adding new material to be recorded, kind of kicking our own asses in the process. Long, and at times, grueling. But we kept our eyes on the prize and here we are.
Patty: What went into the entire process?
Demse: Probably about 500 to 600 hours of studio time (seriously, 3 years remember?), lots of take out food, babies being born, folks getting married, dropping off extra baggage, buying a van, playing constantly, writing new songs, lots of laughs and frustration. You know the old blood, sweat and tears. Having been at my child’s birth and having made a bunch of records, I will say making a record is like giving birth. It is a joyful, traumatic, life changing experience and if the music is good and the individuals can keep their personal drama at bay, you will finish the record.
Patty: What’s the message behind Spread Hope?
Demse: Be aware of where the world is at and stay hopeful and ready for what’s potentially around the corner. There is goodness in the world and the people in it. Find those people and build something positive.
Force: I agree. For me, the overall theme behind the album is universal love. Now I don’t mean to sound all sappy but the album is about realizing that we all have something to share with the rest of the world and making sure you find your voice.
Patty: Are there any songs that are band favorites or hold special meaning?
Demse: Band favorites is tough. Individual favorites a bit easier. For me personally, I really like “Holiday,” “Elements” and depending on the day, the whole album. I’m taking a self imposed break from listening to it right now. As far as any song having a special meaning, it’s just great to know that our music is connecting with people and more and more folks at shows are singing along. By the way, after the album is out, there will be a spot on our website with descriptions of the origins of all the songs on the album.
Force: Well I am personally partial to “Don’t Leave.” Something about that song always just gets me and it has such a nice groove to it. I will always be a fan of “Shine I” because that song was one of those magic moments where a song just came together perfectly the way I imagined it. Last, I’m also really into “What We Need” because it is such a powerful tune and my (actual) brother Catalyst really shines. I’m also always intrigued to see which songs our fans gravitate towards because you never really know what is going to strike someone’s fancy.
Patty: You have a CD release party May 14 and the cd releases worldwide on the internet May 23. What are your feelings heading towards these events and what do you anticipate or hope the results and reactions to be?
Force: Well I’ve said before, I sort of feel like a kid on Christmas for this show. Albeit, a kid who has already looked under the wrapping and knows what he’s getting. This has been such a long journey for us that it is really a relief and it feels good to celebrate this release here in our stomping grounds of Northampton. Our Iron Horse shows tend to be pretty lively so I’m looking forward to a lot of really good positive energy and some folks who are ready to party with us!
Patty: You travel all over the Northeast to perform, what shows stick out in your mind?
Force: That’s a tough one. We all simply love making music and really having the chance to do that regularly for folks who really dig the music makes every show pretty special. However, some of my favorite moments happen at those shows where you just aren’t expecting something wild to happen. For instance, at one of the ski resorts we were playing, we had a whole table of middle aged ladies dancing on chairs and tables. It was one of those mid-day shows and I was surprised when folks started taking shots and then broke out the hula hoop all before 5pm.
Patty: Best and worst experience on the road?
Demse: Honestly, nothing is coming to mind. Although, the Yoga festival we played last summer was fun. When we travel, mainly because most of us are goofballs, we just bug out and have fun on the road. I’m really looking forward to the future on the road. The shows are getting better and better and we’re getting our name out further with this record. Plus, we have some good international connections that should be good for an adventure or two in the future. I enjoy messing with drunk people. You know, just giving a fake name and making up silly stories about the other members and my own background. It breaks the boredom. It can get pretty ridiculous sometimes but its just goofing off really. Lots of laughs.
Force: Like Demse said, there are a ton of shenanigans on the road. My favorite thing about being out on the road is seeing all the different cities and towns and meeting new folks. It’s like the first day of high school all the time. I’m very intrigued about how other folks spend their time and I’m glad that music still brings folks together. Now for one of my worst experiences, it has to be during our first down south tour. We were able to procure a little moonshine and I got a little overzealous. There is no hangover worse than one from white lightning and man did I ever learn to respect that fact. No one wants to be hungover in a van with a bunch of other dudes and gear traveling into unknown territory.
Patty: What’s coming up for The Alchemystics after the cd releases?
Force: We keep moving forward. This album is just a small step in the journey of the Alchemystics. We are already thinking about our next project and we have a very aggressive touring schedule as we continue to bring our message to the people. Be sure to check out our website for behind the scenes blogs and updates and follow us on twitter and facebook (links below) to stay caught up with all of our latest musings.
Aside from music, we’ve learned some interesting facts about these two. Demse collects rocks of all kinds for stone projects around his house.. no river or stream is safe! Force wishes he had more robots in his life and has, what some might call, an obsession for comics and anime.
So there you have it folks! The Alchemystics will be coming to your area soon. Show your appreciation by gathering rocks at your local waterways for easy collection and send comics for on the road reading. And, by all means, pick up your copy of the new album and help spread the hope.
About the Band
The Alchemystics are Garrick “Force” Perry (Vocals); Garrett Sawyer (Bass); Demse Zullo (Drums); Jason Metcalf (Keyboards); Ian I (Guitar/ Vocals); and Ras Jahn (Vocals). Rooted in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, The Alchemystics fuse diverse individual styles, backgrounds, & experiences into a unique and uplifting sound embracing reggae, hip hop, soul, and dub. Thoughtfully crafted songs carry positive messages as compelling as the rhythms that drive them. The group has toured extensively throughout the Northeast and has ventured from Maine to the Carolinas gaining fans in their wake and some serious traction on the festival scene.
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Dukwheat - May 9, 2011- 5 Comments
EXCLUSIVE Music Review: The Alchemystics – Spread Hope (2011)
Traditionally, this is right around the time of the year when something so hot drops, something so insanely good, it instantly becomes the “Summer thing”. Western Massachusetts reggae-rock-rap veterans The Alchemystics have dropped such an album, so don’t sleep on it, or you’ll be missing out on the feel good party of the year. Spread Hope, their first full length release, is some of the most infectious, positive music you will ever hear. Your smile and dancing feet will continue on long after the final note is played on the final track “Fly Away Home“.
Make no mistake about it, this band are master chefs and their mission is to create a musical stew. In a gigantic cast-iron pot, they mixup a base stock of roots Reggae and Dub, and toss in equal parts Soul, Hip Hop, and Funk. Many bands fuse different styles in their music, but the Alchemystics blend their genres in every song creating a completely organic, natural sound. Do you like head bobbing Reggae? Do you like clever wordplay and inspiring rhymes in your Hip Hop? Do you like soulful grooves, hooks and jams that make your body move? Well you’ll get it all in heaping spades with Spread Hope.
From the band’s biography:
“Fueled by their passion to explore beyond the edges of traditional musical boundaries and their diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds, the Alchemystics blend reggae, politically infused hip-hop, gritty soul, hard-driving rock, and pulsing Jamaican, Cuban and Trinidadian rhythms into an utterly unique and distinctively original new sound.”
“Formed by producers, and rhythmic earth shakers Demse Zullo – drums/percussion & Garrett Sawyer – bass in early 2003, the Alchemystics under their musical direction have grown into an eclectic lineup of talented musicians combining the inspired, masterful vocals of Ras Jahn and Ian-I, the smooth and socially conscious lyricism of Force, the Afro-Caribbean infused percussion of Matthew King, and the cosmic keyboards of Jay Metcalf. Together, the Alchemystics have catalyzed into an original, unstoppable musical force. Their high-energy, fiercely danceable live shows, have gained the band a passionately loyal multi-cultural, multi-generational following throughout New England, and beyond.”
The CD opens with “Type A Prayer” and you, the listener, immediately know you are in for a musical treat. Every track is filled with positive reggae vibrations and uplifting, inspirational messages. “Dance Upon The Corner” has tremendous rhythm sections with Matthew King on the congas, and harmonious vocals by Ras Jahn and Ian-I. The kinetic “Mosh Up” has Force (also of the Western MA hip hop supergroup The Probemaddicts) spitting jaw-dropping lines at hyper speeds. “Let Them Dub” is a hypnotic, head-nodding instrumental dub track that just about busted my damn speakers with the bombastic bass drops. “Dedication” has Force rapping to the fans over Demse’s drum kit. Another outstanding track on this gem is the popular crowd favorite “Shine I” which really showcases the groups ability to pull together different flavors into one cohesive song. Force’s flows, weaving with the main chorus, will surely get clubs and dancehalls bouncing. “Don’t Leave” is a soulful, jazzy number with incredible percussion work by Demse and Matthew. Of all of these cuts, none of them is better in my opinion than the funky “Elements“. It’s absolutely impossible to keep your body still during this song, as the bass and uplifting lyrics make you want to move with the crowd.
Spread Hope features 17 songs and over 65 minutes of eclectic Reggae-Hip-Hop-Soul-Funk-Dub-Rock. If you think the world is dark, negative, too violent, aggressive, and just plain uncool….relax dude! Just jump into The Alchemystics big ole pot of musical stew and help them spread some hope. It’s the perfect feel good album of the Summer that will be in my steady rotation for many years to come. Make sure to get out and see The Alchemystics at one of the many music festivals and dates they have lined up on their busy Summer calendar.
Spread Hope will be available to fans this Saturday, May 14th at their record release party at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. Then on Monday, May 23rd the cd will be available for all to download on iTunes.
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Worcester Magazine – Nov 17, 2010
Diversity at work: The Alchemystics
Blending elements of reggae, soul, dub and hip-hop, Northampton-based band, The Alchemystics, have provided listeners with pronounced sound teamed with positive messages since their formation.
The group formed back in 2004 when Demse Zullo (drums, percussion) and Garrett Sawyer (bass) decided they wanted to create their own reggae hip-hop group. Both Zullo and Sawyer, having known and played music with musician Ras Jahn (vocals) in previous musical settings, invited him to collaborate. Through several line-up changes, the band continued to evolve, capturing the talent of Force (vocals), Jay Metcalf (keyboards) and Ian (vocals, guitar). They have since created four full-length albums and, having finished a series of successful summer festival performances, members of the group have now turned focus to create their fifth full-length album, set to be released in early 2011.
Each member brings a unique element in regards to The Alchemystics sound. Collectively coming from a rich variety of lifestyles, the result is pure talent. Zullo explains, “We have so many different races and backgrounds, so many different kinds of musical training, I’d like to think of the band as diversity at work.” It is through this diversity in which each member is able to bring a unique element in regards to sound.
Specifically, vocals from Ian and Jahn provide accomplished harmony, rich and sustainable in reggae roots. In a perfectly balanced contrast, Force brings an element of hip-hop, with lyrics and style that engages listeners with its concentrated intensity. Zullo, who has extensive training in various styles of drumming, holds the music tightly together, tracking every beat spot-on with skillful precision. Metcalf accompanies the sound with life and bouts of high energy, completing the reggae sound with engaging chords and bright notes with the keyboard. Sawyer completes the body of sound, bass lines alongside his seasoned musicianship that helps his notes reach an almost underground depth.
Sawyer, who has traveled extensively, has helped bring talent and influence from out of the country. Just recently, The Alchemystics were able to share the stage with Trinidad’s, “Calypso King,” Kurt Allen. Calypso music represents an Afro-Caribbean style of music, rooted in West African tradition, though also carrying a strong French influence.
The band envisions positive change. Zullo adds, “… encouraging people to be accepting of one another. We want some positive political change… if you want to do something, sometimes you just got to go it. You can’t wait for someone to do it for you.”
Zullo explains some of the band’s sources of inspiration, “It’s safe to say that our influences stem from a variety of sources and not just music alone. Our children and personal relationships inspire us. The state of the world around us inspires us to write about what we see happening and share our thoughts on the changes needed to move forward… we’re not getting rich from what we’re doing, but we know we’re spreading something positive.”
The group has a new CD coming out early 2011. Check out and download the first three songs off the new album free of charge at Alchemystics.com/free music.
The Alchemystics have provided awareness and inspiration to listeners for the last six years and it’s safe to say that this band will surely be moving the crowd once again. With an uplifting sound, packed with messages that speak to each of our lives, you won’t want to miss The Alchemystics on November 20 at the Lucky Dog.
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Live Music News and Review – November 3, 2010
BAND SPOTLIGHT - The Alchemystics
Reggae Soul Hip Hop Dance
It would be easy to label The Alchemystics as another stereotypical reggae band, but you simply wouldn’t be doing them justice. With a feel-good sound that blends reggae, dub, soul, and hip-hop, these guys sound as diverse as they look.
Formed in 2003 in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, The Alchemystics have evolved over the years into their current six-piece lineup, which includes three vocalists- an emcee and two singers. The ensemble has gradually gained notoriety over the years, frequenting dozens of colleges throughout the Northeast as well as some high-profile venues such as Pearl Street, The Iron Horse, The Middle East, and the Paradise Rock Club. Their travels have seen them share the stage with a myriad of well-known artists, such as Damian Marley, Busta Rhymes, and Bonnie Raitt.
Amidst final preparations on their latest full-length release, drummer Demse Zullo and emcee Force were gracious enough to take a moment and enlighten us on The Alchemystics.
LMN+R: First of all, can you take us back to the roots of The Alchemystics? When did you meet each other, and how did you form as a band?
Force: Well Demse could field this one a bit better since I wasn’t there in the beginning, but I imagine it was sort of like the Big Bang- just without all the stars, planet explosions and such. Hmm, now that I think about it I guess it was a little bit like the Big Bang since the band started as a core group of three- Demse ( drums/percussion), Garrett-(bass), and Phaze (vocals), and slowly expanded over time to include Jason Metcalf (keys), then myself on vocals and finally Ian I (vocals) and Ras Jahn (vocals). Right now we’ve got a solid group in place, but who knows the Alchemystics universe might expand again.
Demse: Yeah back in 2002 Ras Jahn, Garret and I were playing with a Kora player from Senegal named Youssou Sidibe .When that group broke up Garret and I joined Ras Jahn’s long-standing reggae group Loose Caboose. Simultaneously I hooked up with original member Phaze, we started listening to each others beats and I asked Garrett to come out to see if he’d like to form a group. It worked out well. We wrote some tunes and started to have weekly jam sessions at my house in East Hampton, MA. Through those jams and opening up the space we started playing with Jay on the keys. Then we built and built and built for two years. We really started building a name for ourselves at Bishops Lounge playing and jamming on reggae and hip hop tunes. We would regularly invite anyone willing to get on the mic up to the stage. Through opening up the space for others to get involved at Bishops Lounge we met Force. He must have heard about us because we were hot even back then! He came out and rocked with us a few times and I liked it… So we asked him to come in and it worked and we grew… Phaze left in 2005 so to keep the music moving I called Ras Jahn and Ian-I, Force called Souljah T and we moved forward as we began with the rhythms as the guiding force of the music. With four singers things got complicated and we lost Souljah T along the way.
LMN+R: Had any of you had any experience as professional musicians prior to The Alchemystics?
Demse: One of the interesting things about this group is the different kinds of musical backgrounds we have and the individual experiences we carry. I can say that between Ras Jahn, Garrett, and I… and Ian to an extent we have been performing, touring, recording, and teaching professionally for quite a number of years. Both Force and Jay were involved in music prior to The Alchemystics but I don’t think to the level that we have taken this group. Where as the rest of us has had a long run of it.
Force: Not only were a few of us pros before but a little known fact is that the Alchemystics were all part of a secret CIAmusical assassin training program. I can’t really divulge too much information but let’s just say that’s why we’re so naughty at what we do.
LMN+R: What was the inspiration behind your band’s name?
Force: Well as much as I’d like to say that we were struck by some awesome idea from the heavens, in actuality we just got lucky. I personally think it was meant to be since our name really encompasses our sound and group dynamic. We are a group of very diverse elements who are able to somehow combine and create this unique music and live experience. Demse was there in the beginning so maybe he can shed some light.
Demse: So anyone who tries to come up with a good band name will tell you it gets silly really fast so you wind up sitting there just laughing at all the stupid names you could be. So we created two lists of words that could work together and one of Jay’s old roommates Scott put together alchemy and mystics. The Alchemystics huh? It totally fit our musical mission, as both individuals and artists.
LMN+R: Were you guys always reggae enthusiasts? Are there any moments that stand out when you first felt a connection with reggae?
Demse: I really got heavily into listening and studying reggae around 1996. Again between Ras Jahn, Garrett, Ian and I we have been at it a while. Ras Jahn has one of the longest- standing reggae groups in the country. Ian’s former group Soulution was at it hard for 10 years. Garrett started out in a ska band Not for Resale back in 1994, following that he lived and toured throughout the Caribbean. I started back in 1992 playing in New Englandhardcore group Jasta 14 and in recent years I have studied percussion in Cubaand worked in a variety of musical styles out side of reggae as well… Reggae music is essentially the rhythmic force of the earth and it is a rich culture. It takes years to understand reggae and how it moves because there is such large history to the music. The majority of the band has studied and performed a wide array of music from the African Diaspora. All this experience comes out in how we play and perform the music.
LMN+R: What musical artists- past or present- have had the most impact on your music and your development as a band?
Force: Hmm well that’s always a tough one to answer. I mean I could go on for quite a while listing some of my personal influences and I’m sure Demse and the rest could as well. I guess I would have to say every artist I’ve listened to has contributed to my growth, I’ve got a mixed bag of musical listening but honestly my heart and soul lies in Hip Hop. I’m an Addict and I admit it. Hey I know I have a problem. Yea I know it’s a cop out but the list would be huge. Hmm maybe I’ll blog about it though, stay tuned and maybe I’ll let the cat outta the bag.
Demse: Too much music to mention. It makes me dizzy thinking bout it all. Truly for the entire band our lives are family, friends and music. Music is what we all live. So the influences that come in are way beyond just music alone. For me I can go from The Beatles to OLD Metallica to James Brown to Curtis Mayfield to Coltrane to the Bad Brains to Sly & the Family Stone to BDP & Pharcyde to Eddie Money to Roy Orbison to Baaba Maal to Erika Badu to Prince Far I to D’ Angelo to Elvis….I could do this all day.
LMN+R: You appear to have a lot of diversity within your group. Does this translate to the music in any way?
Demse: It permeates everything that we are. So, yes, it comes out in the music in how we present ourselves, in the crowds we draw.
Force: Heh, the Alchemystics are the poster boys of diversity. We’re like some 2010 Beneton ad. I really think diversity is the key. So many artists out there are very one dimensional and one of the best things about the Alchemystics is that we are able to display a lot of different sides. I think our music is pretty much a reflection of how diverse we are as individuals. We’ve got dance music, positive uplifting roots, a little hip-hop flavor and so much more. In the end all of those elements combine to form The Alchemystics sound. We’ve even got a new song “Elements” which really delves into that aspect of our music. So much effort is spent on putting things in boxes or finding genres for them now that it’s a shame. What we do is show that music is beyond categories and is a very personal thing that can be shared by anyone no matter race or background.
LMN+R: What advantages does your diversity give you?
Force: It’s our secret weapon really. I think it’s one of the big things that set us apart from any other band you have seen or heard before. Being so diverse allows us to create new refreshing music constantly. We’ve got so many dimensions as a band that I think it’s very hard for us not to think outside of the box and come up with music and concepts that have not been tried yet. One of the best things about being in the Alchemystics is that I am constantly pushed to expand my musical boundaries and knowledge and that means I have to keep coming up with new ways to top what we just did before.
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Posted by LMNR
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ViewSkewed.com - July 13, 2010
Nateva Festival 2010, Day 3
photo by: Phrazz
But, as my music schizophrenia continues, I ran out and caught The Alchemystics.
And, holy hell. I have no words. I walked into the Port City Music Hall and it was going wild in there. The place was packed, jamming reggae jam crazy dance party was going on. I caught the last two songs and the encore. It was out of control, great beats, high high energy…. they literally blew my head off. I was dumbfounded. My friend asked me what I thought of them, and I had no words. I could not speak. I was processing the crazy hip-hop reggae rage that just went down and I couldn’t speak. Wow. The Alchemystics. Yeah, these guys are on my radar up near The New Mastersounds, who I saw at Mountain Jam. Phewwwwwww.
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Buntology.com – July 4, 2010
Nateva Feva- or maybe it’s just a sunburn.
The Alchemystics might be one of the most hardworking bands on the festival scene right now- these guys are everywhere! They played on Sunday in the barn and killed it- especially when they brought up a couple members of brother-band The Problemaddicts. They all did a cover of “I Don’t Wanna be a Player No More” and brought the house down. Their stage presence was incredible and I was about two cups of Sunset Blush away from jumping on stage with them because they looked like they were having so much fun. Of course, these dudes are all so nice they probably would’ve humored me for about three minutes before having security take me away. My only issue with the Alchemystics’ set is that it should’ve been longer and on the main stage.
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Popmatters.com - June 16, 2010
Strange Creek Music Festival 2010
by Bill Clifford
The Alchemystics were another new band, to this critic anyway, that thoroughly impressed and made many new fans with a stirring set. The band’s sound is rooted in reggae, and infused with hip-hop and soul music. Similar to the Roots, this band employs real musicians playing rock instruments, guitar, bass, drums, percussion and keyboards, while several members add harmony vocals. To the mix they add the potent vocal stylings of an emcee (Force) and a reggae singer (Ras Jahn.) On “Mosh Up”, the emcee pranced from one side of the stage to the other, and from the front of the stage to the back, firing up the crowd with his effervescent energy. His raps flowed super fast off his tongue while Jahn soulfully tempered the lyrical flow. The percussion and keys stood out on the smooth conclusion to “Spread Hope”, and then the band tossed out Alchemystics Frisbee’s to a large crowd eager to snatch them up. Where the band excelled was in the songs with more musical rhythms, such as “Shine Eye Girl” and “Elements”, rather than the more hip-hop leaning songs, such as “Bangers N Mash” and “Fire”. The Alchemystics paid tribute to Bob Marley on an emotive cover of “The Heathen”, and then followed up with their soulful version of Damien Marley’s “Road to Zion”.
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The Beat magazine (27th Annual BOB MARLEY and the Wailers Collectors issue, 08/09)
There are more musical elements crammed into the three–song two–dub sampler from the Alchemystics (Fundamental) than in many full length releases. High energy contemporary dancehall DJ hip-hop, roots lyrics and full-band arrangements from the seven-piece group make for an impressive debut. My own favorites are the slightly calmer dubs with some nice flute snaking through the “Peace of Mind/Piece of Dub” track especially. [www.thealchemystics.com] By Chuck Foster
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Northeast Performer – November 2008
The Alchemystics EP
Reggae fans who are tired of listening to one pale Bob Marley imitation after another will have reason to celebrate when picking up a copy of The Alchemystics new self-titled EP. While reggae sensibilities form the core of the album’s sound, The Alchemystics are not content to rely on standard rhythms and trite chord progressions. Reggae beats are infused with hip-hop lyricism and techno innovations to create a sound that is polished and refreshingly unpredictable. The album opens with “Shine Eye Girl,” an energetic love song that relies heavily on dance beats and hip-hop-style rhymes. Just as the beat threatens to become a little too comfortable and the lyrics a little too predictable, the bridge steps in to introduce a new key, mellower rhythms and more melodic vocals. As the bridge moves seamlessly back to the song’s original style, everything seems to speed up, giving the music an increasingly urgent feel. “Bangers N Mash” continues in the hip-hop vein with more aggressive vocals and a minor key that gives the track a darker sound. Piano is featured heavily and techno tendencies become more apparent. “Peace of Mind” marks a return to traditional reggae rhythm and vocal styles with lyrics that impart messages of both hope and despair over the state of the modern world. “Piece of DUB” is an instrumental track with prominently featured hand drums, woodwinds and melodica. The ﬁnal track, “Ghetto Red Hot DUB” takes on both reggae and Latin rhythms with mandolin, Spanish-style guitar and trumpet interludes. The minor key and techno effects give the track a downright sinister feel. This track, perhaps more than any other, highlights the band’s versatility by demonstrating a mix of styles and instrumentation. In a world where musicians seem increasingly content to follow established formulas, it’s encouraging to ﬁnd a band that can defy boundaries with skill and grace. The Alchemystics is a worthy addition to any collection, reggae fan or not. (self-released)