by Ryan Meehan
Evolution Beat’s fusion of pop and contemporary ska began in the Ventura County / Los Angeles underground where Garrett Stevens built a strong following as the primary songwriter, vocalist and guitarist in the band Elevator Ska – among a well-versed history of other SoCal bands – prior to teaming up with producer and studio musician Kerwin “Skooter” Williams. Williams has worked with other artists such as Snoop Dogg on notable television and film scores, while also in high demand for his talents as a session bassist. The duo formalized their partnership in early 2013 when Stevens and Williams co-wrote the radio single “Love Me More”, at the same time creating a new sound that neither of their former bands had previously produced. The resulting track ended up becoming a poppy, dance infused single that became a part of the band’s five song EP released on Golden Planet Records. We are delighted to have Garrett Stevens of Evolution Beat as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What is the origin of the name “Evolution Beat”, and what led you guys to come up with that moniker?
GS: The original band prior to Skooter coming in was called Elevator Ska, obviously a Ska band. Most of the previous players had been changed out, and so it was time to change the name of the band. After going over names that might fit, we found that Evolution Beat summed up what we were doing. Skooter’s influence with his sonic contemporary sounds created something different. We had our own sound and Evolution Beat seemed to fit, so we kept it.
RM: Why is it that you and Skooter work so well together? How did you end up meeting each other; and what were the results of some of the first few practices you had?
GS: The current songs on the EP were carry-over tunes from Elevator Ska that were played prior to Skooter’s arrival. We played them in a different format, kind of a traditional ska style. Skooter took the songs and dissected them. You might say he did a sonic makeover remix. He is incredibly talented and what the result kind of shocked us both. I believe that’s how we derived the new sound that we created. I originally met Skooter when a former bass player was sick and we needed a substitute. I was really shocked at how melodic his playing was. Working with Skooter was simple, uncomplicated and his playing was very melodic. Being the Celt I am, I really thought he rocked. I put out the word that I needed someone for Elevator Ska and he played a few gigs. At the time I was unaware of his business as a producer. We had coffee and I was frustrated about not being able to complete my CD. He played me a few of his demo tracks and I was like “Wow, lets do this!” We recorded a few tracks in the traditional style and they were really good. I was in Austin working on setting up some gigs and ask him if he could do a remix. The remix dropped into my phone about 2:00 in the morning and I was blown away at the new mix. Long story short, he help me complete the whole CD with his expertise on the songs. He also brought in Bob Horn, a well-known mixer in Los Angeles that does top artist such as Usher and other notable stars.
RM: What made you decide to choose “Love Me More” as the song for which to shoot a video? Who directed that clip; and how did you come up with the concept for that shoot?
GS: “Love Me More” was our first national release. Our radio promoter had heard about our music and was tracking our progress. He contacted me and wanted to get us on the radio. Originally it was to be a college release until we remixed “Love Me More”. He flipped over that song and, we put it out getting to about 60 on the Media Base National Charts. The song was fun and light, the summer of 2014 was in progress, and our publicist was getting our name out. We were SoundCloud’s 2104 artist of the Month. That was huge, so it was a natural to shoot the “Love Me More” video. Play productions out of Los Angeles shot the video, and James Kapner was the director and producer. We had conceptual meetings on the song…What it meant, how it needed to be shot…was it intense, heavy, light-hearted…did it need to follow the narrative of the song…We decided that to have it be light, fun and relaxed with a good feel was the best route for the song so we went with that. Its a fun video, colorful, upbeat and happy…
RM: What is your current guitar setup for live shows? Are you big on effects pedals; or are there any rackmount effects that you use that you’re a big fan of?
GS: I’ve always liked vintage guitars and play with a 1972 cream rosewood neck Fender Stratocaster, and the opposite – a Black Fender Strat with a blonde maple neck. I’ve never played a new guitar that has the broken in feel of the older guitars, plus the old pickups are killer. My amp is a 1970 Fender Twin Reverb. I love it but my stage hand hates it…the two JBL’s weigh a ton. It’s brutal to haul around but the sound is just clean, pure and warm…There’s nothing like it. As far as effects go, I only use a Boss overdrive. I’ve played around with a lot of effects but I found that in the ska / skank style of rhythm that we play, clean is good. A little reverb from the amp is all that’s needed. It seems that flangers and other effects muck up the sound. I do use a digital wah for a Marley cover we do but that’s it..
RM: How would you classify the genre of music that you make in one paragraph or less? If you had to condense that classification all the way down to just one word (compound or otherwise) what would that word be?
GS: I think what we have done is integrate the traditional ska / reggae guitar rhythms with integrated pop sonic effects and beats to create a new sound. Most of the time we get the Pop Reggae band genre. I guess that’s new. I used to play in a band called Popskavich. People know Reggae. Ska was pre-Reggae, the audiences really know Reggae but not so much Ska…OK one word? Lets see…Pop Skaggae?? No, lets just go with Pop Reggae.
RM: How would you best describe the Evolution Beat live experience? What could someone who was completely unfamiliar with your style of music expect out of one of your shows?
GS: If you listen to the EP it really does not give the intensity of the live shows. Its cheery and melodic, and has power if you turn it up on the stereo. Our live shows are intense and powerful…It’s a whole different animal. We are not static on stage and move around a lot. We do have some choreographed moves that we use to give a performance. On stage we consider ourselves musicians but also entertainers, and that’s the way we perform. Our last show at the Whisky was full of energy and I think the crowd really didn’t know what to think. They didn’t know who we were really, but they liked the songs and the show. We are different – way different – and never did the carbon copy thing as far as our style goes. The music is good and easy to listen to, so it speaks for itself. I think that someone unfamiliar with the style of music would leave with a melody in their head, and also feel that the band was putting everything into it. Some one said after the Whisky gig that they felt we should be doing big openers and large festivals. We are ready, and we play small clubs the same way as we would a festival: full on. The music demands it…
RM: As a multi-instrumentalist, how is your songwriting affected by the instrument in front of you during the song construction process? Do you still find that a majority of your songs are written on guitar, or as you get older have you been more open-minded as to which instruments you use for that purpose?
GS: I usually start by getting a guitar chord structure going. If I find it good, I play with it for a while until some unconscious lyric comes out. It may be something I have been pondering recently. I usually break a sweat and a lyric line, or a lyric melody comes and fits the music so I work off of that . Most of the time I write on guitar, I can play the bass and some keys but I prefer the guitar.
RM: What’s up next for you guys in 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
GS: Last year we were in the studio a lot getting our EP finished, shooting a video and getting our live performance put together. We have just got our show back on the road, and are booking dates as well as starting on our second release. We are hoping to book some festivals for the summer, and have a possible European tour in the works. We want to continue to write and make music within our genre, do what we do and be true to ourselves and our music.
Official Website: http://evolutionbeat.com/
Evolution Beat on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Evolution-Beat/187676634590025
Evolution Beat on Twitter: https://twitter.com/evolution_beat
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