The New York-based band - Michael Forsyth, bass guitar; Brennan Weir, guitar; Jelm, drums; Frances Azucena, horns; and Gage Weir, songwriter and lead vocals- brings out a stage full of horns and musicians from around the world, all there for one purpose: to play Reggae.
Now several years after the band first started playing in the city, they have moved to various Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Bushwick and Borough Park , New Jersey and Manhattan and continues to expand their sound. Their next step is the release of their debut album sometime this spring.
I met up with the band last week near their apartment at Sky Town café at 921 Broadway in Bushwick to talk about the formation of the band, their live performances and the upcoming album.
How did InDaze first start?
Brennan: It started with my cousin and myself. My cousin is the lead singer and the lead guitarist and we started about five years ago playing as a band because we were both broke without jobs and we needed money. We started a band called Stonerway. We wrote a few songs and started playing in our buddies’ bars and it grew from there. Then we met our buddy Jelm about three and a half years ago, and then this fool (Brennan) who joined about two and a half years ago. Then it evolved into what we are now, a more prominent reggae and ska.
Michael: We changed the name though, about a year and a half ago.
Brennan: Yeah, that was our old band name.
Michael: I didn’t think we wanted to bring that up?
Brennan: Well, we should because we’ve evolved from there. That was just us getting to know each other as musicians.
What do you think about the music scene right now in Bushwick?
Brennan: I don’t know, it’s kind of hipster-ish. Everybody here wants to sound like Iggy Pop or something like that and at least to me, it’s not the most original.
Michael: It’s not even all about the fashion when it comes to being a hipster either. It’s that pretentious music mindset and they’re trying to be better than commercial music. They’re really alienating all this great stuff that they can do, but instead they’re trying to be different and unique with no reason behind it. If there’s no reason behind it, then what’s the point? You find a lot of good stuff in Brooklyn, but that’s my take on the whole hipster thing.
But we would like to represent the New Musicians Union Local 666, which is this big music coalition with a bunch of different bands. We’re about 40 bands deep.
Do you feel like it might just be over saturated?
Brennan: Yeah, and that is encouraging because if you ever want to go look for a new instrument all you have to do is look out the window and be like, “Hey you, want to come play?” Jacob (Hemphill) from Soja put it really good in that he just wants to expand the horizon of reggae, because for a long time it was just dormant. There were no people really expanding their music around us here, there is pretty much just this plateau and everyone is doing the same thing.
We’re trying to expand our horizons with everyone around us, like adding Celtic music with one-drop reggae, and then with Dominican rhythms. It’s a plethora of music that we try to go through and our influences are completely across the board. We try to dip into and pull something from every genre.
What got you interested in playing reggae first?
Brennan: We opened for Biggz General - Bob Marley’s grandson’s band – and the Rastas really looked at us like, “Who are these white boy’s not playing reggae?” We said, “If we are going to play reggae, we had to really step up our reggae game.” Michael: It was more like, stoner rock.
What is reggae now versus what you thought it was before?
Michael: Before most of us were rockers, so that’s what the group was before. But, what reggae is to me is the idea of expanding this form of music across the whole planet and unite people. It’s all about unity, and the only way we can do that is to incorporate different cultures into music. That’s why when you go to SoCal it has a whole different sound, but it’s still reggae, or you go to Jamaica or Africa and it’s going to be different. Here in New York we have to incorporate what we have here.
We have the Latin sound, to so we have to spread everywhere with everybody’s culture. It’s all about togetherness.
So now you are working towards releasing a new album?
Brennan: It’s going to drop in March or April.
Jelm: This was a couple of songs from an old album we were working on – Me, Gage and Brennan – before Michael joined in.
Brennan: Yeah, he knows about Stoner Way (former band name).
Jelm: (laughs) Yeah, that was not my choice for a name. But we were working on songs at the time and gigging a bit. As more members got involved the album started to grow and grow. But this is our first one.
Brennan: We had EP’s before. That was when we were still just finding our sound.
So how do you write your music?
Gage: Well it kind of just starts from something I’ve been reading, and then it just sort of takes shape on it’s own. It’s a miraculous process. Then I just kind of bounce around with everyone else and take it from there. I like to let everyone else put their ideas on there. I don’t really have a stigma against people doing their own thing. If it changes while it goes around then that’s really what I like. That should be the way it happens. It’s teamwork.
Brennan: It really is a band. To make the sound that we have, we really need something from everybody.
What’s your philosophy on playing shows?
Gage: It’s a party.
Frances: There are five different characters up there, plus whoever else we have up there.
Brennan: We just have a bunch of people up there and having a great time. We just know that playing the music with that much sound, and now that we have our sound down pretty tight, it’s a lot of fun to see how people react.
Jelm: Yeah, to see all these people at the shows and dancing, it really shows our improvement.
Michael: I also don’t think we’ve ever done any show the same. We’re always trying to do something else and something bigger.
Gage: It’s really great because it’s always a new crowd, so they’re just never expecting it.
Michael: You could even see it several times, and people are always asking, “When did you add that song, or when did you add that?”
Frances: No matter how many times you see us play, it will always be something different.
InDaze opens for The Big Takeover at the Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Ave. in Williamsburg, on Feb. 7 at 8 p.m.