BETTER LIFE THROUGH MUSIC: Grow
Chatting with Grow songwriter Matt Odabashian and resident rapper Sneaktechniks about their livin lovin learnin debut and upcoming CD release party, it was clear that the band has taken an admirable and ballsy approach to their music — expressing a positive aura without overtly preaching like an afterschool special.
"When you listen to the lyrics, it isn't always a positive, happy-go-lucky vibe," Providence native and Grow's resident wordsmith Mankato Saloio, aka Sneaktechniks, said. "Grow is a testament to real-life experiences.
"Songs like 'The Rain' and 'Take from the Innocent' are perfect examples. They express feelings of pain and betrayal. However, our main message is to keep fighting and stay positive."
It sounds like a unique stance, particularly for an emcee who has shared the stage with the likes of Method Man and Jedi Mind Tricks. But Sneak takes the "keeping it real" mantra to a literal level: "My whole objective is bettering myself and my life through music. That is the very essence of what I'm doing with Grow."
Combining Saloio's wordplay with the blue-eyed soul of twin brothers Mike (drums) and Matt Odabashian (keys and lead vocals) is a novel approach; add in a serious dose of saxophone (Ian Katz) throughout the full-length debut and the Grow sound could be deemed as "mash-up for grown-ups."
"One day I was hanging at Matty's apartment on Wickenden Street and he asked me to freestyle over some grooves he was playing on his Fender Rhodes," Sneak recalled. "There seemed to be something that just clicked, so we talked about the idea of combining our styles together in the form of a live band.
"Our whole approach was to not be so easily identified by one genre, and being different was a key ingredient in our formula," Sneak said. After two years of personnel juggling, the six-man lineup is solidified and the Grow sound is, well, still growing. "It took a while to develop our sound and I don't feel we've fully manifested it in its entirety yet."
Matt Odabashian noted that "the rap and soul thing connected right out of the gate," and sees nothing wrong or far-fetched with delivering a message of hope. "I don't think it's a hard sell to a person who lost a son in the war or someone sick of cops fucking with their civil rights, or even having a girl dump them. All these songs you could say are in real time in my life and its something we, as a band, believe in."
From post-breakup heartache on the Hall & Oates-flavored "She Walks Right Through that Door" to the daily trials of "Everything," "Low Down," and "Keep Fighting," livin lovin learnin provides an audio exercise in keeping one's head up, which sounds fine and dandy, but how about selling that to a promoter or potential A&R record label dude?
"First off, we may have an edge with promoters because we've shared the stage with a lot of different acts and I think we can match up with all of them," Odabashian declared.
Said Saloio: "Just call it high-energy, motivational music from a group of talented performers boasting a positive message with a signature sound, something everyone can enjoy regardless of musical preference."
GROW | DPR | KRIS HANSEN'S LEFT HAND BAND | The Century Lounge, 150 Chestnut Street, Providence | January 17 @ 9 pm | myspace.com/growri
Songs 'R' US
HAPPY 5TH TO RISA IN THE ROUND
Emcees-in-training: memorize those metaphors and report to AS220 TONIGHT (the 8th) for the ELEMENTARY SHOWCASE, as young cats (ages 16-21) get the chance to drop bars on the mic. It's $2 at the door, call 401.831.9327 for signup info. Big show going down at Firehouse No. 13 (401.270.1801) tonight with THE VIENNAGRAM headlining and Seattle's JASON WEBLEY and ALEC K. REDFEARN opening, all for only $5. A busy weekend kicks off FRIDAY (the 9th) with the Rhode Island Songwriters Association celebrating the fifth anniversary of the SONGWRITERS IN THE ROUND series at AS220, an all-star lineup featuring RYAN FITZSIMMONS, who will headline with his band, along with MARK CUTLER, ED MCGUIRL, BECKY CHACE, and many more. At In the Round shows, audience members get to hear four different versions of songs based on a single theme chosen by the prior month's audience. RISA has released two albums of original material from the show archives. Check risongwriters.com for additional information. Also on Friday, how about a free show with New York City punk legends MURPHY'S LAW at Club Hell? Get there early, the madness starts up at 6 pm with Fall Rivuh's EDDIE & THE LOUVERS, ASHERS, and REASON TO FIGHT opening. Call 401.709.3923. SATURDAY (the 10th) highlights include local 10-piece sound collective BARNACLED visiting AS220 behind their new album Charles. Fans of Staind and Alice in Chains might check out hard-rockers DAYS UNKNOWN at the Century Lounge (401.725.2255); VON DOOM rocks the Blackstone (401.726.2181) with THE DELIRIANTS and READYMADE BREAKUP (NJ); RHYTHMAFIA and SOUNDER (ex-Seeing Stars) play Jerky's (401.621.2244); and local ska punks SENIOR DISCOUNT should pack 'em in at the Topside Lounge in Bristol (401.253.1566). Head to Lupo's early on SUNDAY (the 11th) for THE COMING WEAK, who landed a nice opening slot for Orlando's Anberlin; Madina Lake and Between the Trees round out the lo-dough bill. Doors at 6 pm, call 401.331.5876. On MONDAY (the 12th), AS220 hosts a free workshop from 6-8 pm on how to properly go about booking your band. Admission is free, RSVP at email@example.com. And on WEDNESDAY (the 14th), Jake's Bar & Grille continues its weekly singer/songwriter series with Barn Burning's ANTHONY LOFFREDIO hosting. Admission is free, call 401.453.5253.
CHRIS CONTI CAN BE CONTACTED AT BUCKEEBROOKS@GMAIL.COM.