Five questions with Spiritual Rez

You’d think that self-described “reggae horn dance party” Spiritual Rez would be based somewhere warm and sunny. Some place with white sand and tourquoise waves. Someplace other than Boston. But listen to the band’s members talk about travel and musical influences (and the mixes they listen to while in the van), and you begin to get the picture. Spiritual Rez distills the places they go, the people they meet and the songs that move them into a catchy, dancey portable beach party.

Spiritual Rez plays The One Stop on Friday, Feb. 28. 10 p.m. $5 in advance/$10 day of show.

Photos from the band’s Instagram account.

Mountain Xpress: Your bio says that you all are evoking your personal power animals. How did you become aware of your power animals, and what is the animal of each musician?

Toft Willingham (vocals and guitar): That’s a metaphor for rocking with impunity. We play as if we’re freeing a beast that lives within us. But if I had to choose, I’d go with a wolf or a lion.

Jesse Shaternick (bass): Astrologically I’m a goat, but on a full moon I change into a werewolf.

Spiritual Rez is known as a festival favorite, but you’re touring through February in colder cities and performing indoors. How do you translate your festival vibe to smaller, indoor venues?

TW: One of the many things I love about playing with this band is this: No matter the situation, Rez always strives to put on the best show possible. No matter the venue or number of attendants, we always give it our all. Sometimes it’s difficult, but by the first big build, I can’t help but party on stage. It’s too fun. And we drink a lot of coffee.

JS: We do what we do no matter what size the venue is. Once we step on stage, it’s go time!

Your videos are beautifully filmed and include a lot of b-roll from shows, festivals and tour. Do you think about documenting that whole experience as you’re living it? Does it help you to be in the moment?

TW: We’ve grown used to having the camera on all the time. Our stockpile of footage actually dates back to 2005 when we first got a camcorder. Someday I would love to compile it all, old and new. We’ve got some cool new videos with more cinematic directing on the way.

JS: We have a bunch of tour footage compiled from over the years.  Someday we will probably make a documentary. Being in the moment is great but sometimes when the camera is in your face it changes you a little.

There are these cool breaks in your songs where they depart from reggae and funk and devolve into almost heavy metal jams. What inspired that, and what other musical genres (or artists, or records) inform your sound that might surprise your audience?

TW: I grew up listening to Jamaican-derivative music with distorted guitars and horns. Look at 311, Fishbone, Reel Big Fish, Sublime, The Bosstones, etc. It was a good way to get psyched to go surf or skate. I grew to love the roots of it also: Bob Marley, Toots, Gregory Isaacs, Culture. As far as surprises, I’d say most people wouldn’t expect the wide spectrum we enjoy in the van. Everything from Bach to Carcass.

JS: No style is off limits to Spiritual Rez and I think that sets us apart from a lot of other acts. Everyone in the band has a different musical background. When we get together to create, a natural fusion of styles happens.

Reggae is interesting because, ever since it came into the mainstream in the ‘70s, it’s never fallen out of popularity. What do you think it is about reggae that makes it both so universal and so timeless?

TW: Reggae makes you feel good. It’s easy to dance to. It reminds us of celebration and warmth. Even the darkest reggae often sings about positive social change. At its core, reggae is positive music, and people need that.

JS: The rhythms in reggae music are just so danceable. When you couple that with positive lyrics, people just can’t get enough. Reggae is here to stay.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Five questions with Spiritual Rez

  1. Jay

    Huzzah to Alli and Toft and Jesse! Wish I was going to be in Asheville!

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.