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THE FIRST THING I HEARD ABOUT OKINAWA (THE band) was that they were a psychedelic group. This piqued my interest. There will always be a special place in my heart for the genre. A lot of great music has come from it, and Pink Floyd was the first band I ever became truly and genuinely obsessed with (still one of my favorites).
On the other hand, I also have a healthy dose of skepticism regarding bands that apply the label to themselves. Often, “We’re psychedelic” really means, “We don’t know all the chords yet but we’ve got a big ol’ box of expensive effects pedals.” In the case of Okinawa, “We’re a psychedelic band” actually means, “We’re easily one of the most polished, well-planned, thoughtfully executed professional psychedelic bands to ever come from this place.”
OK—that wouldn’t make a good album title (necessarily) and those are my words, not the band’s, but I stand by it. This brainchild of local producer and performer Charles Allison brings every day of his 20 years in the scene to bear. Not really so long a time for a rough lump of coal to be turned into such a polished little gem.
Allison is joined in this project by Josh Bates on guitar and harmonies, Ian Waters on keys and harmonies, John Lazenby on bass, Todd Garland on drums and Matt Campbell on percussion. While the project may be Allison’s concept, it would be unfair to assume that any of the players wasn’t just as invested in the work.
These songs aren’t played, or recorded, they are crafted, lovingly, with a great deal of time and attention paid to getting them “just so”. The precision of their construction is so refined that you don’t really notice it. Every tune sounds light and dreamy…breezy perhaps. But make no mistake—no one attains this level of good-natured “laid back” without putting some serious effort in to it.
“As Long As You’re There” reminds me of the Shins (before the lady-boy from Scrubs ruined them). I’ve listened to it at least a dozen times today and could go for another dozen without getting tired.
The next track, “Maybe We Should Break Up Now” starts off with a dash of mid-’60s Beatles (what I consider their artistic peak) but then unexpectedly takes a page or two from Elvis Costello (honestly, the title should have been a clue).
Full disclosure: I have no idea if either of those artists served as inspiration for this tune. What I am saying is that when I hear it, that’s who it evokes. Purposefullly or not, there is definitely some common ground there.
The third track, “Misunderstanding,” is a little trickier to decipher. It…it almost seems a touch, disco. Before anyone takes offense let me offer some context: Imagine a sonic version of “Iron Chef” in which the winner was given a box of disco parts and told to make something beautiful out of it.
The final track is the acoustic tune “As Long As You’re There” which honestly makes me think of what the Everly Brothers might have done had they been born in the ’70s.
Okinawa is currently working on a full-length album, and rest assured you will hear about it here as soon it’s ready to go. In the meantime, the band can be found playing around town regularly, particularly at Honest Pint and JJ’s Bohemia.
Go see them. Bring a date. You’ll understand why later.