Miami dance-funk band Xotic Yeyo are three zany guys with the coolest name, and they’re bound and determined to get our asses on the dance floor. Serving up the funky psychedelic grooves are Stu Sauce on guitar and lead vocals, Rod Reiter on bass and backing vocals, and Cody Orange on drums. Their fun, upbeat sound is influenced by funk greats like Parliament, Curtis Mayfield, Average White Band, Prince, Gil Scott Heron, Phish, Primus and Jamiroquai, among others.
The guys dropped their debut EP Down 2 Funk in late 2016, and followed up in Spring 2018 with a full-length album Chocolate Decadence, featuring 10 tracks guaranteed to funk you up! (I reviewed both releases, and you can check them out in the links under “Related” at the bottom of this post.) The risqué artwork for their EP and album are a good indication of their playful attitude and approach to their music: don’t take yourself too seriously, let loose, and have a good time. With that philosophy in mind, they now return with funky new single “Slide to the Left“, along with a fun and campy video.
The song is essentially about getting down on the dance floor and having fun. The track opens with electronically altered vocals that lend a spacey psychedelic vibe, then Stu lays down a funky riff that gets us on our feet, turning wobbly in the bridge. He challenges us to get into the groove: “Are you ready to get funky tonight!” Rod and Cody keep a tight rhythm with their funked-up bass and cooler than cool drums. It’s an infectious feel-good track guaranteed to bring a smile to our faces and put our hips in motion!
The song was recorded at City of Progress Studios in North Miami by DJ Spam of the Spam Allstars, and mastered by Eli S. Oyola at Trackset Studios in Winter Haven. Guest musicians include Mpa Melanie on backing vocals and Oski Gonzalez on congas.
The delightful video depicts Stu as a sort of funky pied piper, using his sexy moves to attract people on the street to join him in the latest ‘slide to the left’ galactic dance craze. It was filmed by Dave E. Drones of Dream Kinetics, and stars Stu as Disco Funk Jesus, along with band members Rod Reiter and Cody Orange. Also appearing in the video are band friends Aimee Beah Moore, Kyra Kennaugh, Sarah Worgess, Sharon Dubash, Danielle Livingston, Evan Hoffman, Jose Deveaux, Jessica Bass and Brook Hamilton.
PandaRama is a creative young alternative pop/rock band from Miami, epicenter for the thriving South Florida music scene. (I’ve featured quite a number of South Florida artists & bands on this blog, including Above the Skyline, Sunghosts, Dyslexic Postcards, Xotic Yeyo, Raker and John Defeo.) I also happen to have an adorable cat named Panda, so it’s only natural I’d like a band called PandaRama.
The band was formed 2014 by Christian “Panda” Benabe (vocals) and Steven Quintanilla (guitar) while they were students at Miami-Dade College, and they were joined two years later by drummer William Snyder. In September 2016 they released their first EP 37.5%, a solid effort with five very good tracks, and in May of this year, they dropped a new EP Mixed Messages. They’re currently working on recording a full-length album, but wanted to showcase their softer side. So, they recorded acoustic versions of a few songs, which resulted in the more ambient and experimental approach used on Mixed Messages, and I think they turned out quite nicely. The songs all address troubled relationships with honest, biting lyrics set to sublime melodies.
For the first track “Toxic,” PandaRama skillfully melds elements of acoustic folk/rock with synthpop to create a great-sounding and powerfully moving song. Despite the dark subject matter, the instrumentals are beautiful, with Steven’s intricate, rapidly strummed guitar work, accompanied by swirling synths and a gentle drumbeat. Panda’s commanding vocals are filled with emotion as he sings the bitter lyrics about a relationship damaged beyond repair: “This could be toxic. The grievances we hold. This is toxic. The story left untold. Those beautiful lies we left behind. We slowly killed ourselves inside.”
“Someone Save Me” is a poignant ballad about someone in a precarious emotional state pleading with a loved one to help him keep it together: “Give me a reason to stay. Why shouldn’t I throw it all away? Instead of you standing there, show me that you really care. Prove yourself to me. / Recovery is a couple of words away. Giving up is an action I won’t take. All I need is to hear you go ‘Someone save me’.”
My favorite track is “Sweet Daughter of Blood,” a lovely song about a not so lovely woman. The gorgeous music, consisting mostly of delicate keyboard synths and Steven’s exquisite acoustic guitar work, sharply contrasts with the scathing lyrics, sung by Panda with an icy bitterness:
Disguising your lies with those pretty eyes Oh boy what a joy just to have you around Dear pretty girl you reeked of disaster Make your plans, have them run a little faster As you separate all in the family
Fooled just a little Harbored a meany devil Sick twisted individual Monster, monster, monster We had a monster, monster, monster She was a monster, monster, monster There goes the monster, monster, a monster Good riddance to the monster
Hey sweet daughter of blood I’m kicking you from my life to throw you in the mud Guilty, with treason in the family You don’t really care, watch us suffer everywhere But no, not today. In hell you will stay So burn away
As the song draws to a close, the hauntingly beautiful guitar riff is gradually replaced with sounds of crackling flames. I love it!
Xotic Yeyo is an entertaining band with a cool name, and they’re bound and determined to get our asses on the dance floor with their funky psychedelic rock grooves. The Miami-based threesome consists of Stu Sauce on guitar and lead vocals, Rod Reiter on bass and backing vocals, and Cody Orange on drums. Their upbeat sound is influenced by funk greats like Parliament, Curtis Mayfield, Average White Band, Prince, Gil Scott Heron, Phish, Primus and Jamiroquai, among others.
The guys dropped their debut EP Down 2 Funk in November 2016, which I reviewed, and are now back with a full-length album Chocolate Decadence, featuring 10 tracks guaranteed to funk you up! (The three original tracks from Down 2 Funk are included on Chocolate Decadence.) The artwork for both their EP and album are pretty risqué, and a good indication of their playful attitude and approach to their music: don’t take yourself too seriously, let loose, and have a good time.
That’s immediately evident on the zany opening track “Heyo Yeyo Mr. Snowman.” It’s a humorous take on a Christmas holiday song, with silly lyrics sung by Stu’s grainy vocals, but when the guys lay down some funky grooves, it all works. And it goes without saying that the video would be as crazy as the song, with a Black Santa passing out small gift boxes filled with snow – a precious commodity in South Florida where it never snows. (Interestingly, both ‘yeyo’ and ‘snow’ are slang for cocaine, but I’m sure it’s meant only as a pun in the video.)
One of the things I really like about Xotic Yeyo is how their songs sound like they’re being played live. On many of their tracks, they launch into what seem like mini jam sessions, giving them a spontaneous lo-fi vibe that sounds fresh and never over-produced. Some great examples of this can be found on tracks like “You, Me & the Funk,” with it’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics “A ménage a trois out on this dance floor. / Gonna funk so hard, you’ll never funk nomore.”
Another is“Disco Zombies,” an infectious earworm with great guitar riffs and jazzy grooves set to a catchy dance beat. Stu sings of the perils of looking for romance on the dance floor: “Fall in love on the dance floor with disco zombies that take control. Fall in love on the dance floor, they bite your neck and they suck your soul.” And one of the best is “Trip the Lights,” a six and a half minute long funk fest. I love Stu’s wobbly distorted guitar riff that continues throughout the song, backed by Rod’s funky bass and Cody’s strutting drums and crashing cymbals.
The guys take a mellower turn on “Love Triangle,” a pleasing track with a laid back R&B/hip hop tempo. Stu’s guitar work is terrific, and nicely complemented by Rod’s smooth bass line and Cody’s cool percussion. Stu’s gentler vocals sound really nice on this track, especially when harmonizing with Rod’s backing vocals.
The guys sing about who they are and what they do on the delightfully funky “Mothership,” which I think should have been the first track on the album. The band’s funky style is in full swing on this track, with Stu’s awesome guitar riffs in perfect rhythmic harmony with Rod’s funked-up bass. Stu’s quirky, rapid-fire vocals inject a playful hip-hop energy that makes this a fantastic tune. The song’s video shows the guys performing the song and cavorting with friends, clearly enjoying what they’re doing and proving they’re all about having fun and wanting their listeners and fans to have fun too.
Catch Xotic Yeyo at one of these upcoming shows:
Apr 19 Dada – Delray Beach, FL Apr 27 Kilted Mermaid – Vero Beach, FL May 17 Orange Blossom Jamboree – Brooksville, FL May 18 The Warrior – Tallahassee, FL
Alternative rock band Above the Skyline has been making a major impact on the South Florida music scene over the past few years. Beginning with the release of their acclaimed 2015 EP A Different Breed, the Miami-based band followed up with a superb album Go For Broke in 2016 (which I reviewed). They’ve now dropped a terrific new album Fall Right Into Place, and they sound better than ever. Their songwriting and musicality have continued to mature, with more complex melodies, a fuller, more expansive sound, greater confidence in their vocals, and tighter production values.
Making up the band are Eric Green on guitar, Zach Wood on keyboards and vocals, Chloe Santiago on drums, Alec Enriquez on bass, and Sierra Karr on vocals. Having both a male and female lead vocalist is relatively rare among bands, and gives Above the Skyline’s sound a greater vibrancy. And it’s an added bonus when both singers have great voices. This is clearly evident on the lively opening track “Shadow,” where Zach and Sierra sound awesome both individually and together. Their vocals harmonize together so beautifully that they’re a real pleasure to hear. The guitar and drums are on-point, and the glittering keyboards are especially nice.
Next up is “Fears,” a catchy, uptempo song that’s one of the album’s standouts. Once again, Zach and Sierra sound fantastic as they sing about being afraid of getting romantically involved: “What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of darling? Show me what you’re made of. Are you into strange love? If what you fear is what you want, lend me your ear. Do you love me not?” The instrumentals are superb, and I love Alec’s bass riff opener that continues throughout the track. The entertaining video shows a vintage TV screen with footage from horror films interspersed with scenes of the band members acting silly.
The wonderful kiss-off “Empêcher” starts off with a piano riff and military drumbeat, then explodes with Eric’s shredded guitar, Alec’s buzzing bass and Chloe’s crashing cymbals. Zach and Sierra snarl the biting lyrics “You’re a waste of time, no no no. You’re a waste of life, no no no. Tell me what can you do on your own. You’re impeached now, go home!” On the hard-hitting rocker “Do the Same,” the band’s skilled musicianship is on full display. All the instrumentals sound completely in sync, with strong piano keys holding their own with the aggressive layered guitars, bass and drums.
The band’s talent for writing romantic ballads is evidenced by “She Waits,” a beautiful piano-driven song about two lovers separated by time and distance, longing to be together again: “Let me tell you a little story that was made for two. Who knows it all, who is one to judge. All we know for sure is his sweetheart waits for him to get home.” The lush, sweeping orchestration in the bridge is gorgeous, and Zach and Sierra’s soaring heartfelt vocals bring chills. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.
At the album’s halfway point is “Kairi’s Melody,” a lovely minute-long instrumental interlude with a Coldplay vibe. The next few tracks showcase the band’s signature piano-driven, high-energy rock sound. “Crazy Place,” “Aegis” and “Breathe In” are fast-paced tunes with some amazing riffs, and Zach and Sierra sound great as always.
The band lets loose on the rousing “No Money,” another one of my favorite album cuts. The song is straight-up rock’n’roll with an exuberant foot-stomping beat pounded out by Chloe’s skilled drumming. The jazzy interlude in the bridge, courtesy of some really fine piano, sax and xylophone, is marvelous. Zach and Sierra fervently wail “We don’t care about your money. We just want your attention.” It’s an awesome track.
The album closes with the pop-rock track “Inside Your Brain.” The band employs all the instruments in their arsenal – keyboards, guitars, bass and drums – plus string synths to create a lush, dynamic soundscape. Zach and Sierra’s impassioned vocals plead for honesty from a loved one in a relationship that’s failing: “If I could pick your brain I’d resolve the things that are better left unsaid / Don’t tell me it’s not too late / Stop playing your game. What can I possibly do to get inside of your brain?”
With Fall Right Into Place Above the Skyline delivers another solid, well-crafted album, giving us every indication they’re a band that takes their music seriously while still having fun. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to review both of their albums, and look forward to doing more as their musical journey continues.
I seem to be drawn to the South Florida music scene, because here I am reviewing my fifth Miami-based band in less than a year. I’ve previously featured SunGhosts, Above the Skyline, Dyslexic Postcards and Xotic Yeyo on this blog, and now I turn my spotlight on a couple of talented musicians who call themselves RAKER. Specifically, RAKER is Michael Sarasti and Andy Rodriguez, who play an intriguing style of experimental indie rock, and they cover all aspects of their music and its production. As stated in their Twitter bio, they “deal in guitars, pedals, machines, buttons, and songs.” Sarasti plays guitar and is lead vocalist and Rodriguez plays bass and provides backup harmonies on their songs.
The guys just dropped their gorgeous new single “Gospel” in late December 2016, and I was smitten the moment I heard it. The song immediately grabs hold with a mesmerizing guitar riff, accompanied by gentle percussion and smooth synths and set to a languid beat. Andy’s layered bass loops beautifully throughout, and Mike’s vocals are beguiling and heartfelt as he sings of trying to salvage a troubled relationship: “Oh baby don’t you waste no time. These are the trials that bind our kind. / Just when you think it’s all an end, we’re on the rise.” The instrumentals, vocals and arrangement are all first-rate, making for an incredibly pleasing, well-crafted song. Take a listen:
South Florida has a vibrant music scene, thanks to a diverse, multi-cultural population with a tremendous mix of influences. Several months ago I wrote a feature on the Miami-based indie rock band SunGhosts, and now I shine a spotlight on the young, incredibly talented five member collective Above The Skyline. They play an edgy style of alternative pop/rock with touches of R&B, funk and punk. Following up on their acclaimed 2015 EP A Different Breed, the young band (all are in their early 20’s) have released an ambitious new album Go For Broke.
Their bio states “the band prides itself on being different but yet producing a sound that everyone can love and listen to with ease.” That’s certainly the case, as Go For Broke is chock-full of melodic tunes that feature catchy hooks, complex, multi-layered guitar riffs, dynamic percussion and really fine vocals. Making this great music are Chloe Santiago on drums, Eric Green on guitar, Zach Wood on keyboards and vocals, Alec Enriquez on bass, and Peach Martine on vocals. Chloe and Eric, who’ve known each other since they were kids and have been playing together for more than 12 years, formed Above The Skyline in 2013. Within a year, Zach, Alec and Peach joined the band, completing the current lineup.
Despite their youth, all have extensive musical backgrounds. Eric began studying music history and theory at the age of five, along with taking piano lessons, and at nine he began studying guitar. He met Chloe while taking lessons at Music Depot, and eventually was part of a couple of hardcore metal bands. Chloe started playing drums at seven, and played in marching bands in middle and high school. Zach is grateful his mother forced him to take piano lessons, which eventually led him to learn saxophone and percussion as well. He also played in middle and high school marching bands. Alec began studying guitar in high school, and eventually fell in love with the bass. Peach, who not only sings, but is also a songwriter and actress, has been writing and recording since penning her first song on the piano at age six. She plays piano, guitar, some violin and harmonica.
The album opens strong with “Another Side of Me,” a power-ballad that introduces us to the band’s killer guitars and highly melodic music style. Buzzing guitars work in tandem with a driving drumbeat and Alec’s heavy bass, resulting in a crazy-good track. Zach fervently sings “All I want you to do is stop being you. You’ve got another side of me that I don’t want none of.” The catchy, energetic “Counting Heartbeats” comes at us with a thumping drumbeat and shredded guitars, then we’re hit with Peach’s commanding vocals and, halfway through the song, assertive piano is introduced, adding complexity to the track.
“Do I Really Look Like I’m a Guy With a Plan Margot” is a standout track, and one of my favorites on the album. Its incredible arrangement – featuring thunderous guitar riffs, pummeling drums, intricate piano and soaring violin – give it a rock opera vibe. Zach’s powerful vocals match the intensity of the music. Plus, it’s a great song title! The band channels the Red Hot Chili Peppers a bit on “Entitled,” with guitar chords similar to the awesome ones used in their classic “Dani California.” Peach’s vocals soar, aided by Zach’s backing harmonies, and the organ solo is terrific.
Peach’s considerable singing talents are on full display on the beautiful anthem “Feel the Light.” Her vocals soar (there’s that word again, but it so applies here) with the lush orchestration. It’s Zach’s turn to shine on the hard-driving “Fireball,” on which our ears are treated to more killer guitar work and Chloe’s powerful drums. The title track “Go For Broke” features harmonizing vocals by Zach and Peach, accompanied by a driving beat and gnashing guitars. Synth chords are introduced two-thirds of the way into the track, giving it a bit of a psychedelic feel. This is a great song.
“See Where We Go” is the first single, just released in advance of the album, and it’s definitely a radio-friendly track with a catchy hook, energetic upbeat melody and sizzling harmonic vocals by Zach and Peach. Watch the lyric video here:
The gorgeous ballad “Strength” is another standout track, and my absolute favorite. Musically, the song is very different from the others on the album, with only beautiful piano and violin, and Zach’s heartfelt vocals are captivating. It’s the type of song that will have many people – me included – tearing up halfway through. The lyrics are so powerfully moving: “And I know it’s so hard when these walls are caving in. But I stare and wonder at this war you’re gonna win. Cause you give me the strength just to make it through the night when we’re with you. I’m in awe of all your wonderful acts of courage that you do. But this time we have is not all that’s left.”
With an abrupt jolt, the album closes with the hard rock gem “Tonight.” Blazing machine gun riffs intertwined with Eric’s shimmery guitars, heavy bass and crashing cymbals make this one exhilarating badass tune, proving beyond any doubt that Above The Skyline is a band with formidable talents. With an exceptional EP and full album now under their belts, they have a promising future, and I’m certain we’ll be hearing much more to come from them.
To learn more about Above the Skyline, visit their website. Support them by liking them on Facebook and following on Twitter. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and stream their music on Soundcloud. Go For Broke is available for purchase on iTunes and other platforms offering music for purchase.