Devotees of the chilled out laid-back sentiment that pervades the very fabric of life in South Florida, Ft. Lauderdale-based reggae band, Bushwood, has excelled where many other acts have failed: painting a vivid portrait of where we live and depict some aesthetically beautiful soundscapes through their verses and their atmospherically vivid instrumentation. Vocalist Steven Ross Voronkov, bassist and backing vocalist Adam Moskowitz, drummer and percussionist Jon Cross, and keyboard player Claudio Napoles, comprise the Bushwood line up and bring with them a sound that seeks to forge elements of funk, classic and roots rock, as well as reggae into a cohesive, flowing cadence.
The flourishes of flowing guitar are resolutely melodic, prolonging themselves into ornately-layered solos that play delightfully off of Voronkov’s vocals, which harken to 311’s Nick Hexum. The bass lines undulate discretely, driving forward, buttressing the double-pronged foundation laid down on the drums and keys. The band dexterously conjures vivid soundscapes that are evocative of water, the ocean, and of good times on the beach – a respite from the worry and the tediousness of the mundane day-to-day grind.
One of the stronger local releases of last year, Bushwood’s self-titled studio release provided every indication of a band that had emerged with complete poise as well as an uncanny sense of identity that is rare in an up-and-coming group. Rather than struggling against the influx of many different, mutually exclusive ideas, which often result in muddled, overwrought releases stinking of pretention, Bushwood have created something that can appeal to a wide array of conventional listeners – from anyone with an appreciation for Reggae, swirling guitar solos, and upbeat verses. It is this lack of a proclivity for the superfluous that is a hallmark of Bushwood’s recordings, seeking instead to instill good vibes through their markedly skilled hand as an ensemble. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Bushwood, and try to gain a better understanding behind precisely what drives these talented South Florida musicians.
So you’ve been playing as a band for quite some time now. When did you first start playing together, and what experience did you gain on the scene prior to this happening?
We’ve been playing as Bushwood since 2009, but we’ve all grown up playing in other rock bands in the past including Break 27, Skwint, Aurora, A Daylight Away, and The Big Screen. From those experiences, we’ve learned countless lessons about band dynamics, how to book shows, record in the studio, and most importantly how to listen. When this band began, it was mostly just jams that were later turned into sections of songs, but as we’ve progressed and evolved, we’ve taken a new approach to the craft of song writing, and we believe the songs on our upcoming album are our best ever.
The Bushwood sound features much more in the way of guitar solos and heavy riffing than is typical for conventional reggae. Where did you draw the inspiration for creating this bigger, more atmospheric take on the genre?
Well first and foremost, we LOVE to jam. We live for those moments inside a groove, when the music seems to manifest itself through our bodies and truly nothing else matters. The band originally developed as a “power trio,” leaving a lot of musical space for the room-shaking bass grooves of Adam Moskowitz and solid pulsating drum beats of Jon Cross. Our guitarist Steven Ross Voronkov comes from a background heavily drenched in classic rock, with heavy influences ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Jimi Hendrix. We recently added Claudio Napoles, who is an absolute magician on the keyboards, and supplies that much-needed reggae “bubble” in abundance. He has allowed us to deepen our sound and further develop our song writing as a four-headed unit.
Basically, our music is a collection of our deepest influences with a South Florida twist. A potent mix of the roots reggae and positive lyrics of Bob Marley & The Wailers, with a splash of Sublime’s upbeat California party vibe, a sprinkle of the blues-based jamming of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, mixed with the passion and songwriting skills of Zac Brown, all with the underlying funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in their John Frusciante era.
If there’s any particular ambience you really want to put through into your verses and into your sound, what would it be?
Positivity. Living life to the fullest. Letting it flow, and sharing good times with great friends. One of our main sources of inspiration comes from the ocean. There is something mystical and beautiful about it that completely clears your mind of any and all worries; whether it be chillin at the beach or snorkeling at a reef down in the Keys, this is when we feel most centered and at peace with the world.
What kind of role does South Florida life play a role in the lyrics you write and the music you play?
Honestly it’s difficult to separate the two. We are based out of east Fort Lauderdale, right by the water, and we’ve always had the influence of the ocean on our sound. We identify completely with reggae music, and believe it’s no surprise that it is prevalent in areas by the sea. It is a hypnotic form of music, undulating much like waves on a sandy beach. Like the majority of songwriters, we write about relationships – not just between man and woman, but man and his environment. These relationships have ups and downs but are constant as long as you are alive. We write what we know about life, nature, and humanity and use it as the foundation for our aural journeys. We believe the best writing is a balanced mixture of what we know and what we seek. Our South Florida upbringing and current lifestyle definitely contribute to that mix.
You released your self-titled LP last year. How was the process of transitioning to getting into the studio together and working on songs, as opposed to the usual process of playing live gigs where you’d have more freedom, at least from a creative and performance standpoint?
When we finally got into the studio in April 2011, we had been playing most of the songs live for some time and were ready to get into the studio. We were anxious to show the world what we have been working on, and finally give people something to bump in their car, boat, iPhone, wherever! So we played a few shows, saved up the cash, and went to Contrast Studios in Boca Raton, FL with engineer Richard Salino and busted out the 10 tracks. We recorded them live all together in one room. We wanted to capture the vibe, the feeling of three musicians on the same wavelength jamming their hearts out. We feel that music, when done right, connects humans better than any artistic medium, and we were definitely striving to capture that feeling on the record. At the same time, we couldn’t stop ourselves from writing new material, like the song “In Control” which was played in the studio for the 1st time, and the version that made it on our debut album was our 3rd take ever, proving that the 3rd time actually is the charm. Because of that, it sounds really fresh. We are really proud of the songs and how the album sounds thanks to our good friend and mix master deluxe Eric “Dirty” Kaufman at Fish Tank Studios in St. Augustine, FL.
So now that you’ve gotten your first album under your belt, what are your plans for the immediate future and beyond? What can we hope to hear on upcoming releases?
We are ecstatic about getting back into the studio in the next few months to record our sophomore album, tentatively titled Tidal Wave. We have all new material that we’ve been jamming and fleshing out at all of our live shows, including our most recent opening slots for Badfish (Sublime Tribute) at Revolution in March, and Through The Roots at Culture Room in May. We are extremely excited about this project, and we known it will be our proudest accomplishment yet – we are absolutely in love with the music. It shows how we have progressed as both individual musicians and as a band, especially since our new keyboard player Claudio will be featured on the recording, and we have plans to have some saxophone and guest vocals on there too. Also, for those that may not know, we have an EP out there featuring acoustic versions of many of the songs on our debut album, which is available on our website, and we hope it will hold our fans over until the new album is ready.
What is your favorite venues to play down here in South Florida, and why?
For bigger shows, we absolutely love The Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale. We’ve all grown up going to shows there, and to have actually been featured on that stage, in the same exact spot where so many of our heroes have played their instruments, was a huge honor. We’ve played there 3 times now, opening for Zach Deputy, The Movement, and Through The Roots. The sound is exquisite, the light show is psychedelic, and they are as professional as can be. At our first show there, we even had Mr. Zach Deputy himself come on stage with us and sing “I Shot the Sheriff, but I did not shoot Zach Deputy!” It was an amazing experience that we won’t soon forget. The most recent time we played there, while hanging backstage before the show we had an acoustic jam with Biggz General who is the grandson of Bob Marley! Those types of experiences fire us up and just make us want to keep playing, keep writing, keep on keepin on.
For smaller, more intimate shows, our favorite place to play is definitely Kahuna’s in Deerfield Beach. The vibe there matches our music perfectly, it’s just steps from the water, has a great staff, and every single time we play there it is a party! The crowd is always amazing, and the place is always packed wall to wall with people singing our lyrics. Frankly, there is no better feeling than the energy exchange when the crowd is jamming out to the music and vibes you are putting out there. It’s an indescribable feeling. We are usually there once a month on a Friday night, so definitely check our website for upcoming dates, as we are always adding.
Finish this sentence. Support local music because…
It is your destiny! But seriously, do it because there are countless musicians out there making great original music that deserves to be heard. We want to take this opportunity to thank each and every person that has given us their most valuable asset, their time. We recently read a blog the compared making music to having a bakery. “Enjoy baking, sell your bread. If people like it, sell more. Keep the bakery going because you’re making good food and people are happy.” It’s the same with music… We play music because we love to play, and we believe, if you love what you do, you are successful, all else is icing on the cake.