Review: "Love Me More" (LASF.com)
Review: "Love Me More" (LASF.com)http://www.lasfmagazine.com/evolution-beats-garrett-stevens--the-interview.html
June 19, 2014 at 10:16 PM
Garrett Stevens of Evolution Beat
Love Me Still, single/ Golden Planet Records
June 2014 By: KJ Norman
“Well, I’m not exactly a fan of anything,” Garrett Stevens says. This is his response to my question about his current musical muses. He clarifies. He isn’t a fan, as in, a fanatic, not singly-minded; he does not obsess over a specific sound or style, he does not loop one song endlessly, he does not camp out on sidewalks to catch glimpses of a musical idol, he does not pore over phrases and melodies with hopes for emulation.
Stevens enjoys music immensely, all kinds, he assures me, but he does not claim one specific genre as the sole possessor of his ears and heart. He prefers instead to sit back and let the timbre and sonance of a song, any song, drift around him, cradle him. He wonders if listening too long, too closely to other artists’ work creeps into the subconscious and lessens the original intention. I prompt him, in my therapist-y way, “I want to talk more about that.”
He obliges my request by speaking to me by phone from his home —as he has called it for the past ten years—in Ventura, California. Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Garrett Stevens, one half of the duo comprising the pop-ska band Evolution Beat, shares his thoughts on magnetic collaborations, his Celtic-and-Country-Western roots and how pushing through paralyzing shyness creates an appreciation for one’s ability to become a genuine instrument of expression.
Stevens is originally from Lodi, California, a town nestled along the northern-most tip of Golden State’s Central Valley. It’s a place known both for its Zinfandel production and for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song of the same name. While Stevens doesn’t speak about his memories of Lodi, he does recall with an undeniable fondness in his voice of the days filled with singing and playing guitar alongside his gypsy-musician relatives as they drove around Southern California in the family station wagon. He grew up steeped in a culture of creators, artists, expressers and storytellers. Quite simply, “Music is in my blood,” he says.
It was an eight-year-old Garrett who first picked up a guitar and realized that music was as essential to him as breathing. In the mid 1980s, his mandolin-playing Uncle Fred brought young Stevens along with him in that vagabond station wagon, as they bumbled around country music legend Buck Owens’ adopted city of Bakersfield while trilling out country songs. Stevens may have deemed himself “not a fan” of any one musical genre or artist, however, he will reverently speak of his country-western music inspirations (“We listened to a lot of Dolly Parton”) as well as his Scottish-Irish Celtic DNA, “The sound of bagpipes makes me cry.”
Stevens’ musical submergence deepened as he began song writing and singing his compositions. He had played guitar for years, and realized how strongly he reacted to the essence, “ the soul and truth” of a composition when he blended the various instruments at his disposal—guitar, voice, lyrics. He does not follow a template when creating. He’ll often start with a chord structure, or a line of lyrics “and work backwards”, guided primarily by the strength of his emotional reactions.
“I’d be working on the drum machine or playing with a chord progression, and suddenly it would beckon a very strong emotion.” He likens songwriting to sculpting stone—a constant evolution based on reciprocity and response; words create the melodies and melodies create the words.
But what happens when the artist suffers from near-debilitating shyness? In the early days of band leading, Stevens had to force himself to sing publicly. It took exposure and repetition before he could perform in front of people without first breaking into a panicked sweat. One year, Stevens literally lost his voice and he found himself rehabilitating his vocal cords and also re-evaluating his philosophy on creativity. Perhaps losing one channel for musical communication was strong motivator for overcoming the shyness; and perhaps the experience of losing his voice and fighting to retrieve it serves as the fuel for his pursuit of authenticity in his craft today.
Stevens wonders if listening to a musician’s work truncates the listener’s musical vision. Or might expansion occur? Stevens himself was ensconced in influential experiences from a very young age—with Uncle Fred, and the great appreciation for his Celtic lineage. Later in life, in the midst of the Resurgence of Ska (I am partial to this time period as I enjoyed Fishbone and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones), Stevens and his band opened for the world-music funksters Sola Rosa of Auckland. The New Zealand band’s exotic and inventive consolidation of multi-genre styles may have gently urged Stevens towards exploration and challenge. At this time he was in an early materialization of his pop-funk band ElevatorSka, and/or one of his numerous other SoCal music groups. He remembers feeling drawn to the intoxicating results of integrated contemporary sounds with ska and reggae, the foundational elements of what would become Evolution Beat. Before the formulation of Evolution Beat in 2013, Stevens was the lead vocalist and guitar player in ElevatorSka, and Kerwin “Skooter” Williams was a sought-after studio bass player racking up notable collaborations (including Snoop Dogg) as well as impressive television and film score projects. Upon meeting, Stevens and Williams immediately meshed. Their newly created team shows great promise, if their first single is any indication.
Evolution Beat’s “Love Me More” is poppy, gleeful and perfectly suited for the commencement of summer time. It may actually be the audio equivalent to streaming sunshine. Stevens wasn’t expecting the sound that emerged from his collaboration with Williams. He had written the song a couple years earlier, but Williams’ re-mixing and melodic bass-playing gently morphed the original piece into an entirely new incarnation. He tells me, “Love Me More was great to record. Skooter’s producing and soul percussion brought a contemporary pop style that I like so much to the original composition. The synthesis, the fusion became something else.”
It became a fun, dance-infused ditty that leaves one little choice but to sway and bob along on the buoyant wave of an un-categorizable but unquestionably uplifting melody. “Love Me More” boasts a refreshing originality as it combines elements of pop, reggae, ska and funk, especially when considering Stevens’ light, sweetly straight-forward lyrics (All right/won’t you come and be with me/ All Night/ I want you only with me).
Finalizing production on Evolution Beat’s forthcoming EP has occupied most of Garrett Stevens’ time these days, so I thanked him or chatting with me about the intricacies of inspiration and the profound effect music evokes. Though he may claim non-fan status of categorized, specified musical acts, Stevens’ passionate description of musical resonance and magnetic collaborations with Williams reveals him to be quite an admirer after all.
*A video for “Love Me More”, is to be directed by Darren Grant (Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and videos for Beyonce, Common, Jay Z, etc.) and is in pre-production. *The single “Love Me More” is now available for purchase atiTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and more.
*Visit Evolution Beat’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Evolution-Beat/187676634590025