Based in St. Petersburg by way of the Bahamas, Fiji, and the Amazon jungle, The Hip Abduction is a band whose sound encompasses the globe, but especially Africa and the islands. Thankfully, they avoid the token repetition of the standard reggae fare by blending it with traditional African instruments, thoughtful lyrics, and jam sensibilities. This is music meant to be experienced outside, with the sun at your back, and a brew in hand.
The folks at Blend Lounge are providing just that, with a full block party in downtown Pensacola on Saturday from 12-5. The event includes a bartending competition at 1, with all proceeds benefiting Domestic Violence Awareness.
O&A spoke with guitarist and lead singer David New about how his time in the Bahamas changed him and how the connection between music and nature has shaped both his worldview and the band’s sound.
O&A: Where did that initial interest in the band’s true African sound come?
New: I’ve always listened to music from all over the world. One of the first records I ever owned was Paul Simon’s Graceland. From there, I studied and followed all the artists affilliated with that album in South Africa, West Africa, and Zimbabwe.
O&A: With such a unique collective sound, how did you all come together? Were you showing up at the same shows?
New: It was more the singer-songwriter thing. You pick up a drummer, then you pick up a bass player on Craigslist, and oddly enough, out in the ocean surfing.
O&A: Nature seems to run all through the band’s sound, lyrics and videos. What’s the connection between music and natural world?
New: For a lot of people including myself, nature is a type of church or sanctuary. I never really had a niche for music or who I really was until I started exploring the world in my two years living in the Bahamas.
O&A: How long were you in the Bahamas?
New: Two and a half years. One of our guys lived in the Amazon jungle for a couple years, and another spent a year in Fiji. All sorts of beauty can grow out of the emptiness and stillness that nature provides.
O&A: There’s also a huge sense of positivity that runs through your music. Where does that come from?
New: A lot of it comes through that same connection to nature. I’m not preaching or trying to spread anything, but any sort of music that makes people happy in this world is good for the future of any community. It also comes from living in the islands for a while. I met a lot of generally happy people who love living off the land, and doing the best with what they have.
O&A: Talk about the moment it became serious for the band, when you realized this was something that could truly be special.
New: Our first sold-out home show in 2010 was surreal, but once our second album hit the Billboard charts, our fire was lit.
O&A: Does life on the road ever get tiring?
New: It’s tough. Even though we’re gone three and half months out of the year, it feels like you’re gone nine months, between the actual travel, sleeping on random couches, and bandmates snoring. It’s rough, but it’s amazing at the same time. I can’t imagine being on tour as a cover band where you’re not playing your own music and you don’t get people cheering for your own original stuff. That’d be soul-killing.
O&A: Why are you going the Kickstarter route in funding the new record?
New: We need money! That’s number one. It’s also a way to let your fans know what’s going on and be generally connected to the band. We’ve never had more response from anything else we’ve released. Before this, people would say, “Oh, cute. He’s in a band.” But now, people are blown away.
O&A: Nothing’s real until it’s on the Internet!
New: Yeah, it’s on the interwebs!. My Mom won’t think I’m doing well until I’m on Ellen. They’re playing us on radio stations across the country, but it doesn’t register to my parents.
Back to Kickstarter. The bottom line is that we want to be able to control it all. We’ve worked hard and saved money, and I don’t want to dish out 50% to a record label. I don’t want to give up our rights.
O&A: SiriusXM station Jam On just premiered your new single “Come Alive”. Are you surprised by the amount of support you’ve gotten from the jam community?
New: A little bit, yes. We appreciate every fan. I didn’t know if the reggae rock thing was our scene. We aren’t singing about Jah and weed every song. But we do have some reggae going on, and we do like to jam, so it makes sense. Jam fans are truly dedicated to all aspects of the music, from the live shows to actually buying the records. You don’t get that from the pop world.
WHAT: THE HIP ABDUCTION
WHEN: Saturday, November 14, 3-5p.m.; bartending competition at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Blend Lounge, 200 S. Palafox
COST: Free; all proceeds from booze and BBQ sales benefit Domestic Violence Awareness
DETAILS: thehipabduction.com or blendlounge.com/land/beatsbbq