Alt-Pop Jam Band, Of Good Nature Expected To Play The Commodore 2/21
Written By Ashton Mullinax
There’s this weird human complex we’ve all developed: the necessity of defining things. Categories make us comfortable, they allow us to differentiate black from white, or rock from reggae. This is a habit I’d venture to say we often forget about, caught up in our every-present lists of definitions, but a pattern of which we should also be wary. The issue of genre is one every musician must confront, while dually facing the limitations that can arise when an artist must work within the bounds associated with their sound. As described by vocalist Cameron Brown, “We run into this question all the time because everyone's always like 'So what do you guys sound like?' and we're like ‘I don't fucking know.’” Charlotte vibe-inducers Of Good Nature has taught us a thing or two about the dangers of a pigeonholed sound. As you cruise through their discography, "reggae" is undoubtedly the first word that comes to mind. However, I discourage all of your labelings here, or you might miss the myriad of instrumentation and ideas that this group has brought to the table.
“Like a reggae jam-band that writes funk music performed by Bruno Mars,” is the closest description we could get for their new releases. This scattered account is great news for us listeners, as this means that their next full release will be an energetic mixture of sounds that aren’t typically associated with reggae, or any sound in general. “Be The Day,” is fueled by Brandon Hucks’ lazy trombone, implementing a unique take on the instrument. Fifteen years of toying with the brass sound, Hucks was able to push the instrument further, as he began to pedal his trombone. The pedal, normally associated with guitars, grants an array of effects to the trombone, producing a downward-wandering, melancholy sound that is rife throughout OGN’s catalog. Melancholy seems very divorced from the contentment and warmth reggae typically bolsters. However, the dreary brass adds a realist element to the conversation surrounding the genre, and especially to the conversation happening in the group’s new work. Brown illustrates the concepts at play in their new releases:
“A handful of love songs, breakup songs, this and that…but just more life songs, I think. The story of life and getting through that. That might include love, but it’s not like a love song.” The singles released throughout this year have struggled with notions of authenticity, fulfillment, and the general plight that is inherent to life. The struggle of trombone and lyricism coupled with a traditionally light-hearted reggae sound complicate the genre, giving it a certain depth, but also including an atypical instrument dynamic into what we might consider “reggae.”
Though we’ve settled on reggae-jam-band-funky-Bruno Mars as an overarching and coherent sound for upcoming OGN releases, their creative process pulls from an array of influences. These range anywhere from Hucks’ personal favorites of Kamasi Washington and Trombone Shorty, to drummer David Hamilton’s creative lineup of James “Godfather of Soul” Brown, Prince, and the Beatles. Equipped with such variable artists to guide them into production, OGN has settled on an overall mission in their music.
Brown states, "Bringing the old school into the new school is what we're attempting to do." Their music is a work in instrumental skill, apparent on recent single “Feels Right,” with a groovy discourse between guitar and trombone, but it’s also a work in unity. The group doesn’t pigeonhole their music specifically to reggae for many reasons, but especially because they find that reggae is much more than a general trend in sound. Out of respect, OGN prefers that they do not entirely subsume the reggae title. Brown explains,
“For true roots reggae musicians, it’s their religious music and their culture and their life, and then we just come through and call ourselves that, and we’re not trying to do that. That’s why we’re trying to find the right descriptive word for ourselves. Right now it's alternative-pop-jam-band-Bruno Mars."
While the lively, rocksteady sound remains evident in OGN’s discography, thanks to bassist Jon Reed’s pervasive funky basslines, the band notes that roots reggae was a significant influence due to the all-encompassing ideas underlying the culture and music. It’s a sound that tends to unify through both groovy instrumentation and general subject matter. For OGN, reggae is “a lot of unity, just coming together, especially the Southeast reggae scene. It doesn’t strictly mean reggae music. Roots reggae music means a crowd of people who enjoy being at the festivals and having a good time.” The group harks on the need for human connection, not specifically through happiness, but through a mutual understanding of what it is to experience life while remaining authentic to the self— a notion that can easily become clouded. “…I think we try to be positive, but also not every song is going to be a happy, positive song. But I think just overall it’s about just keeping at it and staying true to yourself…" Brown says about the assumed positivity associated with OGN.
This concept is carried out in the single "Be The Day" where Brown sings, “So how would you feel / if I was real? / not concealed,” or in “Easy Way Out” which lightly teeters on our tendencies towards unhappiness, simply asserting "If you feel that it's complicated / there ain't no reason to hate it/ you can turn it all around." A close look at OGN provides you with the sense of skill, direction, and, ultimately, authenticity.
As for the new pieces being released throughout the remainder of the year, OGN has taken the user-friendly route. By dropping a host of singles, listeners aren't having to devote too much time to go through an entire album, but will still have the opportunity to, once the group gathers the singles into an album. Until then, enjoy the easy listening format OGN has established, conveniently, on your favorite streaming services: Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp. And as for your expectations, dissipate them, and let the alternative-pop-jam-band-Bruno Mars energy take hold.
See OF GOOD NATURE and THE ELOVATERS - FULL ALIEN WINTER TOUR
Thursday, Feb 21st 8:00pm - 12:00am at The Commodore.