Freeradicals Projekt: Maui’s Rising Stars
By Madeline Ziecker
What do you get when you combine an Argentinian guitar hero, a Cuban rapper, a Texan songbird, a Colorado sax player, and a Maui-based percussionist? Meet Freeradicals Projekt, a Haiku-based band that has successfully created their own unique genre of soul-hop electro-funk jazz-rock.
ABOUT THE BAND
Freeradicals Projekt began with guitarist and songwriter Rama Covarrubias in 2010 when, ironically, he finally gave up trying to form a band. He says now that it was this act of surrender that finally brought him the band members he had always wanted.
“We were all in the exact same space when we united, none of us were looking for one another, but we found each other and this thing took off almost effortlessly,” recalls Rama.
The band was formed piece by piece, a project indeed, starting with the union of Rama Covarrubias and vocalist Frankie Perez. Frankie says that he remembers meeting Rama when he performed solo at Maui Kombucha in Haiku. Frankie, like Rama going solo, had taken a musical hiatus.
“We became friends and discovered that we both liked to play music. We got involved in each others lives and soon it was more than just music. We instantly became family. We had no intention of taking it anywhere but then it turned into this. It’s beautiful.”
Shortly after Rama and Frankie started collaborating, they saw saxophonist Ami Shorr playing at North Shore Cafe right next to Maui Kombucha and asked him to start playing with them. When they realized that they had started a band
that was actually working and progressing, Rama decided it was time to call his good percussionist friend Michael Lawton, who he used to play with in Kihei. Michael joined the band and eventually moved to Haiku so as to be more involved in Freeradicals Projekt.
The band was made complete when vocalist Shea Derrick approached them after their phenomenal kick-off concert at Moana in 2010. All members agree that this was one of their favorite concerts because it marked a moment where they really began to feel like a collective.
“I had recently met Shea at the Moana concert and she said she sang. When I asked her to sing for me, I wasn’t prepared for the sound of her voice – stunning. It was the missing ingredient. She was the ‘soul’ in Soulfire Radio. It really came together when Shae got involved,” says Ami Shorr.
Though the band is diligent about having weekly practice, much of their fresh sound is the result of spontaneous moments even outside of the studio, just spending time together. “Most of the music we make together comes from improv,” says Ami.
As far as writing the songs down once they are conceived, Shea Derrick says, “We all contribute to the song writing process, but Rama is ‘El Hefe,’ the boss. He eats, sleeps and breathes Freeradicals Project.” Rama also came up with the band’s name when he heard the word free radicals, mistaking what it meant but creating a charming definition of his own.
“I misinterpreted the meaning the first time I heard it and I thought it sounded so cool. I wanted to be free and radical! I completed the name with “projekt” because it is and always will be a development and an ongoing expression of our love for music.”
ABOUT THE ALBUM
Freeradicals Projekt released their album Soulfire Radio this year and is for sale on both iTunes and Spotify. Each song on the album tells a completely different story and incorporates unique elements brought by the diverse band members, some even without words.
At one of their recent band practices in preparation for their acoustic concert at Carden Academy Annual Fall Festival, the band played a rendition of track 5 on the album, “Isla.” In this version Shae carried a powerful melody and lyric from the Cuban national anthem under Frankie’s Spanglish rhymes.
Track 8 of the album, “If You Want Me To Stay,” possesses a gritty and pretty funk sound similar to “Everybody Got That Something” by Nikka Costa.
Perhaps the lyric from Soulfire Radio that reveals the most about Freeradicals Projekt is from track three, “Movement.”
“We ain’t gonna hold our tongue, we kick that culture drum. The Freeradicals Projekt has just begun.”
Those who are die-hard Freeradicals Projekt fans will fly to Oahu to see them perform at Hallowbaloo Music & Arts Festival Saturday, October 29th at the Loft Gallery & Lounge.
The band’s next domestic show will be at Charley’s in Paia on October 29 at 9 p.m.