Summer Music: In OB Band Boostive, Childhood Friends Master Dub-Hop
In a new installment of our KPBS Summer Music Series, meet the Ocean Beach-based band Boostive, who've built on years of friendship to develop on-stage synergy and dub-hop success.
We continue our 2021 Summer Music Series with Boostive, a band based in the San Diego coastal community of Ocean Beach.
A few things are clear after spending any amount of time with Boostive. First, their sound balances countless musical styles and influences, and second, their years of friendship make for a synergy on stage.
The band has been working together for over a decade, making music and touring and mastering this distinct blend of styles. The core members have been friends since elementary school, but they've also built a large collective of collaborators and musicians.
"I would describe the Boostive sound as mixing roots, reggae and dub, golden era, hip hop, down tempo, electronic and just some jazz influences as far as horn section goes, and our rhythm section's versed in African and Latin rhythms. So it's a nice blend of everything that inspires us," said Seiji Komo, who is a producer and plays bass and guitar.
Many of the bandmates met in school and explored music together, some studied classical music, and several even had family members who were in bands. Vocalist Divina Dub's father was a musician when she was growing up.
"I was just around it all the time. They said I could sing before I could talk, supposedly," she said. "So I was fortunate enough to be around that."
A 'collective consciousness'
A big part of Boostive's experience as a band is how seamlessly they play together.
"There's so many different parts, and with a lot of bands that you see with our configuration, they have a lead person, one lead person, and then everybody has their roles. In Boostive, we all have our roles, too, but it's kind of like every single part of the band is the lead at different times," said Boostive percussionist and drummer Malachi Johnson. "Not a lot of bands are powerful enough and confident enough to do that, or maybe don't believe in every member as equally as Boostive does."
This translates as well in the songwriting process as it does on stage.
"We have a sensibility about where the feel and the groove and the beat falls, or if we're jamming, making something up, we have kind of a sixth sense, collective consciousness that kind of takes form where the song develops, and we kind of know where the next person is going to go at that specific time," said keyboard and saxophone player Nathan Kocivar. "Once you start playing with other people outside of this, it's like you might try and go to that telepathic space, and it's like, well, you didn't read my mind because we have so many years under our belt playing together."
A new label and high profile collabs
Boostive also have plenty to show for all their hard work — they've worked with Matisyahu and even toured with dub icon Lee "Scratch" Perry. Plus, they recently signed to Stoopid Records, the band Slightly Stoopid's record label.
Growing up, Komo was inspired by acts like George Clinton, and Earth, Wind and Fire, and was also influenced by a lot of the original music he heard sampled in modern hip hop tunes. As his friendship developed with Kocivar and guitar and bassist Dylan Webber, they also listened to more chill out music, like Thievery Corporation, Bonobo and more.
"I think we all kind of vibed on that style of music," Komo said. "And when we first started creating music, we were going in that downtempo ethereal kind of music."
On "Deo Da Toe Stalemate," they've collaborated with Lindsay Olsen, otherwise known as experimental musician and vocalist Salami Rose Joe Louis, as well as emcee Al Bundi.
And the band considers touring with Perry one of the more surreal parts of their careers.
"I told him that I love him and I appreciated everything he did for music and for me," Komo said. They also got to chat with the new musical director of Subatomic Sound on the tour, getting tips on mixing. "It was definitely life changing to meet those cats and learn their techniques and just watch them and see how important music is, not only just to listen to, but spiritually for Lee. And it's something I think we all took from that tour."
When asked how to define dub music, the band also brings up Perry, and the use of a mixing board as an actual instrument.
"I view dub music as an exploration into sound, and the origins come from Lee Scratch Perry and King Tubby, taking pre-recorded music, putting it through a mixing board and starting to use the mixing board as an instrument, and exploring the possibilities of dropping a different instrument in and out, usually making the vocals drop out and other elements of the rhythm section while keeping the drums and bass," Kocivar, the band's keyboardist and saxophonist said. "And then exploring different effects, primarily delay, reverb and fazer in the early days to expand and develop an idea."
Kocivar likened it to meditation, too. "You find this space to think," he said. He also pointed out the impact of dub on music history and the origins of electronic music and DJing.
For the track "Runnin," they filmed the recent music video entirely in their hometown of OB, with backdrops ranging from beach cliffs to graffiti alleys to backyard parties.
"The boys all grew up here so I think it portrays a lot of community vibe. Because the song talks about believing in yourself and your own potentiality, and how you're the only one that can take charge of that. And doesn't have to be serious, you know. So doing it in a fun, too happy way is probably the best way to go about it," said Divina Dub. "It sounds very authentic to me. And I've always tried to keep that throughout my musical journey and experience, just as much authenticity as I can, as we can."