August 19, 2022 by 1888media
Vibe check. Where we at. Time to get off the mat, and stand.
Nothing quite brings people together like a great beat, a powerful rhythm. It’s a universal message that dives deep, oscillates the very core of your being. It’s freeing, it’s freedom.
Rock and reggae have long been a reprieve from the angst of being. Rhythm and blues morphed with riddims ’n bass amplifying your drive, waking your body and connecting your mind’s eye to the divine. No need to take sides, just turn it up and enjoy the ride.
While Jamaica, Florida and Cali lay claim to many of the reggae and dancehall greats, a new quartet from West Tennessee is ready to change the frame, up the game, create some waves and alter brains with their infectious wordplay. Armed with a Samurai’s integrity, a free-flowing style and a heavy dose of sunshine, it’s time to Bonzai!
Laying it down and lighting it up since 2019, Bonzai is the creative cross-cultural consciousness from the minds of Chris ‘Keela’ Case (MC, vocals), Landy ‘Taco’ Moore (vocals, guitar), Madison Bryson (drums) and Taylor Whitney (bass, keys). The chemistry is palpable on their six singles, “Stereotypical,” (their first official release), “Pyro,” “Moon,” “Taking Back,” “Yeah Yeah Yeah” and the newest four-alarm fire, the guitar-charged “My Turn,” which brims with hints of ska and alt-rock.
In the storied tradition of Dirty Heads, Rebelution, Sublime With Rome, Slightly Stoopid, Stick Figure and The Elovaters, the through-line with Bonzai is that they like to have a good time and want to take you for a ride to the higher side of enlightenment.
Live is where they truly shine. It’s an innate chemistry that binds. With a touring resume that’s taken them coast-to-coast with the likes of scene mainstays Kash’d Out, Tropidelic, Bikini Trill, Cydeways, Sensi Trails, and Sun-Dried Vibes, they roll the dice and it’s always snake eyes. Left is clef. Right is riddim. Supersonic vision for the win.
Recently signed to Last Minute Music, with distribution through The Orchard/Sony, the quartet’s next era launches with the release of “One Margarita” (featuring Greg Shields from Kash’d Out who adds a dope verse). The result is an epic party anthem, an intoxicating chillcation destined to leave you inebriated.
One sip of the the delicious booty-shakin’, love makin’ groove of “One Margarita, Two Shots Tequila” and you’ll be wasted, in the best way. No need for concern. It’s a slow burn, an earworm. Crests and curves with one purpose. To toast, to cajole, to replenish your soul. Bottoms up!
Childhood friends since they were seven, Case and Moore (based in Jackson, TN, an hour outside of Memphis) were instantly in sync, collaborating on several artistic endeavors along the way. Case was an avid athlete (played all the way through college) in a culturally diverse area and often found himself as the only (or one of the only) caucasians on different teams.
Even though his father was a preacher and his mother a Jewish business owner, Keela cherished this. Bonding with teammates, both on and off the court/field, he was introduced to hip hop and rap, which led to his humble beginnings, that of a freestyle/battle MC, spitting his first rap at age 13 at a middle school pep rally. He made believers and, as they say, the rest is history.
Growing up with his Thai-born mother in Thai restaurants (which she owned) and an army veteran father, Moore was, unbelievably, known as the “quiet one” until the age of twelve where he gained his nickname. The story being, when he was 12 years old at a swimming pool where all the kids used to hang, he and another kid started joking and busting on each other. Being the jokester (and guy who loves to laugh), the quick-witted youngster started systematically doling out stuff left and right. The crowd erupted and the only comeback the competitor could come up with was “Well, you look like a big….Taco.”
Moore began playing songs on guitar as “jokes,” but quickly discovered his songwriting and wordplay was the real sword to make his way in the world. He gained a huge local following at 16, often bringing Keela on stage at clubs/parties to perform.
Bryson came into the fold in 2017 after Case and Moore saw him perform while in another band. They were instant fans. Growing up playing gospel in a Southern Baptist church and then leading the drum line at the University of Memphis, Madison’s rhythmic groove is not just juice, it’s jet fuel.
The last brethren to join was Whitney, in 2019. Originally hailing from Syracuse, NY, but now based in Tampa, Taylor’s a skilled bassist/keyboardist with a knack for studio wizardry. An extraordinary engineer, he recorded and mixed the new single (with mastering by industry icon Howie Weinberg) and is finishing up work on the group’s forthcoming debut album set for early 2023.
Together this multi-cultural band of brothers are ready to pour some sugar, some organic du jour to help the world to flatten the curve, lead with kindness, erase our blindness, unify us.
At the end of the day, when the tequila is brimming, the riddims are hitting and the vibe is glistening, we’re all just spirits in the sky looking to have a good time. BONZAI!
Catch Bonzai live:
Aug 28 – Memphis, TN – Growlers (opening for Sun-Dried Vibes)
Aug 29 – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen (opening for Sun-Dried Vibes)