Regular DaBelly readers will recall my recent review of Orange Sky's effort, "Upstairs" (Granite/Fontana Records). Chipster Entertainment had forwarded me the disc asking if I would consider an interview with the Trinidad-based group and, with one listen, I was hooked.
Orange Sky is a rock band with a twist, they spice their music with layers of reggae, metal and everything in between. Their lyrics are sheer poetry. The quintet, vocalist and lead guitarist Nigel Rojas, brother Nicholas Rojas on bass, rhythm guitarist Adam Murray, keyboardist Richard Hall and drummer Obasi Springer, have acquired a large following throughout the Caribbean and are currently touring the United States with Adema.
I felt fortunate to be among the first American music journalists to have an opportunity to speak with them, as their musicianship and talent promise to open the doors to a successful future. I began my interview with Nigel Rojas at, well, the beginning.
"We've been together three or four years now," Rojas tells me. "Me and my brother, we've been jamming forever, for life. And basically we got together with some buddies and it just turned out to be a perfect vessel for my songwriting and for us to express ourselves and to play live.
"We've been able to cultivate quite a following in the Caribbean over the last three years and consequently we are now able to release, on September 27, this album," Rojas goes on. "We're really looking forward to that, we're really excited about it. Also going on tour, we're going to be opening for Adema starting on the 14th of September and we tentatively have a gig with Malmsteen in October across the states."
Rojas and his brother, Nicholas, who has been playing bass since age eight, grew up "jamming together." Rojas has dabbled on both guitar and drums, although he cites his axe as his main gig. He also has quite a nice voice, but shies when I compliment his singing.
"I still don't consider myself a big thing or anything," says Rojas.
Not familiar with the educational system in Trinidad, I wonder about the brothers' schooling and if they attended college.
"Not university, but we went to primary school and secondary school. We can read and write and peel potatoes and all that," Rojas laughs. "We've been around for a while after school just doing stuff, but mainly jamming. We've been really fortunate and we've gotten a really good positive turnout and we play out a lot. We're happy now to extend ourselves to the studio as well and try to plant some seeds and make some new friends."
Musicians worldwide seem to have one thing in common-- the need to make a living while honing their craft and Rojas is no exception.
"I was a gravedigger and, no, just joking," Rojas teases. "It's always been music. I made radio advertisements and jingles. Stuff in a creative field, making up advertisements for companies. Also, we had all kinds of jobs, man, all kinds of jobs."
Music is also the focus of his free time.
"The way you do it in the Caribbean is you go a lot to the beach, you go to a lot of parties." Rojas explains, "An ideal party in the Caribbean is a party with plenty rock, old school and new school, and plenty reggae and plenty ganja burning. Everybody's just cool and everybody's sweet and loving and we come out of that style of playing. That's what we do, that's how we play, we jam."
Rojas is extremely creative and motivated when it comes to Orange Sky's material.
"I write 95 percent of the stuff and we have some stuff where we have some awesome collaborations as well," states Rojas. "We'll be working on something for a long time and all of sudden it will become relevant and then words will come. At some point I have to make a presentation to the guys. Whether it be like one person or everybody, it's always a nerve wracking experience too because I don't know if they're going to like it a whole, but it's been real good so far. I write all the lyrics and I write most of the music as well."
I ask Rojas about music in Trinidad.
"We have a really unique music scene in Trinidad because we're the most southernly of the tropical Caribbean and we're seven miles off the coast of Venezuela so we have a really unique style of music called calypso. That's predominantly what are country plays, steel drum and all that." Rojas adds, "But there's also a big rock scene because we've had a lot of radio stations and we've also had CD retailers bringing in stuff since the '80s. Everything from Black Sabbath to Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, AC/DC, all that and that's what we're able to be exposed to."
I almost stump Rojas when I suggest that the Internet is helpful in promoting Orange Sky.
"Yes, I assume it has been. I'm a real caveman and I'm kind of ashamed about it, but I don't have a computer. I have to get one and start playing around with it," Rojas admits. "I know it has been useful for our management totally. It's good for communication. And to show the band to people who want to check us out after a show."
People who purchase the first few thousand copies of "Upstairs" will get a special treat, as they will receive a bonus DVD.
"You will get to see us as well as hear us," Rojas boasts.
The band is touring with Adema and may score a stint across the United States with Yngwie Malmsteen. They are also hoping to travel to Europe, Australia and Japan and are aiming for worldwide distribution of their album.
"We're very excited and we're just taking it six months at a time," Rojas comments.
Of course, I have to ask what it's like to work and tour with your own brother.
"Pain in the ass," quips Rojas. "No, it's a dream come true, we've been jamming together for life and I still get a little feeling inside when I see him when we're on stage. Every now and again I see him right next to me and we're jamming together and it's a dream come true. We have a common goal from childhood and now here we are. We're jamming and we're doing this thing and people are responding and we live in a dream, we really live in a dream."
So does this good-humored poet/musician have a few final words for me?
"Well, when I was young I had a puppy and one day it never came back," Rojas laughs. "I'm just joking, huh? I really appreciate what you're doing for us, what you guys are doing, giving us free PR right now in every way because right now is the time that when we're trying to plant the seeds and I really appreciate the time that you've spent with us."
Find out more about nice-guys-with-talent Orange Sky by visiting www.theorangesky.com or look for them at MySpace.
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