You can trace the origins of Los Angeles-based Latin jazz/hip hop/funk band Ozomatli back almost 20 years. During that time, and over the course of half a dozen or so full-length albums – plus, of course, in the context of their high-energy stage show – Ozomatli have explored a very diverse range of sounds and styles.
According to guitarist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Raul Pacheco, that thirst for creating a wide variety of sounds, and being adventurous in drawing influence from musical styles from all over the world, are the major factors that have kept the band active for such a long time – as has the sheer love of making music itself.
“You know, I think we just love to play music,” Pacheco emphasises. “We’re musicians and we love to play music. It’s always been a vehicle for us, and our group is a group that really allows room for individual taste. So if someone wants to [play] Mexican Bamba music mixed with hip hop beats, it’s like, ‘Sure, let’s try it.’ If someone wants to play a pop-reggae song, let’s try it. If someone wants to do a North African rock song, let’s try it. I think as musicians we need these opportunities to express ourselves in this group. And I think this is one of the reasons why we’re still together.”
They’re far from done yet. Pacheco says the band remains very hungry to explore new sounds and ideas. “We still love to play music, and as long as that is still happening, I really don’t see us not pushing ourselves – pushing ourselves to do new things, pushing ourselves to be better.”
No stranger to our shores, Pacheco believes he and the band have visited here around ten times in the last 15 to 20 years. However, it’s been a while since their most recent visit, so Ozomatli decided early 2014 was a good time to return. “We’re very happy to be going back. Australia means a lot to us; we’re going to catch up with some old friends and hopefully make some new ones, and just have a great time. We always have a great time when we go there.”
Pacheco has many memories of his previous trips Down Under, but one in particular stands out above the rest. “We’ve played so many places, but one of my greatest memories was [when] we played the Falls Festival once. It was happening on… what’s the island off of Australia that’s part of Australia? Tasmania! It was there, and having never been there and ending up in the countryside there, that was a beautiful thing. It was really cool and unique.”
What is also unique is the Ozomatli live show, and Pacheco is happy to let us in on what to expect from the band’s Bluesfest performance and sideshows. “We’re a high-energy dance band – we really get people moving, and if you’ve never seen it, I think that you’re just going to go for a ride for a couple of hours. We really try to connect with our audience in a way that makes them feel like they’re a part of the show … People can get away from everything that’s going on in their lives, and we can have a moment together where we really celebrate.”
And for the old-school fans, they do their best to cover as much of their back catalogue as they can, right through to the new material. “We try to play songs from every record, [and] we’ll play some songs off our new record, called Place In The Sun. So we’ll be playing songs from all our career.”
Catch Ozomatli at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 with Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Buddy Guy and many more at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm from Thursday April 17 to Monday April 21.
Place In The Sun out Tuesday March 11 through Vanguard