People who live on the West Coast are similar to us on the Third Coast. We have similar lifestyles, similar tastes in music—we both enjoy good times dance music and different world-music rhythms. [A May run of shows in California] was the first time we’ve played on the West Coast, and to come into a market cold and seeing hundreds of people showing up, dancing, enjoying themselves and sharing the experience with us is such a blessing.
We split everything six ways. We enjoy each other’s company. None of us play with other bands. We’re all 100 percent Flow Tribe. Obviously, we have our ups and downs, but if there’s something we disagree on, even if it gets heated, we can come back and see the bigger picture and realize it’s just small details on the way to bigger goals. This all translates onto the stage. We keep it fun. We do something different every night. We’ll pick the first two or three songs and then read the crowd and determine what we play from there. We spend our time performing, versus just writing and recording, and we’ve watched each person grow into a better musician.
Flow Tribe has roots back to 2004. I joined the band in 2006. I was invited on stage on a Sunday night at Friar Tuck’s Uptown on Freret Street to play harmonica on a couple Tom Petty songs. I started playing with them more and realized it would hard to keep my job in a funk band if I only played harmonica. I always liked zydeco. You can’t help but move to it, and when you see zydeco live, you see the whole room bouncing in unison to its rhythm. So I figured a washboard would fit in with certain [Flow Tribe] songs. We have a lot of Latin influence in our rhythm section [percussionist Bryan Santos, drummer Russel Olschner, bassist Chad Penot] using tablas, woodblock and cowbell, plus one guitarist [Mario Palmisano] who is originally from Cuba. K.C. [O’Rorke] sings and plays trumpet. All of us are always looking to expand our instrumentation, to add new pieces.
We’re building a studio in town. It’s in the East off Downman Road, and we’re calling it Downman Sounds. We’re now at 10 years as a band, and the studio is the next natural step for us. It’ll be our headquarters, with a first-class rehearsal space, full control room and a lounge area for meetings and office space. It’s an all-hands-on-deck process. We all chipped in for the demolition—it’s in a former office space—and we’ve done the framing and the wiring. We hope to have it open this year, though it’s taking longer than we expected, but we’re taking the time to do it right. We all have this long-term vision for our future, and we’re all willing to work for it.”
Flow Tribe plays the Creole Tomato Festival on June 14.