Taking cues from all of their influences – including funk, jazz, reggae and rock – Banooba is the latest hybrid to successfully incorporate all of these elements into their own signature sound. Having been compared to a range of bands, including Sublime, The Allman Brothers, Blind Melon, Umphrey’s Mcgee, Incubus, Steely Dan and Average White Band, people’s description of their music varies depending on who you ask. Guitarist Kevin Torres contemplates Banooba’s crossover appeal, stating: “We just write the tunes and let them go whatever direction they want to go in. They’re all rock tunes with hints of these genres in them.”
Over the years, Banooba has developed and become known for their high-energy live performance which is guaranteed to keep you moving all night long. No matter what type of music you are into, you are going to have a good time at a Banooba show. “These guys groove like it’s their last day on earth, with irresistible songs and wicked musicianship” says Dan Brown – Good Times Magazine.
Banooba’s debut album, Banooba’s Travels, represents both the apex and beginning of a greater adventure than the guys in Banooba could have ever predicted. At the time of its release, it was the culmination of a long road led by their founding member and departed soul Kevin Kershko, Banooba’s original lead guitarist. Produced by Mike Watts – and bolstered by horns from Rob Somerville (Deep Banana Blackout) – Banooba’s Travels is an energetic collection that showcases Banooba’s finest assets. However as it turned out this was just the first chapter of Banooba’s travels.
In 2005, the band came to a screeching halt due to the untimely passing of guitarist Kevin Kershko. His death was a shock to his band mates and they initially figured that it was also the end of Banooba. “I was personally about to hang up my guitar, quit music, and move to Hawaii,” says Torres. But the band agreed to play a Kershko memorial performance with long-time friend Dave Mackie sitting in on guitar. They immediately recognized that even without their musical brother and founder, Banooba’s heart lived on. Eight months later, the band re-emerged with new guitarist Vinny Raniolo before settling on their current guitarist Sean Larkin.
Banooba came back strong and quickly began to gain popularity. Soon after their return, “Sinora” (featured on the compilation cd included in the November, 2006 issue of Relix) found itself in rotation on numerous college and commercial radio stations as well as Sirius Satellite’s Jam On station where it quickly reached #1. Banooba was also featured as Jamband.com’s “New Groove of the Month” for the month of March, 2007.
Banooba continued to tour clubs and colleges around the Northeast as well as the US Virgin Islands. In the late winter of 2007, Banooba traveled to Costa Rica for a national tour in support of Costa Rica’s most popular band, Gandhi. In addition to picking up a number of new fans, Banooba received national press, appearing in various newspapers several times throughout the tour.
Next, Banooba embarked on their first Midwest tour, after which they headed across the pond to the UK for a 20-date tour of England, Scotland and Wales. Upon their return, Banooba immediately reentered the studio to record their follow up to Banooba’s Travels.
In their sophomore effort, the members of Banooba have pushed themselves to explore the many forms their music can take, and have made significant strides; Nomads and Bellowing Rooms depicts a more mature Banooba that has strengthened its signature sound and expanded its musical range.
The album opens with “Cobblestone,” a powerhouse of complex layered guitar riffs that immediately dispels any doubts about whether the band survived reincarnation. New guitarist Sean Larkin stepped in and the others stepped up, proving this band still has more to say. Cobblestone, UFB, and Just Like Houdini are only a few tracks on which the band’s technical prowess is on display, each containing complex compositional guitar interplay performed by Torres and Larkin with spectacular precision and fluidity rarely found between new band-mates. Banooba’s funk also reemerges with a dark edge in songs like Ping-Pong and Make Me Believe, both of which contain guitar solos that sound almost evil. But the biggest surprise on Nomads is how much emotion has found its way onto the album. “Days I Remember” discusses a relationship grown stale, acknowledging that the couple is passively dancing along until the day they will agree to finally end it. Overall, Nomads and Bellowing Rooms proved that the spirit of Banooba was one that could overcome severe loss and reemerge with exponential growth.
Despite the potential of the new lineup, Banooba suffered another setback shortly after completing Nomads with the departure of lead singer Ryan O’Connor. After trying out a few replacements, the band found itself on an extended hiatus, with members performing in various other projects. However, Banooba’s spirit remained intact, and the key members continued to rehearse and write music together.
In October of 2010, Banooba hooked up with singer Jason Murden and decided to schedule some rehearsal time to see if they had finally found their new frontman. Just as with Larkin, there was an instant connection and the band quickly began cranking out new music. After a test run with Murden quickly won over the Banooba faithful in the Virgin Islands, the band knew it was time for the hiatus to come to an end.
Now armed with their new singer, this never-say-die band is back with new material and ready to take the music scene by storm. With plans to return to the studio sometime this winter, Banooba is once again bringing their high-energy live performances to clubs, colleges and festivals around the Northeast. Though its travels haven’t always been smooth, Banooba’s spirit is stronger than ever and on the rise again… don’t miss it.
Jason Murden: Lead Vocals / Guitar
Kevin Torres: Guitar / Vocals
Sean Larkin: Guitar
Kevin Sloan: Bass / Vocals
Peter Cunningham: Drums