Marv Ellis and We Tribe are now officially confirmed to give an epic performance during UNIFY FEST 2016 in Santa Fe!
Things really started to move forward when Marv (Garrick Bushek) had a long conversation with beat maker Sage Lien at his house in the country near Eugene. The sprawling conversation naturally covered music, but the two men also gelled on broader topics and a mutual desire to change the world. Such bright-eyed enthusiasm tends to leak from a man’s body as he enters his 30s, but for them, their abilities to communicate positive messages have increased with their age, along with their sense of responsibility to try.
Marv has long sought to bring together people from different backgrounds. His Imaginary Friends, at its peak, was a 12-member hip-hop orchestra. There were some legendary shows, but it collapsed under its own weight and ambition. Marv moved to Portland and started to network and play regularly, forming another band, the Platform. To him, WE Tribe is what he was trying to achieve when he started those other projects but he did not have all the tools yet to articulate what he was going for, or needed others who were on the same page as he was. He has that now. He said this project feels like everything from his musical past is coming together. “The missing thing was me letting go,” Marv said. “Letting go of the reigns empowers everybody. That’s the ‘we,’ man. It’s something I’ve been growing to love. It just feels so good. This is the least challenging project.”
Because of their mutual vision, Sage opened up his beat library to Marv. Hundreds of beats in a raw, gritty, crunchy old-school style Sage has hewn over years of intuitive beat making on his ASR-10 sampling keyboard. “I’ve been meditating on that unity message for a long time,” Sage said. “It’s about consciousness, healing, openness. We want to bring everyone in. No more judgments.”
Lofty stuff, no doubt. And these are goals a lot of “conscious” artists share. What WE Tribe believes is key here is to focus on the ever-important spiritual tool called fun.When people are happy, their hearts and minds open and they are more receptive to the messages. They don’t always say it during shows, but band members believe that everyone in the audience is part of WE Tribe. They gain energy and inspiration from the fans. To Sage, that exchange fuels the band. “The concept isn’t completely definable,” Sage said. “But I know in my heart that’s where the magic is. Love and light. You can’t run out. At every moment you can be giving 100 percent if you open up. It just flows if you get out of the way.”
Before they officially settled on WE Tribe as a band name, they joked they should call it the “Grown-ass Man Band.” The truth in this humor is another element to why the band is working so well. Each brings a lot of experience to the table, and none is trying to dominate the others. Listening, respecting and collaborating, each man gets personal artistic satisfaction while working on something larger.
DJ DV8 has worked on other projects that blended acoustic instruments with hip-hop and electronic elements, but this is the first time he really feels he has a voice. “Everyone is really valued in WE Tribe and encouraged to shine as much as possible,” DV8 said. “A lot of people think they want a DJ, but the reality of including a scratch DJ is a huge challenge.” Those experiences with other live bands, however, have helped DV8 understand how to work in a live setting. The unique configuration of two DJs in the drummer role adds another layer to their dynamic. Playing live, Sage’s beats take two to three minutes to load so they alternate, with DV8 scratching over digitally encoded vinyl with Marv’s pre-programed beats, his own beats and samples. “There are a lot of things I’ve learned, especially with live bands,” DV8 said. “I’m aware of sound, song structures and make sure I’m not overdoing it. There’s a lack of ego across the board in the way I’ve been encouraged to play.”
Bassist Dorian and saxophonist Matt had also worked together in other bands such as Eleven Eyes and Natural Progression, and each has college-level knowledge of musical theory. They readily speak the same language, and bring a lot of experience in jazz improvisation. Somehow the communication barrier present in other hybrid bands has not slowed down this one. Dorian said that because they understand each other’s ideas they can quickly build momentum and move forward. “I’ve never been in a project that’s been able to progress so fast,” he said. “The creation process involves so many people. Typically all ideas come from the beat maker or MC. With this much input from everyone, the music can be more flowing and move into different sections and ideas all in one song. We are really trying to push those positive messages. Music is such a powerful tool and we are trying to harness that power at a time when we are so inundated with negativity.”
Matt said he values being part of a group that wants to push the energy of love and peace, noting that as long as he has know Marv he has given a lot back to the community. Through a partnership with the apparel company 541 Threads, money from each WE Tribe CD and hat sale goes to feed five people. He described Sage and Marv as the “dreamers” but noted that they all share the dream. The credo, while not always spoken on stage, influences how authentically they come across on stage. “How we are putting the music together is unique,” Matt said. “My greatest hope is that it stands out as original.”