by Leci Solis
Jazz fusion encompasses a wide array of musical genre combinations, which became popularized back in the 80's only to evolve into norm 40 years later. It is distinctly improvisational; it traces tangential motifs upwards and downwards, layers rhythm atop rhythm, and connects different genres using subtle transitions. Preferably, our fusion should sway us into an irresistible groove, as does 16 the Olympus. Formed in the heart of San Antonio, Texas, 16 the Olympus began as any band would, except, more than jamming out, these guys contribute their proficient musical skills to design effusions of grandiose and colorful jazz. Watching their live performance is almost a spiritual experience, as they allow us to spectate the transcendental prowess of music. Individually, they thrive. Collectively, they achieve a magical reciprocity through sound. The talented 3-year-old quintet cooks indelible aural delicacies; their ingredients include jazz harmonies marinated in neo-soul, broiled with R&B, and sauteed in psychedelic rock.
Nikkei's saxophone voices soothing melodies inspired by beautiful lyricism of classical European jazz that carry through every piece. Our saxophonist elegantly twirls between soulful legato cadences to groovy staccato rhythms. As two voices in unison, the saxophone and keyboards enunciate intertwined cadences that gently disentangle into separate elaborations. Obed's keyboards provide stylish counterpoint; at times, crisp and succinct strokes stricken by the spontaneity of frenzied sustained chords, other times, a light whimsical flutter on the keys. The fortitude in his synthesizer arpeggios magnifies the chord progressions that levitate the music to grandiose summits then seamlessly return to mesmerizing lyrical lines. Paul's guitar verges on jazz and psychedelics, from hushed-up and smoky jazz licks, to angular counterbalance cemented on effervescent psychedelic rock. His adroit guitar playing demonstrates his intuitive rhythmic patterns. The entire structural unit rests on a firm foundation laid by Ryan's groovy bass. As steadfast backbone for all rhythms to flourish, he thrives in the lower register. The music progresses as Michael's jazz syncopations morph into high-energy rock and roll beats. His sizzling cymbals and lilting snares foment an underlying tempo for musical variations to be birthed and to flow. The song showcase their endless reinventions, the rhythm sonically regenerates itself. As a whole, that is what 16 the Olympus music is: hypnotic and immaculate. Sometimes effortlessly effusive as if driven by the fluidity of improvisation, other times, melodic and structured as if guided by premeditated invention. Their music is mercurial and mystifying, it arouses the senses and reignites the soul.
I N T E R V I E W:
Indiemuck: You guys are based in San Antonio. How’s the music scene going there?
Paul: ...Surprisingly lively.
Obed: It’s amazing. We’ve seen such a huge growth spurt in local bands playing. Our local music scene is actually just growing. We’re having a lot of bands come out from out of state and out of town to play at specific venues. But overall we have some really good talent in San Antonio.
Michael: We have a lot of variety, I think. You don’t just have Tejano bands, you have fusion bands, you have indie bands, uh, metal, rock, pop, a lot of rappers. I think the scene is really starting to become more and more diverse. Everyone is starting to link up with each other, you know?
Paul: And that’s the cool thing. Everyone is working with each other and we’ve already had a whole bunch of other bands work with us that we’ve featured. Everyone kinda takes care of each other.
I hope we have that here later on. So when did you guys form? How did this start?
Michael: We’ve been playing for just over two years now but we met 3 years ago. Me, Paul, and Nik all went to the same college. Paul knew Obed who knew Ryan. We all started talking about music and hanging out and jamming, yeah. And now we’re here.
Let’s ask again, so who’s classically trained?
Michael: Me and Nik, we’re both music students.
Nikkei: That’s even more impressive; they taught themselves! That’s even more impressive to me.
Obed: No, but Nik is awesome. He just got accepted to grad school at UTSA and he’s actually in the process of practicing for his senior recital. But like 2 long classical pieces. I listened to one of them. I listened to half of it because it was like 15 minutes long, but Nik is extremely talented.
Michael: So, get his autograph now. Before he gets too big.
We would have thought all of you were like classically trained! We were like ‘oh you guys all go to music school’.
Obed: We all come from different musical backgrounds.
Paul: Nik does a great job of covering up all of our mistakes.
So you guys just have one EP. Are you guys working on…
Paul: Yeah we have an EP out that we released at the beginning of this year, which we recorded in San Antonio with Robert Smith. We are always working and creating and writing new stuff so hopefully there’ll be more material in the future…
Sounds like it!
Nikkei: Every time we practice we jam in the beginning, so we create like 3 songs a day or 3 songs every practice. But then we never record it, so we just scrap it kind of thing. So there are some lost songs that have just gone by. It seems to be like for us, it comes naturally. Which for some reason these 5 guys create songs like no one else, at least in my opinion.
So what are your individual influences?
Ryan: I have no idea. I grew up listening to just rock, then I branched out a lot more, I started to listen to like electronic and rock. We listen to everything.
Did you guys cover the Lounge Lizards? You sounded like the Lounge Lizards.
Michael: I’ve heard them, I’ve never like checked their stuff out.
Nikkei: I’ll just take it as a compliment. For me, like I said, I’m classically trained so I play a lot of classical music… a lot of jazz. Paul Desmond is my favorite of all time. The other guys are great, but I like Paul Desmond’s simplicity and stuff. After that, after all the jazz and classical, I’m like hip-hop, straight rap. I’m not the personality, but it’s simple. I can listen to it.
Obed: I grew up listening to smooth jazz, I had a weird childhood. My dad he’s just a huge jazz guitarist and he would play jazz records for all my childhood, so I don’t really know the mainstream. I didn’t really grow up listening to that kind of stuff. I grew up with that and then I went through a phase of rock.
Don’t we all?
Ryan: When I first met Obed, in my freshman biology class, I asked him what kind of music he liked once when he found out if we played instruments. And he told me, ‘Yeah, I’m mainly into death metal and Christian rock, stuff like that. Christian and death metal.’ I was like, I’ll never forget that.
Obed: Yeah I had both phases.
Nikkei: I didn’t know that. Christian death metal, I didn’t know that was a thing.
Obed: It’s my thing.
Paul: Pairs great with smooth jazz.
Michael: My dad’s actually a musician, he’s been a drummer for 40 years. So, I always grew up with a lot of music in the household, a lot of classic rock like Zeppelin and Budgie, stuff like that. But also I took a lot of R&B growing up like Al Green and all that kind of stuff. Then, like we said in a different interview, I grew up listening to a lot of progressive rock in high school and then kind of going into college I got into a lot of jazz and other “weirdities” that I’m starting to share with everyone else. It’s where it’s kinda progressed now.
Paul: I listen to everything. Classic rock, a lot of acoustic folk guys.
Obed: So me and him (Paul) kinda started it all. We’re like, ‘lets just create music,’ but he just influenced me in a way that I’ve never been influenced before through music. He brought this different side of music that I’ve never heard before and the way he approached creating music was totally different than what I was used to. I was used to A B C, we’ll play these sections and we’ll just put them together, we’ll make transitions. But he, it was just different tones that he would use like he’d just create out of nothing. I don’t know, it was different. An inverted approach of what I did. I was very straight forward but he’s just like, ‘let’s take this and see what comes out of it’.
Paul: Thanks bro. That’s beautiful.
Obed: And from there we’re like, well we need a bassist and I was like ‘Well, I met this guy in bio class.’
Ryan: ‘The only bassist I know’.
Nikkei: I feel like the story of every bassist is that.
Obed: Then he’s like, ‘Oh, I know a drummer, I met him!’ and ‘Oh, I know a sax player.’ So we’re like, ‘Let’s all come together!’
Michael: We all just kind of met through college and kind of somehow came together.
Nikkei: I was really reluctant of joining this band at first.
Michael: I actually didn’t really like him at all.
Paul: He’s still reluctant. He still holds back!
Michael: I thought Nik was kind of a jerk, he’s like the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life.
Nikkei: I have a face like, don’t talk to me.
Obed: We were asking him to come practice with us and Michael is like, ‘I don’t know about this guy man, I don’t really like him, you know’, and I’m like, ‘C’mon man let’s just give it a try.’
Ryan: His name is supposed to be Nik or something.
So lastly, the genre you guys belong to. I hear some sort of fusion there, I don’t know what you guys…
Paul: Let’s leave it at that.
A fusion of what???
Paul: She said fusion, we’re sticking with fusion!
Nikkei: I would say it’s like rock…
Obed: I guess from listening to all of our backgrounds, some of us will come up with ideas and then we’re all just gonna be like, here, here’s my ideas, here’s what I had to add. Like the last song Trichromatic is one of the most evolved songs that we have. That song has stuck to us since the very beginning, and the form hasn’t changed but the tones, the textures have changed and we have Paul’s guitar solo which is his own unique music culture. His classical cadenza where he just comes in, he adds his own thing. We all just came together and that song is very emotional for us. At first, I didn’t like it, I never liked it, but I learned to appreciate it over the years, seeing how far it’s come, it just defines us really as a band and the relationships that we have with one another, you know how we’ve grown in music together.
Michael: And I think that’s great way of summarizing. What influences us and what we all come together on is always evolving. We don’t really say, ‘This is what we’re gonna find common ground in’, it just somehow happens in such a strange way. It just works somehow.
(To Paul) You’re a man of few words for an English major.
Nikkei: He’s tired.
Paul: I don’t think they would agree with you.
Well you guys are fucking amazing. I’m so glad you guys came. You guys are also very generous with each other, you guys showcase each other, and that’s super cool.
Obed: It means a lot that you guys came out and listened to us.
Michael: We literally think we all suck, and that we’re not good enough for those other people.
Paul: Oh no! I think I’m the best.
Michael: He’s the non-modest one!