Interview: Arborea!

Underneath This had the soulful experience of interviewing Arborea, a band that makes beautifully moving and meaningful music. They are also involved with activist causes. Before reading the subsequent interview, please read some more about the band in an adapted bio penned by them. Also, check out the visually and sonically compelling (and official!) video for their song, “After the Flood Only Love Remains.”

Shanti and Buck formed Arborea in 2005, released their first album in late 2006 and they are now touring on our 5th album ‘Fortress of the Sun’. Buck also produced two various artist compilations….one of which is ‘Leaves of Life’ (2009) an album that included other artists like Alela Diane, Mariee Sioux, and Devendra Banhart. ‘Leaves of Life’ was started to raise awareness and benefit UN World Food Program; quite a lot of what Shanti and Buck do involves building community. Another example is that they have worked with an instrument maker in Tennessee who created a guitar inspired by their song ‘Red Bird.’ Money from the sales of each guitar have went to aid various charities like the Red Cross in Japan which provided crucial aid to communities in the wake of the earth quakes that triggered the tsunamis in 2011.

Jeanne Madic photo

Jeanne Madic photo

How has living in Maine influenced your music? Which other geographic locations have had an effect on you? What is it like working together musically? What is the collaboration process like?

Buck and Shanti – Maine is where we first came together musically, where we started following our own musical path together, apart from any outside influences. The music evolved out of our communion during the Summer of 2005…through improvisations, musical meditations. Shanti was born in Maine, but raised in Norfolk, Virginia, which is where we first met. We moved to Maine at the beginning of 2001. Our years of traveling along the coast or in the mountains on Shanti’s family land (part of the Northern Appalachian Mountains), has been an amazing catalyst for the individual voice that we’ve created. As well, our time spent in Ireland, the British Isles, Spain, Portugal, Italy and other places we’ve toured through…these lands and the people we have come to know and love have had a great influence and everything comes through in our poetry, photography and videos, our music. Our collaborative process evolves in many different ways…out of poetry we’ve written together or individually. Or one of us might have an idea, say on the guitar or banjo, and then afterwards we’ll finish it together by collaborating on the words and vocal melodies. Sometimes we bring songs or music to one another fully formed and then we’ll work in additional parts together. The music happens in so many different ways, which keeps things exciting.

Your music has been described as an amalgam of folk, blues, and world music. How do you characterize your style?

Buck and Shanti – It’s really all of those things. Maybe World Music is a proper term for it, but it’s not the over processed glossy type of World Music that has been produced in the West over the past couple of decades. It’s much more raw and closer to older folk and blues recordings, or recordings you might hear now coming from Africa or the Far East. We are quite often paired with Psychedelic/Avant genres, and we feel comfortable with those labels, because the music is meant to elevate ourselves and listeners outside of the confines of the Material World…it’s meant to open new doors of thought and create a surreal state of mind, a sort of ritualistic dreamtime.

How has your sound developed from Wayfaring Summer to presently?

Buck and Shanti – It’s almost been a decade now that we’ve been playing together. Since the release of Wayfaring Summer in 2006, our vision has continued to evolve to a higher state as we grow together and as individuals…so our musical union has only gotten stronger, more refined, synchronistic…more telepathic. As long as we continue to grow, there just doesn’t feel like there’s a limit to what we are capable of creating.

When performing, what is your relationship to the audience?

Buck and Shanti – Performances are a pure flow and exchange of energy…a guided meditation within a river of music. Having an audience fully present is essential for these gatherings. Our intention with each performance is to have a unique energy exchange, a continuous circle between the music being created and how the audience takes everything in and feels that energy. It just doesn’t work that well in a noisy bar situation or coffeehouse with so many distractions. Theaters, art galleries, intimate house concerts, chapels…these are really the best venues for creating a sacred space for the music.

Activism and building community is inherent in your music and life. I admire that! You have worked with the Red Cross and the UN World Food Program. What has inspired and sustained your activism?

Buck and Shanti – Everyone of us is part of the global community and there are so many souls in need of help and love. We are indeed part of this community, this family…it’s in the blood of who we are as individuals, as parents, as friend, as neighbor.

Using our creativity to raise funds for charities or helping bring about awareness of important causes is essential to who we are as human beings.

Is your music feminist? If so, how?

Buck and Shanti – The state of being that our music originates from is feminine and celebrates life, life-giving, life affirming, life exchanging. Music is a river born from the ocean…the Mother of Life.

I enjoyed the beautiful track After the Flood Only Love Remains. What inspired you to write this song?

Buck – Our music, especially our lyrics, all originate from poetic vision…and all of that comes from personal experience, or from dreams. After the Flood Only Love Remains is a combination of some heavy life events too personal for me to share, though I can tell you, the song itself is a Catharsis. It’s definitely my dedication and acknowledgement of change and the enduring power of unconditional true Love and Empathy!

Your music videos are very beautifully composed and complement the lyrics of your songs well. How do you come up with the concepts for the videos?

Buck and Shanti – Being that the music is born through visions, through dreams…the music and images are inherently tied together…one an extension of the other. Our experience and love of photography has definitely helped with our video work, and for the last album we developed some great relationships with other filmmakers who we feel connected to, both spiritually and artistically.

You are currently selling original artwork on your website. How did you become interested in painting and photography? What are some of your other interests outside of music?

Buck – Long before I started playing guitar, as a young child I would draw and paint nearly every day. My father, uncle, and grandfather were very talented artists and drawing was something they always did, though they never pursued their talent outside home. I guess it was a natural gift passed down from one generation to the next. Our daughter is very artistically inclined and can sit for hours drawing…so it seems these pathways are genetically inherited. Music was a big part of my childhood memories and a lot of time was spent listening to my parents vinyl collection and hearing music on the radio, which in turn inspired me to sing, which I did all the time. Despite being shy, I was a part of my elementary school choir which was one of my earliest experiences with overcoming social fears. I love to listen to people sing, though now I tend to gravitate towards the female voice…and I feel like the best male singers are completely in touch with their feminine side. I also developed a love for movies when I was young, going to the local Drive-In theater with my parents on weekends.

Shanti grew up in a house filled with music. Her mother was a singer-songwriter/guitarist who performed in Tidewater Virginia and often rehearsed at home, so it was all around her growing up and certainly became a subconscious influence…as well as inheriting natural gifts for making music from her mom. Shanti was actually deathly shy of singing in front of people, and we were married for many years before she even felt comfortable singing in front of me. I knew she had a beautiful voice, so I felt it would eventually happen, but it was an important to patiently encourage her along the way, to remain positive and supportive. Shanti’s first passion however was photography and her parents supported this by eventually building a dark room in their house, so she could develop her own photographs and explore that side of her creativity. Our interests outside of music, film, photography, and poetry…great literature, gardening, woodworking and guitar making, traveling, meeting beautiful empathetic souls, being in the World, and of course being with our families and dear friends. Everything we spend time doing, is important and finds its way into our collective artistic life.

Which artists have you been listening to recently?

Buck and Shanti – We’re not listening to a lot of music these days, as we’re too involved with our own projects…composing and rehearsing, it takes so much time. When we do listen to music, we always seem to cycle around to music discovered years ago…Sindead O’Connor, Peter Green, Tim Buckley, Sheila Chandra, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Robbie Basho, Linda Thompson, Sandy Denny, Tori Amos, Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, June Tabor, Martin Simpson, Chris Whitley. Some of the contemporary artists we love to support and some we even gig with: Josephine Foster and Victor Herrero, Will Oldham, Christopher Paul Stelling, Marissa Nadler, Two Wings, Mariee Sioux, Marian McLaughlin, Diane Cluck, Laboule, Fern Knight, Allysen Callery, Laboule, Jesse Sykes, Meg Baird, Daniel Bachman, Ryley Walker, Eric Carbonara, Jerry DeCicca….

The Doors…songs like Riders On The Storm, Crystal Ship, Break On Through, Moonlight Drive, End of the Night…definitely an important part of our youth and music we listen to while driving on tour. The idea of conveying poetry and art, light and dark… through music, is an important part of Jim Morrison’s Legacy and definitely influenced us along the way.

What projects are you working on currently?

Buck and Shanti – We are working on new music together and separately for 2015. Shanti is also involved in a new project…Emerge, a group experience that takes place every New Moon, and involves her improvising music with voice and hammered dulcimer along with her friend Julie, who is a guided meditation instructor. Each individual in the class sets her or his new intentions each month. It’s a very beautiful, healing experience.

What insights do you have for aspiring musicians?

Buck and Shanti – If an aspiring artist or group has a unique musical vision.we would encourage them to follow their instincts and their muses, and never second guess their own voice(s). The World is already filled with too many generic pop songs and there isn’t any reason for an artist to compromise their vision to fit into a particular style, or fit into someone’s ideal of how something should sound. It’s true that everybody hears Music in a subjective way, but regardless, music always feels best when it comes from a place of pure intention.

-Sem & Strike

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