At the beginning of our VoodooRules.com countdown to Voodoo Fest 2011, the Witch Doctor promised to cover the talent from the legends like Dr. John and Ray Davies of the Kinks. But VoodooRules.com also made a promise to cover the up and comers, the locals, and as much as possible as many of the artists coming to the voodoo experience in 2011 as we possibly could.
Along the way, we’ve found some incredibly talented musicians like the Revivalists. Some incredibly unique talents like Hurray for the Riff Raff. Today the Witch Doctor has the pleasure of doing an interview with the members of Achachay! They’r e new. They’re different. They’re not the most well known band at Voodoo Fest, but they’re on the adventure of their lives. They’re living the dream, traveling from gig to gig, making music, meeting new fans, and paying their dues. There may come a day when everyone thinks that these guys were overnight wonders. If they do become overnight sensations, The Witch Doctor’s readers will know the full story behind their success. So come along with me on this interview, what you’ll find is some dedicated souls, who believe in their ability to make a difference in the world.
There’s Mojo in that…
1. The Witch Doctor: How did you get together?
Jordan: Sitting in an internet cafe in Ecuador, cursing the connection speed and planning my return to the United States, I received an email from one of my oldest friends. “My buddy Ryan is moving to Austin to play music. i think you’ll get along well. Send him an email firstname.lastname@example.org” Simple as that. We jammed when I got back, and had a show at the Red 7 in Austin two days later.
Ryan: Yeah it was funny. Our first jam together lasted about 30 minutes, and I knew we had something cooking. After completing one tour with a friend subbing for our bass player, we took to craigslist to find a true replacement and that’s how we found Hooch. He played his first show with us on trumpet, but once we hit the road he took over on bass, and it’s been great ever since. That was December 2009. “
2. The Witch Doctor: Who were your influences:
Jordan: I started out with the Golden Oldies. For years that’s all I’d listen to. I got one of those 12 CDs for 1 cent scam and ordered the Temptations, Otis Redding, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles before I bought anything modern. Then I got introduced to the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Californication. I couldn’t get enough of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd.
Hooch: We all agree on those three bands. After that, we have a very wide variety. Sometimes we specifically dislike one of the other band member’s favorites.
Jordan: I love Andrew Bird, the Gypsy Kings, and Ratatat. I’m a huge fan right now of Louisiana’s own (also Voodoo Fest performers) Givers.
Ryan: I grew up on Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin along with Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, 311 and Alice in Chains. I was very much a child of the 90s and I still like listening to those albums. In high school my tastes changed some what and I was looking for more of a groove. I got into jazz and funk, stuff like Miles Davis with Tony Williams on drums and Galactic with Stanton Moore. John Bonham is probably my biggest influence, but guys like Elvin Jones, Mike Clark, also had a big role. I also love Dave Grohl and Chad Smith’s drumming and grew up playing along with Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and RHCP records.
Hooch: As far as bass: My top 3 are Victor Wooten, Flea, and Robert DeLeo. I taught myself to play listening to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Stone Temple Pilots, and The Beatles. As I progressed I came across Victor Wooten and I’m still blown away when I watch him play. As far as my influences when it comes to songwriting; Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, and The Beatles are the top 3. I try to be influenced by everything I hear be it good or bad. I have learned how NOT to write a song from a ton of bad pop-country songs….
3. What was your most unusual experience while performing?
Hooch: Before playing with Achachay! I played in several country/jam bands in Oklahoma. I was playing with one of these groups in total back country Oklahoma. While we are playing the owner/manager of the bar comes out of the back room wearing a stuffed bra with breasts drawn on it, a rooster hat, and he has a beak strapped to his crotch and a beak strapped to his face. He then starts dancing around the stage with the band and through the crowd like he’s ‘the cock of the walk’. Somehow we managed to finish the song. I think it was some kind of test that we managed to pass.
Ryan: In Wichita a few months back some guy decided to give people in the audience un-solicited and unwanted lap-dances. He almost got his ass kicked. A grown women mooned the crowd that night too. There was also that breast-cancer benefit…
Hooch: Ryan, we said we’d never mention that.
Ryan: Oh yeah.
Jordan: Yeah… so sometimes I get an almost out of body experience when playing- especially to big, rowdy, and energetic crowds. I get the meditative sense of being able to observe my own character playing the role in the situation I’m in. The awareness of myself is smiling and laughing at the Jordan running around onstage.
4. The Witch Doctor: Tell me about the low point in the band’s career.
Jordan: We ran an old school bus on veggie oil for about a year. It was so much fun, but it had no A/C, no fuel gauges, and constantly broke down. Every time we took it to New Orleans something gnarly happened. We made uncountable AAA calls, got towed hundreds of miles, and replaced almost every part of that vehicle. On the second day of our very first tour ever, the bus broke down. We crawled over the bridge to Slidell and coasted into a repair shop where an old drunk mechanic directed us to drain bright green liquids into the virgin Louisiana soil. Clearly he could not be trusted, so we crawled back (seriously did not think the bus was going to make it back into the city) to another mechanic. We spent a couple hundred dollars to get told they had no idea what was wrong with it. They replaced the fuel filter that I had just replaced, charged me for the new one, and it still couldn’t get past fifteen miles per hour. There was a dark moment there where Ryan was convinced our tour was over.
Ryan: We ended up leaving the bus on the side of the road in New Orleans (only a couple years after Katrina, so there were still a lot of unclaimed vehicles populating barren streets), renting a cargo van for pretty cheap, finishing out the tour, and dealing with the bus later. Turned out the transmission was shot.
Jordan: I fixed it up and finally sold the bus when it was in proper working order.
5. The Witch Doctor: Tell me about the high point, (so far) in the band’s career.
Ryan: Getting to play Voodoo Music Experience is a pretty high honor. Other than that there have been some great shows. We recently sold out Stubb’s inside, here in Austin, with another local band.
Jordan: It’s hard to pick one point. Performing to big, loving crowds is an unforgettable high. Getting to be on the road – playing music all over the country while rock climbing in Lake Tahoe and walking Bay to Breakers in San Francisco is pretty amazing. The whole lifestyle is a high, and I feel like its the opposite of Office Space. Each show, each day, is better than the previous.
6. The Witch Doctor: What unusual steps have you, as a band, taken to promote your music? Did it work? Did it fail? What did you learn?
Jordan:One very unusual thing we did was organize a Gorilla Run in Austin – a 5k where everyone runs in gorilla suits. When I first heard about it in Denver, it struck me as perfect way to brand the band- we’re silly and fun loving, but simultaneously serious, meaningful, and socially and environmentally responsible. With huge help of some good friends, we created a volunteer team who got almost 800 people to run, and then party at a show we played afterwards. We raised $50,000 for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund which educated veterinarians in central Africa to take care of gorillas. We also made a music video out of it.
Hooch: In many ways it was very successful. The event itself really worked – its happening again and is becoming an Austin tradition. On the other hand, it got so much bigger than the band that we became just one of many sponsors. Still, afterwards when I say our band name around Austin, I get a “You know, I think I’ve heard of that before,” instead of “What? Anarchy? Are you a punk band?” Plus, we just launched the music video so we’ll see how that helps.
Jordan: As a marketing effort, it was a mixed bag. But we feel very passionate about using music as a vehicle for social and personal change, so the whole thing was incredibly fulfilling. Its right in line with our reason for existing in the first place. If we learned anything, its that non-traditional marketing ideas can be worthwhile, but they take an incredible amount of effort.
Ryan: For example Jordan and I used to make these demo CDs that had a minute long interview as the first track. The interview had some silly answers and we put in sound effects like whips cracking between the questions. We would hand out hundreds of them in Austin with our info on them. Nothing really ever came of them though… We also tried giving ‘safe-rides’ in our bus to drunk people downtown on weekend nights here in Austin. We planned on playing only our music in the bus, but because the bus was so janky we couldn’t really play any music at all. So we did that a few times, but nothing really ever came of that either.
7. The Witch Doctor: Where do you envision yourselves in 4-5 years?
Ryan: I see us selling out huge concert halls and there being a high-demand for Achachay!. I also see us at the forefront of however the music industry has morphed at that point.
Hooch: Achachay! headlining festivals around the world.
Jordan: Our music is a great influence on people’s minds and hearts – they are inspired to push the boundaries of creativity, to search the depths of their psyches, all the while having fun, dancing, and remembering to laugh. Our success shines a light all over, in different industries. We develop a battery powered van so we don’t have to use gas, and we get other bands and shipping companies to use battery powered vans too, thereby cutting down our carbon emissions and our dependence on foreign wars. We’re able to bring great ideas like Conscious Capitalism and Holacracy, and good media sources like Ted Talks and Good magazine (good.is) that are now fringe to the forefront of the mainstream. We give voices to other artists, authors, philosophers and visionaries like Ken Wilber and Don Beck, just like Oprah did with Eckhart Tolle and Tool did with Alex Grey’s artwork. There’s so much good out there that gets ignored, and so much silliness that gets way too much attention. Four and five years might be a short time to accomplish all of this, but I know for a fact that in four to five years we’ll be empowering humans to think for ourselves, think outside of the box, find a deeper purpose, expand our limited perspectives on ourselves and our context, and shake our booties.
8. The Witch Doctor: Tell me what’s unique about Achachay! and why that difference qualifies you for stardom.
Ryan: Achachay! is unique because we refuse to settle and write songs that sound like what is deemed “popular”. We are trying to get people back on the dance floor with groovy tunes and infectious beats created by dedicated musicians. We pull from a ton of influences and don’t shy away from having songs that don’t all sound similar: you might here ska, samba, jazz, and funk all in one song. We realize there is no easy, golden ticket for success: we love to play and we are willing to work harder and tour more than everyone else to get to the place we feel our music deserves.
Jordan: Yes, it starts with our music, and continues with our mission, our attitude, and our purpose. We give stars an incredible amount of power and attention, and ask very little in return from them. Most people give stars value beyond their music (or acting, or whatever they’re famous for) but don’t hold them accountable for anything outside of their music (or whatever they’re famous for). I believe if you’re considered a star, you should shine light 360 degrees. We live everyday to make the world a better a place. We live everyday to wake the world up from the inside out. It starts with us individually, personally, and the small things we create. Achachay! will always make something you’ve never heard before, from us or anyone else. It will always be created with the intention of being fully honest, fully embracing, and fully inspiring. Whether it inspires you to dance or cry depends on the honesty of the moments we make it in. Our attitude is one of passion, service, and love, and our purpose wrapped up in all of these things. What qualifies us to be musical stars is simple musicianship; but what qualifies us to be true superstars is the creative light shining from every fiber of our being. To share something meaningful with the world and make every being in it better for it, that’s what really makes a star.
Visit Achachay!’s website
The Witch Doctor
The past 25 days of counting down to Voodoo Fest 2011 has included coverage of more than 40 artists in 25 posts. Here are the links to the coverage:
For a deeper dive into the artists we covered today, here is a link to The Travelin McCourys Website.
During our pre-countdown, we gave you a bit of history of the Festival, some tips about what to see, where to eat, and a little New Orleans culture with Jazz Funerals and Mardi Gras. Here’s the links to week one: