By Rod Deal
We’ve been following Kazoots since they blew our mind at Tropicult’s Summer Concert Series last year at The Vagabond. Check out Rod Deal’s photos of them playing around town, plus an exclusive interview!
What does the name Kazoots mean??
Our name is a combination of the words Kazak and Roots. Kazak being the band Inez’s father and Jayan’s parents founded in the 80’s while they were in college; roots meaning Kazak is the base of our musical awareness.
Tell the story of how you all met.
Jayan and Inez grew up together. Our parents had Koleksyon Kazak rehearsal s at Inez’s dad’s house. We spent a lot of our time playing outside while drums, horns and chanting happened in the home. Gabe, our drummer is Jayan’s cousin who was born in Miami, raised in D.C. Over time Kazak broke but our parents remained friends so we would hang out at family and friends gatherings. Only about 6 years ago Jayan and Inez started playing music together. Gabe moved back to Miami and within 3 months we found out he played drums. He’s been in the band for 10 months now.
What is your writing process?? Do you write together? How does a typical song between the three of you get created?
A typical song starts with Inez writing a melody, lyrics and rhythm parts alone. She brings it to us during rehearsal and we build on top of it. As we’ve evolved Jayan has started songs with rhythm and lead parts; Gabe finds a rhythm and Inez writes melody and lyrics. We have been creating a lot of new material during our jams, especially now that we have “Bouti”, a multi-instrumentalist who currently plays bass.
Ayibobo is a water god in Haitian Voudoun culture. Wangol O!, the Kreyól folk song we sing at the end of our song, Ayibobo!, is sung to people who venture off the island of Haiti for more opportunities. The song is about praying for their safety and their return to make Haiti a better place for them and prosperity. All the lyrics, including the chant are on our music page Kazoots.bandcamp.com.
Where are the three of you from?
We were all born in Miami to Haitian parents. Jayan and Inez grew up in Miami; Gabe grew up in D.C.
How many instruments does each of you play?
Inez plays guitar, African & Caribbean hand drums and hand percussion. Jayan plays lead guitar and bass. Gabe plays drum set, piano and saxophone early on. When we jam, Jayan and Inez can play a little drum set too.
What was it like to have a documentary on your band? How did that come about?
That was one of the weirdest but most revealing project we’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of. We had cameras around us at rehearsals and gigs, documenting our chemistry and arguments! The filmmakers, Tina Francisco and Kara McCormack, gave so much of their time and gifts like food and rides to our gigs. We easily became friends with them. We like how their piece on us came out, even the parts where it looked like we were about to break up! Aside from what was shown, they captured so much more that people don’t know about us. We want to produce a remix of the excess footage. We are very fortunate to have filmmakers who allow us to do that! They have been supportive since the day we met.
Describe the type of music you play? Describe your sound.
To make it easy on everybody we call it “Afro Indie Rock” (A.I.R.). Music genres are obsolete these days. We’ve been listening to all sorts of genres growing up. Our individual styles reflect our interests. Inez is into music from Africa and Brazil so her guitar playing is percussive and polyrhythmic. Jayan listens to some African artists but also Indie, shoegaze, metal and stuff that exceed genre labels. His guitar playing is melodic and memorable. People have compared him to Jimi Hendrix and Gary Clark Junior, but Jayan will never ever tell you that he plays like them! Gabe listens to anything really; anything good. Jayan and Gabe share similar musical tastes which is why they blend well together when jamming. Our music is just the best blend we can create of the music we each like to play. Kazoots’ sound will be always evolving as we do.
What cultural significance is the mask emblem you guys display?
That is Hugh Mann Maniga. He represents a cross cultural phenomenon around the colors red, black and white. In every culture across the globe, red symbolizes blood, black symbolizes death and white symbolizes purity. We used these colors to make a human skull. We as humans are all made up of bone and blood, we are mortals who will die and this is the natural order of things. Maniga comes from a presidential candidate in Haiti with the same last name. We thought it was funny to picture signs saying “Vote For Maniga!”
Are all of your songs original music?
Yes, all of our music is original. We do include some folk songs from our heritage. The chant we sing during Ayibobo! is from Haiti.
Who are your influences?
Inez looks up to singers like Angelique Kidjo and songwriters like Erykah Badu, Perota Chingó and Gilberto Gil. Jayan is influenced by bands and artists that have long guitar solos, lots of reverb, delay, melodies and rhythm. Radiohead is his favorite band but not the only one. Gabe’s favorite influences are Autolux, Cocteau Twins and The Isley Brothers. Our influences are extensive; we could go on and on.
What was the first place you played in Miami?
Our first gig as a band together was at the late great Lester’s in Wynwood in 2013.
Any up and coming local bands that you recommend?? Who are you listening to right now?
We love to see live performances from Eagle Chief, formally known as Arboles Libres. A band that has sadly migrated to New York is Cópan. Cópan is a progressive experimental guitar/drum duo that has supported us greatly and has motivated us to get better. They are the reason we have our EP now! They recorded and mixed our music free of charge. We will always be grateful.
Are all of you from the islands?? If so which island? If not where are you from?
We are all Haitian-American, legally that is.
How deep are you in the next album? When is your next release?
We have not started recording anything due to losses. We plan to make it a big deal when we get to start! We will be releasing old and new material.
What shows do you guys have lined up for the future. Speak on your future projects.
Our biggest recent project has been working with a filmmaker named Vincent Moon. We will be his ambassadors for Haitian culture in Miami. Diliana Alexander of Indie Film Club Miami has given us this opportunity. The project will be released this month at the Indie Film Club’s monthly NOLA event.