If taking the stage of the Lobero Theatre in front of an at-capacity audience isn’t a daunting enough prospect, then sharing it with S.B. stalwarts like Glen Phillips, Karla Bonoff, and Kenny Loggins certainly must be. But when MoJoW & the Vibration Army joined their esteemed colleagues at the Naples benefit concert there last spring, the group not only held their own, they won over a legion of new recruits. With the vibrancy and eclecticism of their sound surpassed only by that of their jumpsuits, the Los Angeles-based duo proved themselves to be an instant hit.
With the buzz of their last visit still lingering, the husband-and-wife team of John and Moriah Whoolilurie are gathering the troops to launch yet another sonic attack on Santa Barbara. Last time around, the duo teamed up with some of music’s elite to pay tribute to environmental diversity. But for this visit, the group will take to the SOhO stage alongside the gorgeous gals from the Rainbow Room to celebrate cultural differences. It just goes to show that when it comes to spreading their message, for MoJoW & the Vibration Army there is only one weapon in their armor -music.
“Music for us not only is a form of expression, but also a really profound form of communication that inspires joy and happiness and also informs,” explained Moriah. “Something that John and I have really honed during the last seven years is how to deliver that message in a really gentle way. Everything is made up of vibration-music, art, dance, smile, and joy. So by using music to open up that frequency, it makes it a little easier to then talk about the environment or voting or social issues. We are finding poetic ways to express what is going on in our society.”
Those past seven years not only involved honing their art, but also finding their place in the world. Having casually crossed paths several times previously, John (who was busy crafting a musical career in Santa Cruz at the time) received a call from Moriah and decided to head to Humboldt County (where she was a practicing midwife) to pay her a visit. Eleven days after John’s arrival, the pair had not only drafted a vision for the Vibration Army, but were married and, soon after, relocating to Joshua Tree.
“Moriah and I really wanted to start a new life for ourselves,” recounted John. “So we decided to head out to Joshua Tree because our friends who run the Joshua Tree Music Festival bought a place out there really cheap. We basically drove down there one day and had bought a house the next. Joshua Tree was good for us because we needed some time to develop both our relationship and music.”
“And it was really the perfect place to do that because the desert is so raw,” Moriah added. “It really was a clean slate for us. It was an amazing opportunity for us to start from the sand up.”
The musical vision that developed was quickly christened MoJoW & the Vibration Army. While the “Mo” stands for Moriah and John accounts for the “Jo,” the “W” represents the pair’s adopted last name (Whoolilurie). It’s a fusion of their respective maiden names that represents the equality of its two forces, as well as the duo’s shared musical ethos. Meanwhile, the “Vibration Army” is something of a call to arms-one where the crusade is about inspiring empathy and understanding through music and art. Having refined their vision in the expanses of the Mojave, the Whooliluries then took their act on the road-to the streets of Los Angeles, specifically. It’s a locale that Moriah feels lends itself perfectly to their musical message.
“Los Angeles is an interesting city,” she explained. “It is this artery that pumps information into the world. There’s the film industry and music industry and television industry-all these very powerful, media-based industries that project images across the world. This is the place where we knew we needed to be and where the opportunities are. So for the last few years we have had this portable roaming show that we do in the street. And while we started on Venice Beach, we are now showing up all over the city.”
Though the pair has made quite the splash, and even appeared on the cover of L.A. Weekly, you are more likely to find them performing to a room full of school children then selling out Hollywood hotspots. Through their hybrid mix of blazing brass instrumentation, grooving bass beats, keyboard loops, thoughtful lyrics, and outrageous costuming, and their subtle takeover of venues ranging from South Central schools to political debates at the historic Kodak Theatre, MoJoW & the Vibration Army have managed to fuse as many disciplines as they have musical styles.
“Expression comes not only through words, but also through joy and happiness and all these other forms of communication,” explained Moriah. “And music for us is not only a form of expression, but also a really profound form of communication that can inspire peace and joy.”
MoJoW & the Vibration Army will perform at SOhO this Sunday, December 28. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for details.