L-R: Justin Flint, Alex Siegel, Love Femme, Shane McKillop, and Omar Velasco combine to form the funk-rock group Amo Amo.
Courtesy of Amo Amo

On February 23, you can add some goodness to your groove and heal our community as you dance to great new music. Meet Amo Amo, the new Southern California funk-rock project of Santa Barbara–raised musicians Omar Velasco, Justin Flint, Alex Siegel, Love Femme, and Shane McKillop. They’re hosting a benefit show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, where proceeds will go toward Thomas Fire and mudslide victims. The band worked with Jim James of My Morning Jacket on its debut album, recorded in a historic house in wine-rimmed Foxen Canyon. I checked in with Velasco about the new album and healing the community.

How did the collaboration with Jim James come about? Jim had been a friend and a fan of our music in an earlier incarnation. He came to several of our shows, and we just started hanging out at parties and jamming. We agreed that it would be a good thing to work together on a record …. We just felt a connection; we felt he really got what it is we were doing and could help us elevate it to new heights. His approach and spirit around music really resonated with us.

How did Jim James challenge you or help you grow as musicians? Jim was really great at encouraging us to do what we do naturally as a group, which is to play freely. Often when you get into recording situations, there can be pressure to do things more surgically, but in this case, Jim was very keen in helping us stay in the zone where we perform best and most freely — when we’re having fun and being spontaneous in our playing. Most of the record was captured live, and he was great in tuning into those moments and recognizing when we’d struck gold.

What was it like recording in Foxen Canyon? Any good wine-fueled tales/adventures? It was absolutely magical — an ideal situation. One of the most important factors was the absence of cell service or Wi-Fi. That was huge! There was a different type of immersion that is really hard to come by these days, where our minds were spared from that nagging, distracting element that technology can be. We’d go on hikes around the property; we had many nights around the campfire, drinking wine and smoking and making up silly songs and laughing. We had a party where we invited close friends to listen to some of the music. Everyone sat down in the control room and very politely and attentively began to listen to the music. By the end, everyone was on their feet dancing and partying, hootin’ and hollerin’! It was really so much fun.

What feelings did the mudslide arise in you? How do you hope to give back? Shane, Justin, and Omar are all from Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez, so it really “hit home” for us. There’s shock and there’s grief, and then there’s a feeling of “How can we help?,” of empathy and of wanting to help in the best way we can. What we hope to do is put on this concert where we can come together and dance and be merry. Music can have a very healing and unifying effect, so we hope to contribute in that way.

What are you most excited about for 2018? We are so very excited to share this music with people. Beyond that, we live in very exciting times in general, a time where we are seeing dramatic shifts in traditional power dynamics and shifts in consciousness. We are seeing many injustices being unearthed, and we are hearing conversations in the public sphere that have been taboo until now. There’s a lot to talk about, and people are losing their fear of speaking up. That’s exciting.

What’s beautiful to you these days? There is so much beauty in this world. There is nature and art and kindness and courage …. Few things are as beautiful as a moment of true understanding between humans.


Amo Amo plays with Echo on Friday, February 23, 8 p.m., at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.). Call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.


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