Amo Amo is ready to shake things up in a vibrantly joyful way. The L.A.-based, mostly 805-raised band whips up an impressively locked-in sound of tight rhythms, irresistible grooves, and dreamy melodies. On Saturday, April 27, the soulfully psychedelic dream-pop/soul band will celebrate the release of its new, self-titled debut at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club a day after the album drops.
Produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, the new album promises to showcase Amo Amo’s flair for skilled, craftsperson-level musicianship and uncanny knack for catchy, classic vocal hooks. After igniting interest with a few gigs both near and far, the band has gained an assured admiration for its dynamism.
At front, the dual vocal dynamic of singers Lovelle ‘Love’ Femme and Omar Velasco provides an alluring tonal interplay; equally and essentially, the band moves and grooves with the honed percussive insistence of Alex Siegel (keyboards), Shane McKillop (bassist, of Gardens & Villa fame), and Justin Flint. The end result is something festive, sensual, hypnotic, and sun-beamingly relaxed. A recent performance at Montecito’s under-the-radar Midway Music Festival spoke to their cohesion as a band; there was something effortless in their skill.
Friendship is a huge part of that equation. Velasco, McKillop, and Flint all have known each other and been playing together for years, growing up as kindred musicians in Santa Barbara. It’s with friend and collaborator Jim James — an early witness to their musical cohesion — that their bond hit new creative peaks. Though now living in L.A., Amo Amo’s roots (Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez both) beckoned them back to the seclusion of Foxen Canyon, where they began writing and recording at an 1850s vineyard property.
Even before recording their full-length, this rustic site served as a favorite songwriting retreat for the group. One day, through McKillop’s invitation, Femme arrived as something of an unseen surprise — and the Amo Amo sound, with a new spontaneous flair, was complete. “It was this kind of instant fit. [Femme] came in there, started singing with us, and we started writing together right on the spot. [Femme] instantly took it to the next level,” Velasco said. He and Femme both trade off on vocal duties. “We’re almost the exact inverse of each other. On a purely sonic level, [the dual vocals] fill a wider range of the spectrum; on a cosmic level, it’s that yin and yang, the double helix, all within a song.”
The band tracked the album mostly in single and second takes, with the group playing in unison. Hints of doo-wop, soul music, jazz, and jam bands all take roost in their steady grooves; imagine the vibe of the Meters with a mellow, phaser-laden indie-rock twist. “It’s really about a band playing together in the sort of traditional sense — most of it was us playing in the living room all day long,” Velasco said. The setting lent itself to a natural way of being: “There were really no distractions — no cell service, no Wi-Fi. You get to create your own little world out there, going on walks in the hills, having fires at night. It filled the music with some good, good stuff.”
Velasco said the album “is multicolored; it covers a wide spectrum of flavors. It contains a little bit of magic in it.” One can easily imagine the band as a sort of roving psychedelic caravan arriving from an unknown, warm, bright-blue-skied locale, with slightly mystically good vibes on offer. It’s worth hopping aboard. The band is soon to set out on the road to support Jim James on his national tour, so catch them while you can.
“If you like to feel good, to move, to dance at a show; if you like music that has a pulse and has a rhythm that’s made by humans; music that has a message of love and unity and inclusion — then you should come to the show,” Velasco said.
4•1•1 |Amo Amo plays Saturday, April 27, 9 p.m., at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.). Miguelito Léon and Alex Siegel open. Call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.
CORRECTION: This story was updated on April 24 to clarify that Alex Siegel is Amo Amo’s keyboardist, not its guitar player.