Salt Lake City’s Afro Omega work by their own schedule and rules—deal with it.
by Randy Harward
Afro refers to the African beginning of creation; Omega is the Hellenistic end of creation,” explains Mr. James, keyboardist for Salt Lake
City “global rock” band Afro Omega.
See? They’ve got it all plotted out. Mr. James (no first name, thanks—for this story, our man has requested the courtesy title) and his five
bandmates (singer Elisa Vasquez, guitarists James Shook and Kenneth Loosli, bassist Hunter Rose and drummer Josh Dickson) have a
specific vision for their reggae-dub-rock outfit. It could have some philosophical significance with regard to African beginnings and
Hellenistic ends (what a juxtaposition!) but, the name explanation notwithstanding, it’s not that heavy. It’s as simple as doing the right
thing at the right time with a grass-roots state of mind.
In our first conversation, Mr. James wanted to know what prompts City Weekly to feature a band in Scene & Heard. There’s no method,
really. If there’s a certain local band that’s caught our attention, we write ’em up. Sometimes, however, we simply choose the least sucky
band that happens to have an upcoming show and/or CD release. Most of the time it works out, occasionally it doesn’t. We’ve featured a
Mr. James appeared to wonder why Afro Omega, a hard-working local band whose audience has mushroomed since their first gigs in
2003, hadn’t yet made the cut—especially when “most of the bands you write about don’t exist anymore by press time.”
Sure, local bands come and go, but it isn’t that bad. The point Mr. James tried to make is, Afro Omega operates outside standard local
procedure: they don’t rush to gig or drop a CD, only to break up. AO, he says, has “never worked on a timeline. We let the music dictate
its own course.”
Afro Omega’s two-year course so far has resulted in plenty of hot, well-attended gigs (both headlining and in support of national acts like
Toots & the Maytals, Alpha Blondy and Eek-a-Mouse) at virtually every club in the 801 and 435. In terms of tracks, however, AO has
exactly one five-minute tune recorded: a simmering Afro-dub-rock number called “It’s On the People” (hear it at AfroOmega.com or
MySpace.com/AfroOmega). One tune tracked in two years—by the apparent standards of most local bands, that’s just crazy. Or is it?
“We’ve gone through 40 original songs over the years,” says Mr. James. “Does that mean we have to record and release them all? No.
We want to release only the music the whole band stands behind, and we believe good things come in due time.”
Therein lies Afro Omega’s plot and course. They’re working on a CD, but they’re taking Mrs. Butterworth’s own sweet time (December
release—maybe) and it won’t come out in a flourish of fliers and free tickets. Says Mr. James, “We won’t have a traditional CD release
party … [that’s] one of the most overrated ways to get your music out there.”
So if that means dropping AO’s sultry, delicious stew of reggae, dub, rock and then some, one track at a time, so be it. According to Mr.
James, that’s all you need to understand that Afro Omega is something you’ve never heard before (although you probably have).
“When you look at local bands,” Mr. James says, “it isn’t bold at all to assert we’re unique. On a national level, I’ve yet to see or hear a
band like us. Does that mean we’re the best band in the world? No—but it’s the best band I’ve been in.”
Yeah, but will they stick around? Should we even publish this story? Yes and yes. While Afro Omega isn’t a singular band, they definitely
stand out. That’s why, even without a CD, they’re here on page 54. How does it feel, Mr. James?
“Any press is good press.”