Featured Band: Agori Tribe

Posted on June 1, 2014

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agoriBy Becca Martin

On February 22, 2013, I entered a house that was packed with college-aged kids I had never seen before. A car-less Rhodes sophomore at the time, leaving the comfort of Midtown to party with unfamiliar faces was a much needed, refreshing experience. But upon my arrival I was in no state to make new friends; the band that was playing in the front room had my complete and undivided attention. When I spotted the long silky locks of lead guitarist Will Nicholls, I approached him nervously, unsure of how to initiate conversation. “Are you Agori Tribe?” I asked timidly.
I would like to introduce you to my five Memphis brothers: Will Nicholls, Sean Naughton, David Collins, Dave Hash, and Jeffrey Naylor. I spent the summer of ’13 documenting these guys, sharing their story through film, but by the time my movie was complete, my journey with them had just begun.

Their mission: to be a driving force behind a musical movement that unites the Memphis community through a fusion of psychedelic rock, funky space jams, and positive vibrations.

Agori Tribe is comprised of five 21-year-old Memphians who share a passion for creating a sound that defies classification. Nicholls was the first one I met.  Contributing epic solos to just about every song, Will bring a hard rock element to their sound, and thoroughly enjoys shredding on his guitar. In addition to Will, Sean Naughton is also one of the band’s founding members. A killer drummer, it seams as though Sean never runs out of steam. His levelheaded mindset and dedicated focus tends to keep the group grounded and on track. The third original tribesman is David Collins, who is known for his refined ability to play jazz guitar. David functions as a second guitarist, a keyboardist, as well as a percussionist. Dave Hash was the next musician to join the Tribe, bringing highly developed piano skills and extensive musical knowledge to the table. The most recent addition is Jeffery Naylor, Agori Tribe’s bass guitarist. Jeff had nearly mastered classical guitar, but when he heard the band was looking for a bassist, he decided to take on a new challenge; it only took him a couple of weeks to memorize all of Agori Tribe’s songs…in an entirely new instrument.

Extensively talented as individual musicians, each member is dedicated to mastering his particular instrument, and three of them have integrated this passion into their academic work at University of Memphis, majoring in Jazz and Studio Performance (Collins, Naylor) and Music Education with an emphasis in Piano (Hash). Blending together elements of psychedelic rock, jazz, reggae, and funk, their music seams to defy classification, so to make things easier, Agori Tribe coined their own genre as ‘Space Island Funk Rock.’  With nearly 1,400 “likes” on Facebook, they have generated a significant fan base since their inception in 2008.

Guiding listeners in a particular direction of interpretation, lyrics are one of the most influential elements of a song, but Agori Tribe simply does not need language in order to evoke emotion and captivate an audience. Their music influences listeners on a personal level, allowing each individual to write their own narrative. An intriguing introduction draws you in, and a structured chorus and verse keep you grounded, providing you with the opportunity to find your own unique flow. For me, it is subliminal beauty in the purest of forms.

Their fluid, vibrant sound and passionate energy is what initially attracted me to Agori Tribe, but with time I realized they are contributing something much more powerful than music; Agori Tribe is a community, a family, a collective movement of positive influences, a choice to unite under a common rhythm and dance.

One of my closest friends I have met through this community is Susan Massey, a 20-year-old Memphian with a refreshingly genuine soul. One of the most dedicated fans I know, Susan was enthusiastic to share with me some of her own experiences with Agori Tribe:

“The lifestyle change that came when I began going to Agori Tribe shows is something I can look back and clearly measure. I can honestly say that discovering their music and attending their shows has changed my life…there’s this magnetic energy that pulls me to them, that keeps me anticipating the next one, and once I’m there, I am home again…Agori Tribe’s music is like nothing I had ever heard before, so of course when I went to that first show, I was pleasantly surprised, and immediately infused with energy and wanted to release that joy through dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. I don’t think I could stop dancing if I tried; every show I go to, I still feel their music in a deep part of my soul and I express that joy I feel through moving along with it.”

For a proper Tribal experience, I suggest you attend a live performance in an intimate venue, but in the mean time, you can download their recently released album “The Hard Mountain Tradition” for only $1. The album release marks a pivotal moment of evolution for Agori Tribe; their expanding network of support is helping provide new opportunities for exposure. On June 4th they will embark on “The Hard Mountain Tour,” extending their reach beyond Tennessee to perform shows in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Below are excerpts from interviews with Sean Naughton (drums) and Will Nicholls (guitar) –

Becca: Where does the name Agori Tribe come from?

Sean: It’s based on the unorthodox sect of Hindus in India known for post-mortem rituals involving human corpses. So yeaaa haha they inspired the name (which was meant to be temporary) but obviously it stuck. Oh and the show Wildboyz happened to be the impetus for the name, as we first learned of the Aghoris from this show. Kind of random but yeah that’s how it goes…

Becca: What upcoming show are you most excited about?

Sean: Upcoming shows include opening for The Original Wailers @ The New Daisy May 7th and “The Hard Mountain Tour” which kicks off in Memphis June 3rd @ Newbys w/ Parallax.

Becca: What has been your biggest challenge as a band?

Sean: The biggest challenge has been the five of us staying committed and finding the time to write and progress as a unit given our hectic and often conflicting schedules.

Becca: How exactly does the writing process work?

Sean: Our writing process consists of one person bringing forth an idea and the rest of us expanding upon it. I would also say our compositions tend to evolve over time

Will: A successful writing period happens when there is a low stressful level, when we don’t have a lot of shit to do for our lives outside of the band. When we try to mix writing mode with preparing mode we tend to be unproductive, especially because we are all trying to be managers of the band. I like it when the environment is chill, when we are drinking some beers as we toss around ideas; a good writing period is calm.

Becca: Which high school memory has influenced your music the most?

Sean: Honestly the many days we spent at David Collins’ pad…that is no doubt where the Agori Tribe we know today was born and raised.

Becca: How have you evolved since you first began playing together?

Sean: We’ve grown a lot as musicians and people over the last 5-10 years. Our sound is constantly changing and developing. It’s a lot more, shall we say, refined today than it was towards the beginning… the struggle is real…

Will: Oh man. It has evolved tremendously. We aren’t a bunch of kids trippin’ out playing loud frequencies and loud noises in a tiny bedroom anymore. Now that I think about it, we still practice in a tiny room, but we’re much more organized as a cohesive group now. It’s like we were a bunch of wild boys, running aimlessly around the jungle banging on shit until we picked up a book and decided to read, ate some magical mushrooms and learned to talk…something like that. We have finally established structure and secured permanent members.

Becca: What’s Agori Tribe’s ultimate direction? Are you seeking fame and fortune?

Sean: My ultimate direction for the band is where ever life takes us. We’d love nothing more than to earn a living doing what we love, but fuck fame and fortune…that is never the priority.

Will: It would be badass to pay our bills with music, but I gotta be honest and say no, because I don’t think fame and fortune is our priority. But if we did get famous and gain a lot of fortune, I would want to start our own record label, because it’s more than a source of income, it’s a movement. Regardless of what happens, I know we all would love to keep playing music together for as long as possible, and to have a permanent space where we can always reunite…for us that space would definitely be our own private island. It’s way unrealistic, I know that, but why not dream.

Check out my documentary “Welcome to the Tribe”

Download “The Hard Mountain Tradition”

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Posted in: Music