Conscious Roots carries on in the local reggae realm, thanks in part to the contributions of its newest member, Dustin Park
Sometimes even successful bands need a new addition to their basic structure, a bit of fresh blood to help their sound go to another level.
That’s what appears to have happened to local reggae/R&Bers Conscious Roots with the inclusion of rhythm guitarist and singer-songwriter Dustin Park to the group’s six-man lineup.
Formed in 2006, the band already had most of its pieces in place with high school buddies Tyler Teixeira on vocals, keyboards and ukulele; Damon and Daniel Cottrell on vocals/guitars and bass, respectively; and Jazzton Lyons on drums. Later, the group brought aboard keyboard player Colby Benito before debuting its eponymous album – one that garnered serious radio airplay and even led to a nomination in the “Best Reggae Album” category for the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.
And then a couple of years ago, after several failed attempts to land a second guitarist to boost the band’s overall sound, members happened upon Park and immediately asked him to fill in as a guitarist. He agreed, then realized his first gig would require serious improvisational skills. Fortunately, the son of former Kapena bassist Teimoni “Timo” Tatofi possessed the musical pedigree to pull off such an assignment.
“That’s when my musicianship got put to the test,” Park tells me. “Luckily, I was able to fill in not only on the guitar, but also with the third-part harmonies. I learned how to harmonize by listening to my dad and Kapena’s own Polynesian style of harmony, and that was something the guys in the band really took a liking to. It just clicked for us. So, they asked me to join and now we’re learning a new sound and a new vibe, and every day we’re getting a little more comfortable with each other.”
So comfortable, in fact, that the band recently released its second album, Carry On, a tightly recorded 12-track CD that has reggae, R&B and dub-step fans grooving from Hilo to Hanalei. Park has taken over most of the band’s lead vocals and songwriting responsibilities, and two of his prized compositions, Lifetime and Addicted, are already staples on local radio playlists. He confesses to loving the added duties, as well as the musical education he’s received from the band’s other members.
“If anything, these guys introduced me to a lot more reggae music,” says Park. “I was raised on my dad’s type of music, which was more Hawaiian- or Jawaiian-infused sounds with a little bit of kachi-kachi mixed in there. With these guys, I had to do a bit of homework as far as the type of reggae music they listen to. It goes far beyond Bob Marley, and that was really cool because it helped broaden my musical horizons.”
Here’s what else Park told Musical Notes:
MN: Where is the group performing these days?
DP: We usually play twice a month at the Mai Tai Bar – sometimes more often – and here and there at other clubs like Sugar Ray’s Bar in Kaneohe and Chez Bar in Aiea. We’ll also be at this summer’s Mayjah Rayjah.
MN: You composed most of the tracks on this album. Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
DP: Actually, I don’t. If anything, the closest would probably be Lifetime. It wasn’t written as a song initially, but as a poem for English class back in intermediate. I found it again during my senior year at Kailua High and put it to music.
MN: Were you a singer right out of the womb?
DP: No. I was always too shy. It wasn’t until after high school that I started doing backyard jams with friends and getting more comfortable with my voice.
MN: Conscious Roots appears to be a real tight-knit group. Does your friendship extend beyond gigs?
DP: Oh, yeah. We try to do anything and everything together. We love bowling and going to the gym together. We definitely have a good band of brothers here.